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Business Lessons From A Barber In NAPA

 Written by Paramjit L. Mahli

I had a quick summer vacation in Napa with family from Vancouver. As is typical for me, I always pick up local papers to find out what’s going on in the community. One of these papers Yountville Sun had a story on its front page about a barber retiring after being in business for 43 years.

  I read through the article and realized there were lessons to be learned for all lawyers and business owners.

 1.     Power of proximity:  You have got to be in a market that has a need. In this case, the barber during his initial days moved the location of his business operation to the center of the town, opposite the post office. His business doubled almost immediately. You have to be liked, and trusted in circles where your clients are.  I tell many of my clients to get involved in their local community by joining trade groups, and or local chambers of commerce. Community building activities are good for the spirit and business. Invest the time, far better than becoming a couch potato.

2.     Become the client’s trusted advisor:  In our barber’s case he referred to himself as the priest for his clients.

3.     Make exceptions for regular clients when times are tough: The barber exemplifies this when he reduced his prices for a veteran or farm worker in need. He clearly understood the value of having repeat clients. Depending on your practice this can be a bit tricky, but value is value. You want all clients to leave with the sense they received more than their investment.

4.     Transition plans in place: Often times, family members are interested in taking over the business, but with the barber’s situation the timing was off. Make sure you have a plan in place for your law practice and not one in your head. It must be written on paper even if it is merely a one page word doc. This is something I am running into frequently with my clients in the legal sector. Having a plan reduces risk and uncertainty.  Plans can always change, as people’s circumstances will.

5.     Understand that learning is a lifelong process: It does not finish when you obtain your legal qualifications. Rather the real work begins with starting to build your networks. You will need different networks for different things. Not rocket science but common sense.

Finally, all of this matter of consistent execution. Results, which all of us seek come from doing and implementing and NOT as my niece (3.5 years old when she made this comment)  being ‘a think abouter’.  I am just  phone call away, for those who want to step up and play a bigger game. 

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