A Franchisee's Life: A franchisee gives to his community—and gets back in return

By Beth Nilssen

Jeff Lehman and his wife Janie own six Great Clips salons in the Cleveland and Youngstown, Ohio markets. As individual owners, they’ve always been active in their salon communities. Jeff has magnified their efforts by working to involve other Great Clips franchisees through the co-ops in these markets.

In Jeff’s own words, he explains how “doing good” has improved the bottom line of his business and those of his fellow franchisees.

I know I’m thrilled as a consumer when a business does something for the community, rather than just having me search the web for a discount coupon. That feeling was reinforced after I read a Forbes magazine article that said that, more than anything, consumers appreciate the efforts a business owner makes to contribute to the community.

I came to believe that the dollars we were spending to get business could be leveraged. Instead of focusing on having the customer make a donation in exchange for a coupon, we realized that you could earn the same kind of customer loyalty by doing good things through visible partnerships.

All the moving parts work together. The community feels like they are doing good and we’re getting recognized for doing good. Rather than going through the cost of printing a coupon and spending $50,000 on advertising, we take a different approach.

One example is when the local salons raised $40,000 in a “Believe in Miracles” campaign, in partnership with Ohio sports organizations and a local celebrity. The check was presented to an area cancer clinic during half time of an NFL game.

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Working as a group, our Great Clips co-op bought into the fact that doing good is good business. It’s much more newsworthy to say that all the Great Clips franchisees in the market are participating. You amplify what you’re doing and it becomes more meaningful. The return is exponential.

We know we’ve done good. We’ve written the big checks, we’ve donated large amounts of food and we’ve given away a lot of haircuts. Business has improved steadily as we’ve done that. As a whole co-op, we’ve done really great.

It may not be entirely altruistic because this is what we do to put food on the table and put our kids through college, but it is fulfilling to give back. There’s nothing wrong with doing great things and taking credit for them.