The Business Lesson I Learned At Super Cuts

I visited my neighborhood Super Cuts last week because Luca wanted her hair trimmed before the start of school. I decided to put my name in as well.

Within a few minutes, a young woman called my name. After asking how I’d like my hair cut, she began telling me about one of her employees who was giving her problems.

She explained that, as the manager, she was expected to train each of her stylists on the Super Cuts way of cutting hair. This employee, who has been cutting hair for many years, refused to practice the preferred methods and wasn’t likely to pass the annual exam given to all stylists. “She’s not expected to use them on each client, but she needs to use them most of the time.”

I asked why it was so important to follow the standards set by Super Cuts and was told that it helped bring continuity among stylists. Since most customers were walk-ins, it was important for them to expect a level of consistency regardless of the stylist. “It’s the most efficient way to cut most hair styles”, she explained.

And then she said something that struck a chord. “Customers don’t expect to wait more than 15 minutes. I can’t afford to have one stylist taking an hour to cut a child’s hair by not following the standards while the rest of crew is able to perform the same cut in 15. When that happens, nobody is happy.”

This makes sense, and I’ve been considering similar ideas since starting my business. Before we took on our first client, my partner and I decided what type of work we enjoyed the most. We both prefer to work on small projects that we can complete in no more than two weeks time. We’d also rather work with a one or two person shop instead of a waiting months for a large company to open a PO. As a small business, even taking on one client, whose needs do not match our talents, can set us back months. As my stylist said, when that happens, nobody is happy.

Large companies also love meetings. And meetings breed more meetings. No thank you.

But completing a website in less than two weeks means following a process a we know well and not veering off the path into extensive customization. Occasionally, clients request features that could double or triple the length of the project. It’s not easy to leave money on the table, but we’ve stuck to our guns and only taken on work we are good at and that we can turn quickly. My visit to Super Cuts reaffirmed my commitment to small and repeatable projects.

I suppose that makes us more Super Cuts than Le Salon Paul Morey.

Sometimes you learn a business lesson in the most unlikely of places.

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