How Sport Clips Brings a Successful Franchise Brand to a New Country

Sport Clips, started in Austin, Texas by former U.S. Airforce Aircraft Commander, Gordon Logan, is a hair salon specializing in hair cuts for boys and men. Franchising since 1993, this dynamic system has over 1,800 locations in North America.  Sport Clips has been in Canada since 2012. Sara, who is going into her fifth year with the company, works with franchisees from sea to shining sea.

What does it take to extend a successful franchise brand to a new country without spending too many resources? Sara Belanger, Director of Operations for Sport Clips Canada works with franchisees from coast to coast to set them up for success using franchise coaching and processes adapted to their needs.

We sat down with Sara and she shared how she uses smart processes and tools. 

A Day in the Life at Sport Clips 

What is your role?
Sara: “I am the Director of Operations for Canada. Our focus here is to put the processes that are already established in the United States into Canada. My responsibilities include system-wide software launches and roll-outs such as POS or core operational software shared with franchisees. I also take care of national recruitment strategies, campaigns and platforms. I wear many hats, but I would be bored if I had the same tasks day after day. The diversity in the role keeps it interesting.

“Management of all new store build-outs is also key to my role here at Sport Clips. That means taking the new franchisees through ‘day one’ in the field in terms of starting their new business after they have been on-boarded through their initial training. I navigate them through the entire build-out process task-by-task and we have regular calls to get that done. Once they are up and running, I do the ongoing coaching on operational strategies to grow their businesses. A big part of our franchise coaching is strategies to manage store teams in terms of development and engagement.”

What interested you in the franchising community?
Sara: “It was a great opportunity to work along-side entrepreneurs – I have always had a huge respect for them. A lot of our franchisees have interesting backgrounds and are real “go-getters”. We are a manager-run store with a team leader, so most of the owners of Sport Clips have day-jobs. At the same time, I get to work with the hairstylists who are creative, passionate and fun.”

What do you like about working at Sport Clips?
Sara: “The culture is very positive and respectful. Our team works closely together, and we are all working towards the same goal. We are all helping our stores become successful; it is nice to be part of a team that is willing to go above and beyond.”

Building on the Success of an Iconic Brand

What strategy do you employ to set your franchisees up for success
Sara: “Sport Clips started franchising in the early-90s, so they have over 25 years of experience building systems and processes. To make sure that our store owners are successful, we take them through every element of each process. We want to make sure that they are armed with the tools and information that they need.”

What tools keep you on track?  
Sara: “In terms of staying organized, FranchiseBlast is a great help. It is an opportunity to get back into the system and have task-oriented items there that you can check off. We have processes in place for every development point including:

  • Onboarding training
  • Grand opening
  • Store build-out
  • Ongoing plans

“This is something we can build into a process, and we use FranchiseBlast to ensure that we are hitting every point on the checklist. After that, communication is key. We make sure that we are reaching out to franchisees on a weekly or bi-weekly basis, depending on where they are at in the lifecycle. We have a call with an agenda and create follow-up items to ensure that we are getting traction on our shared goals.”

How do you use tasks specifically?
Sara: “We do ‘Success Checks’ which is what we call our Store Audits. Using FranchiseBlast, we can store and track relevant follow-up tasks. We also use the Action Plans function when we are doing a store transfer or grand opening – all the associated tasks are there. We have it broken down by department and we are able to follow-up on that. If I see a task that hasn’t been marked as complete, it is easy for me to see who needs a follow-up communication. It ensures that nothing gets missed.

“There is also a function to edit plans for ongoing enhancements. If we go through a process and find that there is something missing, we can build a stronger process for the next time.  We don’t need to rebuild the same tool over and over – it is a huge bonus for us.”

Managing Unique Challenges

What was the biggest challenge?
Sara: “Across Canada, I would say that recruitment is an ongoing challenge. We want to make sure that each store manager is not taking his or her foot off the gas in terms of finding those awesome new stylists. Having great stylists is the best way to ensure that our brand is the premium one that we all work towards as an organization.

“Once they are hired on, one of our first steps is to take them through a tool called “Magic Notebook” which is done at 3 full days of training. “Magic Notebook” is a full checklist of what that new hire must go through to ensure that we are setting them up for success. Do they have the tools that they need to function in our environment? Do they know what to do? We want everyone to be successful and they can only be successful if they have the tools and training.”

Canada is a diverse country – how do you manage that?
Sara: “Challenges are very store-specific. Factors such as:

  • Where is the location?
  • Is there a brand presence in that region already?
  • How mature is the team leader?
  • How established is the team?

“Each store has its own unique personality, and a different opportunity. The good thing is that for each challenge that we encounter, we do have the tools. We know what works and we can build those plans for them. They are going to be at different stages of the lifecycle.”

What advice would you give to someone who wants to take an established system and make it successful in a new market?
Sara: “Take a look at the processes in your system and adapt them where needed. We have taken some and broken them down further, so that they are more digestible chunks that will get quicker results. Look at your overall processes and where they would fit in that store’s development. Every team leader who comes on has a different set of experiences and different specialties. You may not train one team leader the same way that you train another one, for example.

“When you look at them on an individual basis, you may want to simplify the training content to ensure that it is meaningful. Also having your actionable items created as tasks, helps you track and see progress. I would also advise to “never assume anything”. Don’t assume that the franchisee knows something without being sure. Instead, ensure that the touch-points and ongoing communication is there. This helps you get in front of an issue as opposed to reacting to it because an assumption has been made.”

Key Take-Away

The key takeaway from this story is that you do not need a lot of resources to expand to a new country if you have the right technology and tools. 

Interesting Questions

For every interview, we ask some concluding questions to learn more about our guest. Check out the below to learn more!

What new belief, behaviors or habits, adopted within the last 5 years, have most positively impacted your life?
Sara: “My perception of business, based on the Sport Clips culture, has changed significantly. ‘Do your best; do what is right; treat others the way that you want to be treated,’ are some of the main parts of the culture. It was a nice environment to come into. In this company, there is a lot of focus on what is going in the right direction and celebrating that. The challenges are really seen as opportunities, and everything can be accomplished. It is a great perspective that I have applied professionally day-to-day and it has also had a positive impact on my personal life.”

Purchases of less than $100 that have improved your life?
Sara: “I have a mouse pad that is like an agenda. I was a collector of agendas and different pieces of paper, trying to keep things on track before. Keeping my day on just one piece of paper has been life-changing.”

What books have you gifted the most to other people?
Sara: “I love light reads that I can get at the department store, then I pass those on to other people. I find it helps me re-set and relax and I like to share that positive energy with others.”