We visited Boris & Co in Leeds, where owner Michael Tominay let us in on some of the secrets behind his success.
Established just two years ago, Boris & Co has grown fast and has established a loyal client base – including a number of Leeds United footballers.
Michael’s secret, enshrined in his personal business mantra, is disarmingly simply: “Happy staff. Happy customers. Happy till,” he explained. “That’s what it really boils down to.”
Simple it may sound, but Michael’s motto falls neatly in line with the business ethos outlined by many other successful independent high street business owners. His focus is on delivering more than a barbering service. He wants every customer to have an outstanding experience delivered by professionals who are just as committed to the cause as he is himself.
“I love what I do and I love my business. I’m passionate about it. I’ve been cutting hair now for ten years, and I’ve done it in all kinds of businesses, from hairdressers to the old school, £5 a cut backstreet barber shops. So I know what works and what doesn’t – and what works is giving every customer a personal experience and the attention they deserve.”
Day to day, that translates to limiting each of his 16 barbers to 15 appointments per day, not the 30 or so quick cuts a barber might carry out in an old fashioned, ‘walk in’ shop.
“I am a strong believer in quality,” he explained. “We limit ourselves to 15 haircuts per day so we can take our time. It’s not just a haircut, it’s a service too. When you come here you can have a drink, a game of pool. We build relationships with our customers, 99% of whom are regulars. The fact we are fully booked for the next three weeks speaks for itself.”
All the same, Michael is well aware that Boris & Co’s reputation rests largely in the hands of his employees – ranging from 15 to 56, they are the people who deliver the experience Michael wants for his customers. As a result, and in keeping with his mantra, he has a strong focus on staff training and empowerment.
“I am a qualified barbering teacher and love nothing more than helping people to get their start. We’ve got two apprentices on board at the moment,” he said. “I’ve taken people on from all kinds of backgrounds, who haven’t had the opportunities. It’s great to help them, watch them grow.
“One of my apprentices had to be shown how to make a cup of tea, and now here he is cutting footballers’ hair. Now I’m teaching him how to be self-employed, how to deal with the tax and all that. That’s because I want everyone to have their own little business, within my business – so they have a vested interest. Otherwise, no one is ever going to love this business as much as I do. No-one is ever going to care the way I do, but if I give them a slice of the pie, they are more likely to.”
Talk to Michael about his business and the passion shines through. He is rightly proud of his achievements: “I feel proud of myself and what I have created,” he confirmed. “I come from a strong working class background but didn’t really get on with school. For me that makes it all the more special, to have done it completely off my own back and through my own hard work.”
“Now I love the freedom it gives me. I have no-one to answer to, I like that. If I have an idea, I can do it. I can make the shop look how I want, and I love having staff to work with. At the same time, it’s hard work and long hours because, as the owner, the buck stops with you.”
Over the years, and particularly since opening the doors at Boris & Co, Michael has learned a great deal. “Things like insurance are so important,” he explained. “Business insurance for me is about having complete confident you’re covered. You could lose everything if something went badly wrong and there are plenty of risks in barbering. Sharp instruments and chemicals for instance. So public liability cover is really important, but if you are self-employed, so is cover for personal accidents and for your kit.”
Looking ahead, Michael has big plans for expansion. A new shop in Mirfield, the town near Leeds where he grew up, is already in the works. But Michael is already thinking about expanding into other areas in the Greater Leeds area – smaller version of the original Boris & Co.
“I think of it like a wheel with spokes,” he said. “The original Boris & Co will always be the HQ, but we can draw on the name, which is well-known now, to open in surrounding areas where the rates are lower. It’s all part of my ten year plan.”
His advice for anyone thinking about starting out reminds us just why he is one of our ‘High Street Heroes’: “Keep your head in it. Stay focused and remember why you love it. It’s not just a job, it’s a lifestyle built around something you love. If you don’t feel that, don’t do it.”
You can connect with Boris & Co in the following ways:
Facebook – Boris&Co
Instagram – borisnco_
Twitter – BorisNCo
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