Beth Nilssen
May 23, 2016 / Company News

A franchisee’s story: The secret to my success

Franchisee Cheryl Stensrud and her husband Chad own six Great Clips salons in the Sioux Falls, South Dakota market. She has been with Great Clips for almost 30 years, starting as a stylist fresh out of beauty school and becoming a franchisee in 1993. She credits her long-term success to one thing:

“This is really a simple business,” Cheryl says. “It’s about making people feel good. If we can achieve that, the rest takes care of itself.”

And making people feel good isn’t just about the customer, Cheryl adds. “It’s not that I’m smarter than anyone else. I’m just smart about one thing, and that’s finding the right people and making them happy.”

To that end, Cheryl might be called an ace recruiter. She believes almost every stylist at one time or another would benefit from working at a Great Clips salon during their career. With that belief, Cheryl has been able to build a strong, committed and talented staff.

One of those great students was Sarah Elliott who eventually went to work for Cheryl as a stylist in one of her Sioux Falls salons. Today, Sarah works for a different Great Clips franchisee group—her parents! Don and Laura Elliott, longtime residents and business owners in the Sioux Falls area, were impressed with their daughter’s experience at Great Clips. They soon made the decision to invest in a Great Clips franchise, relocating to Knoxville, Tennessee to open their first salon.

Just like Cheryl, the Elliotts’ recipe for success is rich with appreciation of their employees. They also put a heavy emphasis on maximum use of the tools and brand measurements provided by Great Clips, particularly the scheduling and goal-setting software. That focus has generated four consecutive years of same-salon sales and customer growth at more than twice the system average.

“We’ve created a performance-based culture,” says Don. “At the end of the day, that’s what connects us to each other and the brand.”

We talked to Cheryl, Don and Laura to find out their secrets to success.

Cheryl, you’re known for your tenacious pursuit of great talent. Tell us more.
We’re recruiting all the time, regardless of whether we need staff or not. Once I’ve met someone who I think would be a good fit at Great Clips, I’m relentless about staying in touch. It’s easier these days to keep in touch with texts and emails. And I tell them I’m going to continue to follow up until they tell me to leave them alone!

Once you’ve hired them, what do you do to connect with your stylists?
I am in at least one salon nearly every day, sometimes several of them. It gives me the opportunity to get to know the stylists and for them to see me. We do monthly management meetings and have quarterly salon meetings and all-staff meetings. My general manager does monthly “one-on-ones” with the managers. They set goals for the salon based on our brand measurements. The managers in turn have a monthly “one-on-one” with each of their staff members. So the entire staff is focused in the same direction.

I also lead four different employee workshops that cover topics like goal setting, product, how to dress for success, or how they get paid. The workshops are a great way to keep everyone connected to one another, to the franchisee and to stylists from the other salons. We started doing them for just the new stylists, but I believe the workshops are just as important for our managers, general managers and long-term stylists.

When one of your stylists wants to leave—either to open a business or go to a full-service salon—how do you react?
If I’ve got a great stylist who wants to leave to do something else, I always tell them, “I hope you have success, but if it doesn’t work out, there is always a place for you in my business.” If they’ve done so well that they are ready to try something bigger, then they’ve already done more for our business than they are taking away. And, a lot of these employees do come back. They miss the security and the camaraderie that I believe is unique to Great Clips salons.


I may be smart enough to find good people, recognize them and keep them around, but I also realize the success isn’t just me. I know how hard my managers and stylists work and I try to show them my appreciation every day.

Don and Laura, you believe that one way you make connections with your staff is to give them clear expectations, especially around the Great Clips measurements of success. Tell us about that.
We really believe that our biggest opportunity to grow is to attract new customers and keep repeat customers. And the easiest way to do that is to have the shortest wait times. It’s a key part of how we deliver a great experience to our customers. Get ‘em in the door and in the chair! To achieve that, we really depend on the scheduling software provided by Great Clips— it’s like our bible. And we make sure our employees know that we schedule for the customer, versus scheduling for the stylist. It makes a huge difference when you look at the numbers in growth and in repeat customers.

How do you motivate your staff to meet the goals?
We post a monthly ranking sheet every month of how the salon is performing in our brand measurements, and who is the best in each category. You’re either first, last or somewhere in the middle. This really instills accountability and keeps the key measures constantly visible so that our full team remains focused on the right performance measures.

How does having a personal connection with your staff help when a salon isn’t performing well?
If we’re doing our jobs as franchisees, it shouldn’t be a surprise when a salon is struggling. Sometimes it’s simply that a manager has lost the desire to manage. And there is no shame in that. Because of the relationship we have with them and the trust they have in us, they are often the ones who say, “This isn’t working out. What else can I do?” They don’t want to let us down. We are more than happy to have them stick around. We do care about them and they know we want to do everything we can to make them successful.

These are just two stories about the success—and the secrets to that success—of Great Clips franchisees who are thriving in their walk-in haircare salon businesses. Interested in owning your own salon? Submit an application today!

Beth Nilssen By Beth Nilssen on May 23, 2016
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