Beth Nilssen
June 5, 2018 / Company News

From science teacher to hair salon owner, second-generation franchisee Matt Shepherd

In a previous post, I introduced you to Nick Layman, a next-generation Great Clips franchisee who operates his Salt Lake City walk-in haircare salons in partnership with his parents, John and Lyn. To help them with this changeover in ownership, Nick and his parents received guidance from the Great Clips corporate office and a program called NextGen, which provides franchisees and their families support as they prepare for the ownership transition of their business, from one generation to another.

Under the best of circumstances, the original franchisees consider their options long before the official handoff, allowing for a smooth succession, as was the case for the Laymans. Sometimes, however the situation doesn’t allow for advance planning. Such was the case for Matt Shepherd, another next-generation Great Clips salon owner in the Charlotte, North Carolina market, who had just three months to learn what he could about the business before his mother, franchisee Reba Shepherd, died.

Here’s Matt’s story, previously published in the Great Clips Leadership Report.

Matt Shepherd, Great Clips Franchisee

Matt Shepherd was a high school science teacher who inherited a new career from his mother. Three months before she died, franchisee Reba Shepherd summoned her son and let him know he would be taking over the eight Great Clips salons she and her husband, Steve, owned in Charlotte, North Carolina.

Neither Matt nor his brother had ever been involved in the salon operations. Their father was a partner in the franchise purchased in 1994, but their mother was the lead operator. Matt’s brother Scott was in the Navy and living in Washington, D.C. Despite having three young children, Matt quit his teaching job and took over the business in September 2011.

It wasn’t the optimal way to pass along the family legacy, and the business was struggling. But, things have changed since Matt took over.

Matt, you inherited a struggling business under challenging circumstances, at best. This couldn’t have been easy. What did you tackle first?

Matt: As a former science teacher, I looked at it like teaching human anatomy—part by part. I started by putting together a policy and procedures manual, and I started meeting monthly with managers and twice a year with the full staff. At first, the staff had some trouble taking direction from me. After all, just a few months earlier, I was a schoolteacher, so what could I possibly know?

I tried to show them I wanted to help them grow, giving them professional development and opportunities, and then, getting out of their way. I was trying to help the staff grow individually and raise their self-esteem by telling them, “Here’s how you can do it.” With that kind of message, and the support of the salon managers, I think I earned their trust. 

How did Great Clips help you address the challenges?

Matt: I went to Growing Your Organization (GYO), Convention, and Zone Meetings. GYO was the best thing that ever happened to me. I got to meet all these highly successful franchisees—Don Elliott from Knoxville, Jerry Akers from Iowa—and get really good advice. There was always somebody there who would say, “Oh, I can help you with that.”

And for quite awhile, our Great Clips business services specialist was my MIP—Most Important Person. I needed someone who could train everybody on the Great Clips customer service system, and Carla was that person!

It’s also important to realize that as a franchisee, you’re not a microcosm. You’re part of huge wheel that works together to move the brand forward. Whatever your goals are, you can see there are other people out there doing it, too.

So, that’s my key advice: Don’t be afraid to ask for help. You don’t know what the heck you don’t know!

Do you hope there’s a third generation of NextGen franchisees in your business?

Matt: I have three teenagers—a son and twin daughters. One of my daughters is thinking about going to beauty school. My son said he might want to work in our organization. So perhaps I’ll be able to introduce a next generation to the business! But, I’ve told them that I think it’s important for them to go out and get some life experiences, have some failures and successes before they become salon owners. That’s what I was able to bring to the table, and I think it’s made me a better franchisee and employer.

Do you have some life experiences you’d like to apply to a franchise business? Give me a call. I’d love to talk with you.

Beth Nilssen By Beth Nilssen on June 5, 2018
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