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Staying Power: How The Barber Lounge for Men is Surviving and Succeeding

When it comes to business, there is probably nothing more difficult than starting one. Well… nothing more difficult except, maybe maintaining a successful one. The barriers to entry are great and the obstacles to survival are greater. According to the U.S. Small Business Administration’s Office , it is estimated that 30-percent of startups fail within the first two years and only about one-half make it to the five year mark. Amazingly enough those numbers are better than previous reports that estimated that 80-percent of startups failed within 18 months.

Let’s get real though. No sensible business owner wants to be a part of any of those numbers. After all the name of the game is achieving and maintaining success. So, if sustained success is the objective, how do we play to win?

Sharon Harper seems to have figured out the game. Harper is the owner of The Barber Lounge for Men— an upscale barbershop located in Waldorf, Maryland. This year the business is celebrating its third anniversary. While Harper says that it hasn’t been without a whole lot of time, energy and effort, she adds that a great portion of her success has come from strategic and creative business decisions.

Do Something Different

When Harper decided to open her shop, she knew she wanted something different. “There are not a lot of nice places for men to go,” she opines. “Instead of having a typical shop, I wanted to step it up, with décor, seating… everything.” Even the services that she offers–such as manicures and pedicures–transcend what is typically expected from a barbershop. Harper realized that opening just another place for men to get their haircut wasn’t going to do, if she wanted to ensure long lasting success. She needed to separate her business from the pack. So she started with the business itself–ensuring every aspect from presentation to processes where above expectations–but she didn’t stop there.

Each month, she hosts different events at the shop. From spoken word artists to informational speakers who present useful topics such as financial education. Instead of just providing a service in her local area, she has become a part of the community.

Value Your Customer

“When you treat people the way you want to be treated, it works so very well–period,” asserts Harper. From the very beginning she has applied this philosophy to everything she does, especially when it comes to running her business. “Some people are just straight rude,” she admits, “but you can’t take it personally. Appreciate them and their time,” she continues.

In a day and age where customer service has all but gone by the way side, Harper knows that going just a few extra steps to ensure that her customers are satisfied helps immensely towards ensuring her business’ longevity. “People can spend their money how they want; so we make sure our service is on  point,” she states. As soon as customers approach The Barber Lounge for Men, they are greeted by opened doors, the offer for a beverage and their coats are taken. Harper even offers call-in service, so that her customers don’t have to wait during busy periods. Before customers head out the door, she bids them goodbye, but not before asking if they are pleased with their haircut (or other service). She takes quality control even further by periodically calling customers that she is not able to reach at the time of service, to ensure that they also received the high quality service that she takes pride in her business providing.

Continue to Learn

When starting any new venture, knowledge is key. Most of us will do our due diligence when it comes to learning how to start our business. However, Harper stresses that it is important to continue to learn, research and seek out more knowledge. From industry standards to the local business-scape, things are constantly changing for business owners. Before she ever opened the doors to her shop, she gathered as much information as possible. She credits courses and seminars offered by the SBA/SBDC (Small Business Association/Small Business Development Centers) with arming her with much of her business knowledge. Since starting her business, she has continued to use such resources to stay abreast of important business topics. “There are so many free or low price classes that can help us with our growth and development. Take a class; make time for that; invest in yourself,” she stresses.

Furthermore, she makes sure that she passes on what she has learned to others. She will periodically visit the same business development centers to share her lessons learned with aspiring business owners. As well, she stays in close contact with area barber colleges, passing on invaluable pieces of information that she believes will benefit new graduates as they forward their careers. As far as she is concerned knowledge sharing is definitely a two-way street.

Though she is just completing her third year in business, Sharon Harper certainly seems to have a grasp on what it takes to make it to the elusive fifth year–and beyond. “This is so much of a passion that it does not feel like work,” she gleefully admits. However, she also stresses, “I don’t care what you have if you don’t have system in place it won’t work. You have to dig deep, believe in yourself and think outside of the box. At the end of the day, it’s [just] me to make this work.”

To learn more about The Barber Lounge For Men, visit them on FaceBook.

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Louiseza Sanderson

Louiseza Sanderson

Louiseza Sanderson is a business consultant, writer and the founder of www.MindYourBlackBusiness.com. She is also a veteran of the United States Air Force. It was during her time in the military that she learned the value of hard work, community and serving the needs of others. Following her military service she earned a bachelor's degree in business and an MBA in business communications.

She began consulting with the explicit goal of providing affordable business consultation and guidance to those who might not otherwise have access. "I started consulting by 'inherent accident'. I've spent my whole life gathering information, in hopes that it would benefit someone," says Sanderson. When it comes to working with her clients, she believes that the key is to find the human factor. By doing so, she helps her clients to find the best solution for their business, by first figuring out what is best for the person. Her hope is to help such entrepreneurs, small businesses and non-profits who share her vision of giving back-- be it through job creation, innovation or a cause.

As a consultant and business owner herself, Sanderson came to realize that while there are many resources for small business owners, there were very few that provided a platform for micro and small Black owned businesses, as well as the information germane to them. These are the mom and pops, solo-preneurs and other businesses and organizations that are really the heart and soul of the local (Black) community. She shares, "The vision of Mind Your Black Business is the culmination of what I am most passionate about and what I do best--helping others to achieve their dreams and helping small businesses grow."

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