We learn about friendship early; one our first day at a new school, when we go out to play hoop at the park- sometimes when we make our bi-monthy trip to the barbershop. Friendship is something that is intrinsic to how we position ourselves in our lives: Our parents were right when they stressed the importance of the company we kept in our lives. As barbers, we cultivate friendships with clients and fellow barbers- even with clients' parents and those close to our clients. Many places call this interlocking of close connection networking: We prefer to recognize this as brotherhood, sisterhood- family. We are often impacted by these connections in a very positive way: mothers help us get business by referring us to friends and entire families. And as babers, we build connections with one-another through sharing what we’ve learned and supporting each-other as we take the steps to perfect our craft.
Today we meet with Austin Payne and Isaiah Ford, two people who took the spirit of brotherhood and forged that connection into a successful business venture. Payne, co-founder and network coordinator for multiple businesses, and Ford, barber turned entrepreneur and Zay’s Barber Supply brand ambassador, share their knowledge about building a brand and using the unspoken principles of family and connection to forge their own path of success in the industry.
Lauryn: Thanks for meeting with me today, I know you both have busy schedules.
Ford: Of course.
Payne: Wouldn’t miss it.
Can you talk a little bit about going into business with a long-time friend and how you balance friendship and business?
Payne: Man you gotta keep on going. We fought in the beginning. He didn’t listen, I didn’t listen-
Ford: But realized we had to learn from each other- we know each other, our business is like a marriage. In the same way you wouldn’t end a marriage over something small, in our business we both have a common goal and we let small differences get in the way. We keep it fun because we’ll always be good friends.
Payne: Isaiah and I are best friends. We recognize that we’re best friends and use the same principles that have kept our friendship strong to conduct our business.
And what would some of those principles be?
Payne: Having respect for eachother, learning to listen to each other, having differences but realizing that they aren’t going to make or break us or our business.
Ford: Yeah, understanding what you’re good at and what they’re good at and allowing the relationship to thrive by playing on those strengths. I also think that allowing your partner to work at their highest capacity is crucial and you do that by not putting another person's creativity in a box. And also realizing that trying to live up to/in that “self-made” box helps elevate your success- everyone has to utilize people to be successful, no one does it on their own.
Payne: Exactly. Know your position and (work hard at that). Hold your partner accountable but don’t try to micromanage or tell them what to do.
Ford: Austin and I realize we’re working together, and that’s important.
Payne: At the end of the day, we’re family and that carries a lot of weight in the creativity process.
What advice would you give others who are thinking about elevating their friendship to include a partnership?
Payne: Evaluate your skills and then see how they might add to what you’re trying to accomplish.
Ford: Focus on the skills that you’re good at and what areas you need help in and find someone who has strengths in the areas that you’re weakest in. I think about it like Kobe and Shaq- like a 1-2 punch. Who's going to be around the perimeter and who's going to be in the paint? The whole thing works when everyone knows their parts and works hard in those areas.
Payne: Yeah- like an integrator and a visionary.
Ford: It’s like sports- if you don’t get distracted on what your assignments are then you won’t get distracted by working with someone else.
What made you want to pursue a career in the barber industry/barber tool industry?
Ford: I liked it,cutting hair is a cool career to choose. Barbering is something that you’ll always enjoy. It’s a passionate grind. You get to talk to people all the time. And I started the business because I felt like I wanted to supply barbers with the tools I’d be willing to use.
Payne: I reached out to Isaiah in 2018, I was building a brand (for myself) and felt barbers could use tools to make it more enjoyable and get better results.
What skills do you think are essential to a successful career (in barbering)?
Ford: Having a good eye for detail is crucial; developing what we like to call “Barbers Eye,” which is essentially seeing the details. Even though you may not be perfect, if you can visualize it and sell it, you can make it. Also being good with the people you’re working for and with. I’m outgoing, but tend to be an introvert in social situations but I’m going to continue to pursue all relationships to build with the customer.
Payne: Most definitely, relationships with the customer should be number one: treat them with the utmost respect. You want to treat everyone like they’re a celebrity cut.
Ford: Treat everyone like royalty.
What are five products you recommend for every barber to have in their kit?
Ford: You know, I want to be honest about this question because so many times you see people giving out answers that aren’t true and I don’t want to build the brand that way. These are the items I personally used when I began and continue to use now.
Andis- T Outliner
Wahl Cordless Magic Clips
Payne: Andis T-Outliner, Andis Masters, Andis Cool Care, Derby Straight Razor, Andis Magnetic Guards.
Why is networking important in the barber/hair industry?
Ford: I’d like to give a personal example. Before I ever got into barbering school/worked for a barber shop, I didn’t have real life skills in the industry, however, once I started working in a barber shop environment my skills improved. In the shop, people push you to get better and you’re able to learn what they’ve learned by simply working in that environment. You can pick up alot by learning from other people and associating with people who are working in an environment you hope to be a part of in the future.
Payne: Networks also help you deal with problems that you may not have the resources to deal with at the time. It gives you the ability to shorten your learning curve by taking advice from others in your field and looking at where they might need to improve and making those improvements beforehand.
What’s one piece of advice you can give to barbers who are starting their journey?
Ford: To be very patient. And to start because you want to become a barber out of love and commit to something bigger than yourself. It’s not going to be fun or enjoyable if you’re only looking for money or acclaim. You should do it because you love it.
Payne: Be consistent. Focus on the things that will get you the best results for what you want and be consistent with that.
“I think, team first. It allows me to succeed, it allows my team to succeed.“
Who are you going to connect with to form your team of success?