A small business owner, let’s call him Bob, arrives in a small town for a meeting with a potential new client. Before his afternoon meeting, Bob decides he needs a haircut to get all spiffy. The receptionist at his hotel tells him there are only two barbers in town, both with shops along the main drag. It’s a sunny warm morning so Bob sets off walking.
When he arrives at the first barbershop, Bob can clearly see through the big front window that the place looks less than pristine – hair on the floor and a general air of disorganization. There’s one fellow getting a cut and another waiting. Even the barber himself needs a trim!
Further along Main Street, Bob comes to the second barbershop. The view in the front window looks much better. The floor is swept and gleaming, the barber is busy lining up shampoo bottles on a display shelf and his own hair has a crisp updated cut.
Bob turns around and heads back to the first barbershop to get his cut. Do you know why?
I read some version of this story in a logic puzzles book as a kid and it has stuck with me because it has such a powerful unexpected message. Have you figured it out yet?
The barber at the first shop has a line-up, he’s clearly in demand and too busy to keep his shop as tidy as it should be. He’s likely in demand because he’s the more talented of the two barbers, being the person who cut the second barber’s hair.
The next time you’re looking for a website developer, or a business coach, or a printing company, or a haircut, look beyond the website or shiny window. Look at the customers to see the results. Really happy customers become fans and they’ll be easy to find, even if they’re not in line for a haircut.
photo by hfrank71 / Flickr