Beth Nilssen
January 30, 2018 / Great Advice

Check Lists

How is giving a haircut at Great Clips like flying an airplane?

There’s no punch line to that question because it’s not a joke. I’m presenting it as a real question. The answer is that both are processes that depend on individual skill and consistency.

Pilots—good ones, at least—don’t take off before running through a checklist that requires examining the conditions of their instruments and the readiness of their aircraft. Great Clips stylists—the most successful ones—follow the Great Clips customer service program (which is a proprietary system that we share with every Great Clips franchisee) to make sure their customers have an outstanding experience.

I could also ask how giving a Great Clips haircut is like improving infant health in Pakistan, or decreasing the infection rate for appendectomy patients, or constructing a multi-story commercial building. And the answers would all be the same: reliance on a checklist.

When expertise becomes a habit

I just heard about a book by Boston surgeon and public health specialist Atul Gawande, “The Checklist Manifesto: How to Get Things Right.” In the book, Dr. Gawande sets out to discover what makes a complex project—surgery, office building construction, flying a jet—consistently successful. What he comes up with is the use of checklists.

When I thought about it, I realized that’s what Great Clips does with its technical and customer service training programs—classes that teach every Great Clips stylist how to use the same process (a kind of “checklist”) to deliver a great haircut and a great customer experience. On a larger scale, of course, Great Clips’ operating model is, in a sense, a checklist.

Not that a checklist is everything. Skill and expertise are still important. The idea is to create habits—which, if you’ve ever tried to diet or take up exercising, you know isn’t easy. Great Clips executives touched on that subject earlier this year, when they got together to discuss the successes of 2016 and goals for the future. One of the things they talked about is how important it is for franchisees to buy into our “checklists.”

When thinking inside the box is a good thing

CEO Rhoda Olsen pointed out that, very often, new franchisees bring so much experience and enthusiasm to their new venture, they start out wanting to “get creative.” They’re excited about being entrepreneurs, and they sometimes get distracted by their own ways of doing things. Yet, history shows that the most successful franchisees are the ones who follow the system and direction they get from the Great Clips corporate team.

“Sometimes they trip themselves up because they want to try and somehow add their own element, instead of really working this system,” Rhoda said.

This idea of having a consistent checklist to follow—from launching a new business to delivering a great haircut—is one of the biggest keys to success for operating a walk-in hair salon. It’s how Great Clips franchisees succeed, and how their businesses thrive.

Who knew pilots, surgeons, business owners, and hair stylists had so much in common?

If you’re reading this, chances are you’re thinking about becoming a franchisee. It may even be on your checklist! Send me a note or give me a call. I’d love to talk with you!

Beth Nilssen By Beth Nilssen on January 30, 2018
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