Sport Clips Team Leaders: Val Hill & Jared Lee

Since meeting in business school more than 20 years ago, Val Hill and Jared Lee knew they wanted to go into business together. “With our complementary skillset and different perspectives, we knew we would make each other better in business,” says Hill. “Over the years we kept talking about becoming entrepreneurs but after 10 years of working in the corporate world we figured we had better get in the game or quit talking about it!”

Up until that point, Hill and Lee had yet to find a business opportunity that appealed to them. They had already ruled out quick service restaurants. “With food, we didn’t want the headache that comes along with the food service industry. We felt there was too much competition in that industry as well, and there seems to be a sub shop on every corner. Also, there is a lot of risk that comes with the fads and trends that come and go in the food business,” explains Hill.

The pair also looked into land development but weren’t sure they had the knowledge or experience to be successful in that business. “This was the mid-2000s, the time of the housing bubble and it was just too risky for us to be so dependent on an unstable housing market,” states Hill.

In 2005, Hill suggested they look into Sport Clips Haircuts. Hill recalls, “Jared was a little reluctant at first. I think it caught him off guard. I remember him saying, ‘Two dudes in the hair business!?’ But after visiting one of the stores and having a great experience, his mind was changed.”

Hill explains, “The concept resonated with me. There was nothing like it in the market. Sport Clips found a niche, catering to men and boys. I liked the simplicity of the model. Services are kept simple. There is wisdom in simplicity; it allows stores to focus on execution, enhancing the clients' overall experience.”

In 2005, Hill and Lee became Sport Clips team leaders. Since then they have grown their Sport Clips footprint to 30 stores in the Phoenix, AZ area. They have plans to expand out of their market into the Pacific Northwest, with the purchase of a store in Oregon and three more in Washington, bringing their total to 34 stores.

Over the years, Hill and Lee found the annual Sport Clips National Huddle as a huge source of motivation, especially early on in their journey. Hill says, “We got to see what was possible. Even when it was tempting to head home early, we made it a point to stay until the closing awards ceremonies and watch the Logan Trophy being handed out. It sent a message to our team that we wanted to be up there one day, receiving that award.”

The Logan Trophy is Sport Clips’ top award and is presented each year at the brand’s annual convention to the franchisee and team who have achieved the highest standards in championship client services. It takes into account growth in services and retail sales, client counts and average service tickets. Hill and Lee have won this coveted award twice, in 2012 and again in 2015.

According to Hill, cultivating store culture has been key to their success as team leaders. “There seem to be two facets to a store’s culture. The first being the team members’ experience. If they are happy, they will deliver on the second facet, the client experience. This business comes down to people.”

He continues, “It really comes down to connecting with the client. Our service mission is this: it is not just about hair; it is a 20-minute vacation for our clients.”

For Hill, having the right people on their team is critical to success, “As owners, we have never personally taken care of a client ourselves, our team members do that, so they have to be empowered.”

Hill adds, “These days, stylists can go anywhere. Sport Clips has made becoming the employer of choice for stylists a top priority. There is tremendous opportunity and a defined career path for stylists that is uncommon in this industry.”

Hill reached an important milestone in 2014 – he was able to quit his corporate day job. Lee did the same thing a year prior. “Leaving the corporate world was an awesome feeling. It was a little scary to cut the cord, but we had grown to a size where it was possible.”

For those considering Sport Clips as a franchise option, Hill believes commitment to your managers and being present in the store are important factors to success. “If those tasks seem like work to you, then this might not be the right opportunity for you,” he explains. “You also have to be someone who likes solving problems with other people. Situations arise in the store that you are going to have to deal with, but if you like teamwork and helping your team grow, this might be a good fit.”

He adds, “Following the Sport Clips system has been a big factor in why we have been successful and been able to scale. Why buy into a system if you aren’t going to follow it? However, I would caution new franchisees from coming into a franchise investment thinking Sport Clips is going to do everything for them. While there is incredible support available, you are going to get out of this what you put in.”

Investing in Sport Clips has been a good move for the long-time friends and business partners. “This has never felt like work to either of us. When I go to the office it’s where I want to be,” Hill states. “Seeing our team members grow has been very rewarding. We have seen stylists come in as raw talent and undeveloped, watched them work hard on their skills, move up and grow in confidence and competency. It is amazing to have a hand in that.”

Hear more from team leader Val Hill on this month’s Validation Conference Call.