Competition Entrepreneurs Management Marketing

Smartest barber on the planet

Not too long ago, I was talking with my buddy Chris Hurn, the commercial paper wizard from Orlando.

He was telling me about a barber down there who offers memberships for his barbershop.

The memberships allow you to reserve a specific time every so many weeks for whatever services you wanted to get. Maybe you paid for 30 minutes and just got a haircut. Maybe you paid for 45 and got a haircut, a manicure and a shave.

The barber caters to executives, Realtors, attorneys and others whose time is very valuable to them. Sitting in a barber shop for 45 minutes waiting for your turn is not these guys’ idea of productivity.

But here’s the really brilliant part.

It’s all prepaid.

If you want your haircut and shave slot every week or every other week or whatever – you pay for your membership in advance to reserve that slot as yours. In some cases, for a year in advance. People love it because they know that they can stop in at their personally reserved time and get the services they need without waiting. This allows them the wonderful freedom to get back to business, golf, family or whatever – on time, on their terms.

They can make plane reservations around their barber time, because they know their time is theirs.

Even though the barber is trading time for dollars, they’re doing so in a business that typically allows itself to be the random recipient of customers.

Many have no idea how much money they’ll make tomorrow. That’s insane in a service business. ANY service business.

This barber doesn’t leave himself open to the random “Hmm, I need a haircut. How’s traffic in that part of town today? Oh, nevermind, maybe I’ll go next week” arrival (or non-arrival) of customers. He knows how many paid appointments he has next week. He has the best setup of all: built-in scarcity. He can say “Well, on first and third Thursdays, I have 3 thirty minute openings available for members, but that’s it.” – knowing full well that the rest of Thursday is already paid for.

Back when I was in the photography studio software business, we saw great success with prepaid appointments. This was particularly effective when a client was in the senior portrait business. Kids with drivers licenses are distracted, busy and in many cases, don’t really care if they miss a photo shoot. They’d miss them time and time again. Every time, this wastes photographer time, studio time, assistant time PLUS there’s no sales made on portraits that don’t get taken.

The smart studios figured out that if the portrait appointment was paid for in advance, mom would “properly motivate” Dirk or Susie so they’d make it to their portrait appointment. No shows went through the floor, almost to zero. In some cases, the number actually did hit zero. Those were happy, happy studios.

When’s the last time you had a no show? When’s the last time you had a no show that didn’t cost you money? When’s the last time your service business not only knew how much money it was going to make next week – but also knew it was already in the bank?

More hard dollars. Get it fixed.

Automation Competition Customer service Entrepreneurs Management Marketing The Slight Edge

I’m not the one who needs the reminder…

Yesterday, we talked about appointment books and how they get used, misused and underutilized. I’d like to follow up on a related topic: reminders.

Reminder postcards from a business are a pretty common thing these days. Some businesses hand write them – after all, your receptionist isn’t exactly swamped with work since your book isn’t full.

In some cases, the business actually uploads a list of “people due for appointments” to a service, and that service prints and mails the cards to the customer who is due for an appointment.

While this is better than nothing, almost no one gets this right – and you’re leaving hard dollars on the table.

Entrepreneurs Management Marketing The Slight Edge

Is your appointment book full?

A lot of businesses these days take appointments. Hair salons, nail salons, auto repair service centers, even some high-end clothing stores.

Many of the books seem to be little more than a recording device that documents which clients have figured out that they need to come in. They fill almost at random, as if the time has no value.

Why is that?

As a business owner, wouldn’t you prefer to see the book completely full? Wouldn’t you want to be turning away business, or scrambling to find more people, more machines (or whatever) and finding a way to extend your hours so that you can serve them? Or even better, raise your price every time you find yourself getting overbooked.

There’s a balance to be had, but an appointment book should be more than just a recording device. Most businesses fail to take advantage of the real value of that multi-faceted, all-powerful (and valuable) book.

Entrepreneurs Management Marketing The Slight Edge

Marketing lessons from a Catholic bookstore

In a post referred to me back in May, Musings from a Catholic Bookstore blogged about 10 things you should know about your customers.

It was passed on to me as blog fodder so I thought I’d add a few comments of my own – not being Catholic or owning a bookstore never stopped me from commenting before…so here we go.


Unintended consequences. Are you ready?

When McDonald’s started selling Apple Dippers back in 2005, they suddenly became one of the largest consumers of apples in the U.S., anticipating the purchase of at least 54 million apples annually.

Businesses using apples surely had to notice a change in supply and cost. A change they probably weren’t expecting.

Sometimes it’s a bit more serious than that.

Entrepreneurs Management The Slight Edge

A takeaway from LeBron’s lesson

During the 2007 NBA finals, NBA big man LeBron James of the Cleveland Cavaliers learned a valuable lesson. Hopefully Cleveland did as well.

The lesson?

In sports, ONE guy can’t do it all, and if ONE guy is all you have and your opponent shuts down that ONE guy – you’re in trouble. discusses the lesson with LeBron, but it isn’t clear that he gets it. Perhaps he’s being nice and taking the blame himself, perhaps not. He closes the article with “I must get better.”

While there’s no doubt that he’s right – and little doubt that he will improve, the real issue is his team. He needs to surround himself with better players.

A better team.

Where are the weaknesses on your team? Why do you tolerate them? What can you start doing tomorrow to improve your team’s performance?

Entrepreneurs Management Marketing Wal-Mart

When does having the lowest price make sense?

Not very often.

Yesterday, I was talking about the folly of competing primarily (or mostly) on price and how silly it is because of the lack of loyalty it creates among your customers.

However, there are a few times where the low price makes sense.

Management Media Politics

Oil, water and the pharmacy

Yesterday, I pulled a quote out of a classic pharmacy / contraceptive / faith story in the Great Falls Tribune because a quote about using morals to make business decisions seemed odd to me.

There’s another hair in this story’s soup: The rights of the businesses to do business as the owners see fit – within the law.

The owners of the pharmacy say they stopped the sale of oral contraceptives because their use is not consistent with their faith.

I don’t think they need a reason, nor do they need to explain it to anyone.

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Someone in Wyoming

Someone in Wyoming showed up on my caller ID this afternoon. Normally, I would have let it go to voice mail, but there are a few people down there whose numbers I don’t have memorized, so I picked it up and got a pleasant surprise.

It was Jennifer from Bresnan, the manager of their customer service quality management team for this area. Apparently Bresnan has someone (probably something, but that’s cool with me) scanning blogs for their various business/brand names.


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Business and Morals: Oil and water?

In an article in the June 3, 2007 Great Falls Tribune, an article discusses a pharmacy whose new owners have decided to stop selling birth control pills because they feel that selling oral contraceptives (ie: “the pill”) conflicts with their Catholic faith.

That article quotes a Great Falls businessman Jerry Weissman, as follows:

Weissman, who described himself as a pro-choice Republican, also said he thinks Snyder’s new owners are taking a considerable business risk, especially with two new Walgreens pharmacies set to open in the near future, “by putting obstacles in their road to serving customers by making business decisions for moral reasons.”

That quote jumped off the page at me.

Aren’t many business decisions moral ones?