Right Time, Right Place: Parlaying Military Experience into Franchise Success
Scott Richburg, a former U.S. Army National Guard officer and owner of an engineering consulting firm, smiles when he recalls the learning curve he faced when he bought his first Sport Clips franchise in 2003. "Learning to relate to and communicate with hair stylists took some time," he says. Twelve years and 14 additional salons later, he's clearly figured that out.
As with many in the business, his transition into franchising began with a haircut--and a bit of good luck and timing. "When I went into a Sport Clips for a haircut, the experience just blew me away," he says. And he was ready, even eager, for a change.
"I didn't want to do engineering any more and was looking for something else to do. In a twist of fate, I was talking with a banker friend who'd heard from a business broker selling Sport Clips franchises. He wasn't interested, but I told him I knew about it and found it a cool concept. He handed over the broker's card and we went from there. I've always felt like I could sell anything as long as I believed in it. And I believed in Sport Clips."
He also wanted to continue working at his existing job while he grew the business, something the Sport Clips model encourages. "Once the business got going, I didn't want it to be an 80-hour-a-week proposition," he says. "I have kids who are very involved in sports and I like to coach their teams and watch their games. Sport Clips allows me to do that."
Interestingly, he quickly discovered that his time in the military provided a good foundation for his entry into franchising. And the brand, founded by U.S. Air Force veteran Gordon Logan, has long been a strong supporter of the IFA's VetFran initiative to bring veterans into franchising.
"As an officer in the military, I learned how critical every person on the team is, and that developing the team is what's most important. It takes every person on the team to be successful," says Richburg, whose 15 Sport Clips are in Little Rock, Ark. "The other part of that is motivating a team and helping them to understand they shouldn't just be looking out for what's best for them. The whole is better than the sum of the parts. They can all do amazing things."
Because of the discipline required in the military, he understood that growing a business takes perseverance, dedication, and time. "I wasn't looking for quick success. You have to stick with it through the ups and downs, successes and failures. But you can do it. The military has a plan, and franchises have a plan."
Name: Scott Richburg
Title: President, Sheco LLC; Sport Clips Team Leader
No. of units: 15 Sport Clips
Family: Wife Gina and two kids, Shelby, 21 and Colby, 18
Years in franchising: 12
Years in current position: 12
The strongest influence in my life has been my father. He would always tell me, "Remember who you are." It was his way of saying that your reputation is something that you must always protect, and to avoid doing anything that would call your character into question.
Sport Clips Team Leader of the Year in 2007. Former member of the Team Leader Advisory Council, having developed one system-wide Manager of the Year and a Rookie Manager of the Year.
I am very fortunate to have excellent store managers in place. This gives me a lot of flexibility and allows me to be out of the office and the stores most weekends.
What are you reading?
Reviving Work Ethic: A Leader's Guide to Ending Entitlement and Restoring Pride in the Emerging Workforce by Eric Chester.
Best advice you ever got:
An old friend who used to own Papa John's and Rally's franchises told me that franchising was an excellent way to go into business for yourself, but to make sure that the brand you select will allow you to completely control your market. That way, you can control the strength of the brand in that market without worrying about other operators doing something to damage it.
What's your passion in business?
I love taking young team members with the desire to succeed and placing them in roles where they are challenged. I believe that, when challenged, people can do amazing things. I am most proud of those team members who began with us as coordinators or newly licensed stylists who now lead award-winning stores.
By nature, I am conservative. I prefer to focus on getting operations right and unit profitability up, more than on growing the number of units.
Management method or style:
I believe in providing store managers with the training, tools, and support they need to run their stores and then getting out of their way. I consider my role to be verification that the system is being followed completely.
Before getting involved in Sport Clips, I ran a civil engineering, land surveying, and landscape architecture business. Learning to relate to and communicate with hair stylists took some time.
How do others describe you?
I think most people describe me as serious and focused.
How do you hire and fire, train, and retain?
We tend to hire slow and fire fast. We spend a lot of time during the interview and training processes. Retaining staff has a lot to do with hiring right in the first place and then fully preparing them for the job. Also, it's important that team members feel appreciated and that what they do is actually critical to the success of the business.
How do you measure your growth? By profit and efficiency (all stores are profitable, so not having to work on projects designed to save a store).
Vision meter: Where do you want to be in 5 years? 10 years?
In the next 5 years, I'd like to open three to five additional locations in my current markets and identify other markets to move into. In 10 years, I would like to have established a presence in other states where the potential for growth still exists.
What are you doing to take care of your employees?
We have offered and contributed to health insurance for our team members for the past 10 years, as well as offering supplemental insurance. Each full-time employee receives 2 weeks of paid vacation every year. I feel it's important for them to get away and recharge their batteries.
What kind of exit strategy do you have in place?
I currently do not have an exit strategy, but hope that one or both of our children will join the business and carry on when we decide to give it up.
2015 MVP Veteran Entrepreneurship Award
Why do you think you were recognized with this award?
I'm not really sure. My military service was in the Army National Guard during peacetime. When I think of veterans and MVPs, I think of those men and women who have made the ultimate sacrifice to keep us free. I am humbled to be considered in the same category with them.
How have you raised the bar in your own company?
During the early days when we had only one or two locations, we strove to operate in a way that would be scalable as we added units. We have, of course, made many missteps along the way, but we feel like we now have systems in place that will allow us to add additional units while keeping overhead about the same.
What innovations you have created and used to build your company?
I wouldn't call it an innovation, but we realized early on that staffing would be the limiting factor in our growth. To that end, we brought on a team member whose primary responsibility is to keep the pipeline of qualified applicants coming our way.
What core values do you think helped you win this award?
I believe that you can only be successful if those making up your team are successful. I think we've made a real difference in the lives of many of our team members and have provided them with a career instead of just a job.
How important is community involvement to you and your company?
We are actively involved in most of the schools in the markets where we have stores. We also have several young ladies who volunteer their time and provide haircuts to the students at Easter Seals and various hospitals.
What leadership qualities are important to you and your team?
To be a successful manager within our organization, you have to be focused on providing the client with an experience they can get nowhere else, and on providing our team members with a stable work environment where they can practice their craft and grow. Figuring out ways for our team members to grow professionally is always a focus.
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