Groomed Academy's Founder Eric Way Interviews Head Quarters UK Founder Mike Racz

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Read the interview below.

An exciting delve into the mind of a successful entrepreneur – what makes it work.

Groomed Academy’s own Eric Way Lovemore sat down recently with Mike Racz, the founder of Head Quarters Barbers and Beverages in the UK to discuss what it takes to be a successful entrepreneur in a fascinating conversation.

HQ is the brainchild of Mike Racz, of Racz Group, the face behind a number of popular franchises – Domino’s, Costa Coffee and Anytime Fitness in the UK. His vision of HQ is the melding of high tech and traditional comfort and style, the concept of sitting in the luxury of your living room, with a pint or a coffee to enjoy while you wait. The first three barber shops of Head Quarters Barbers & Beverages opened in April of this year in the UK. With this joining of technology and tradition, Mike hopes to bring barbering kicking and screaming into the 21st century.


“The no wait - hassle-free barbers.”

Eric: What has been your biggest achievement and point of pride since you began your business journey?

Mike: Coming from Hungary, everything was stacked against us, there were 8,000 applicants for this Domino’s franchise. If I’d known that, I would have thought it’s impossible, but thankfully I was none the wiser.

I don’t have anything to prove to anyone. If you’ve got the right positive mental attitude, you can achieve anything. If that’s what you want to do, then go for it!

• • • • • • • • • • • • • • •

Eric: Do you think people are born with an entrepreneurial mindset or can they develop it as they grow and learn in business?

Mike: I think that anybody can be in business and own a business, be successful and manage people and be good at management.

Being an entrepreneur is in the mindset and being willing to risk it all every single time.

You shouldn’t have to learn to take risks, you should already be a risk taker which I definitely am. If you are willing to risk it all, then the rewards can be amazing, so that’s how I think every time I go into a new venture.

Knowing that I could fail is absolutely not in my thought process. I can never accept it – not because I haven’t failed in business, but that mentality, that fear of failure, you learn to embrace it and get over it.

In fact, I enjoy the problems, the challenges and the fixing. You can’t underestimate hard work, dedication and passion. All of these are absolute building blocks for anyone who is successful in business.

• • • • • • • • • • • • • • •

Eric: What are the main points of difference that set this chain of barbershops apart?

Mike: There are a number of points you want to address: traditional comfort and convenience with technology. You will find similarities with other barber shops, but as far as I am concerned nobody has put all of these things together before. The first problem that you want to eliminate is uncertainty. So even if you book in advance, you might wait 20 minutes or 60 minutes. You don’t want to have that uncertainty. That’s where we have the “live waiting time” booking system.

You can book online or via an app and we have big digital screens in the windows of each store that tell you the waiting times. Then you come and join us in the ‘living room’ to have a pint at the self-serve bar, tea or coffee or soft drinks free of charge, while you wait in comfort for your appointment.

The second thing is that I wanted to create that inviting environment, that living room experience. What we have done is created a comfortable environment , slightly lavish co-existing together. Every other barber shop has elements of this in the UK, but we have put them together to create this experience, this is what I feel will contribute to our success.

We looked at all the frustrations customers faced when going to the barbers, and how we could make Head Quarters different. Our mission is to bring one of the oldest professions into the 21st century by introducing new technology across the board, from booking systems to the shop floor within the luxury and comfort of what can be your own living room, with a coffee or beer to relax with.

Eric: I love the whole concept, I feel the aspiration around this is for that person who would like to fly first class and experience that environment with you, but only pay £20 for their haircut to enjoy this.

Mike: It’s an affordable luxury.

Eric: What does it take to successfully manage and grow a team of barbers and what is your advice to other barbershop owners?

Mike: (laughing) It’s not dissimilar to many other businesses, people are people, and people underestimate what it takes generally, thinking it’s simpler and much easier. You need to be aligned in your values, in the ways we operate, and in your style. It’s what we stand for, and if you don’t believe that, then it’s not the place for you. It’s not just a haircut, it’s a service for you to be proud to offer. If you’re just coming here for a salary and it’s just for that reason, then you’ll be out. Working for us is a career, not just a job. I want these Barbers to be managers, regional managers and operations managers. Our Barbers have the opportunity to progress up the ranks within the company.

Eric: I think that they do see that…it’s an investment of their own time when they’re starting out.

• • • • • • • • • • • • • • •

Eric: What do you look for when you hire someone (in any of your businesses) – what are the main personal qualities you want to see in a new team member?

Mike: I want the right attitude, client engagement and personality. You should always act in the best interest of the business. If you criticise, then make sure you can come up with a solution for the problem.

When you join us, it’s not about making you into something you’re not. You’re already working for the business because you have the same values. If you don’t have these values and constantly complain and criticise but never have a solution, then working for us will not work. It should be “let me help you with that, let me fix that for you, let me educate you, let me guide you.” But a lot of people just want to moan out loud in general, “I don’t like this, I don’t like that, or this is wrong”. If this is your attitude, I can’t change that in you, it’s your upbringing, your genetics.

• • • • • • • • • • • • • • •

Eric: How important is your Barber’s education and skills in the success of your barber shops, and how do you ensure these skills are top-notch?

Mike: Obviously you have to hire the right people. If you want to create a brainchild, a brain, you want to establish it when the brain is susceptible. You have to have the same standards, and you begin to train the pattern, to be able to train our barbers to come out with new styles, with new haircuts each season. You want to train to the same high standards, the same equipment, the same formula, but with that individualism that the barbers bring to the table.

Eric: Yes, that’s very much how I think it should work. One of the prime examples is Schorem in Holland. What I love about them is that it took time to become known for only cutting specific hair styles in their barber shops. When you visit them for a haircut and you want a short back and sides, you’re not going to get it, but they have become so popular for their trendy old school hairstyles that people come from all over just to cut their hair with them. And I think when you do your training with your barbers, it’s different. Unfortunately, many barbers feel that a guy can just walk in and ask for a short back and sides and the barbers don’t feel they can add that design element to it, that they can start saying to the client “Hey I think you’d look a bit better if you did this.”

Mike: I 100% agree with this. If you go to a barber and you try something that you’ve never tried before, that’s a barber. We should be more proactive like this.

• • • • • • • • • • • • • • •

Eric: What are the most important aspects of the client experience in Head Quarters Barbers and Beverages? What do you want clients to think and feel through the service and when they leave?

Mike: I want them to feel that they are in a nice living room environment, where they can switch off and receive great personal service, but not feel intimidated. I want them to feel like they’re at their mate’s place and having a relaxing time and know that they’re not going to be waiting around wasting their time. We want customers to feel at home and that they are always welcome. I like my Barbers to greet our clients similarly to the way the staff greet me at the Dorchester Hotel in London, where they know my face, know my name, how many times I’ve stayed there and deliver incredible customer service.

Eric: I just think when you walk in that door, your barber knows you, you have that connection instantly.

• • • • • • • • • • • • • • •

Eric: You decided to create your own styling range to complement the barber shops, why did you do that?

Mike: We wanted to establish the brand, and the long term goal is to sell our own styling products worldwide. We developed the range that we have in store, over a number of months, with lots of trials on the signature scent, with focus groups to decide on what we needed to have in store and what was currently trending, with quirky names to associate this with the barbering world. This was a major investment for the brand, and we have seven styling products in the range now. The scent is amazing, and each store needs to have that olfactory connection, it's a musky scent with hints of oud, and we’re developing the HQRS range further into beard oils and aftershaves. We have sample pots to give away in store, so you can try them before you buy them...give the barbers something to talk about with the customer from the minute they get shampooed to walking out of the door.

• • • • • • • • • • • • • • •

Eric: What new projects and exciting ventures are on the horizon?

Mike: We are looking to bring in new brands, new franchises, different experiences and expand into different countries. I’m looking to open several more Head Quarters in this region over the next 12 months.

In my mind, this is just the start and Head Quarters is already an international business.

We have interest internationally and from major UK retailers showing interest in our styling products, plus we are looking to the future to potentially franchise in other places.

There’s that belief and positive mental attitude in our company. It’s all about the concept followed by hard work. Never set your goals in stone because having goals limits how far you can go, and I don’t believe in limitations.

For more information on Groomed Academy and Head Quarters Barbers and Beverages, visit the websites and follow them on Facebook.

Groomed Barber Training Academy



Head Quarters Barbers and Beverages UK



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