Getting my hair cut . . .

Forget not that the earth delights to feel your bare feet and the winds long to play with your hair.  ~Kahlil Gibran

I live in a big city. London, a very big city!  The recent population of Greater London is 7.6 million people.  Like almost every male in business today I occasionally need to get my hair cut.  Not a highly intellectual or sporty event, but a necessary part of my life routine.

Now my wife is the one who regularly reminds me that I need a haircut.  And as usual, she is right because I tend to put it off for a couple of reasons. One, I’m naturally lazy and it means a break in my routine, especially on a precious weekend when I would rather be doing other things.  But the second reason I tend to put off a trip to the barber shop is the incredible variability in cost, quality and the “customer experience”.

Just because a person has a barber’s license doesn’t automatically mean they deliver high quality.  Did they finish at the top of their class or barely pass? The license doesn’t say. (By the way, that’s also true for doctors!) So there really is no way of actually determining quality until the purchase (something is wrong with this picture).

The cost of a haircut is pretty easy to determine and tends to vary with the affluence of the neighborhood.  Since London has many little boroughs, within 2 stops on the London Underground I can find a simple haircut (no blow drying, no coloring, no frills) between £10 and £100.  In this case cost variance tends to match the wealth of the neighborhood. No surprise there.

But the quality of the haircut is an entirely different matter.  Is a £100 haircut 10 times better than a £10 one?  I think not.

Let me tell you why I go to the £10 barber shop (Michael’s barber shop for men). I go because I enjoy the experience!  The place I frequent about every 4 weeks is fun. There are 4 barbers, all Lebanese, their shop is open 6 days a week, and it is always full.  These guys have fun.  They talk politics, religion, current events, travel experiences, anything and everything with their customers and everyone is engaged and having a good time. I also enjoy the experience because no one is trying to impress (unlike a get together of business executives).  It’s purely social and always uplifting.  Mutual laughter is the common denominator.

Could it be that a large percentage of business customers value the experience as much (or more) than quality or cost? They all factor into the decision to shop at one store and not another, but I suspect that quality of the experience ranks higher than most retailers imagine.  That might be one of the reasons they spend so little on staff training, in the belief that fixtures, variety, price and sales are what pull in the shoppers.

I like to think the “shopping experience” is a big factor in the where-to-shop (or get your hair cut) decision. For those of us who are addicted to fishing as a hobby, the experience I have at a flyfishing shop is a huge factor in the decision of where I spend my money. Product knowledge is very important, but is it a fun place to be?  Do the guys engage easily with customers and each other.  I know the customer experience is also critical for golfers as well.  Quality of the “shopping experience” may just be one of the most overlooked principles in business sustainability.

And here’s another insight I’ve come upon.  Most business owners have no clue as to the “customer experience” with their company!

Tight Lines . . .

John R Childress

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T | +44 207 584 3774      M | +44 7833 493 999

About johnrchildress

John Childress is a pioneer in the field of strategy execution, culture change, executive leadership and organization effectiveness, author of several books and numerous articles on leadership, an effective public speaker and workshop facilitator for Boards and senior executive teams. In 1978 John co-founded The Senn-Delaney Leadership Consulting Group, the first international consulting firm to focus exclusively on culture change, leadership development and senior team alignment. Between 1978 and 2000 he served as its President and CEO and guided the international expansion of the company. His work with senior leadership teams has included companies in crisis (GPU Nuclear – owner of the Three Mile Island Nuclear Plants following the accident), deregulated industries (natural gas pipelines, telecommunications and the breakup of The Bell Telephone Companies), mergers and acquisitions and classic business turnaround scenarios with global organizations from the Fortune 500 and FTSE 250 ranks. He has designed and conducted consulting engagements in the US, UK, Europe, Middle East, Africa, China and Asia. Currently John is an independent advisor to CEO’s, Boards, management teams and organisations on strategy execution, corporate culture, leadership team effectiveness, business performance and executive development. John was born in the Cascade Mountains of Oregon and eventually moved to Carmel Highlands, California during most of his business career. John is a Phi Beta Kappa scholar with a BA degree (Magna cum Laude) from the University of California, a Masters Degree from Harvard University and was a PhD candidate at the University of Hawaii before deciding on a career as a business entrepreneur in the mid-70s. In 1968-69 he attended the American University of Beirut and it was there that his interest in cultures, leadership and group dynamics began to take shape. John Childress resides in London and the south of France with his family and is an avid flyfisherman, with recent trips to Alaska, the Amazon River, Tierra del Fuego, and Kamchatka in the far east of Russia. He is a trustee for Young Virtuosi, a foundation to support talented young musicians. You can reach John at or
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