Debra Swersky
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Opt-in for weekly journal, not blog, posts.

The Good Barber

These journal posts have a funny way of coming together. I’ve already documented the how they come together in a weirdly wonderful Pitch Perfect 2 kind of way. I write on Thursday, post on Friday, but start thinking about what I’m going to write about starting on Monday and marinate on an idea or two or three until I actually sit down on Thursday to write. 

Today (so yes, this is Thursday), I sat down and started to write. But, what came out was my new pitch. Or my new thought on my new pitch. Earlier this week a thought popped into my head while I was biking that was my pitch but part marketing part operations. I pulled over, stopped biking, and whipped out my phone to write it down (“Ink it when you think it.” Courtesy of Sam Horn). I’ve been noodling on this aspect of my pitch for a while, but just saying “marketing + operations” felt too “box meet Debra.” Too straightforward. So, new line in mind, we went out to dinner with some people and I shared what it was that I do (for money) and instantly hated it - the new line, not what I do. Upon further review, the line was crap. But, I tried it out, gave it a fair shot, and hated it. 

When I’m rethinking my pitch (and sucking at life in delivering it) I try to tell myself that I’m “the good barber.” Allow me to introduce you to “the good barber.” The good barber is your favorite professional that provides you a personal service: haircut, orthodontics, manicure, etc. This is the person that performs the service on you. These are not services that they can perform on themselves by themselves, just other people. So when you’re looking for a “good barber” you need to take a two-pronged approach to your search. First, you talk to people whose haircuts you like. Second, you need to check out the barber’s haircut. If it’s great, you find their barber. If it’s not great, you’ve found “the good barber.” Why? “The good barber” can’t cut his own hair! (Admittedly this may not work all of the time, but it totally worked with my orthodontist!)

More to the point, I’m being approached more and more in the startup community for asking great questions. (Which is great validation, thank you!) And I’m being referred to startups looking for pitch feedback by other startups. (Which is way neat!) But, when I’m sucking at life and can’t make sense of my own elevator pitch, I remind myself that there are lots of barbers out there with bad haircuts because the haircuts that they deliver for their clients are top-notch and they just can’t find someone as awesome as they are for their own hair. 

Am I copping out? Not really. I started out this post by saying that these journal posts have a funny way of coming together. I sat down to write and the first words that appeared on the page were my new pitch. Ever since that dinner I’ve been trying to understand why what I said was so wrong. My “good barber” analogy is my way of saying to myself: “You don’t actually sound as terrible as you think. You ask really insightful questions, you give great feedback to the teams you work with, and you deliver high-quality work.”

In the end, pitches don’t work like haircuts. I have to accurately represent myself (and represent myself well!) to sign the kind of work that I want to do. Which means that my elevator pitch, unlike “the good barbers” haircut, has got to be good. And so, I’ll just keep practicing my pitch until it’s Pitch Perfect (2).

Debra Swersky