Who 'Ya Gonna Call When Your Franchise Is In Trouble?

By Beth Caron

The true test of a good franchise isn’t just what happens when things are going well for a franchisee; it’s also about what happens when things are going not so well. This is the story of two Great Clips franchise partners who leaned on their franchisor and fellow franchisees to get the help they needed, and came out on top.

Franchisees Pat McLaughlin and James Cummings jumped into their Great Clips business with gusto, opening three salons in six months despite a rocky 2009 economy. They were newbies in a new market for Great Clips—Raleigh, North Carolina. Pat is a chiropractor and James is an attorney, though Pat only practices one day a week and James just sold his law practice. Before 2009, neither had operated salons.

They had their plan all set on paper when they signed their first agreement—ready to take on the world. But, when it started to go a bit off track, they wondered if they had bitten off more than they could chew. They were soon reaching out for help from the corporate office and other franchisees to help them figure out what they could be doing better, specifically around staffing and operations.

Using support from the home office and guidance from other franchisees, they developed a manager-in-training program, created a strong mission statement, and refined their employee recognition and compensation structure. They also participated in every Great Clips learning opportunity they could, later sharing what they learned with other franchisees.

After a few months, they managed to stabilize their operations. Once they felt they had their feet back underneath them, they made the somewhat surprising decision to purchase more salons—12 more, to be exact.

“Things became real at that point. We went to 15 salons overnight. Now we were big time,” says Pat.

Going big was the turning point, he adds. It meant he and James could attend Growing Your Organization, a program offered by Great Clips, Inc. to help larger franchisee organizations plan for the future and share best practices with some of the most successful franchisees in the Great Clips system.

Today, Pat and James’s organization has seen growth above the system average, setting multiple sales and customer records.

Pat, you bit off a lot by opening your first three salons in a short time. Was that a mistake?

Pat: It turned out to be a blessing in disguise. If we had owned just one, we might have closed the door. With three, we were all in. We were committed.

Great Clips was instrumental in helping us correct our course. They sent one of their operations specialists to see what was going on, which was invaluable. She helped us develop better hiring and organizational business practices. Turns out we needed to do a better job following the Great Clips process, instead of trying to create our own. Go figure! Plus, she encouraged us to be a little more patient in waiting to see the effect of these changes, and ultimately- we did see those changes make a big impact. 

You also asked for, and received, a lot of advice from other franchisees. What were some of the most helpful ideas you implemented?

Pat: One of the franchisees asked us, “What do you stand for? What’s your mission statement?” We didn’t have a mission statement. On the plane ride home, we got out a notebook and wrote one. Now we live, eat, and breathe the mission statement. It’s framed in our salons, we talk about it often in meetings, and we structure our newsletter around it. It changed everything.

Everything we do is consistent with those concepts. We hire people who are in agreement with them. We created a leadership and training program, which we didn’t have before. We have a private Facebook group, which is a good culture builder. And, we focus on the Great Clips steps for delivering a great customer experience and our brand measures. It’s pretty simple, but I’m forever grateful that Great Clips has a culture where franchisees are willing to support each other.

So you have mastered the system?

Pat: Let me put it this way: Great Clips is a lot like golf—you never master it 100%. But just like my golf game, I will always have goals for improvement! We’re a great example of why Great Clips works. The system works, if you apply it. That’s the beauty of a Great Clips franchise.

Want to know more about the support services available to Great Clips franchisees? (Our operations specialists are truly the best!) Give me a call. I’d love to know more about your interest in becoming a franchisee.

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