07/11/2014 02:32 pm ET Updated Dec 06, 2017

Michael Barsamian Uncut


Get ready to be inspired. I've interviewed hundreds of entrepreneurs but this one offers fresh albeit uncommon advice for business builders looking to gain massive traction in their businesses. He is still building his empire, working in the trenches daily, amassing luxury spas and hair salons like some of us collect designer shoes. Michael Barsamian is known in Boston and New York as king of the beauty empire, with twenty six luxury salons including Lord's& Lady's, Mizu, James Joseph, Corbu Spa and Salon at The Charles Hotel, and Green Tangerine. He employs more than 750 people and if it sounds like he's got his hands full, you're right. However, that hasn't stopped him from venturing into additional businesses, including building a 39 unit apartment building in West Roxbury, a neighborhood of Boston in 2012 while now contemplating building a luxury apartment building and hotel in Saugus, just outside of Boston. If there were such thing as the Energizer Bunny, I found him. He is entrepreneur extraordinaire, Michael Barsamian. I recently had the opportunity to chat with him about success and here are five lessons to building empires the Barsamian way.

Take Risks - According to Barsamian, you can't be an entrepreneur unless you are willing to take risks. Risk taking is in the genes. If you are not pre-disposed to risk, says Barsamian, you should be working for someone else. Michael shared the story of how he built his 39 unit apartment building, Belgrade Place, in 2012. He broke ground just prior to his building permit expiring so that he wouldn't have to go through permitting again. The only problem was that he didn't have the money to build the units. He broke ground and kept telling himself, "The money will come." Barsamian was declined by local banks for financing because he had never built an apartment building before so he was considered high risk. That didn't deter him from looking for other options. Barsamian was right, the money did come. He found a company in Maine that was in the business of pre-fabricated modular apartment buildings. This company would assemble the entire building in Maine and ship it to Boston on 75 trucks. The pre-fab apartment company also agreed to finance the building if Barsamian could find a bank who would refinance it once it was up. Although banks were unwilling to finance the building of the apartments, there was one bank who was willing to refinance it if Barsamian could get it built. The rest is history. Belgrade Place just celebrated its two year anniversary and Barsamian has had no problem renting out the units. What's interesting about this story is that 99.99% of people would have given up when they were declined for financing. Barsamian kept pushing until he found a way.

Never Give Up - Having built twenty-six successful salons I asked Barsamian if he ever fails. "Of course," he replied. However, he was quick to note that failure is just a moment in time and his goal has always been to run with the bad until you can make it good. In other words, Barsamian never accepts failure as fatal. Failure is a pit stop which he hurdles in order to turn that failure into massive success.

Straddle - According to Barsamian, if you want to build massive business empires, you must always keep your focus on the next deal. I sat with him just outside his brand new Green Tangerine salon inside The Sheraton Boston. It's the first time he's opened a salon inside a convention center hotel. Even while the finishing touches were being made to this salon, Barsamian admitted that he's already working on the next deal, another salon that will open in the coming year. As Barsamian notes, the only way to keep growing is to always be focusing on what's next while perfecting the opportunity you have right in front of you. He said that if you spend all of your time working on the one business opportunity that's staring you in the face, once it's running, you've got to start prospecting for the next deal. Barsamian says he never has to worry about a gap in opportunities because he's always focused on the next deal while finishing up the current one.

Embrace Opportunity - Barsamian talks about how every single one of us is surrounded by opportunity. All we have to do is embrace it. Barsamian is the son of Armenian immigrants. His mother's entire family was killed during the Armenian genocide, while at seven years old, she hid under a bed and was eventually saved, only to live in an orphanage for many years until her father's brother found her in the orphanage and brought her to the United States where she eventually married Barsamian's dad, also an Armenian immigrant and also a survivor of genocide. Barsamian grew up with five siblings and to say money was tight for his family was an understatement. His family couldn't afford college, and so Barsamian went to hairdressing school so that he could learn a trade that would produce income. He eventually met his wife, and she joked that he told her she couldn't eat at their own wedding because even with the wedding gifts he wasn't sure if they could afford to pay for the wedding. It seems that turning nothing into something is in his Armenian blood. His parents barely survived genocide only to eventually come to the United States to raise a healthy family. Barsamian himself scraped nickels together to create his own beginnings and today, forty three years after starting his first salon, he's running twenty six of them. This is a guy that doesn't sit back and worry, instead he keeps on moving forward. He is so confident in his own hard work and perseverance that he's literally unstoppable.

Trust - I asked Michael what the number one quality is in an employee and he said trust. He said that he gives 100% of his employees the benefit of the doubt because he believes most people are trustworthy. That being said, when occasionally someone breaks that trust, it's difficult, if not impossible to regain it again in his eyes.

Michael Barsamian is a self-made man born to parents who faced unimaginable hardship head-on. He's now running an empire that generates north of $25 million a year, but Michael Barsamian is as down to earth as they come. I attended the Grand Opening of Green Tangerine in Boston and got to see for myself just how highly his people think of him. He was showered with hugs all evening by employees, many of who have been with him for decades. The biggest lesson I walked away with is this: Big businesses can be built by everyday ordinary people who have an undying passion to win.

Photo Credit - Chelsea Kyle