So 2017 is almost over and it's time to pay tribute to the businesses which have stood out to me over the past year.

Without further ado, I give you the 2017 Business Zen Outstanding Business Awards ...
Honourable mentions go to the following:

•Air Chathams: Last year's winner offers fabulous friendly service which far outweighs the benefits of Koru membership.
•Noel Leeming, Victoria Avenue: The best chain store in town, bar none. The team really know customer service.
•Gatshack: A business that does so much "over-and-above" work with its customers.
•Riverview 4 Square: The "go-to" place for all of our quick purchase requirements and the friendliest team in town.

However, there is one business which stands out above all of the rest and has earnt a place of preference for myself and Junior Bell — Monaghans Barber Shop is the Business Zen Outstanding Business for 2017.

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Nobody likes queues but at Monaghans there is something about the old school ambience and music of the 50s through to the 70s that makes the time fly. But the reason that you are waiting is that the young team has developed something really special and what is a blueprint for how Whanganui businesses can be successful niche providers.

Talking with Sam Monaghan, the owner and proprietor, you get the sense very quickly of a savvy and alert businessman who saw a gap in the market place – a place for men to get their hair done. But he took this simple concept to another level to deliver it in a unique way.

I remember my father talking fondly of barbershops and (it is noted that I don't have a lot of hair to cut right now) Monaghans is now my venue and that of Junior Bell. Both of us sit with Josh Sharkey who, like Sam, trained at Barbertown.

While cutting and styling my hair is, to put it plainly, simple, Junior Bell has more sophisticated demands and, after seeing the creations made to order for the numerous other guys, there is a clear amount of artistry on offer. This is so much more than short-back-and-sides.

For me, the highlight was being able to talk about Australian Rules Football which, as good as the hairdressers of my past were, wouldn't get an airing. The conversations with all of the clientele, young and old, are relaxed and there are smiles all round — it is very much the experience which keeps them coming back.

Already Sam is setting in place a succession plan. Kahu Ponga is the latest recruit and he is undertaking an apprenticeship, now two months into a two-year stint after doing a barber course in Napier.

He says "the character of the shop and old rustic style and way the boys uphold professionalism" is a reason for their success and also the unique way they develop relationships with customers.

It comes as no surprise that for all of the barbers at Monaghans their favourite thing is cutting hair.

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But there is more at play here — you have a young owner with drive and an eye for differentiation and developing a successful business model. It is a model which appeals to all age groups and the good news is that there is room to expand and maybe they will see more growth in 2018.

The best advertising is word of mouth and that is how I found Monaghans and everyone I know who has experienced their service echoes my thoughts – these guys are the best.
I will leave it to Sam to sum it up: "We are unique and create a good vibe that appeals to all age groups."

As the Business Zen Outstanding Business of 2017, Monaghans will receive consulting advice to the value of $1000.

A fabulous business ends the articles for this year — it has been a pleasure writing and we at Balance wish you all a very merry Christmas and a safe and happy new year.

*Balance Consulting is a Whanganui consultancy specialising in business strategy, process excellence and leadership mentoring — contact Russell Bell on 021 2442421 or John Taylor on 027 4995872.