Franchise Players is Entrepreneur’s Q&A interview column that puts the spotlight on franchisees. If you're a franchisee with advice and tips to share, email email@example.com.
Close to half of all Sport Clips Haircuts franchisees make the decision the same way – after getting a haircut at the franchise, or talking to a current stylist or franchisee. Nate Lehmann is one of franchisees who did just this. After a quality haircut while trying to decide what type of business to open, Lehmann decided to open a Sport Clips location. Here's what he has learned since entering the haircutting business and how he's solved the challenges the industry has presented him.
Name: Nate Lehmann
Franchise owned: Three stores in Duluth, Minn.
How long have you owned a franchise?
Franchises contain the vital fundamentals needed to operate a successful business. Brand recognition, marketing, infrastructure/business operating systems, coaching, training and support.
What were you doing before you became a franchise owner?
I worked and still work full time as a sales manager with a technology company. My wife quit her job to stay home with the kids and help operate the franchise business.
Why did you choose this particular franchise?
I like the model and the type of business. It's simply hair care with an "MVP" experience. Haircuts are something that will always be needed.
How much would you estimate you spent before you were officially open for business?
Around $300,000 per store. The franchise fee was $25,000, computers and other tech was $25,000, equipment and construction was $200,000 and operating expenses were $50,000.
Where did you get most of your advice/do most of your research?
Advice from my parents who own and operate a successful hardware store and research from the web.
What were the most unexpected challenges of opening your franchise?
One of the toughest challenges I've encountered is working in an industry with which I wasn't very familiar. Stylists are creative professionals, and we needed to find a way to harness and boost their energy and mind set. Our team understood we didn't have a background in the salon industry, so gaining their trust was an important first step. Overcoming this wasn't an easy task.
We had to make a concerted effort to show them our work ethic was strong. So, we were always in the store and answered their questions, even if it was after 8 p.m. when the stylists were still working and we were at home. Always being available is a key ingredient for a stylists to know that you genuinely care for their well-being and want to help their professional career. Since we couldn't help them become better stylists, we leaned on the Sport Clips training programs and backed that up with positive reinforcement to help them as individuals in life. Sometimes all that someone needs to progress in life is a chance to better themselves and someone there to be a positive mentor with encouragement and structure.
One example of this is that we have a sheet of "favorites" for each stylist: favorite movie, perfume, candy, restaurant, etc. Every time a stylist would go above and beyond or progress as an employee, we reward them with one of their favorites. Surprise lunches or gift cards for a team that did a great job when they were short staffed is always a great reward. But more than gifts, I think that having the team leaders just spend time in the store and give that positive feedback goes a long way.
What advice do you have for individuals who want to own their own franchise?
If you're willing to take the risks of owning your own business, look at franchises first as they have already paved a solid pathway to success.
What’s next for you and your business?
Currently, to continue to grow the three I have and open at least two more in the near future.