THE BARBER WHO TAUGHT ME MORE ABOUT BUSINESS THAN AN MBA SCHOOL DID TO ME
_Lessons for today’s business men_
Growing up for me as a child and then as a teenager was a myst of mix.
My parents did everything they could to send us to the best of schools. I remember that when Nigeria handed leadership from military to the civilian in year 1999, I was in the same classroom with our then state governor’s child at old ESUT Nursery and Primary, Abakaliki, (now EBSU Nursery and Primary).
That was how far my parents went in investing in our growing up. But I had what I considered my own bigger problem; meal times at home were hardly a celebration. As a result, I had a physical appearance that I wasn’t entirely proud of. My entire facial bones (particularly my zygomatic bone) were very prominent.
I wasn’t proud of my looks. As a matter of fact, I attached my entire self confidence to my academic performance and to the fact that I was convinced internally that I was a smart kid and that I could do what people of my age could not (things like a daily morning routine of walking nearly half and a quarter hour distance from my family home every 4:30am to buy bread at a popular Dennis bakery, for the mini store we ran at home). Perhaps I was wrong, but these convictions kept my sail afloat.
Because of my “bony” looks, I always looked forward to getting a haircut. I had managed to discover a particular style that ‘convinced’ me that I looked better and which made a boost of my self confidence. What I didn’t know was that most barbers didn’t understand my very little needs; my haircuts where never to reduce the hair on my hair but a therapy to my eloping self confidence. I also lacked a personal insight to stick to one saloon.
So, this day came and there I was, sitting in a barbers shop. I had just finished giving an expert description of what I wanted, with the barber assuring me of excellence and I was to just watch and “see.” I believe he must have been in his late 20s and I was barely 14 or less, so I trusted his words. A decision I later regretted.
Half way into the haircut, it was clear to me that not that my goal had been defeated, my haircut was a literal ridicule. I was drunk with sadness, too sad to talk or complain.
By the time he was getting done with the “damage,” and was about to do the finishing trimmings and carvings, I quickly asked to be allowed to pay, explaining that I was OK with what he had done already. I was as polite as I could.
But the young man refused and insisted I had to sit for him to trim and carve the hair. I had been to several barbers and I knew enough of when a haircut is terrible and when it was good and particularly, when it was the very style that boosted my self confidence.
I was bothered that if this barber was unable to give me a good hair cut on my good hair, how sure was I that I would be able to endure the outcome of him having to carve something that was already a ‘havoc.’ It was a risk I could not afford.
But that wasn’t the meat of the drama, the fun came at the heat of argument, he yelled, “you cannot leave my shop with ‘something’ like this!” Woah! That was the icing of the cake for me. I thought to myself, if the barber himself recognizes this haircut as ‘terrible,’ what happens when I eventually meet with my friends.
At the end, I had managed to leave the shop but without my money, but also with a resolution never to visit that shop ever again…
It’s been over a decade and I have kept the promise to myself.
Today I still see this barber in different business places. People who are mediocre in the profession that puts meal on the table for them and their families. I’ve seen them in high and low places. I’ve met with them in political offices, in lecture rooms, at our hospitals nation wide, in industries, everywhere even at homes as mediocre parents.
Strive for excellence in your profession. Strive to be the best. Compete globally for despite your local position. Research, learn, unlearn and relearn. Just keep growing.
Today I still meet with this barber in different business places. People who lack understanding of “customer service and specific needs.” I have seen them everywhere almost everyday.
Lack of understanding of customer need is one of the biggest killers of businesses in Africa today. Every business and organization must invest quality time and sourcing feed and from customers and adapting themselves to these needs. A successful business person is a ‘humble’ and empathic person. He does not believe he knows enough of what is right, so he is always willing to learn from his customers in other to serve them better.
©OTUBO VICTOR OGEMDI