I’ve had many bosses in my life time. However, there is really only one who met me exactly where I was in my development at that time and saw the possibility in me. At the time, as a cosmetologist, I really wasn’t expecting to end up working in a barber shop. It just happened, a friend of mine couldn’t fill in one day so she asked me if I could…and that’s when I met the best boss ever.
His name is Chip D'Ascanio and he was the owner of the barbershop and my boss for 10 years. The barbershop is located in Malvern Pennsylvania. I started out as one of the “Fill ins.” In a barbershop, a fill in is the barber called in when one of the regular barbers wants to go on vacation or is sick. It’s perfect for a stay-at-home mom who wants a little extra cash. And eventually, I transitioned from fill in to being a regular!
Chip had a lot of rules and was very clear about what those rules were. His rules were appropriate and in alignment with good business sense and professionalism. Mostly. Be on time, if not 15 minutes early. Show up ready to go, be professional, be organized, sharpen your skill set, and treat the clients well. Basic yet important rules.
Clients came first, the only exception: was whenever a client was disrespectful to any of us ladies. Chip used his own internal compass as his guide. He just wasn't afraid to stand up for his gals when it was appropriate to do so. One bad client gone -was worth it. He didn’t like having to do that but he also didn’t want his shop infected either. More room for another amazing client to come in and this man was the king of attracting the nicest client base on the planet. When you are a woman working in a field with all men, this one thing is absolutely critical. Us women need to know our boss, our leader will not allow money to lead when some serious levels of disrespect walks through the door. Of course all of us women could handle this type of thing, however, the gentlemen inside of Chip, was an important part of the equation.
As much of a business man as he was-led by operating a successful business for himself and his family- it was equally important to him that his gals (chips chicks) made a lot of money too. He understood the connection, the link between his success and ours.
There was the part that was our responsibility to create our own client base, then there was his responsibility to lead in a way that allowed the flow to be so abundant throughout the shop. He wanted to enjoy his every day. He loved being a barber, he loved people, and he was so good with them. “Everybody loves Chip,” he’s just one of those guys. You can’t help yourself.
He was sometimes a little tough but that’s to be expected when you work with all women. Us creative type women with our multi-dimensional brains, hormones and expansive ever changing emotional worlds, our individual personalities, quirks and differences. Underneath the beauty that existed in that shop, because we were all beautiful women…there was the chaos, the reality of the fullness that comes with a shop full of the creative feminine. This is no small thing to deal with. However, chip was a champ and dealing with all of us, most days, I would think, he probably went home to his wife, thanking her and god that he had it so easy at home with the love of his life.
Because the truth was, at any given time, one of us or many of us were dealing with some kind of problem of hardship. Whether it was divorce, or a sick parent or a behavioral problem with one of our children. He cared deeply but not at the expense of his own happiness and that was one of my favorite things about chip. His happiness was really his biggest priority. To me, that’s healthy role modeling.
Working with Chip and at Chips barbershop was beyond fun. When I worked there, we would groove to the oldies. Eventually my station was across from Chips and eventually I learned how to navigate the abundant flow of clients, which sometimes was standing room only. “Who’s next?” was the revolving question all day long. I was like his little minion, watching, observing and learning through Chips lead. Eventually, I learned how to be with my client, cut hair, have a conversation, ring a client up and know exactly who was next.
At Chips Barber shop, our cups were definitely running over…
Due to this, we could afford to be generous with each other as co-workers. If we were backed up and one of our clients came in-it was not a problem when our loyal clients went to another barber in the shop. Because there really was "plenty" to go around. An abundant flow has a tendency to stomp out a scarcity mentality. Because Chip taught by example. Now while I can’t really speak for the other women in the barbershop, I can speak for myself. I felt this way. I loved everyone and I wanted everyone to flourish as much as I wanted that for myself.
That said, men are funny and extremely loyal creatures, especially when it comes to their barber. Yet, creating that freedom where it didn't matter if I cut your hair or if one of the other girls cut your hair because it didn't matter because there was just so much business being generated anyway. You knew when a client walked in if that client would go to anyone, or if that client was someone’s regular and you respected the client/barber relationship and the loyalty that came with that. You did that naturally. There was no such thing as a negative barber with a scarcity mentality. At least not while I was there.
I have no idea if the shop still vibrates on that level or not because my days there were like magic. There was just something very special about the combination of all us gals at that time. And I don’t know if that can ever be replicated. Similar to popular shows like Seinfeld and Friends. Actually more like Cheers-where “everyone knows your name.” Some magic has everything to do with timing. And that was our time.
Chip got the best out of me because of who he was as a person. Not just a boss. I could trust him. I could trust him so deeply that he became like a second father to me. That only happened because of who he was and how he vibrated with a level of internal freedom within him. He didn’t care about what wasn’t his to care about but then he cared very much about other things.
Chip allowed for individuality and growth. We were allowed to make mistakes and learn from them. We were allowed to be ourselves. He wanted us all to shine. Shinning employees brings in business and if you're all shinny at work, if you are happy work becomes a super fun place to be. He was an interesting combination between serious but mostly fun and light heartedness. The best thing about Chip, was how he was able to embrace feminine energy, the fluctuations within us females. Although he was unable to tolerate catty behavior. We could go through our stuff with one another as long as it was heart based on driven by misunderstanding, but if it was childish or immature, he would let you know you were being childish or immature and he really had no tolerance for that.
Eventually, my connection with Chip evolved into something very special. People assumed I was his daughter due to our playful banter (which resembled an Italian father/daughter arguing but we weren't really arguing) and he really was so very "for me" as a young woman, a young mother on the planet. My growth and anything I set my mind to, when I did well, he was so proud and so encouraging. Always.
Cutting my own finger with my own scissors happened every once in a while with me. I just moved so fast that sometimes I’d be cutting myself instead of hair. Nothing major really. You just clean it, stuck a band aide on it and carried on. There was this one time though where I cut my finger so deeply that I ended up having to go to the emergency room. I went, got my stitches, got bandaged up, drove right back to work and began to cut hair again. Because it was a really busy day and the finger was handled.
I got a lot of feedback on how insane it was that I quickly went to the hospital and came back to work instead of going home. Yet, both chip and I were like “what’s the big deal, Carry on!”
He would do this thing where he would intentionally press my buttons for the fun of pressing my buttons. It was all very light hearted with no bad intentions. When he was able to push my buttons he would just laugh and say “You are just like my wife, it’s so easy to press your buttons.” He would get me…Every. Single. Time. When you work in a barber shop you do learn a lot about the culture that is masculine, that men tease and they are being playful. The more they tease you the more they are letting you into their world in a sense. It’s a fine line though because the masculine/feminine experience of what constitutes “teasing” can be so very different. And often, when I would try to be playful and tease, I just took it too far sometimes. Because there still exists the masculine vs the feminine. A man can say something to another man and it’s teasing. But when a woman says the same thing or something similar, it can hit a man very differently.
Chips favorite color shirt seems to be: "Salmon or Pink" You have got to love a guy who wears Salmon or Pink :- )
I could go on, and on, and on…This is just one piece of the Barber shop experience for me. There are just too many fun and joyful memories of my time working at Chip’s barber shop. My relationship with Chip is just one dimension of a multi-dimensional experience. There was the clients, the men, starting out when I was married, moving into divorce, being single, growing, becoming. Building relationships with amazing clients, having some incredible fun with my co-workers who became my sisters. Wild, fun and crazy stories that really need to be shared because they are SO FUNNY!!!! And I’ve been working on that screen play for years now! The thing is, the experience, fun and joy is so vast, it is taking some time.
But for today, I acknowledge the dimension that is Chip aka Chipper.
Here are some “Chip-isms”
“You have to take the good with the bad.”
“Life is short.”
“You only have one life.”
“It all works out.”
“Does this really matter?”
“Sometimes, you just need thicker skin.”
“Family is everything.”
“Live your life.”
Cheers to the man who will tell you “I just got lucky.” Really though, he’s been mastering the art of happiness and the law of attraction for many years…
ANd here he is, Summer of 2015 with his family. "Family is Everything" after all....