Strong franchisee co-ops Part 2: Recruiting marketwide for the greater good

By Beth Caron

A strong franchisee cooperative (co-op) is the backbone of many successful franchisee businesses. A co-op is made up of franchisees who operate businesses in a specific market or in neighboring markets. Some of the strongest Great Clips markets have strong co-ops, operating on the belief that when they speak with one voice—when they deliver one consistent brand message—it helps them individually and collectively.

Much of what the co-ops focus on is marketing, but Great Clips co-ops also work together on other business functions, including recruiting, training, community outreach, and real estate.

Here’s how Great Clips franchisees in the St. Louis market are working together to recruit great stylists

A few years ago, the St. Louis Great Clips franchisee co-op (salon owners from the same or neighboring markets) decided to survey its current salon staff to find out where they attended cosmetology school. According to franchisee and St. Louis co-op president Jarrett Estes, what they found was alarming: Many of their stylists and managers had graduated from small mom-and-pop schools, several of which had since gone out of business.

“We knew then that we had to get back into actively recruiting,” says Jarrett. “With the smaller schools, the owners knew us and students would come our way after graduation. But the only way to get the attention of the bigger schools is to have a personal relationship with the instructors and to be face-to-face with the students.”

Over the past few years, those personal relationships have paid off. In fact, one recruiting event, sponsored by the St. Louis co-op, made such an impression on the CEO of one of those big schools that he got in touch with Great Clips President Steve Hockett.

“The CEO of Regency Beauty Institute thought we were doing a great job with one of our programs,” explains Jarrett, “so he sent a note to Steve Hockett to tell him that. I thought that was pretty high praise!”

Jarrett, you’ve been instrumental in jump-starting the recruitment program in the St. Louis market. Where did you start?

I’ve been active in our recruitment but I can’t take a lot of the credit. The key is really the efforts of our co-op-sponsored Recruiting Committee, made up of three general managers and me. I’m on the committee for two reasons: One, I represent the other franchisees, and two, I’m the only franchisee in the market who’s also a general manager.

I can’t say enough about the general managers on the committee. Each one manages multiple salons so they really understand the importance of recruiting and hiring. They have taken a very active role and are a big reason we’re so well received in the schools.

What barriers were you pushing against in the schools and how have you overcome them?

It starts with the school’s recruiters and instructors. It’s important to let them know that Great Clips hires a lot of their graduates right out of school. We can help place stylists immediately. And when you talk to the students, many believe that the only way to be a successful stylist is to work at a full-service salon. What I tell these students is that, at Great Clips, you will get to cut hair right away, and that’s not always true in a full-service salon. That often changes their perception. The opportunities are endless for stylists at Great Clips, and we let them know that.

Tell us about the events you’ve sponsored that have raised Great Clips’ profile among local schools in your market.

Well, I can’t tell you all the details (proprietary information, you know!), but some of the things are pretty obvious: We visit the schools, invite the students to our training centers, and then show them what a great place Great Clips is to work. One of our recruiting specialists gives a presentation, and we have giveaways and prizes. It’s all about sharing the culture of Great Clips—we help stylists improve their skills through training and support so they can be successful in delivering a great experience to the customer. And, we like to have fun.

What’s the benefit of recruiting for a whole market instead of individual salons?

It’s good for the market because we can make a bigger impression on schools than just one individual salon or business group can. The best thing we can do for our individual businesses is to have a unified message when we go to schools. Plus, it helps that the committee does a lot of the up-front work interviewing prospective stylists.

What advice would you have for other markets considering a co-op recruiting program?

You have to make the decision that this is what you want to do and then support it. The best thing is having the committee and the three general managers who put so much effort into it. To the franchisees and the co-op, I may be the face of the committee, but the general managers are doing the bulk of the work. They volunteered to do it. They saw the need and they made the commitment.

I also can’t say enough about the franchisees who support these general managers, even though it takes time away from their salons. It’s really a personal commitment to work for the greater good of the market.

In a future post: How franchisee co-ops in Ohio motivate and retain their rock-star employees

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