Beth Nilssen
June 23, 2022 / Leadership

Can listening to employees save Starbucks?

Howard Schultz is back at the helm of Starbucks, after a five-year hiatus during which he ran for president of the United States. While he was gone, Starbucks profits soared but employee morale soured, and the company faced a growing unionization movement.

Within a week of taking back the reins of the company he stepped away from in 2017, Schultz launched a listening tour to rebuild stakeholder trust in the Starbucks mission: “to inspire and nurture the human spirit—one person, one cup, and one neighborhood at a time.”

“I am returning to the company to work with all of you to design our next Starbucks—an evolution of our company…where we each have agency and where we work together to create a positive impact in the world,” he wrote in a letter announcing his return as interim boss. 

With employee morale at an all-time low, Schultz’s listening tour couldn’t come soon enough. Regardless of motivation, listening to employees is a mark of good leadership and something that Schultz emphasized almost from the time he took the company public in 1992. 

We can all do more and better listening as leaders—whether as a corporate team or as individual business owners. When we listen, we create confidence within our team that we, as leaders, want to do the right thing for our teams.

I see the value of listening in so many of the practices at Great Clips. As director of franchise development for Great Clips, my job is to help prospective franchisees figure out if owning a salon franchise is a good match. During those conversations, listening is critical. It helps me understand what the prospect is hoping to achieve by becoming a salon owner and why it’s important to them. I want to learn what drives them because that will have a direct impact on their success operating a walk-in hair salon. 

Some prospects know exactly what they’re looking for and can articulate it; others aren’t as clear. It’s my job to uncover the gist of their comments—by listening closely—to gauge if they’re ready to invest and if Great Clips would be the right fit for them.

The best franchisee-franchisor relationships are built on trust. As one of the first people prospective franchisees talk to at Great Clips, I want to be sure I instill confidence and openness right from the start. The best way I’ve found to do that is by asking questions and then…listening. 


Beth Nilssen 
Director of Franchise Development | Great Clips, Inc.
800-947-1143 | [email protected]

Contact me if you want to know more about what it’s like to be a Great Clips franchisee. Right now, we’re working with dozens of prospective franchisees who are going through the initial steps of exploration. I’d love to hear from you—and listen to you!—wherever you are on this journey. Give me a call today!

Beth Nilssen By Beth Nilssen on June 23, 2022
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