Celebrity barber and motivational speaker DL Master Barber is on a mission to make sure that young barbers do the right thing, treat their customers right and ultimately treat their barbershops as what they are: a business. I’m very happy to be amplifying that message for barbers across the world.
DL hasn’t necessarily had an easy ride to the top: his barbering career saw him earn a lot of money, and then it saw him lose a lot of money. Thanks to this experience, he’s now able to give barbers the jolt of energy that they need to do things differently:
“When me and my mother came up from Ohio, she had no plan – but she had a purpose, which was to change my life. She just wanted more opportunity for me. Like a lot of us, I graduated from the school of hard knocks. I just wanted something different, to change the financial situation for me and my mother.
“This made me so passionate about becoming a barber. I didn’t know this passion would move me into a different space and time. Jheri curls came out and barbershops were closing because they weren’t making the transition. And then Hip Hop came along, and the rap artists all had to come to Hollywood and sign their record deals. I was cutting off the Jheri curls and giving them flat tops.
“So, I end up doing a lot of the New York rappers because they would talk, they’d say there’s this kid who’s nice with the clippers. That catapulted me into meeting more and more rappers. We were having fun, I was cutting hair. I was going to the hotel not knowing who I was cutting because they didn’t have their faces on the album covers.”
Then ‘Yo! MTV Raps’ started showing music videos and live performances, and everything changed: rappers needed an image to go with their words and beats. DL had already built up the credibility needed to position himself as someone who could help rappers define this style.
“It changed my life. It changed their life. They needed barbers to create these unique styles for them. Thus, me meeting Tupac Shakur.”
It’s not hard to see, then, how DL was able to create so much success for himself at a very early stage for his career, and it’s hard not to picture him out there living the dream. But it’s not always to cling onto that wealth, especially when you’re young, and barbers can learn as much from the mistakes as from the successes:
“At the age of 19 I opened up my first shop. At the age of 21 I became a multimillionaire. By the age of 23 I had lost all the money. I didn’t understand how money worked. I knew how to create the money, but I didn’t understand taxes or how to invest the money. I was spending more than I was bringing in. If you don’t know how to deal with your money, you’re gonna lose your money. 60% – 80% of all barbers and hair stylists retire broke, because we don’t understand how money works.”
The experience of learning this the hard way has made DL determined to give other barbers the education that he missed out on. Helping others in the industry learn how to build their career in the right way has become one of the driving forces in his life.
“I’m not just speaking it, I’m a living example of it. I want barbers to understand that this is our craft: it’s not just about putting hair on the floor or going to trade shows.”
As the barbering industry has grown, many more opportunities have opened up. This makes it easier for barbers to network with each other and learn from one and other. But alongside this comes the empty hype, and DL cautions against barbers who turn up at shows or follow their favourite stars on Instagram without actually learning anything. He also warns barbers that trying to copy the work of an inspirational figure isn’t the way to achieve success: you have to be original and find what works for you.
So how can barbers make this happen? Well, one way is to create standards. “This is what barbers need. Some barbershops have it – a standard of how they do business. You raise your income by raising your value.” Another way is to rectify the mistakes that you’re making. I asked DL to describe the biggest mistake he sees, and explain how it can be fixed:
“That’s easy. The biggest mistake is education. You have to be educated. You have to be motivated, inspired and empowered to educate yourself. Most barbers want to put hair on the floor but don’t want to educate themselves. Most barbers stay in their neighbourhood, in their shop and think they know everything. If you want to be the best, then you have to educate yourself.”
And DL is taking a proactive approach in changing this, too – producing content, including books, that barbers can use to educate themselves. These focus on helping barbers create a lifestyle that allows you to save money without struggling. Check out the book, ‘Pocket Game – The Art of Saving Without Saving’ to get all of the secrets. Designed to fit in your back pocket, you can keep this book on hand and get to the wisdom inside when you need it most.
If you’re not in the mood for reading, then DL also offers mentoring and training sessions where barbers can get. “I did something very different this time: I came up with this idea called the situation room. Wherever I went, I decided to have four barbers come to my room with two problems and came up with a strategic plan to help them overcome these problems. Because a lot of the time, these shows are so big you don’t get the help you really need.
“I also have a mentoring programme. That’s a six-week course helping people get to their goals. You want to be a platform artist, compete in shows, work with celebrities… that’s what I’ve been doing for twenty+ years. I want to educate, inspire and empower barbers and stylists.”
I’m sure that this video has given you a lot to think about! Perhaps the biggest takeaway is the need to be financially competent as well as good with the clippers to make it as a master barber.
I think it’s crucial that we bring DL Master Barber to the UK so that British barbers get a chance to learn some of his secrets. I’m going to work hard to help make that happen so that we can get DL on stage, but before that happens, here are the final thoughts that he wants to leave you with:
“I want you to live your dreams. I want you to stay focused. I want you to believe that you can do what you want to do when you want to do it. There’s an old saying that says ‘if you do what you ought to do, when you ought to do it, then there’ll come a time can do what you want to do when you want to do it.
“All you’ve got to do is find your ‘it’. And once you find it, what are you going to do with it? Who do you need to bring in to get it? And once you get it, what are you going to do with it? You are a priceless original, so be the best that you can be. And listen to guys like Larry, who are bringing information right into your phone!”