From being a franchisee himself to becoming a franchisor, the founder of Everyman Barbers is now looking for his first franchisee
From man buns to skin fades, men have a wealth of grooming options available to them these days. Guys have become more eager to take advantage of these opportunities ever since David Beckham kicked off the metrosexuality trend in the 1990s. And entrepreneurs like Everyman Barbers’ founder Noel Gilronan is ready to leap on the opportunity.
While this budding barber franchisor is now about to find his first franchisees in the sector, it’s clear there’s a great opportunity for male hair salons. But that wasn’t always the case. “Men [used to be] more of an afterthought, so you would go in and they would cut men’s hair but they only probably represented 15% [to] 20% of the business so [salons] didn’t really take it seriously,” Gilronan suggests. But things are changing as demand from the male market is expected to continue to increase over the next five years, according to a report about the Scottish sector by Business Gateway, the business support network. The report attributed the growing trend to men becoming increasingly more interested in grooming. Particularly, this emerging popularity was linked to UK hipsters taking special care of their beards. So while there had always been hair salons for women, Gilronan certainly had a point when he believed that there was a growing demand for more establishments for men. “There have never been as many barbershops,” he says.
However, this emerging franchisor didn’t start off in the grooming industry. Instead, Gilronan began his career selling and distributing video games to all the major supermarkets around the UK. “I come from a self-employment background [and] I ran that company from start to finish,” says Gilronan. Even though he enjoyed doing this, after 15 years Gilronan decided to find a new venture that would enable him to develop his proven knack for business leadership. This led him to look at franchise opportunities.
After finding a barber franchise that suited his management role, he decided to take the plunge and become a franchisee. Unfortunately, this adventure didn’t go down the way he wanted. Gilronan found himself clashing with the franchisor as he didn’t agree about the direction the company was going. Moreover, he felt the shops were old and tired-looking. Eventually, Gilronan decided to cut ties with the franchisor. Even though he believes franchising is a good choice, Gilronan says it very much depends on finding the right franchisor. “If you’re with the wrong company [franchising is] not particularly good,” he explains.
The experience wouldn’t hold him back for long though as he decided to launch his own barbershop and bootstrap the Birmingham business with his own savings. Despite his old franchisor leaving him with a bad aftertaste, it did have one advantage – it meant he knew exactly what he was up against and gave him the chance to do it right. “We wanted to offer men something that women have always had: nice salons in city centres with great services, great offerings all over, things like free wifi and cameras to see if we’re busy and appointments or walk-ins – whatever they wanted,” Gilronan continues.
Still, building his own business up from nothing turned out to be harder than expected. “Trying to set up a brand and attract people is quite difficult,” Gilronan says. This was particularly challenging given the slew of other brands in the market. While it was great that the sector was expanding, having to compete with chains like Supercuts, Jacks of London, Headcase Barbers, Francesco Group and MR. Barbers meant Gilronan was forced to take extra care to stand out. As part of this push, he began to offer clients cold drinks, beers, whiskeys and coffees. He also ensured the barbers offered exceptional services. “We aim to be the best in every department,” he adds. “We’re not a backstreet barbers we’re far from it Everyman is a brand in itself.”
Key to ensuring that’s the case, Gilronan and his team take their time when hiring new barbers. “You never know because people can [interview well and] they can do great face tests but it will take two or three weeks to see if they will fit in amongst the team,” he explains. This means it’s not just about aspiring barbers’ skills with the scissors that ensure whether or not they have what it takes to be successful in this cutthroat business – they also have to demonstrate great customer service and the right personality for the job. “We have a rule that we don’t employ idiots,” he jokes. Although, this is hardly a laughing matter as his eye for detail has seen Everyman Barbers successfully open eight company-owned stores across the UK.
And now that he’s viewing further expansion, he believes franchising is the way forward. “If you can find the right type of franchisee this is a great business to be involved in,” Gilronan says. His own franchisee experience and taking a lot of advice from people in different industries helped him to create a franchise model that works for his business. “It’s a very straightforward, simple yet comprehensive franchise agreement,” he says. “We don’t just have a book like a lot of franchisees do and just say ‘That’s how you do it, follow that method.’”
Despite his eagerness to grow the brand, Gilronan is only looking for the cream of the crop to join his enterprise as franchisees. “I’m looking for someone like myself ten years ago, someone who wants it [that’s] willing to put the hours in,” Gilronan says. While a successful candidate doesn’t have to be a barber, they do need a certain amount of business accumen. Moreover, they have to be eager to work and, as Gilronan puts it, “if they just want to come in and sit in an office this isn’t for them.”
Even though Everyman Barbers hasn’t signed up any franchisees yet, it doesn’t mean the business isn’t growing. Combined with his plans to open up two more company-owned stores in the next year and hopefully find some franchisees, Gilronan aims to eventually have a store in every major city in the UK. “We’re also looking into opening up our own academy” he says. And those are just the plans in the pipeline he’s able to share at the moment. One thing seems certain, his barbers won’t be putting down their scissors anytime soon.