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“Why I choose to employ my staff rather than renting chairs”

barber rent a chair

Modern Barber talked to Chris O’Sullivan, owner and founder of Grizzly’s Male Hair Salon, as he weighs in on the age old debate of rent a chair vs employing staff.

Chris o Sullivan rent a chair barber“Why does the barbering industry favour self employed chair renters over employing staff? This is a question I have found interesting since starting my own male grooming business a little over three years ago. I have been in the hairdressing industry for 15 years now, and I find the industry one of the most creative and inspiring out there. It is full of amazing businesses with great brands, training, barbers, stylists and entrepreneurs. Yet the question never wants to be discussed properly; people shy away from it almost. I am by no means trying to call people out, I simply want to ask the question: Is it time to shake up the barbering world? I think we should all embrace the option of employment and really push this industry on to charge what it is worth.

I chose the option to employ my team.

Why did I choose that option? Because it suited my intention of growing a brand and having a team of people all pushing for the same goal. If I chose to set my business up as a chair rental business, it would mean the following would be up to the individual and not that of the owner:

-What days or hours to work
-How much they should charge their clients
-Which clients to take on
-How to dress for work
– Which products they should use or sell
-Which services they should provide to their clientele
-How to market their business

However, self-employed barbers are sometimes taken advantage of, and are given none of the above choices but are still told they are self employed. This, alongside the lack of job security, (which has been an issue during the pandemic) no pension, and no secure monthly income, just goes to show that employment can be a great option. Above all, it is unfair for a shop owner to create the feel of employment, without actually offering it. Self-employed barbers are being exploited. Shop owners are often calling the self employed/chair renters their team, creating rules and regulations and making decisions as if they are employed, like start times, dresscode, training methods and prices.

Add to this the fact that cash payments are fastly becoming a thing of the past. Transactions will be made using cards and will also be the clients preferred method of payment. This will eliminate anyone using the opportunity to not put all their earnings through the books. This is a minority, but it does happen in every industry.

Someone renting a chair should be marketing their own business within a shop the way they would like to. People who rent chairs cannot be instructed or expected to train an apprentice or take part in any in-house training and development. Why are shops not complying with this? Why are shops getting away with treating the self employed like they are employed without the benefit? Maybe it’s because it’s the way it’s always been, and maybe some shop owners feel it is too expensive to employ staff.

As a whole, I don’t think barbers charge their worth. High street salons’ average haircut price is more than that of a barber’s average. It’s not because they are more talented or more money is available, it simply comes down to the way the majority of salon businesses are set up.

Employing staff can and does have huge benefits for both staff and business owners, such as:

For the employee…

  • State pension
  • A standard monthly wage with options of commission for services and products -tax and n.i sorted
  • Opportunities to grow within the business
  • In-house training as a company standard
  • Be a part of a successful brand and team
  • Working as a team towards a core goal
  • Potential share ownership
  • Don’t need to have your own insurance
  • 1-1’s and support
  • Paid holiday

For the employer…

  • Building a great culture
  • Protection for both employee and business owner
  • Contracts
  • Control of hours, marketing, price
  • Business direction
  • Satisfaction of helping someone in their career
  • More time to work on your business rather than in it

There are great barbershops out there that rent chairs to the self employed correctly, and do a good job and make a good living. When done correctly and fairly it can be beneficial also. If someone is very good at running their business within your shop, and you have a commission agreement without having to pay their n.i, pensions/ holiday, you could be on to a winner, but just remember you have little control on that person’s decision making.

To conclude why I chose to employ my staff, it is because my team is the reason the business is great. It is my responsibility to keep them focused, career driven, to be part of the shop’s future and culture, and to give them the benefits of employment. We are currently living through the scariest of times to be a business owner. In the not so distant future, job security will be one of the key factors when looking for a job in any industry.

Brand logos and great decor are only part of a brand – your staff/team are the real brand. Maybe now is the time we set barbershops up correctly to echo this and push this great industry even further forward.”

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