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Why This Franchisor Doesn't Look for the 'Perfect' Franchisee Like any business, franchisors often get caught up in recruiting and qualifying the perfect candidates to invest in their organization. What's the balance between being too picky and not picky enough?

Great Clips

As the director of franchise development for Great Clips, Inc., Beth Nilssen talks to a lot of prospective franchisees. Her job is to help them navigate the mutual evaluation process — when the franchisor figures out if the prospect has the right qualifications, and the prospective franchisee explores if this is the right organization to make their investment.

"Prospects come from all backgrounds and experiences," says Nilssen. "I'm often their first contact with the company. In this day and age, most of them have done some preliminary homework and think owning a walk-in hair salon is what they're looking for. I'm there to help them figure out if they're right."

How does she do that? By walking the fine line between being too picky and not being picky enough. She explains more in this Q&A.

When a prospective franchisee calls your organization, they are checking out whether or not they want to invest in the business. You, undoubtedly, are also checking them out. What are you looking for?
Beth Nilssen:
At first, I'm just trying to make a connection. I ask questions about their interest in becoming a franchisee, their background and their professional experience, and I listen — a lot. What I'm asking myself is, "Is this person a good fit for Great Clips from a culture and values perspective, as well as their knowledge and experience?" And I know they're asking themselves similar questions about me and Great Clips — it goes both ways! It's definitely a mutual process.

How do you decide when a prospective franchisee is right to move on to the next step of the mutual evaluation process?
At Great Clips, we look for what we call the "ideal owner" — a hands-on leader who is looking for a manager-run business and who is willing to take direction as well as give it. Franchise businesses use a time-tested system and the most successful franchisees are those who follow that system. Those people who are extremely entrepreneurial and want to do things their own way may not be the best fit for most franchise companies. We bring this up with the prospect to make sure they understand what being a franchisee means. Sometimes they're the first ones to realize this isn't the right fit.

Before a prospect even starts this process, though, we collect some high-level qualifying information, including details on their financial situation. After verifying the application, the prospect is referred to a franchise development manager who acts as a sort of tour guide through the learning steps. They cover staffing and training, marketing and real estate support, as well as other general aspects of the business. They also help the prospects get in touch with current franchisees for further conversations. And, yes, there is homework assigned between each of their calls!

Beth Nilssen, director of franchise development for Great Clips, Inc.
Image Credit: Great Clips

That sounds like a very thorough process. Is this where being picky comes into play?
Yes, the qualifying process can sound daunting, but it's important work. I often reference something I heard a few years ago — that the two worst things a franchisor can do are being too picky or not being picky enough. I couldn't agree more. The key is to walk the fine line between the two.

How do you walk that line?
Did you notice how I used the word "ideal" earlier? That's where being picky comes in. Our team knows that not every prospect will have every characteristic we are looking for. And that's okay. Candidates who are a good fit have many or most of the traits we are looking for, but they also bring other unique skills and valuable traits that will make them great business owners. And that in turn will make the brand stronger.

Are there any deal breakers?
Every franchisor undoubtedly has things in their "ideal candidate" profile that are deal breakers. For Great Clips, that starts with ensuring the candidate has the financial ability to proceed, lives in an open market and has the time to start a business. That said, one of the less obvious ones might be the people-person part. Running a walk-in hair salon successfully starts with hiring the right staff and then motivating them to deliver a great customer experience, so being comfortable and approachable in a management position is key.

So, if I had to choose just one trait to be picky about, it's people skills because that's a signature characteristic of our most successful franchisees. One of those franchisees once said, "Ours is a really simple business. It's about making people feel great — the customers and the salon staff. If we can achieve that, the rest takes care of itself." I wholeheartedly agree.

If you want to know more about the value of investing in a franchise organization that makes people feel great, Great Clips wants to hear from you. Email us at or call 800-947-1143.