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Learning from V’s Barbershops

Earlier this year at the ISBN conference, a crowd of members descended en masse on a small barbershop in Phoenix, Arizona. V’s Barbershop in E Indian School Road opened in 1999, long before the current frenzy for traditional barbers kicked off, and the visit gave members an opportunity to see the blueprint (which has changed little) for a chain that has since grown to 36 locations across 15 states and with a further 25 sold licensees actively seeking real estate opportunities.

The second in the Tour de ISBN series, the visit to the original V’s and another to the most recent addition to the group was part of a comprehensive program devised to bring members closer outside the boundaries of the annual conference.

V’s owner Jim Valenzuela kicked off the program with a fascinating and brutally honest presentation to the entire conference. Members were then bussed to the original V’s and then on to the newest, this time opened as a franchise, before returning to the conference hotel to participate in an intimate round table seminar with the V’s team. To be able to scrutinize the growth of a business that has successfully and recently flipped from owner-operated to franchising was a real draw for members.

‘The overall tour was wonderful,’ said Gary Reed from Hairzoo, which has more than 10 salons in New York and California. ‘The entire team did an excellent job sharing about V’s and how they came to be what they are today. It’s always so beneficial going behind the scenes to see members’ locations, and to understand their operations and what makes them work successfully. Learning about the history of a business and hearing their story on why they do the things they do are always special.’

What particularly chimed with Gary’s own experience was V’s opening marketing tactics and what they found most successful when marketing a new barbershop. Meanwhile, the visit confirmed to Lisa Fiorentino, owner of Hello Gorgeous! Salon & Spas in New Jersey and partner with Tony Fiorentino, who is on the ISBN board of trustees, that sticking to one’s original plan is crucial.

‘The networking experience was very cool. I really enjoy getting to see how other salon owners got their start and how they’ve evolved over the years, but still stuck to the core values of why they got into the business in the first place,’ said Lisa . ‘The V’s team described many things that we all go through in our salons, and starting out as a family-owned business, I could certainly relate to some of the struggles they went through. However, the lightbulb moment I had while listening and looking in the salons was about doing just what they did – sticking to their core values. Don’t try to be anything other than what your business originally stood for – a place where everyone knows your name, where you are treated like a family member and where you are given the best of care.’

Keenan Fisher, Managing Partner at the fast expanding Canadian barber group Tommy Gun’s, was also part of group.

‘It was really great to understand the story that led to what V’s is today, to understand the foundation of the business. That was so interesting. I love sharing the inspiration, creativity and passion of another entrepreneur and experiencing their energy. The overall program, where the visit followed their presentation at conference and was followed up with the round-table seminar, was very cool, very comprehensive, giving us lots of opportunity to feel that energy,’ he said.

‘The customer-centric approach gave us some great ideas for Tommy Gun’s that are easily transferable, while other elements have inspired us, enriching our thinking about our own processes. I’d love to dig deeper next time, to see specific programs where there is a tangible result, such as a HR recruitment strategy or procurement innovation.’

For the guys at V’s it was an uplifting experience. ‘V’s was incredibly honored to be part of the overall ISBN event in Scottsdale, Arizona,’ said Emily Brown, V’s COO. ‘Considering our home base is Arizona, and our concept was born from desert roots, it was simply fun to offer the peers of our industry an inside look into our barbershops and operations. We were honored to know that many others would like to learn about our barbershop concept and would take the time to learn more about V’s.

‘So many days, we still think of ourselves as running a small barbershop concept from the back office of our first location in Arcadia with a team of three: Jim, Chris Mitchell [VP Finance and Treasurer] and myself. Sometimes we get a bit of a tap on the shoulder, reminding us that others in this industry not only know who we are, but are also interested in talking to us. We were thrilled. Nobody tells the V’s story quite like Mr V, and I think the ability for folks to have his ear, listen to his journey and have a conversation with our team, it really just was an honor and a privilege. We can’t wait to participate and engage with other leaders through ISBN for many years to come.’

The next Tour de ISBN promises to be equally fascinating, giving members the chance to scrutinize one of the most successful groups in the world – Great Clips. It kicks off in Las Vegas on October 18 with a networking evening and includes a visit to a Great Clips salon and a Great Clips regional training center.

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