Love What You Do and Be Grateful For Being Busy

podcast Jan 10, 2022
Ben Davis

Do you have an idea for a business that will solve a problem? Our guest today hated getting a haircut, but he wasn't satisfied with just "fixing" that problem for himself. So, he decided to fix that in a way no one else was doing. 

In today's episode, my guest is Ben Davis. I met Ben through a mutual friend and was instantly drawn to his story. Ben is the founder of The Gents Place, an upscale men's grooming and lifestyle club. I resonate with their business concept because my Guys' Trips share the same belief: There's something powerful that happens when you bring people together with intention and purpose.   

Today, we will hear the fascinating story of how and when Ben started The Gents Place and why he franchised it. Let's jump straight in! 

 

Who Is Ben Davis?

Ben was born in Wichita, Kansas, but he now calls Dallas, Texas home. Ben has been married for 16 years after first getting together with his now-wife at age 16! Ben and his wife have three children; the two older ones are both boys (15 and 14), and their little girl is 11. 

Ben credits his godparents with making the most significant impact on him.

"They got me my first checkbook, my first bank account, and first debit card when I was in fourth grade. They took me under their wing and said, 'You're going to need to learn how to balance a checkbook. [They] taught me how to play golf and said, 'You're going to need this one day in business.' I had a lot of influential people in my life, including my parents, but [the things my] godparents gave me as a child stayed with me into adulthood." - Ben Davis

That's a beautiful gift his godparents gave him, and it's no wonder that he's become a successful entrepreneur!

As a successful entrepreneur, people often ask Ben whether they're a good fit for entrepreneurship and if they should start a business. Ben's advice is based on being taught the world has three types of people: 

"There are those who follow the rules, those who break the rules, and those that make the rules. Entrepreneurs are designed [to] make rules [and] create something from pixie dust. Are you passionate about making the rules up? If so, that may be one checkmark for you that [entrepreneurship] could be a good [option]." - Ben Davis

Ben's parents gave him an indirect gift through their actions. They were always busy working — but they never complained about it. His dad's main job was in the military airforce as a Lieutenant Colonel, and his mom worked as a government employee for the department of defense. 

"All the houses we bought required some work, and they did it themselves. I always saw my parents working [with what appeared to be] 10 different jobs busy doing something, but they never complained about their work." - Ben Davis

Now I understand why Ben gladly shares that he loves what he does. Seeing his mom love laying tiles and jamming out to eighties rock music at midnight helped Ben find the passion for loving whatever he does and being grateful for being busy.

Let's hear more details about how Ben came to start The Gents Place.

 

Ben's Journey  

Ben went to about four different colleges, starting at the University of Texas in San Antonio. The intention was to wait a year for his girlfriend (now wife) to graduate. However, after graduating high school, she moved to New York City to study at the Fashion Institute of Technology, which abruptly ended their relationship. That prompted Ben to transfer to the University of Texas, Austin — but then they got back together. 

"I transferred into NYU [but after a while] she didn't want to live [in New York] anymore, and so I moved back to Austin and graduated a Longhorn. I qualified for interviews with big companies. One consulting firm [denied me] and called, 'Hey, would you like some feedback?' I said sure, and he told me, 'We asked you where you see yourself in three years from now, and you said starting my own business. You shouldn't tell an employer you're desperate to not work for them as soon as possible.'" - Ben Davis

Ben was being honest, but he learned a valuable lesson! Large corporations were not an option, so he focused on startups instead. 

Mark Jones, a man starting up a new internet-based company called Goosehead Insurance, posed that same question to him. Even though Ben had zero desire to work in insurance and knew nothing about it, Mark's response to "Where do you want to be in three years?" changed that:

"I said, 'I want to start my own business.' He said, 'Perfect. Do you want to sell insurance the rest of your life?' I said, 'No sir, I don't.' He [says, ‘Perfect,’ again.] I finished interviewing and walking through the atrium; Mark ran at me. He gave me an offer on the spot." - Ben Davis

Considering Mark had just passed up a CEO position of a major airline to start the company, Mark's faith boosted Ben's confidence. Ben helped grow the company from five people to over a hundred. Ben feels he earned his "Honorary Harvard MBA" learning a ton from Mark, an actual Harvard MBA recipient. After three and a half years, though, Ben knew it was time to move out on his own. 

In 2008, Ben started The Gents Place without any experience in the hair business. 

"I had no money. I was a high-income earner at a very young age in this insurance company, but I was stepping into entrepreneurship two weeks before Lehman Brothers collapsed and I got my SBA (Small Business Administration) loan." - Ben Davis

Mark believed Ben was making a huge mistake, not least of all because his son had a major health issue. In December that year, Ben's son was seven months old, and he had a 12-hour open-heart surgery that saved his life. 

Ben could understand Mark's point of you:

  • He was starting a hair business with no experience,
  • it's the highest price point in the hair business — 
  • A luxury service in the middle of a lousy economy —
  • and he'd need health insurance for his son. 

It was high risk and potentially low return, but Ben had enough self-belief to push forward.

"[With] enough grit to make it happen, we opened The Gents Place, and it was the day of my son's second open-heart surgery. I worked the front desk [from] 10:00 AM to 08:00 PM in Frisco, Texas — then I drove an hour to Fort Worth to be with my son after second open-heart surgery." - Ben Davis

I couldn't think of a more tumultuous beginning to a business, but Ben's steadfast belief that he could do anything and be anything drove him to make it a success.

No Regrets & Forging a Franchise

Ben believes that there isn't one cookie-cutter way anyone should do things. None of us know how long we'll live, so we should live with the intention of having no regrets. 

"When I started my own business, [my mom] told me, 'Benjamin, I always wanted to start my own business.' She never did and worked as a government employee and raised two kids, and it just hit me: I don't ever want to have that regret." - Ben Davis

Ben's first location was in Frisco, Texas, in December 2008. The Gents Place started with a membership concept for men's grooming services, high-end retail, and a complimentary bar. One of their members told them, "It's a place where personal relationships form and deals are done." They realized the potential to attract and introduce like-minded gentlemen. 

While revenue was growing, profit was not, so they had to keep tweaking the business model. Starting with unlimited haircuts for really relatively low prices didn't work, so they adjusted to the frequency-based model and made adjustments in the service menu. Once they started growing, they began opening a few more corporate locations. Finally, in 2016, The Gents Place began franchising.

"Do we grow corporate locations, or do we franchise? There's pros and cons to either side, but we decided to franchise because we like that local business owner model, someone that's on-site shaking hands and kissing babies." - Ben Davis

Ben's understanding of what made their sites work in Texas meant he knew part of their success was owner presence. The more stores he opened around the country, the less he'd be at any location. Considering they are now in 11 locations including Las Vegas, Chicago, Bentonville, Arkansas, Kansas City, and seven locations in Texas, the franchise model makes complete sense for a business that thrives on building local relationships. 

 

A Business Hub for Male Bonding

I used to caddy at Whistling Straits golf course, and I noticed how many business deals get done on the golf course. That made me think: "How do I recreate that?" That helped me create my Guys Trip experience, and The Gents Place is recreating that for men in a very different space. I wonder if Ben intentionally did this or if it organically happened? 

"I didn't understand how powerful [our impact would be] going in. It's amazing, we have 13 years of gentlemen [sharing stories like], 'I met my business partner, and we started a business together because we both bumped into each other at The Gents place.' We built a member lounge in the newer models, and people are hanging out, booking meetings, and connecting in ways that I never thought was possible." - Ben Davis

I wish I had a location near me to experience this, but I'll settle for Ben's description of the customer experience.

"When you walk in, you have no idea you are in a place that cuts hair. You don't see a single barber chair. You see a complimentary bar, a member lounge, a stone fireplace, some leather suede seating, and a retail offering of [unique] fragrances and grooming products. It feels like home and kind of [like an] Aspen lodge — a place where you [can] finally relax. A professional greets you and brings you to the back through a little windy hallway and then boom — you're in a barbershop." - Ben Davis

That sounds amazing — and vastly different from my experience with my wife cutting my hair! 

The Gents Place has three primary services:

  • A three-course (30 minutes)
  • A five-course (45 minutes)
  • A seven-course (60 minutes) hair and spa service

"We designed this experience around asking empowering questions putting all of that focus on what you are all about in the best parts of your life. We train our people to generate the most positive, empowering, and competent emotions in our guests. The haircuts are just the vehicle that allows us to be in front of someone who influences society. They're men of power. They are men of affluence, and if we can help them think about their life a little bit differently [in a positive way, we've done our job]." - Ben Davis

I resonate deeply with Ben's process. If clients walk in feeling a 3/10, they want to send them out feeling 10/10. 

Ben knows how important being in an optimal emotional state is for his business and family. 

 

Work-Life Integration

Ben hasn't thought much about work-life balance but has a unique approach that I find extremely useful in the never-ending search for balance. 

"For me, [it's about] participation. Everybody participates in everything that my wife and I have going on. My [14 years old] son works at The Gents Place shining shoes, getting beverages, [and] sweeping hair. We live our lives together. There's no separation. We talk about business matters in front of the kids and with the kids. My wife is running [to become] a Dallas County Judge, [and] the kids are involved in that, —they will be block walking for mom. Work-Life balance never existed in my vocabulary; maybe it's work-life integration." - Ben Davis

I love that! "Integration" succinctly describes what we're trying to do and changes the experience of being with your family separately versus including them in all aspects of your life. That's not the only truth bomb Ben dropped; his subsequent realization is compelling for all parents. 

"We were taught [a new approach] by a life coach: 'Are you raising kids or are you raising adults?' That was a total mind shift for us. We're raising adults. If you're raising adults, start teaching them things now about adulthood." - Ben Davis 

Thinking back to Ben's godparents teaching him "adult" things like balancing checkbooks, it's no wonder he's giving his children a great foundation by teaching them adult things — with real-life examples — to prepare them for their adulthood.

 

Why You Should Listen to This Ben Davis Podcast Episode Right Now... 

Guys, I hope this conversation with Ben was as informative and inspiring for you as it was for me. I appreciated his humility as he took us through his journey and gave entrepreneurs and aspiring entrepreneurs pearls of wisdom.

To conclude this episode, I asked Ben one last question: If he had to give a TED Talk on something he wasn't known for, what topic would it be? Here's his answer:

"Part of [The Gents Place's] secret sauce is the power of managing your emotional state. We believe that your emotional state in life determines your decisions, and your decisions determine your destiny. If you want certain outcomes in your life, trace back to your decisions and the emotional state that you are consistently in. Manage your emotional state, [and] stay in peak emotional state, regardless of all the craziness that's going on in your life and the world." - Ben Davis

That's powerful. Considering the times we're all living in, Ben's talk would help everyone! I hope you're inspired by this conversation and found it helpful in your pursuit of creating a remarkable life.

You can follow The Gents Place on Instagram, or if you'd like to find out more about their locations and membership services, head over to their website to book your experience. Are you interested in a business opportunity? Head over to their franchise website to learn more and open up the first The Gents Place in your area.

Thank you so much for reading this post. If you found value from this episode, it would mean a lot to me if you would take a few seconds and write a five-star review and maybe share it with some of your friends on Apple Podcasts. I'd be so grateful! I'd also love it if you would tag me, @kyle_depiesse, on Instagram with your greatest takeaways from the episode! 

Cheers to your success! I'm rooting for you. 

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