Validation Conference Call Team Leader Profile: Chris Lake (2 stores, Eastern Ohio)
Chris Lake, like many other forward-thinking xennials/millennials, found himself concerned about his future in corporate America. “Being in sales, my job is cyclical in nature and layoffs are a constant reality. The last round eliminated 40,000 jobs. I knew I needed to create a safety net.”
While financial security is a priority, Lake, who is still in his early thirties, wanted to take his skills to the next level. “I wasn’t feeling challenged in my position. I wanted to take on something that would allow me to grow and diversify my skills.”
With a wife and two young daughters, creating a better work-life balance motivated Lake to look outside the corporate world. “I would have had to be away from my family more and more just to advance my career,” he explains. “It is important to me that I grow both personally and professionally without having to sacrifice one for the other. That balance is important to me.”
As Lake and his wife, Kristal, began to discuss their personal and financial goals, they began to consider becoming entrepreneurs. “Kristal comes from a family of entrepreneurs. We have seen business ownership work as a long-term strategy for success. We wanted to build something for ourselves,” says Lake.
Lake quickly settled on the semi-absentee business model. “This type of model was appealing to me because it would allow me to build a business while still maintaining my full-time job and other commitments.”
After much research, Sport Clips Haircuts stood out to the Lakes. “We liked the simplicity of the Sport Clips business model. It is people focused and not much on the back end. We also saw that our skills and experience would translate well into our roles as team leaders.”
He continues, “I am a very analytical person, whereas my wife, a music teacher, is very artistic minded. Her ability to build confidence and bring out the best in people would be instrumental in bridging the gap between my analytical mind-set and the artistic mind-set of the stylists. It felt like a good fit.”
The decision to invest became clear to the Lakes at Discovery Day, saying, “Once we met the leadership team, we felt confident the system lined up with what we had learned during the discovery process and that this brand aligned with our values.”
In May 2017, the Lakes opened their first store in eastern Ohio, followed by their second store in September of 2018. Like many team leaders, Lake has a full-time job and family commitments, so one of the first obstacles the Lakes had to overcome was not being able to be in the store all the time. “Sport Clips’ innovative technology helps me keep in touch with our stores even when I am not there. It allows us full access to real time information.”
Lake has made it a priority to be an engaged and present team leader and offers this piece of wisdom: “As a team leader, you have to put intention into building a positive and dynamic store culture. Part of this is keeping your managers engaged. You have to be responsive and understanding of the different dynamics at play. You may have your long-term calculations, but if you don’t relate it to them and where they are at, you won’t get very far.”
The first years of building any business is a lot of work and only two years into being team leaders, the Lakes have found it important to maintain perspective. “In the beginning, you have to be prepared to put the work in up front. Right away we had to manage our expectations. This is something that you build over time. We are working up to that ideal work life balance. We aren’t there yet, but I am confident we will get there.”
During this building period, Lake has found it helpful to rely on the resources and support provided by the brand. “The operations manual helps keep us on task and budget our time. Overall, as a franchisor, Sport Clips has been incredibly responsive and available to us.”
He adds, “Having a network of experienced team leaders to turn to for encouragement and advice has been invaluable.”
He goes on to offer this advice to new business owners, “Seek out mentors and build relationships with them. You have to talk to people who are where you want to be. They will be able to offer you invaluable perspective that can help keep you moving forward toward your goal, even when there are challenges and setbacks.”
Two years into their Sport Clips journey, the Lakes are looking forward to the future. By building a source of recurring revenue, they have created something beyond a safety net – they have built a foundation for long term success that includes more freedom and flexibility for their family.
Hear more from Chris Lake on April’s Validation Conference Call.