Memo Exclusive: An Interview with Great Clips CEO Rhoda Olsen

by Anne Moratto | November 21, 2016

The CEO of Great Clips, Rhoda Olsen leads her company’s team and works closely with Great Clips salons throughout North America.  With more than 20 years of executive experience in various positions throughout Great Clips, Rhoda Olsen has developed a deep understanding of what makes successful organizations work. Olsen also works closely with franchisees, helping them take advantage of a powerful network of people, tools and resources. In this interview, Olsen provides background on the brand’s beginnings and why the franchise model has worked so well in the salon industry.

MS: What was happening in the 1980s that made it an opportune time to try this franchise model?

 RO: In the early 1980s, franchising had become a very strong model and therefore became an appealing business opportunity. When David Rubenzer and Steve Lemmon founded Great Clips they had a clear idea of what was needed in the salon industry and their value-based salon model was working incredibly well. After having opened several successful salons, they wanted to expand. David and Steve had come from the Barbers organization, so they knew the salon industry and they knew franchising. They decided to bring in Ray Barton who was the executive treasurer of Century 21, as well as a Barber’s franchisee. Ray’s franchise experience was what they were looking for and the combination paid off. Today, Great Clips is 100% franchised and the largest salon brand in the world.

 MS: And today?  Are franchises still a good bet for the entrepreneur?

 RO: Franchisees are still our primary focus because it has worked so well. The benefit of franchisees in our organization is that it combines the strength of a very large brand with a very local, caring, hands-on management of the business. Franchising allows a personal connection and control at the community level and allows a connection between the franchisees and their salon team. This has served us well so we have continued on this path and franchising has become stronger overall. Franchising is a business model that continues to be more visible and positive. Our franchisees have that entrepreneurial spirit, but with a franchise they really benefit from the strength of the system, the structure and the brand.

MS: Is there an Artistic Team for Great Clips, with Artistic/Creative Directors? 

RO: Great Clips and their franchisees have several different “artistic teams.”  Technically, our first artistic director was David Rubenzer. As an incredibly skilled barber and stylist, he developed our Great Clips cutting system, demonstrated his work throughout the system, was key to the visible success in the industry, and developed a platform for our technical skills and the artistic talent in our system.

 Right now, Great Clips has design teams in about 40 markets, 60 corporate education staff that often do platform and creative work, creative directors in the franchise organizations, and an industry relations team that has focused on industry and platform work from a broader, national perspective.  We value the talent of these great stylists and leverage their skills throughout the United States and Canada. We’re partners with many of the largest salons and cosmetology schools in the industry and stylists throughout the system have the opportunity to share their design and creative talents.  We also have two major meetings, our convention and zone meetings, where stylists have an opportunity to demonstrate their skills and compete in the Create the Cut competition. We value the creativity and skill that’s unique to stylists and provide a lot of opportunities for ongoing learning and development.

 MS: How does Great Clips inspire their stylists?

RO: Great Clips, Inc. inspires the stylists in the salons through their franchisees. As Great Clips is 100% franchised, it really is the franchisees that build their organization, inspire their stylists, create a positive community and build that local business. The franchisees leverage many tools and resources that Great Clips, Inc. provides including Great Clips University, online training, annual meetings, workshops and events, local rallies, and other organizational events. Our franchisees are very committed to their stylists’ growth and development and provide many opportunities for motivation, fun, learning and development.

MS: What company-wide events does Great Clips hold?

 RO: Great Clips, Inc. provides several company-wide events including a Convention every other year, four regional zone meetings on the year opposite of Convention, an institute, market-level manager/franchisee meetings plus a full range of digital education. We also have our signature, Great Clips Academy, a combination of in-person and online courses for all stylists who are hired by a Great Clips franchisee. We value the face-to-face opportunities and continue to make significant investments to make those more and more meaningful as the online training interaction increases. We really believe that the online training can support that relationship, but we also believe we have to have those face-to-face opportunities to strengthen and build the organization and the brand.

MS: How do you attract new talent?

 RO: Great Clips, Inc. provides franchisees a number of different tools and resources to attract new talent. Great Clips, Inc. does have a recruiting services team that works closely with the franchisees on the digital recruiting and leveraging technology to attract talent. At the market level the franchisees and their organizations are working every day to attract talent for their organizations. They work with the local schools, their existing staff, and the community to build an environment that is attractive to stylists and it works. Many of our franchisees have built such strong relationships with the schools and in the community that their staffing issues are fairly limited. They focus on retention and when they attract the right talent, they do everything they can to retain them.


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