How small businesses cultivate people and community

Run Your Business Sep 08, 2017



We hear a lot about businesses being focused on the bottom line, but quarterly profits and staying ahead of the competition are only a small part of the story. 

Many entrepreneurs and small business owners also have a vision focused on the people they employ and the community in which they operate.

Take Gaulien “Gee” Smith, owner of Gee’s Clippers, a barber shop and beauty salon in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. He started the business 22 years ago, but well before that, he was cutting hair for boys in the neighborhood and charging $5 a head.

In fact, his oldest client has been coming to him for 35 years — that’s 13 years before he opened the door to his business.

You could say that he was always meant to open a barber shop, but he had to work hard to make his dream become a reality. With persistence and a never-give-up attitude, Smith has grown his business into a 32-chair barber shop and is currently developing a hair product line.

Cultivating individual potential

Before opening the barber shop, Smith worked for the U.S. Postal Service. It was a steady government job, but he had more to offer. He needed a change, but change involved taking a risk. He decided to take a big jump and pursue his passion.

“We are put here for a reason. Not too many people jump. JUMP!" says Smith of his decision. "I'd like to think that I've jumped and it's one of the best things I ever could've done.”

The passion that drove Smith to realize his own potential is something he seeks to cultivate in his employees. 

There is a lot of turnover in a regular barbershop, partially because employees don't feel connected to their work or their employer. Smith goes out of his way to create a work environment where employees can feel like they are part of something special, something unique. 

Each month Smith brings employees together for a mandatory meeting to make sure everyone has the same vision and leadership goals. By investing in his staff and mentoring individuals, Smith has created a unique team environment, and doesn't have the turnover rate other shops experience. In fact, several barbers have been with him for more than 20 years.

A wider mission

In addition to mentoring his employees, his business has been inseparable due to its sense of community. “Barbers have bigger roles — real issues are shared in the barber chair,” says Smith. “The barber shop is the heartbeat of the community.”

From a personal dream, to cultivating a strong team and giving back to the community, Smith's business model is one many small business owners seek to emulate.

For more resources and information on how to successfully manage your small business, visit