The Inspirational Story of a Barber, A Lesson for All Entrepreneurs

In 1998, I stayed in Chennai for a month when my wife delivered our first baby boy. During that time, I visited a hair dressing saloon in Thiruvanmiyur. Looking at the positive energy of the saloon owner, I felt that he is different and I also felt that he got some unique quality in him. Then, I visited his saloon in 2000 when my wife delivered our second baby boy.

When we moved from Singapore to Chennai, I tried few hair dressing saloons near the place we stayed. They were all average quality. Our two boys grew up. They also did not like the saloon we visited near our house. After a while, we started visiting the great old saloon in Thiruvanmiyur. Not just me, my boys were also satisfied with the quality of work.

Even after 18 years, I could see the same smile and energy in him. One day I enquired about him and his family. When he was a little boy, he came to Chennai to work in a small saloon. His home town Achchirupakkam is about 100km from Chennai. He started his career in a saloon as a sweeper. Very soon he started working as a hair-dresser. He did that for 20 years. He persevered and went through all the humiliation.

Only after his twenty years of experience he setup his own saloon in Thiruvanmiyur, Chennai. He proudly mentioned that however hard that initial twenty years may be, only those two decade of experience shaped him and gave him all the wisdom of running the saloon and managing customer relationship. He understood the importance of repeat customers and customer happiness. He got an amazing elephant memory. He understood what each and every customer wanted. He remembered his customers even after a gap of 10 years.

Like any other sales person, he will also ask whether the customer want facial, hair dye, and so on to upsell. But he will ask nicely without feeling desperate to sell something blindly. I told him only once that I do not like to dye my hair. He remembered it and never asked me again.

He is very humble and listens to devotional songs. The way he greets all his customers is very impressive and consistent. He is proud of being self-employed and he also has a team of hair dressers to drive growth. I will call him Barberopreneur. He not only treated the customers respectfully but also treated his employees with human touch.

One day he was alone in his saloon. I asked him, “what happened to others?” He immediately responded, “Now a days, people do not stay in one place. Sometimes I have to fire them because of bad attitude. Sir, imagine what would have happened if I did not know my business and did not have the competence of a hair dresser. I would have wound up my business long back.” Being an entrepreneur, I could relate to him very well.

He has one son and one daughter. Both of them are well educated. His son is an MBA graduate. His educated daughter got married and leading a good middle-class life.

Recently he told me, “As father I wish my son to continue my business but he is not showing interest for now.” He also mentioned that he will not pressurize him to take over his business. But he said, “I will be happy if my son takes over.” I saw his son only once in that saloon.

Go back into the history and understand the way barbers were treated. But, who empowered him to design and lead this dignified life. He very well understood his competence, he identified who he is, and he understood what he can and cannot. He knows, where his happiness lies. Based on that self-realization, he took control of his destiny.

His entire journey from his little village to where he is today, is a big lesson for all of us the educated people. Survey shows that 66% of the employees in big corporates are not happy at work. Whoever do not engage enthusiastically at work will lead a miserable life. They will neither go to bed happily not wake up in joy. I hope everyone who reads his story will get inspired and empower themselves to lead a great life without losing their dignity at any stage.

I will leave it to you about what lessons you, as an entrepreneur or middle to high class workforce, learn from this real story of a barber who lived his life in dignity, working hard and smart for over four decades, never felt bad about his profession, and ultimately nurtured his family in Chennai to a respectable level. His success cannot be attributed to luck or to special intervention by God or a political connection.

As one entrepreneur once mentioned, “Yes I got overnight success, after 20 years of hard work.” This is the reality of life. If anyone who understands this secret of success, will succeed big time. Irrespective of colour, caste, social status, and educational qualification, I will call all the dedicated people, who are determined, persevere and work hard, as the pillars of national development. If you observe deeply, I am sure you will find many more such characters in your daily walk of life. God bless them all!

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