Ninebranches | Big Is Beautiful — So Small Has To Be Better
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22 Oct Big Is Beautiful — So Small Has To Be Better

Big-is-Beautiful

Like a lot of guys, I hate getting my hair cut. I mean, I’m not afraid that the barber is going to cut off my ears like I was when I was a kid or anything like that. It’s just that when I go to the sort of place where they cut hair, I feel… out of my element. Inside it’s mostly women who are getting some pretty complicated and wonderful haircuts — one lady in the corner is getting a perm, another has some kind of foil attached to her head — and who are probably paying a lot more than I am for my relatively simple do.The thing is, I know I’m not making the salon a lot of money — and so does the hairdresser. Sometimes the conversation is good, sometimes it’s a silent but swift affair that makes me feel like a hastily pruned bush at the park. But one thing’s for sure either way: they want me in and out as fast as possible so that they can spend more time on the higher paying clients.

I don’t really blame anybody, but I do hate going there. It’s just not set up for me.

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But that’s the industry, as they say. At least it was until a company by the name of Sport Clips decided that even though men’s haircuts didn’t pay as much as women’s, if they were laser-focused on making that group of customers happy, they would be successful.  When I first walked in, it felt like they had created this place just for me. The waiting room is stadium seating — well, at least in the sense that they’re exactly the same kind of seats that I sit in at football or soccer stadiums. ESPN is on, so the wait isn’t boring, either.

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When they called my name, they led me to the cutting area — but oh, how different it was. It feels like a locker room, because there are lockers everywhere. In front of every cutting chair next to the mirror is a big screen tv with ESPN on. The hairdressers were in on it, too. They were all conversant in the sports teams in the local city. I got a great haircut, too.

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I was IN LOVE.

So how did they do it in such a big, cutthroat industry? The trick to Sport Clips’ success was that even though they were a small company serving a cheap group of customers, they knew that if they focused on providing a higher quality experience than men were used to getting, Sport Clips would grow.

If the hair-cutting experience wasn’t as good as the bigger names like Great Clips or Supercuts, they wouldn’t survive. People would just go back to the default choice they were used to, or else keep looking for something else. Going big is easy; experimenting with something new and small is hard.

The lesson here: If you’re small, people expect more from you than from someone big, not less.

This goes double-time when inviting people to faith-based events, such as to a Baha’i devotional. If the experience isn’t high quality, people won’t come back. “People” in this context doesn’t just mean seekers; as we all know, even long-time Baha’is will eventually stop coming back to an activity that they don’t get a lot out of. Who can blame them? On the other side of the equation, however, a good devotional is something that both veteran Baha’is and first-time visitors want to invite their friends to. How do we increase the quality? Personally, I think adding participatory activities like songs, short talks (heck, even reading one of Abdu’l-Baha’s), and open-ended personalized prayers for the people there in addition to the near-ritualized “sitting in a circle and reading prayers from our Prayer Book” is a great first step to adding quality to our meetings. This is an area where a lot of research needs to be done, clearly, but if doing the same old thing in your local community isn’t having the results you’d like, I would invite you to experiment a bit. How can our approach to living out the Faith best fit in the context and story of our city?

Lastly, I want to leave you with an inescapable truth — People are going to look harder at the website of a small religious group (i.e., us) than they would at a larger, better known church or synagogue. It’s 2014 — the internet has been in most people’s lives for 15-20 years now. So if you don’t have any web presence at all, you’re opting out of the spiritual conversations happening in your city. If you have a website, but it’s bad or old, you might be in the conversations, but not always in the best light.

Whatever the case, I strongly, strongly encourage you to hire a professional to build a website everyone in your local Baha’i community will be proud of. Remember, 80% of seekers look for your website before they visit you. Please, don’t let this conversation happen:

“You’re trying to tell me that the Baha’i Faith is the religion of the future, but you’re not on the internet?”

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