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Take Flight

Snip N' Clip franchisee Larry Fox has discovered the best place to manage his stores is in the air.

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There's nothing unusual about a multiple-unit franchisee venturing out to visit stores. But when Snip N' Clip franchisee Larry Foxgoes to his 16 units, he has to check weather reports to make sure conditions are safe for him to fly. Since 1991, Fox has used a corporate airplane to travel from his Overland Park, Kansas, home base to stores up to 350 miles away.

Fox opened his first Snip N' Clip in a suburb of Kansas City in 1987 after founder Ron Mitchell suggested the idea to him. "My original thought was to go into the office-supply business, and I asked for [Mitchell's] advice. He kind of planted the seed that maybe Snip N' Clip would be a better option for me," Fox says. "As it turned out, it was."

In the nearly 15 years since Fox opened his first store, he has operated about 25 shops throughout Arkansas, Missouri and Oklahoma. With encouragement from Mitchell, he also looked into flying as a means of overseeing his franchises. "He got me interested in aviation and showed me how it could be a valuable tool," Fox says.

Fox bought his airplane in March 1991 and earned his pilot's license a few months later. Since then, he has used the plane to visit his salons on an as-needed basis.

For Fox, a typical flying day begins at his Overland Park office at 7 a.m. There he answers letters and other correspondence, calls general managers for a review of his shops and checks the weather before heading out to run errands and drive to the airport.

If the weather is cooperating, 10 a.m. is take-off time. In about an hour and a half, Fox lands in Springdale, Arkansas, and drives to the east Fayetteville Snip N' Clip. He meets with managers and stylists to discuss how promotions, marketing and general store operations are going. "I like to know everybody we work with-what's important to them, what we can do to improve our workplace, make it more of a home for them," he explains.

Lunch with the shop manager is next; then he meets with area supervisors, who fill Fox in on what's going on with his three Northwest Arkansas shops. "We discuss personnel issues, scheduling, results of some of our coupon promotions that we do, maintenance issues, products we sell," Fox explains. "We try to listen to management's ideas as to how we can improve our shops and do more for our customers."

Fox appreciates feedback from his managers and stylists, hoping to meet their needs and address their concerns. "I'm more hands-off," he says, "I try to be responsive to the needs of our managers, but we want our managers to be the hands-on people. We feel our stylists are the most important people in our business, and we want the managers to give them what they need to be successful."

After this meeting, Fox returns to Springdale and meets with that store's manager before driving to the airport. In an hour and a half, Fox is back home, where he checks his mail, returns calls and records the day's results.

All this travel makes for long days (Fox estimates he works 50 to 65 hours a week), but without the plane, it could be a lot worse. "One good thing about the airplane is, when I do travel, I don't spend many nights out of town or away from home," Fox says. "It allows me the freedom to get so much more done in a day-it's a great time-saver."

That freedom allows Fox to spend more time with his 5-year-old daughter, Samantha, who's sometimes his traveling companion. "She loves to fly; she's a little flier," Fox says.

Samantha is also growing up in the Snip N' Clip franchise. "She's becoming a pretty good little hair sweeper," her father says. Fox hopes to someday pass the business on to her. "That would be wonderful; that's what we hope," he says. "The franchisor has a granddaughter and we've talked about that a lot, that we both hope our kids will be partners someday in this business."