Meet Neal Toner owner of JFH Social and The Salon Coach

neal toner

Barbershop owner Neal Toner has overcome dark times and found a fresh approach to life that makes succeeding and thriving easy. He’s now set up a business masterclass to pass his findings on to fellow barbershop owners, so MB caught Neal between CrossFit sessions and goal planning to find out more.


Tell me a bit about your background…

I started barbering 11 years ago in a small seaside town in County Down Ireland. This was before barbering was hip or cool. Cutting hair came naturally to me. I worked in a really traditional shop but saw an opening for something for the young crowd. I’m very lucky that my dad is an entrepreneur, so when I wanted to start my own business, he was very supportive. I was quite confident that I could make it work and it became successful very fast. JFH Social has a shop here in Newcastle and one in Belfast. We are constantly fully booked.


How would you describe your personal development journey?

It began with a moment of enlightenment. I started my business young, 22 years old. I loved cutting hair but all of a sudden I was running a really busy shop and had to become a businessman. I started to struggle with anxiety and then I started having panic attacks about 10am every Saturday morning when the shop was rammed. It felt like I was being hugged by a large man and I couldn’t breathe. So one Saturday I couldn’t cope and I called my Aunt Deirdre Maguire, who is a top Life Coach. She came straight to the shop and gave me five minutes of EFT which is a treatment that works with pressure points in the body. I can only describe it as an out of body experience. I felt the pressure just fall away. It made me incredibly curious and I then started working with Deirdre over time to uncover the root causes and heal any past trauma.

In short as we experience life we start to tell ourselves a story and create a belief system about ourselves. I didn’t pass my 11 plus and I began to tell myself a story of failure. Clearing out the old script meant that I could come to a place of peace and build a new vision of my future. I practice mindfulness meditation which teaches you to simply be present. This works so well in the barbershop because when I am with a client, I am with them 100%. I bring each client the best version of myself I can. I am so fortunate that for the last five years I have travelled extensively in the UK to educate, I’ve shared skills with over 20,000 people and they mostly have the same problem. A lack of vision and a lack of peace. It might seem woo woo but those two things equal success. I have now set up a business owners mastermind group to help coach people. I want to help them lead a team with authority, create freedom and health and a scalable business.


What are the three key behaviours that have made the greatest change in the last few years?

My daily success habits… if you don’t have a daily plan or ritual to optimise your performance then someone or something is going to give you a plan. I do Crossfit training and take care of my nutrition but one of the main things is finding out your ‘why’. Young barbers look to their idols and heroes and think they want what those people have but they don’t think about the ‘why’. The other behaviour I recommend is putting the social media aside, staying away from negative news… it saps your energy and brings your serotonin and oxytocin levels down.


What do you think a barber’s biggest challenge is?

Getting clarity on their OWN GOALS. This has been huge for me and my team in the last six months.  I encourage them to ask themselves questions about their goal such as ‘How will I feel when I achieve it?’ Then afterwards they need to consider how the feeling matched up to the reality.


What are your plans for the future?

Developing my two shops and launching my business and life coach platform in July. The lockdown has been a gift for me as I have had the time to work on providing real structured help that will make a difference.

Follow @the_salon_coach or visit


This interview originally featured in Issue 27 of Modern Barber. You can read the issue in full here.

Related stories

New rules on client face coverings

How to get your foot in the industry door 

Who’s on the Modern Barber Stage at Salon International 2020