Interview with SliderCuts | Men Of Purpose
For a lot of guys, the barbershop is a place of community, banter and where news is shared frequently. So I was pretty excited to get to interview Mark Maciver, the savvy and passionate barber behind the barbershop and brand SliderCuts for the next installment of my Man of Purpose series. His clients include Reggie Yates, Stormzy, Tinie Tempah, Anthony Joshua just to name a few so he really his at the top of his field. In the midst of me getting a shape-up, we talked all things business, family and future plans.
DEVELOPING THE CRAFT
Ayo: So how did you first get into the profession?
Mark: My mum never took us to the barber shop - I guess because she thought she could do it herself and also because we just didn’t have the money to go to the barbers.
The long and short of how I started was that one day, I picked the clippers and tried to give myself one of those haircuts. The first time it didn’t work out, I pulled my hairline right back, ended up skinning off my hair - it just all went wrong! But I just carried on trying and trying and then I started getting better.
I just got better after a few years. I was about 18 and my brother was getting his haircut in this shop, and he told me that I was better than one of the barbers. And for a joke, I saw one of the managers on the street and said, ‘I’m better than one of your barbers!’ And he responded, ‘if you’re better than him, come and take his place.’ I said no even though I wanted to work there but I was scared I was going to mess someone’s hair up. So when they were putting a bit of pressure, I was like ‘you know what, this is cool because if I mess up now it’s not my fault. You’re putting pressure on me! I didn’t ask to be here!’
Ayo: I’ve always wondered, how is it that you manage to do your own fade? At the back as well!
Mark: I don’t have a fade right now, I should have done one for this interview! Apologies guys! I’m looking rough.
Ayo: Most barbers don’t know how to cut their own hair...
Mark: It’s cause I’ve been cutting my hair since I was 14. So I was my first guinea pig, I was messing myself up then I started getting good. By the time I was 16, I could do fades and I was cutting my hair every 3 days.
BUILDING A BRAND
Ayo: How did you build yourself up to being the entrepreneur that you are now?
Mark: I know these are cliche statements but really through hard work, dedication and studying the craft. I would sit for days and weeks and I would just be watching the other barbers who were above me cutting hair.
I got to the point where I just knew people’s cutting styles. So when it came to me cutting I had all these techniques and styles that I’d learnt watching like, ‘Okay, let’s try that then.’ There was a lot of sitting around and watching. I think subconsciously I accepted it was a process. I embraced the fact that it takes time and nothing that is great is built over night.
I have this motto: In life, whatever you’re involved in - take it seriously. Whether you believe you’re gonna be in it for life or whether you’re even having doubts about leaving. There’s no point in being like, ‘Well, since I’m not sure I won’t put my all into this.’
I feel like you don’t know what tomorrow holds. Even when I started cutting hair, it wasn’t an idea that I’m going to start this like an empire, it was just, ‘I’m enjoying this right now, I’m going to do it well.’ I had a long way to go but when you have people that good around you you’re aiming for greatness because the people around you are great.
Ayo: You have clearly transcended a lot of the local barbershop mentality and are building a brand. Has that been a conscious decision?
Mark: From the start, although I never ever said this to myself out loud, but I knew I was a business. Knowing that I was a business made me make certain decisions. So when I was 24/25 - almost 8 years ago - I built my first website, my first website wasn’t anything elaborate it was basically one page - with literally just my information on it! Which was enough really, that’s all you needed if you were trying to find me. The reason I got the website was because I saw myself as a business I thought, ‘Businesses have a websites…’
When you start understanding that you’re a business - whether that’s me as a barber, you as a videographer, or other careers which aren't mainstream - it sets you apart and you start to think and act as businesses do.
WORKING WITH CELEBRITY CLIENTELE
Ayo: How have you managed to attract so many celebrities and turn them into loyal clients?
Mark: People are attracted to loyalty and professionalism and it’s not something which you can put on, it’s something that needs to internally change so you become that person and then live it out. You can act but it will only go so far. The aim is to treat everybody the same. By doing that, what you end up doing as a business model, if you treat everybody great, it means you don’t have to think about who the right people to impress are, because if you treat everybody good, the right people are going to be impressed - whether you know them or not.
I think a lot of people put these strategies into play where they want to cut this person’s hair so they’re going to do this and this, turn up at the person’s hotel or give business cards to their managers, etc.
For me, I didn’t go out looking for it - I never sought out anyone. For example, I started cutting Reggie Yates hair over 3 years ago. The way it happened was that he started following my Instagram page but didn't contact me for 6 months. But over that time, he liked hat he saw and then he got in contact and I started cutting his hair. Tinie Tempah...he didn’t click “follow” to begin with. He was watching my page for however long it was, he was ‘interviewing’ me but I didn’t even know I was in an ‘interview’. I was being consistent, putting out my Instagram stories, my messages my pictures continuously and then he got in touch after he liked what he saw.
Ayo: Do you interact or manage celebrities differently to other customers?
Mark: Celebrities are people like you and I and I relate to them as such. People put them on these pedestals as if they’re robots and they’re like, ‘wow you really get on with these guys and you really have a relationship with them.’ Well they are humans and they do want relationships as well you know!
With the more high profile clients, they understand and respect my brand SliderCuts. The little things I do, like for example the fact I use Instagram stories throughout the day - I involve my clients whether you’re a celebrity or not. If you come to the shop I’m going to do an Insta story and you’re gonna be on there! So when a celebrity is in and I put them on the stories, they don’t feel like suddenly I’m dusting off the camera because they've walked in. They see me doing it all day long. They also respect that and they feel more comfortable being part of that and not just being like, ‘Ah again…’
It’s not even a thing like, ‘Oh there’s a celebrity in the room.’ It’s more like just friendship, we’re just bantering, the cameras out and even some of my stories and videos you’ll see that…
Ayo: I remember one time I think Reggie finished and AJ had come in..
Mark: Yeah. And they’re all kind of cool with that. It feels like this community. Yeah it’s just authentic. What you’re seeing on camera isn’t staged. You can’t act it, you see me and Reggie bantering people always talk about it. It’s real you know!
ACHIEVING BALANCE IN LIFE
Ayo: How do you balance having to do all of that, with marriage, the wife, being a father and your outside pursuits… how do you manage it all?
Mark: Um, do you know what it is? I sacrifice… this is not a good thing because this is essential to life, but I’d say I sacrifice rest. I cope with less rest than maybe the average person, but the things that people don’t see is that on Sunday and Monday there’s no Instagram stories because Sunday and Monday are my days off. And that’s the time I spend with my family. This is where the balance comes in. I’m on the camera throughout the whole time while I’m working, but when I’m not working, I haven’t actually got the camera on. So I’ve made sure that my home life, my family life, my personal life is very separate from my business life.
Ayo: How many weeks a year do you take off?
Mark: Last year I think I took off the first 5 days! (laughs)
Ayo: Was that it?
Ayo: Wait, hold on I need to soak that in! You literally only took 5 days off out of the whole year?!
Mark: It might have been 7…
Ayo: Whether it’s 5 or 7 it’s still like… maybe not having a rest is your sacrifice! Like what?! 7 days! Weekends don’t count!
Mark: Yeah I haven’t taken off that much time but I will eventually start taking off more time. It’s because I’m in a season where I’m making sacrifices like that for the greater good… there’s things which I’m striving to do and it has meant that I’ve had to sacrifice taking off time but I wouldn’t say, ‘Oh poor me.’ I’ve made the decision to do this and it’s for good reasons.
LIVING OUT FAITH, PURSUING PURPOSE
Ayo: What defines you as a person?
Mark: God is an essential part to my success. A lot of the things which I’ve done in my life have been through His guidance. I’ll just give you an example: When I started working at 18 part time I was still in college. I finished college when I was 19 and decided not to go to university to study drama or performing arts so I decided to go into full time barbering while I was still thinking about what I wanted to do.
During that time, I got access to university through social work, did a personal training course - I was just doing different things to help me figure out what I really wanted to do while I was still barbering.
As soon as I left college working full time, I remember I went to the tax office and I need to set up my taxes because I’m working, how does it work, please sign me up. Everybody around me was like, ‘why are you signing up for taxes, no one even knows that you’re working anyway. You can get away with not paying your taxes.’ And I was like, ‘Well I’m doing it because it’s the right thing to do.’ But everyone got onto me! I won’t say names but everyone was was like, ‘You’re stupid, what is wrong with you? You get paid cash in hand, nobody will know! You just want to give the government your money. Why don’t you give me the money since you want to give away money!’ I heard it all! (laughs) Like I was getting scrutinised over the fact that I signed up to pay taxes, but the reason why I signed up was my morals and my belief system. You have to pay taxes and that is the law of the land.
Ayo: Jesus himself said….
Mark: Yeah there was no motivation behind it, I was just doing the right thing. So years on, I go to get loans, to buy the place I’m living in now and they said to me, ‘Have you got your tax record?’ Yes, I had my tax record. 6 years from the beginning. All my records and stuff like that. Now I didn’t know these things at the time, to say that I’m going to pay taxes because it’s going to benefit me this way in the future.
Ayo: How does your faith impact how you relate to customers?
Mark: I know that I have to give everyone a good service because my conscience will beat at me if I feel like I’m not doing that. If I feel like the job wasn’t the greatest, that burns me. Just doing things the right way, following God's principles are part of my brand. People have often said things like ‘he’s reliable, he’s trustworthy’ and that comes to things like if you tell me a story as a client that you’re struggling with this or that, me keeping that as a secret add to the brand of what SliderCuts is as a brand - so my faith impacts my whole business.
So when people say things to me like, ‘Oh I really like your brand, you’re this and that.’ They don’t realise that’s come from the ethics of the belief system which I live by. They might not realise but they’re seeing the fruits of that. So that’s where it comes from. There’s a scripture, Colossians 3:23 “Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord, not for human masters” - that’s something I’ve held onto because it means that in whatever I do, whether someone is watching me or not, I should always be working like God is my boss. If God is your boss, he’s always there.
That has been one of the things that has impacted and directed the way in which I work, which is why I say to people, you are always in an interview. Whether you know it or not, you’re always in an interview and you’re always interviewing someone. The fact that I’ve lived like God is my boss, it meant that at all times, whatever I’ve been doing, hopefully I’ve been giving out a good representation of myself and my business. Because you just never know who is watching you.
Ayo: Where would you want to be a few years from now?
Mark: I would like to be living in a bigger family home, maybe have 2-3 children, own my own barber shop, potentially maybe on the brink of opening a second one or a second one already opened, have my product line out, have my book out, and maybe establish more my masterclasses and potentially my SliderCuts Academy.
Ayo: Finally, are you someone that has strict timeframes for when you want to achieve certain milestones?
Mark: So there’s a lot of things I want to do. I’m not putting a timeframe like, ‘If it doesn’t happen between now and 5 years then I’ve failed.’ But these are all the things I’m trying to do so I’m just working and whatever happens happens. If it’s only the shop, or the book out, one or two of those things, whatever it is. I don’t put pressure on myself to achieve by certain dates. I just try to do things and I trust God in the process. I’m just going towards that mark.
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