Michael Risco of The Spot Barbershop®: “Originality”
Originality: even if it’s been done before, you must find a way to make it original. We took the barbershop concept and made it our own by perfecting the look, adding the right services and educating our team on how to give the ultimate service to our customers. Classic service in a modern setting.
As a part of our series called “5 Things You Need To Know To Create A Very Successful Lifestyle Brand”, I had the pleasure of interviewing Miami-native Michael Risco, COO of The Spot Barbershop®. He joined the team as Chief Operations Officer in December 2017 when The Spot had 3 locations. Since then, the company has grown to 18 South Florida locations and 12 franchises sold and opening this year. Along with Freddy Perdomo and JC Perdomo, The Spot’s founders, Mike has been able to rapidly expand the grooming and lifestyle brand from a mom-and-pop operation to a local powerhouse, planning to expand across the US in the coming years.
Thank you so much for joining us in this interview series! Before we dive in, our readers would love to learn a bit more about you. Can you tell us a bit about your “childhood backstory”?
I was born in Miami, FL way back 1981 to Cuban American parents. As the first-born son in the United States, I had a of support but also pressure to succeed by going to college and choosing a career path. I was always interested in business and entrepreneurship from a young age. I remember being about 10–11 when I began washing the neighbors’ cars for 5 dollars and selling baseball cards to my friends for profit. I’ve always had the go-getter mentality from a young age. I guess that is why I’ve been driven to this position.
Can you tell us the story of what led you to this particular career path?
I actually went to film school for college. I wanted to be the next Steven Spielberg growing up and the dream actually took me to Los Angeles when I graduated at age 22. I lived in LA for 13 years working on all sorts of films and TV shows. I was even an actor for some time appearing on CSI: NY and several smaller budget films. I then went behind the camera as a producer of reality and drama television and movies. That career taught me a lot about budgeting and structure as well as dealing with people and their personalities. After several successful years as a producer, I was ready to return home to Miami and start a new journey. I was always a huge fan of The Spot Barbershop® and when my close friends offered me the opportunity to help them expand the brand, I jumped at the chance. I had the knowledge and experience of working with a solid team that we needed. The Spot Barbershop® is more than a company, it’s a family. And I am proud to be a part of it.
Is there a particular book, podcast, or film that made a significant impact on you? Can you share a story or explain why it resonated with you so much?
Good To Great by Jim Collins. The book breaks down strategies on how companies got to that next level, from good companies to hugely successful ones. It also explains what companies did that prevented them from becoming great and why. It’s amazing how sometimes a small decision can lead a company to amazing success, or complete failure. I think about the lessons learned from that book when I make decisions about the future of The Spot and its employees.
Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?
“Luck is when opportunity meets preparation” — Robert Evans
This quote has resonated with me for 15 years. I heard it watching a great documentary about Robert Evans, producer of the film The Godfather, but the quote relates to any business in any industry and even in personal life. A person or company must be prepared for opportunities when the arise because they may never come again. The Spot has been preparing for this moment of expansion for a few years now and once we succeed, some people will call it luck…
Ok, thank you for that. Let’s now jump to the primary focus of our interview. For the benefit of our readers, let’s define our terms. How do you define a Lifestyle Brand? How is a Lifestyle Brand different from a normal, typical brand?
A lifestyle brand can be clothing, shoes or even a restaurant or barbershop. A brand that adds its own style and culture which is currently relevant in society. We consider ourselves a lifestyle brand because we provide the initial “look” of a person, whether it’s their haircut, beard or down to their eyebrows. A person’s haircut says a lot about them. Wearing a great outfit and driving a cool car is nothing if you don’t have a quality haircut to match. Also, The Spot prides itself in being a cool and comfortable environment that people can be proud of being a part of. We love to hear our clients brag about getting their “cut at The Spot.”
What are the benefits of creating a lifestyle brand?
The benefit is being a part of making people’s lives better. We add confidence to people when they visit our shops. It feels good to be seen as a positive brand adding value and giving our neighbors and friend’s something to be proud of.
In your opinion, what is an example of a company that has done a fantastic job building a believable and beloved Lifestyle Brand? What specifically impresses you? What can one do to replicate that?
Kith and Apple — 2 very different companies but both perfect lifestyle brands. They both possess the aspects of lifestyle by becoming a staple in people’s lives. Obviously, everyone knows Apple. For the last 15–20 years, every cool gadget that most people use day-to-day is made by Apple. From the iPhone to the Mac, owning these items is the definition of a lifestyle. Kith is a NY clothing brand that has expanded globally, now with shops in Paris and Japan. It began in 2010 and has consistently provided my generation and the new generation with an outlet to shops the best and most exclusive brands in the world in one place.
Can you share your ideas about how to create a lifestyle brand that people really love and are ‘crazy about’?
Make something special. Even if it’s been done before (like a barbershop) make it your own and make it unique.
What are the common mistakes you have seen people make when they start a lifestyle brand? What can be done to avoid those errors?
Trying to copy what others have done. There are so many ‘lifestyle brands’ that look just like other successful brands and they get lost in the limelight. They might be good and original, but if they try to copy what has been done consumers will see right through it. It’s not easy but the brand must carve its own path along the way in order to be successful.
Let’s imagine that someone reading this interview has an idea for a lifestyle brand that they would like to develop. What are the first few steps that you would recommend that they take?
Research and more research. See if it’s been done before and how the successful ones have done it. If it’s a brand-new industry, make sure to have a plan for how to present it to the world properly. You only have one chance to make a first impression.
Ok. Thank you for all that. Here is the main question of our discussion. What are your “5 Things You Need To Know To Create A Very Successful Lifestyle Brand” and why? (Please share a story or example for each.)
– Originality: even if it’s been done before, you must find a way to make it original. We took the barbershop concept and made it our own by perfecting the look, adding the right services and educating our team on how to give the ultimate service to our customers. Classic service in a modern setting.
– Determination: obstacles arise every single day. It’s how you handle the bad that takes you far as a brand.
– Solid Foundation: no building can sustain itself without it. No business can last without it. The founders and owners of the brand must all be on the same page and have the same vision for the future, otherwise it all comes falling down
– Plan: a lifestyle brand must see its version of the future for it to achieve its goals. A plan is necessary to move the brand along the right path of success
– Good Support System: the trials and tribulations of forming a brand are vast and you need a good support system at home to make it though sometimes. It could be done alone but even the biggest success stories had some help along the way.
Super. We are nearly done. Here are our final questions. You are an inspiration to a great many people. If you could inspire a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger.
Do things with passion and not just for your benefit but for the benefit of society. At The Spot, we thrive on providing opportunities to barbers that may come from other countries or made bad decisions in life that steered them down the wrong path. We pride ourselves in giving back to the community whenever possible and hope to inspire other companies and brands to do the same.
We are very blessed that some of the biggest names in Business, VC funding, Sports, and Entertainment read this column. Is there a person in the world, or in the US, with whom you would love to have a private breakfast or lunch, and why? He or she might just see this if we tag them.
Ronnie Fieg, Kith’s founder is a visionary and big inspiration to me and for The Spot family. He built Kith into one of the most respected lifestyle brands in the USA. We would love to collaborate with him and his Kith crew!
Also, Elon Musk is pretty successful and seems like a great guy to have lunch with!