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Dale Sampey

Dale Sampey opened The Barber House in 1995 and moved to Birmingham’s Colmore Business District just over four years ago. Leading the way for the traditional barber shop, the business has gone from strength to strength, and has moved into a new 1,000 sq ft unit on Waterloo Street following a £120,000 relocation investment.

EXPLAIN A TYPICAL WEEK IN YOUR WORKING LIFE: Since moving into our new shop, I’ve started to add more routine into my week. As an owner-manager, I always struggle to take time from behind the chair and get down to business in the day but now that we’ve increased our team, I take every morning out to catch up with admin and work on strategy, and then spend my afternoons styling. It gives me much more balance and means I get to have a bit of time out of the barber shop… for the first time in 24 years a client actually took me out the other day! It was nice to feel wanted.

WHAT IS THE BIGGEST CHALLENGE FACING YOUR INDUSTRY RIGHT NOW? As with so many industries, talent is our biggest challenge. We really struggle to find experienced barbers. There’s a whole generation (those in their 30s) who were just completely missed, so now it’s all about bringing talent in as young as possible and training them up. This is really important to us as we are big advocates of apprenticeships, and we’re now starting to work with schools to get them in early.

AND WHAT ARE THE BIG OPPORTUNITIES? Whilst we’re struggling with talent, it is still really cool to be a barber nowadays, so we’re getting more young people come in and want to join the profession. It’s great to see!

HOW DO YOU GET THE BEST OUT OF YOUR STAFF? It isn’t rocket science… just be nice to people! We have a real ‘family’ feel here so everyone knows that they can come to me whenever they need to. Whether it’s about work specifically, or they just need to talk something through, I’m always there to listen.

WHAT WAS YOUR LAST MEETING ABOUT, HOW LONG DID IT LAST, AND WAS IT PRODUCTIVE? It was a really exciting one actually… I am currently working on adding a new service to what we do. Having had a hair transplant myself and being five months into the journey, I have been working with some of our clients to help advise them on similar treatments. In the near future I’m hoping to launch a clinic that offers both surgical and non-surgical options to help men with hair loss.

HOW MANY EMAILS DO YOU GET IN A DAY, AND HOW MUCH TIME DO YOU HAVE TO READ THEM? Thanks to our fantastic new receptionist, I don’t have to deal with as many as I used to, so probably around 20-25. They’re just so time consuming, which is why it’s so important that I make time to concentrate on the business, rather than always be stuck in the business.

DO YOU ANSWER WORK CALLS OR EMAILS AT HOME? WHAT’S THE RIGHT WORK-LIFE BALANCE? This is something I’ve always struggled with, and really haven’t cracked it. My wife is also involved in The Barber House and we both end up working a lot in the evenings, so we try and make sure to take a week out every three months to avoid burnout. It’s so important to just get away from it all.

HOW DO YOU HOPE YOUR COLLEAGUES WOULD DESCRIBE YOU? I know they share my passion for what we do, but I’d just hope they all have an ambition to keep growing and improving. My aim is to be a great boss to them all. I think of them as my kids, so I’m here to listen, give advice, and take on board their comments. One of my top barbers, Anton, has run his own business so enjoyed the freedom – but also stresses – of that and he says I’m the best boss he’s ever had so I use that as my benchmark.

HIGHLIGHTS OF YOUR CAREER SO FAR? Moving to Birmingham, without a doubt. Someone that I really respect advised me not to and said to “make the most of what I’ve got”, but I didn’t listen and I’m so glad. This city was a gamechanger for the business!

ANY PARTICULAR FAUX PAS OR EMBARRASSING MOMENTS IN YOUR CAREER YOU WOULD PREFER TO FORGET? I am forever setting the shop on fire when ear syringing. Everyone laughs at me regularly!

PET HATES? I don’t like people standing still, looking like they’ve got nothing to do. There’s always something to be done and I like customers to arrive to a shop full of ‘buzz’. I also hate the windows steaming up on grey days like today so that you can’t see the amazing Triumph motorcycle in the window… it’s on loan at the moment and a particular favourite of mine. 

IF YOU COULD GO BACK AND GIVE YOUR YOUNGER SELF SOME WISE ADVICE, WHAT WOULD IT BE? Probably not to start the business so early… I opened it when I was 21 and I would have benefited from learning more before embarking on this journey. I’ve ended up doing a lot of learning from the team, on the job, but it should be the other way round really.

HOW DO YOU RELAX AWAY FROM WORK? When I take the dog for a walk, that’s my alone time. I make sure I leave the phone at home to just clear my head and get away from it all for a while.

WHAT DO YOU BELIEVE IS SPECIAL ABOUT THE BIRMINGHAM BUSINESS COMMUNITY? It’s something that everyone says, but for such a big city, it has such a small town feel and I think that’s what helps businesses like mine survive. People are supportive and loyal, and when you’re based in the centre like us, you can access such a wide customer base.

TELL US SOMETHING ABOUT YOU THAT MOST PEOPLE PROBABLY WOULDN’T KNOW. I’m dyslexic, which really held me back when I was younger, but once I set up the business I didn’t let it stop me. That should be a lesson to all young people - not to be held back by their insecurities because you can overcome anything.

YOU CAN TAKE ONE BOOK, ONE FILM AND ONE CD ONTO A DESERT ISLAND – WHAT WOULD THEY BE? I love reading autobiographies – I’d probably take Gary Barlow’s with me. Film would definitely be Rocky and my CD might surprise you: Barbra Streisand. What a woman!

YOUR FIVE DREAM DINNER PARTY GUESTS, DEAD OR ALIVE? Wow, this one is difficult! Linked to the last question, Gary Barlow and Sylvester Stalone, without a doubt. I also love Liam Neeson so him too. Then, my final two would be my nan, who’s no longer with us, and my gorgeous wife, of course.

WHAT WOULD YOU CHOOSE TO EAT FOR YOUR LAST SUPPER? Definitely a roast beef dinner, with proper Yorkshire Pudding.

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