Greg Thomas Turns Distressed Units Into Success

By his own description, Greg Thomas is ADHD. Sitting down to read a book, watching professional sporting events, or lounging on a beach doesn't really interest him. For Thomas, life should be lived in accordance with a very simple motto: Life's short. Grow fast.

And he has. Over the past decade, Thomas has gathered up 13 Great Clips and 2 Smoothie Kings in his franchise operation. He attributes much of his success to an ability to get into a distressed location and make it profitable.

"The decade after college, I was in corporate America, vice president of a large women's apparel manufacturing company," he says. "Life was pretty good. And every winter, a group of 10 of us guys would go to Lake Tahoe to gamble and ski. I enjoyed my vacations, but found it difficult to relax because I was always getting phone calls, putting out fires."

On those trips, Thomas says, "I was fairly envious of one of my friends. I'd be on top of a ski slope getting phone calls and putting out fires while Grant would be relaxed, enjoying his So I asked him, 'What exactly do you do for a living?' He said something about owning some hair salons and concluded with 'I don't work weekends.'"

"The next year we went skiing and, again, I'm getting phone calls and putting out fires. And Grant looks at me and says, "I don't work on Fridays either." I was jealous, and a bit pissed off. So on the flight back to Atlanta I kept thinking 'If this guy can make a living owning hair salons, well, he's no smarter than I am, so I need to get into that racket.' A few months later I bought my first Great Clips."

Thomas and Simon now are partners on some stores. That works well, says Thomas, who sees himself as the action-oriented half of a team complemented by Simon's more methodical, detail-oriented approach.

Thomas's approach to growing his business is pretty simple. He buys stores on the cheap, fixes the operations, and then advertises aggressively. "As a franchisee, it's my job to get customers in the door the first time, and then it's my employees' job to earn their repeat business," he says.

When it comes to hiring, Thomas insists his locations be run by a richly diverse group of people. His goal: hire good people of all demographics, gain their respect by treating them with respect, and then motivate them. "Every one of my employees is smarter or better than me in some way, shape, or form," says Thomas. "I might be the boss, but in no way am I 'better' than them."

It hasn't always been easy for this now-successful franchisee, not by a long shot. Starting with almost no money, Thomas got into franchising by borrowing from the banks. And by his own admission, he was probably highly overleveraged for several years leading right into the recession. He's had to work hard to keep the bills paid, and doesn't mind in the least to say that sometimes that took some skillful juggling--at least until this year.

Today he's pretty much debt-free, has built some cash flow, and things are much better. But he's still going full speed ahead with new ventures, both in business and in life (see below). That's the Thomas way. He wouldn't have it any other.

Name: Greg Thomas
Title: President
Company: Baci Fashions, Parkside Ventures
No. of units: 13 Great Clips, 2 Smoothie Kings

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