Small Business

The barber of Bondi

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Bankruptcy taught Tim Findon the business lesson of a lifetime and consequently he has have never gone through the hair raising experience of bankruptcy!

You see, Findon admits the greatest influence on him and his approach to business was the fact he witnessed his father and his employer go under before he bit the bullet and went into small business.

Tim and his crew cut hair at Busby Hair in Sydney’s Bondi and while they like to play hard, the treats they enjoy are merely the rewards of hard work. How do I know? Well, Tim and his team have been cutting my rapidly disappearing hair for near on 20 years and I've witnessed it first hand. (Cynics can refer to an editorial page in the Australian newspaper or on my website for a good old laugh!)

Without doubt, the Findon story is an inspiration, as this is a case of someone who has done it right and wants to do it even better.

When I asked Tim if he found going from employee to employer many years ago the nightmare many say it is, he replied, " I thought running a business was going to be harder than it actually was." Intrigued at this I asked, "What was the secret to your successful start?".

He insists the bankruptcy of his dad and his old boss definitely made him excessively cautious. In what has to go down as the best example for other newcomers to business, Tim said from day one he got his accountant and solicitor together and demanded to know what he had to do to avoid going belly-up.

The accountant gave him an expanded file and a wages book and impressed upon him the need to keep records and documents and quite incredibly, Tim still lugs his records around each year to the same accountant more than 20 years on!

When asked why he is so strict on his vigilance with accounting he says "If you don’t have enough in your cheque account to cover a bill when it lands on your desk, you’re at the beginning of a problem.”

Meanwhile, the solicitor explained the traps with leases and how landlords have a knack of cashing in on the success of renting businesses who haven't taken a magnifying glass to the fine print on the lease. Tim insists what he learnt then has kept him competitive even today when rental negotiations come around.

Even though Tim's first experiences weren't as hairy as the 70 per cent of small businesses who fail in the first three years, he did have some 'bad hair days' in a most important area for many businesses – his staff.

The eccentricity of the hair-cutting industry is well-known. Tim believes a successful salon must have a good group of communicators, but this can be difficult when the staff – often young people – are dealing with clients who still think Perry Como is a great singer.

Tim says he puts in lots of time talking to his team about telephone manner, conversing with clients and developing the people skills which are essential in this and many other industries, but which are hard to teach at tech.

Findon’s is a fantastic example of the new breed of hairdressers which focuses on all aspects of staff and business improvement. All this talk of being competitive and taking on the world has bred more innovative Australians.

Busby was the first to open up on Sundays, as Bondi's crowd is big on Sunday. Japanese translation cards are on display because these camera-clicking clients have a yen for our most well-known beach. You have to agree this is innovation with a capital I.

But there's more. Tim is very active in hairdressing network groups, where similarly successful hairdressers meet, share ideas and push themselves to achieve better and better results.

He is highly computerised, not just for financial records, but even for keeping a data bank of key info on clients (with their permission) from likes and dislikes, to the names of their family. This is a professional lesson all of us can learn from.  

Findon is a professional cutter who doesn't let the grass grow under him. All business winners have a story worth telling and a story worth listening to – this one is about a bloke who have declared war on complacency and the dividend is there for all to see – it's called success.

Published on: Thursday, June 18, 2009

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