Meet a Franchisee Who Helps Employees Build a Career, Not Just a Job

By Beth Caron Nilssen

Friendly competitions are part of Steve’s professional- and leadership-development strategy to help his employees build a career—not just a job—at his walk-in hair salons in central Wisconsin. It’s not all about games and parties. He wants to cultivate a professional environment and a culture that creates success, so he offers employees technical and management training, as well as personal life skills. He believes that by focusing on his employees, customers will feel the difference.

Steve, what drives your business?

Steve Svensson: We want to serve as many customers as possible, but it’s not just about the numbers. We want that first visit to a Great Clips salon to be so great that the customer comes back because they got a great haircut and had a great experience!

I challenge everyone on our team to deliver the unique Great Clips experience to every customer. We even make it a competition: At the end of each week, one salon employee is recognized for excellence. When we elevate an individual performance, it lifts up the salon as a whole, resulting in more customers.

How does focusing on your employees translate to the customer?

Steve: Creating a company culture of winning is probably the single most important contributor to growing a salon business—giving stylists an environment where they feel they can be productive and valued. Also, we recognize that everyone in the salon can be a leader. A person’s title is not as important as their contributions to the salon. When you develop people, you develop your business. It’s that simple.

Do you recruit with leadership potential in mind? What do you look for?

Steve: The first thing I look for is good judgment and a strong work ethic. I want them to feel empowered, so I look for enthusiasm and an ability to reason—those characteristics are invaluable for giving customers great service. Not everyone wants to be a manager, but everyone can contribute to the team. It’s my job to help them see that.

If your employees are engaged, happy, and enthusiastic, there’s no way the customer can come away from that without being satisfied.

So, what exactly is a Hair-Ball Contest?

Steve: It’s part of our annual recognition event where employees from our whole organization get to celebrate with a bit of friendly competition by designing fancy hair styles. We give teams of stylists several boxes of assorted hair-related tchotchkes based on various themes—the beehive pin-up of the 1950s, the hippie flower girl from the ’70s, or the big-hair permed look from the ’80s—and we challenge them to create a hairstyle “fit for a ball” in 20 minutes. Then, models from each team show off their masterpieces on the runway, and are judged based on energy and creativity. You wouldn’t believe what they come up with!

And the event is called Steve-a-Palooza?

Steve: What can I say? I’m still trying to relive my youth.

If you’re interested in growing a franchise business (Hair-Ball Contests not required!), give me a call. I’d love to talk with you.

Beth Nilssen
Director of Franchise Development | Great Clips, Inc.

800-947-1143 | 
franchise@greatclips.com