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Growth Tips from Kings Domain: “Do It For You”

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28.11.2022

Growth Tips from Kings Domain: “Do It For You”

Discover what it takes to scale a business in a crowded niche.

Kings Domain is a small business success story of epic scale. With an in-house training program well above industry standards, a line of professional hair products, and an absolute focus on the customer experience — it’s so much more than a barbershop. 

The Kings Domain empire began as a humble, single shop front in South Yarra nine short years ago. Since then, an additional six shops have opened across Melbourne — kept fully staffed by the crème de la crème of its 204 square foot training academy in Collingwood. 

We sat down with Creative Director and Head Barber Aaron to learn more about scaling a successful barber business with consistently exceptional customer service across every shop, and the tech tools he’s relying on to ensure business runs smoothly.

The first of seven barber shops

Old-school barber shops stay true to their traditions. Often, customers are required to walk in, take a seat and wait their turn. Some barbers offer a board for customers to write their name on. 

“Traditionally, it’s a low cost, high volume business. There’s not usually anyone manning reception or anyone there to speak to you when you walk in. The barber might turn around and say ‘hi’, and expect you to know whether it’s a walk-in business, whether to write your name on the board, or if you need a booking. Sometimes, the barber might not even turn around. You’re just expected to know the drill.”

There’s none of that at Kings Domain. With a background in fine dining, Aaron understood the importance of customer service from early on. It’s this absolute dedication to customers’ comfort that lay the foundations for what Kings Domain is today.

“There weren't many barbershops around providing a high end service, and coming from a high end salon and prior to that in a fine dining restaurant, customer service was at the forefront of what I wanted to provide.”

Aaron streamlined inefficiencies and prioritised the customer experience in one fell swoop, offering customers the ability to book online and get an exceptional haircut in less than the time it takes to get a bite to eat, in convenient locations across Melbourne — with a beer in hand while they enjoy it.

“They always say people come for a haircut, and they come back for the experience.”

Scaling a successful business

Since its establishment in 2013, Kings Domain has exploded. 

“At the start we opened the first shop with five chairs and no intention of opening any more shops. Then, six months later, we knocked the back wall down and put another chair in that shop. 18 months later we opened the second shop on Collins Street, and it just kept going from there. In 2017, we opened four shops in one year. It just kept growing.”

Far from taking a step back as the business grows, Aaron chose to hire an assistant so that he could continue cutting hair for 20 hours a week — for the benefit of both long-term client relationships, and his own headspace. 

“Half of my week is cutting hair and the other half is working on the business. I’ve been cutting some of my clients’ hair since I was an apprentice, 16 or 17 years ago, and I see them more than I see my friends or family — so I feel a large responsibility to them,” he says. 

“Mostly though I just enjoy cutting hair, I find it quite meditative and something I don't have to think about. I just do it.”

Along with the expansion of more shop fronts, Kings Domain has established a training academy, produced a line of professional hair products, and revolutionised its tech suite to support further business growth to create efficiencies.

Something to take home

The idea for a take-home product line sparked as something for Kings Domain’s growing community of customers, without the intention of widespread distribution. 

“We wanted to have a product our barbers and client community could feel was their own.”

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Just like the concept for the barber shop itself, Aaron proved again that if you create something you love, there’s a good chance others will love it too. The Kings Domain Melbourne products are now stocked in over 800 Coles stores across Australia. 

“It stemmed from doing something for ourselves and then taking the time to refine it and make sure we’re doing it properly. Our line of high performing products are accessible to the wider community now, in price and location.”

“I think if you do it that way, with time, you’ll have good growth.”

A powerful new tech toolkit

Kings Domain has gone through a significant transformation to ensure its operations are as efficient, and its customer service as optimised, as possible. 

“We’ve banked with a big-4 and used their terminals since we opened. They served their purpose — the money ended up in the bank account. But since having the Zeller Terminals, we’ve realised how much better terminals can be.”

The decision to move to Zeller came about after shifting other business operations to the cloud, and discovering the efficiencies a shakeup can bring about.

“The rest of the business has really evolved over the years with new technology. Like instead of having to write rosters on a board in the salon, we’re using cloud based apps for rostering and point-of-sale. And now in hindsight, when I compare Zeller to our old terminals, the old terminal just wasn’t up to date with the latest technology.” 

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For a business that prides itself on customer service, Zeller has a few handy features that make life easy.

“The ability for the terminal to connect directly with the client by sending an e-receipt is great. And it means we don’t have to keep a hard copy paper receipt, because it’s all stored online.”

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Training the next generation

Aaron spotted another opportunity for business growth while training hairdressing students at TAFE. When COVID-19 struck and shuttered barbershops, he got to work. 

“I used that time to formulate the curriculum and start planning the business model for the academy,” Aaron says.

The Kings Domain Academy and Barbershop is housed in a converted warehouse with soaring ceilings and 17 trainee chairs, with an additional three chairs reserved for qualified barbers. This was a strategic decision to ensure trainees aren’t just appropriately skilled in cutting hair, but also in providing exceptional customer service. 

“The students and apprentices get exposure to a real life working barbershop with the same expectations and standards as all of our other shops.”

As part of the Academy, Kings Domain also operates its Refugee Scholarship Program — offering refugees and asylum seekers the opportunity to become fully qualified barbers by undertaking six months of free training at the Collingwood Academy. Scholarship students also receive a $2,000 tool kit donated by sponsors Turnleys and Excellent Edges.

“We’ve got this vehicle now where we can really help the community. The main thing we want to do is give people an opportunity to have a fresh start with a new skill, and create awareness about what some people in the community are going through.”

Supporting growing Australian business 

Kings Domain is a success story of impressive scale. By focusing solely on carving out his own niche within the industry, Aaron has created “something that suited me a little more” than the bright lights and blaring music typical of the hairdressing environment. 

By drawing inspiration from high-end restaurants, always keeping the customers’ needs at the forefront, and carefully selecting the tech tools the team needs to grow efficiently, Aaron has scaled Kings Domain to heights beyond his dreams.