Levelling Up: How To Evolve as a Barbershop Business Leader

Joe Mills business leader

While the stresses and nuances of the last few years have been challenging for everyone, Joe Mills, Modern Barber Best Business Leader of the Year 2022, believes it also gave the barbering industry an opportunity to reflect and adapt for a brighter future.

“Owning your business is a rollercoaster ride irrespective of the issues of the last few years. For me personally the last few years were pretty brutal,” reveals Joe. He tells us that nine months of closures due to the Covid-19 pandemic had an unprecedented financial and emotional impact on everyone, and after closing his Primark operation another shop experienced major flood which also closed its doors for nine months. “This has taken its toll on me and the team around me. However, it hasn’t all been doom and gloom, there were some amazing highs including the support from the team and clients, and the journey we all had to work through everything.”

Joe tells us that existing challenges, as well as the additional stress from the last few years, led him to take some much needed time for reflection, something many of us did coming out of lockdown. “I needed time to think about what I wanted to do moving forward. The decision was kind of made for me to be honest with rising bills and continuing issues with my premises. So, I decided to close my two salons and move out of the area where I’d been for around 21 years.” Although there were moments where the decision to close his salons felt difficult, his overriding feeling was thinking ahead to his next step. “This was more about the unknown and coming out of my comfort zone. Once you face your fear, things are easier to deal with. As an industry it was easy to get bogged down with the everyday and not take time to think where we wanted our businesses to go.”

“As a business owner, and business leader, you have to make sure we understand our business inside and out. Face the tough questions and ask the people around us what they think,” he explains, adding that being a business owner can be a lonely place. “Adapting and changing is important. Don’t stand still too long, look around and see what your competition is and what they are doing. Standing still isn’t an option.”

So what about Joe’s new venture? In January this year he launched a brand new creative space called Woolf Kings X in Kings Cross, which encompasses his session agency, a photographic studio and a space for barbers and stylists all under one roof. “We’ve now created a gender fluid space in Kings Cross, which for me was very important. It was a decision we had been discussing with the team for a few years and now seemed like the perfect time.” For Joe and the team, the focus was on enhancing their skill sets and the creative space: “It’s about evolving, adapting and knowing what it is you want to do. What are your goals? Once you know these then you can make a plan. Find people inside and outside your network you can go to for advice and support. Make that plan and make it happen.”

Joe’s tips for business leaders looking to change direction and evolve for the future?

  1. Think through what you want to achieve and why
  2. Plan it out on every level
  3. Cross check and get other people’s opinions

Another great way to level up your business is to stay up to date with all the latest brands, trends and techniques – and with a dedicated Modern Barber stage at Salon International 2023, what better place to do it?