On Transparency in Pricing

Many entrepreneurs who provide services as opposed to products are faced with the challenge of pricing. Even I have struggled with people working to negotiate prices with me. And you know what I’ve realized? Everyone wants to be paid what they’re worth but most of us (except the true entrepreneur) doesn’t want to pay what a service is actually worth. For example, one of my clients, Vince Jamael, is a professional groomer. When we were in college, Vince was the campus barber. He would charge guys $30 per month and provide unlimited haircuts. At the time, haircuts were going for about $10 and the standard for many men of African descent is to get a haircut once a week. So you’re really saving $10 a month. Not too shabby. But, as Vince got better, the demand for his service increased. Now, if you’ve taken Econ 101 (or ever watched the news), you know that, the higher the demand for a product, the more one can charge for it. So Vince ended that monthly plan program. Of course some people were disappointed but Vince realized two things: 1) He had a gift that he could making a living from and 2) He needed to go to school to become a licensed barber. So his prices went up. And people kept coming to him because, by this point, he had developed a reputation of being not only one of the best barbers in Greensboro but also in North Carolina, having won a major grooming competition in Charlotte, NC the summer prior to entering barbering school. Now, less than a year out of formal barbering school and two years after receiving his bachelors, Vince is a groomer with Adrian Fanus Grooming in Brooklyn, NY. He is getting the exposure (and pay) that he deserves. 

But I digress. I began that story to make the point that setting prices as an entrepreneur is difficult but you must be firm and transparent. I just changed my price list because of an increase in demand as well as realizing that I have years of success in professional development and branding experience. If I charge you $80 for a résumé or cover letter that gets you into an interview for a $40,000/year position, you should think you got a deal. The same is true if I charge a business a $300 monthly fee for managing their social media. The problem is, most people think that résumés and Twitter accounts should be free. And they are… if you maintain them yourself. But do you fix your own wiring when the lights in your home go out? No. You hire an electrician who posts set prices. And you pay them. Without negotiating. So why not pay an expert a set, non-negotiable fee to make add to your professionalism or your business’s brand?

If your employer tried to haggle with you about your already set salary, you’d feel as if he didn’t value your work enough to pay you what you were worth. Need I say more?


Haircut: Professional or Personality?

Gentlemen, the hairstyle you choose is key to your success as a young professional so I had to include it in the “Controlled Externalities” series. Though the business world is becoming more and more progressive, there are still glass ceilings that can be placed above those of us who opt out the traditional hairstyles.  It might not be fair but it is reality.

This week I took the time to catch up with one of my two my personal barbers, Vince Jamael, and pick his brain on making sure that your hair looks the very best that it can.

While in college, I got a haircut at least once a week and a trim on the night that I went out for social gatherings.  That was right when Vince Jamael was getting comfortable with his clippers and sheers and his prices were right in line with my undergraduate student budget.  But, as I aged and relocated, I found that my haircuts were becoming more and more expensive.  Whereas I was paying between $30 and $60 per month in Greensboro, where I attended college, Charlotte haircuts were costing me $80 before I even pulled out a tip.  But I am a firm believer that your appearance is something you invest in and, if you want quality, you have to pay for it.  I asked Vince Jamael how often he believes an image conscious young professional should get his hair cut and he recommends “an actual haircut every other week and a trim or shape up in between.”

But, if you’re anything like me, you travel a couple times a month and may be away from your barber for a week or longer.  At that point what do you do?  I know that I won’t go to just any barber but I do know how to follow a line so I asked Vince what product he suggests to keep that hairline looking as clean as possible.  “The Andis T-Outliner is what I would recommend.  It is barber-quality but easy to work with and not very expensive.”  I looked it up online and the outliners are about $50 but that’s 3-5 trims at a regular barbershop so definitely not a bad investment in my eyes.


Now for the hardest question:  What do you do in the age of the beard?  Men both in and out of the office are sporting them now.  But, more often than not, the president of the United States sets the for what is professionally acceptable in America and what is not.  The last president to be elected with any facial hair was William Taft in 1913.  When I asked Vince Jamael his opinion on professional facial hair stylings, he said “It’s always safe to go all the way close shaven but if you want to keep the beard, make sure it’s close and neatly trimmed. You can never go wrong w/ the goatee.  It’s the best of both worlds.”

I am always one for playing it safe but your hair speaks to your personality.  So, whether you decide you want to wear your hair longer or shorter, bearded or shaven, it is imperative that you keep it clean if you want to get (or keep) the job.

If you have any questions about hairstyles, I definitely recommend you follow @VinceJamael and @NoGreaseBarbershop on Instagram.  As of now, they are the only two brands I trust to take my hair as seriously as I take my professionalism and that is saying volumes.