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After stumbles, Sport Clips founder uses lessons learned to build giant


“It sounded too good to be true, and it was.” — Gordon Logan, founder of Sport Clips with 1,800 stores, on his early days in franchising

Tell me about your upbringing.

I grew up in a small town in South Carolina. Even as a kid I was doing things, like before school started doing fundraisers. I would go door to door selling personalized Christmas cards every year. My dad was in the furniture business. He immigrated from Scotland, and went to work at a savings and loan to lend to sawmills. I had his diary when he was coming across on the voyage from Scotland, and he literally landed at Ellis Island with 12 dollars in his pocket. He was a classic Horatio Alger. My mom was a stay at home mom.

What were your early leadership experiences?

The first real leadership training was in the Air Force. It gave me an opportunity to be responsible for a lot of equipment and people and taught me how to build a team where everybody covered everybody else’s back, and working with people from all kinds of different backgrounds and recognizing different talents.

And later you pursued an MBA at UPenn.

I worked for PriceWaterhouse in their consulting group. As a consultant you have to convince people to do things based on the strength of the ideas. Franchising is so much better if you can influence people to do the right thing, as opposed to falling back on a franchise agreement.

How did you get into haircuts?

I became a franchisee. This was in the late ‘70s and ‘80s called Command Performance. I read an article in the Wall Street Journal. It sounded too good to be true, and it was, and they went bankrupt in a year and a half. Eventually we made an arrangement with Paul Finkelstein at Regis. He bought almost all of it, and that seed money allowed me to start Sport Clips.

What was the start-up like?

I tell people to count on negative cash flow for the first five years of starting to franchise. I learned a lot from that system about how not to run a franchise. Taking a more reasoned approach to growth was one lesson I took away from that.

What are your top values at Sport Clips?

We were using a videotape program that Coach Lou Holtz put together when he was coach of Notre Dame. It was called ‘Do Right,’ the story about how he took all these kids from all over the place. And his values were the same as Sport Clips. They are very simple and straightforward: Do the right thing, do your best and treat people the way they want to be treated. That foundation has really served us well.

How do you hire?

People talk a lot about millennials and I think a lot of it is consultants trying to make a living. Young people today, I’ll take them two to one over people in the ‘80s. People have complained about the generation behind them going back to millennia. I think they’re great, they’re hard-working, if you treat them well and recognize their accomplishments. It’s encouraging to see how they’ve gotten behind our charitable efforts with veterans. They want to be involved with a company that’s more than just a job.

Beth Ewen

Beth Ewen, editor-in-chief, learns if it’s lonely at the top and other lessons from franchise leaders, and presents their edited answers here in each issue. To suggest a candid C-level subject, e-mail bewen@franchisetimes.com.

What was the worst day ever at your company?

Back in the early days...

I had a bookkeeper that I trusted and I realized we didn’t have as much money as we should have, and it turned out about $100,000 was missing. At that time it was a heck of a lot of money and it almost put me out of business. It forced us to decide where we would put resources, and it caused us to focus on Sport Clips.

I blame myself, I’m a CPA and I should have been paying closer attention. I trust but verify, which is a good option especially when it comes to financial matters. I tend to be overly trusting. At the same time we have much better controls operationally as well as financially.

What is your biggest lesson learned about leadership?

I think Zig Ziglar said it best: You can have anything you want if you help other people get what they want. I think that sums up franchising. That’s the way we try to approach things: If we can help everybody in our system be a winner, then we’ll be a winner, too.

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