Managing a successful barbershop is a lot to do about the barbershop team – something Natalie Cresswell, owner of Cresswell Barber Co, knows all too well. After winning ‘Best Team’ at the Modern Barber Awards in 2022 and 2023, we decided to ask her how she’s built and maintained an award-winning team.
MB: How many team members are there at Cresswell Barber Co?
Natalie: We have eight members on the team, including myself.
MB: Do you have a defined managerial structure? If so, what benefits does this have?
Natalie: Yes, we have structured management. Charlie takes care of the day to day running of the shop, all the product ordering, any team issues and holiday/sick days and helps with organising any shop/team events, stage work and watching over our apprentice, Luke. It doesn’t sound like a lot on paper, but Charlie also manages a full column himself, so it can be quite full on. Therefore, he gets compensated financially for the extra workload. This helps me so much with the general running of the company. I myself work three days behind the chair so I have more time to focus on the business rather than being in the business. Charlie’s input helps keep the shop running smoothly whilst I’m busy behind the scenes.
MB: Why is clear communication important in barbering?
Natalie: Clear communication is important for many reasons in our industry. For example, from my experience when teaching a new barber, everyone learns differently. It’s important to realise that not everyone can understand the techniques and skills you’re putting across. This is why I like to encourage everyone on the team to pitch in and help the newbies, as everyone cuts differently and there’s always something new for them to pick up.
Clear, precise communication is also important to our clients. Speaking slowly, articulating professionally and with patience and courtesy – it can help the client to feel like they’ve been looked after, that you’ve taken your time and they’ve spent their money wisely – which keeps them returning.
Social media is also a great example of clear communication. Less is more in my opinion – short captions which are clear and precise, nothing lengthy, unless it’s a rare, personal post. We’re keen photographers and like to make the shots powerful and speak for themselves.
MB: How does the team communicate successfully?
Natalie: The team communicates by having a ‘zero bullshit and bitching’ policy. If you’re unhappy with something, come out with it (not on the shop floor) and be done with it, or leave it at home. It’s important the environment has a positive energy and friendly atmosphere for our clients to enjoy.
We often have team meetings, especially when we have big events coming up or when we have a new member of staff joining us. Charlie and I meet around once a fortnight for a couple of hours to discuss recent happenings and decide what we can do to improve, moving forward.
MB: In what ways does the team support one another?
Natalie: As I said before, we all support each other when learning new techniques or if we have a fresh new barber starting out. No one knows everything, and I’m proud of how humble my team is for this.
We also cover holidays and swap days around where we can. We take shots of each other’s work and help give advice on photography and social media. And in general, we support each other like you would your family or best friends; it really is such a laugh at the shop, so when one person’s down, it’s very noticeable and we all do our best to help make them forget any troubles they may have and remind them of who the eff they are!
MB: Are the team sociable outside or work hours?
Natalie: My team are very sociable outside of working hours! We always celebrate birthdays, and we recently had a surprise birthday party for Bethan. Leif also got married couple of weeks ago so we all celebrated that too. We occasionally go out for what we call ‘Food Friday’ where we all literally just do that… go for food after hours on a Friday – although lately it’s been any kind of day.
MB: What do you think are the three most important traits for a successful barbershop team?
Natalie: A successful team consists of some really simple ingredients in my opinion, including integrity. I don’t have room for any big egos, everyone on the team is very talented in their own right, regardless of what they’ve achieved or for how long they’ve been on the shop floor. We’re all a united team with a lot to offer.
Also showing genuine help and support to the team and clients, and being a reliable team member is one of my biggest things. The day you’re a flake and let me, the team and your clients down, you’re out. We don’t have time to look behind us, only straight ahead.
Confidence, commitment, common interest – everyone on the team will encourage each other and boost their confidence, and in turn they will do the same for their client. They choose to commit and dedicate to the craft, the brand and push themselves for our common interest, which is to be the very best we can be, as human beings, an individual barber and as part of a team of barbers under the Cresswell Barber Co. umbrella.
MB: Why do you think you won the award for Best Team? Is there anything Cresswell Barber Co. might do differently to other barbershops?
Natalie: You know, 10 years ago, if you said I’d have my own barbershop and a team of seven other like-minded barbers, I would have laughed uncontrollably. I say it a lot, because not only am I super proud of them, but I like to remind them just how grateful I am for them – not only as my team but as my best friends. Cresswell Barber Co. is about them. Yes, my name is on the door, and I started this company from scratch, but it’s them that hold the fort. They’re the ones that keep my passion alive for the craft, and they’re the ones working hard behind the chairs, that keep the clients happy. I am a mere 1/8th of the team and I cannot take all the credit for what they contribute.
There was a point where I didn’t want the responsibility of owning a huge business and being responsible for multiple people’s livelihoods, but I’m so glad I took the plunge because I now have this beautiful little barbering world in my hometown. Before I never really did have many friends, and now I have these amazing people I get to share my days with, whilst doing the thing we all love.
We won best team because they truly are the best barbershop team.
I asked they gang why they think we won best team and Bethan said: “It’s because of what each individual brings to the table and how we somehow manage to fit together like one of those impossible shaped puzzles. We come up with ideas together, clean tougher, moan, laugh and cry together. It’s a real team input, and everyone pitches in – no matter the ‘hierarchy’.”
In our application for the award, I said owning this barbershop and working with this team is like walking down the street and occasionally picking up stray alley cats that need a loving home. We’re all a bunch of misfits that couldn’t find our (work)place, and I was the first one. I opened my shop because I couldn’t settle in at previous places of work where I wasn’t appreciated or respected. I’d rather have been working alone – and now I have a team that are completely the same, and from that experience, I now promote a healthy working environment where everyone is equal.
I can’t speak for other barbershops, but I like to think one of the other reasons why we may have won was the amount of charity work and events we do. We love to give back to our community and remind clients that we’re here for them: we just took part in BarbersRide, where we hosted and raised £1,000 for Make a Wish Foundation; we’ve also just raised money for Pride charity by having a cutting stall at Southampton Pride, promoting a neutral and safe environment for members of the LGBTQIA+ community; some of our team are part of the Lions Barber Collective, learning about and helping our clients with their mental health on the shop floor and we take part in and go to all of the industry shows and keep our skillset fresh and updated.