How one entrepreneur made the leap out of corporate America and into multi-unit business ownership
Wayne Freeman was just starting his career in the corporate world when he came to realize all the fear and worry over job security that comes with working for Fortune 500 companies. That’s when he started thinking about business ownership.
“I was seeing colleagues concerned whether they were going to get caught in a layoff, and I didn’t want to be the age I am now, and concerned about that,” Freeman said. “So really it wasn’t until I was in the corporate world and saw people not in control of their own destiny and earnings it occurred to me that I wanted to get that control for myself. I wanted to build my own business.”
And that he did. Freeman now owns 39 Sport Clips franchises throughout Kansas, Iowa, and Minnesota.
“I started researching the company and it was a good fit,” Freeman said. “The model worked very well for us.”
In this wide-ranging interview, Freeman explained how he adjusted to running his own business, how to keep employees feeling valued, and why now is the right time to invest in the Sport Clips franchise.
Q: Coming from the corporate world, how did you learn the ropes as a new business owner?
A: A lot of it is trial by fire, but also my professional experience really came into play. We always had an eye toward scalability, and we needed to make sure the business was in a position to operate as semi-absentee franchise owners. So, we came in with the mindset of having our store managers be decision makers and have autonomy. We put systems in place for ordering and considered ourselves a support role. We’ve been able to replicate that as we’ve scaled the business.
Q: So you put a lot of trust in team leaders?
A: They are the experts in terms of operations of the store. Early on, we stood behind the cash register to understand the flow of things. But they’re definitely the experts. We want the culture to be one of them having the confidence to make decisions on their own.
Q: And do you find this approach retains employees?
A: We definitely have tenured team members, some for 10+ years. How do we do that? I think it’s just demonstrating day in and out that we genuinely care about our team members. We’ve always been family first as to how we approach things. We have an understanding that we all have lives outside of work. I think empathy connects them with us and lets them know we have vested in their success and future.
Q: How many employees do you have?
A: We are shy of 300. While that means to me it’s harder to connect individually with team members, I believe we’ve created a culture where we’re still making connections at some level. And you realize how these folks depend on you for their own livelihood.
Q: Do you find team leaders have a voice within the organization?
A: Team leaders absolutely have a voice within the organization. I can assure team leaders that corporate offices very much listen and care deeply. They are always listening, and we’ve seen that play out over the last 18 months for sure.
Q: What are your hopes for the future?
A: I hope we continue to grow and challenge our own economics to make sure we’re on the leading edge, in terms of what compensation looks like to hair stylists. We want to make sure we’re paying well and provide a good lifestyle for the people who work with us.
Q: And finally, why should people invest in Sport Clips?
A: I continue to think Sport Clips is not only an amazing brand with family ownership that cares deeply and is invested in our success, but I also think we’re in a space that is recession proof. During the 2008 downturn, we were in a nice spot in the market. People continue to need haircuts. And so, as long as we are able to provide predictable, consistent, top-quality service, we think there’s longevity for hair cutting in general and Sport Clips in particular.
Transition out of corporate America for good with Sport Clips
If you’re interested in business ownership with a Sport Clips franchise, simply fill out an inquiry form and a member of our team will be in touch with you shortly. We can’t wait to learn more about you!