Validation Conference Call Team Leader Profile: Don Berger

Don Berger was a successful corporate executive and always an entrepreneur at heart. He’s helped grow several companies, the most notable a small employer benefit start-up that is now public and with over 1,200 employees. He’s moved on from that achievement and now lends his expertise to a variety of businesses as a business consultant focused on growing and scaling service, operations and infrastructure. In addition, he also owns three Sport Clips Haircuts stores in California’s Bay Area. With many achievements in his career, Berger will tell you the most rewarding of those has been being able to make a difference in the personal and professional lives of his team members.

Team member development and creating a positive and motivating environment for his team has always been important to Berger. This dedication is evident as he works hard to become the employer of choice with the stylist community in his area. “As a Sport Clips team leader, I feel I have a bigger impact on my team members than I did when I worked with bigger companies. It is very rewarding to help improve someone’s life both professionally and personally. The people aspect is probably what I enjoy the most.”

Berger’s Sport Clips journey began with the pursuit of better work-life balance. While building a succession plan at his last “corporate gig”, Berger began researching absentee-owner small businesses he could acquire, and their operation would allow him to move on to consulting.

After some research, he decided to go into the haircutting industry. Berger explains, “In haircutting, there is recurring revenue and since everyone needs haircuts, it is fairly recession resistant. It’s also an all cash business, no accounts receivable, making it a simple model. And haircutting is not something that could be replaced by computers or outsourced. It just made sense to me.”

Sport Clips stood out to him among the brands in this space. “I’m a sports enthusiast. The concept is easy to market,” explains Berger. “I enjoy being involved with the community. My family was already involved in local little league. It fit, so I began to look more into the model.”

In doing his due diligence, Berger intentionally spoke with franchisees who were having some struggles. “After speaking with them, I saw their issues were more related to bad individual luck or timing. It had nothing to do with the system. It was very clear the model itself was sound,” he recalls.

Part of that system is Sport Clips’ substantial support. Berger comments, “From day one, I have been very happy with the support I have received. When I entered the system in 2008, there were only about 300 stores, now there are more than 1,700 stores. The level of support has stayed consistent throughout, their growth never outpaced their resources or infrastructure.”

Berger believes Sport Clips does a good job at fostering a culture of teamwork among the team leaders. “We all represent the same brand,” he says, “so working together and sharing ideas and best practices is good for everyone.”

Berger eventually decided to give up his consulting business to focus entirely on his stores. “I realized working with my team and stores was more fun. I wanted to spend my time there.”

When asked if he had any advice for new team leaders, Berger says, “You have to be in it for the right reasons and want to be part of the business. There is some heavy lifting in the beginning, don’t just check out right away. Above all, have patience with the system. Don’t try to come in and change it. It works if you stick to it.”

Hear more from team leader Don Berger on May’s Validation Conference Call.