Mike Wills always knew he wanted to be an entrepreneur. As a high school student, he even subscribed to Entrepreneur Magazine. It wasn’t until years later though, that he was finally able to make the leap into business ownership.
After 15 years of working with large retailors as a merchandise and supply chain manager, Wills noticed the industry was changing. He saw the industry decline, with retailors coming and going, and much of the business moving to the internet. He knew it was time to take control of his financial future and build a business that would provide stability.
Franchising appealed to Wills. He and his wife Caline, a nurse practitioner, have three small children to support, making them averse to big risks. “We knew with support and the backing of a brand, we could execute a simple system,” says Wills.
As they started to look at business models, the Wills knew they wanted something in the service industry. They also knew they did not want to be in the food industry. “Success in food can be hit or miss. The business is complex,” explains Wills. “Eating out is also one of the first things people cut out of their budget during economic downturns.”
They also were not interested in a business that required high inventory. “Having worked so long in merchandise planning, I knew what an undertaking that would be,” states Wills. “The business model needed to be simple, with low overhead.”
The haircare industry, on the other hand, was very appealing to Wills. “Retail is seasonal. There are peaks and valleys to account for. Men need haircuts every four-to-six weeks no matter what. And cutting hair is not something that can be outsourced or “Amazoned.” It felt more recession resistant than other industries.”
Seven years ago, Wills first learned about the Sport Clips Haircuts business offering and knew this was the opportunity for his family. “The Sport Clips values resonated highly with our personal beliefs. It all fit.” However, the timing wasn’t right.
Wills was living in Denver, Colorado at the time he began the Sport Clips’ Discovery Process. At the same time, he found out his company was relocating him to Florida, a market which was not available for Sport Clips at the time. “My wife and I decided to take some time and get established in our new area and save more money, so when the opportunity arose again we would be ready,” he says.
Over the next few years, Wills watched the brand double in size. He observes, “Even with such tremendous growth, Sport Clips stayed true to its values. They are so simple, but very important. I just knew this was a brand I wanted to be a part of one day.”
Wills’ chance would come around again in 2018. “I got an email that our market in Florida had been reopened. We had saved up enough money and my job has a good deal of flexibility. I had also accrued a lot of vacation time to use at my discretion. Everything fell into place and we moved on it quickly.”
With his first store open, Wills has found his business experience and servant approach to leadership helpful in his new role. “Hiring, retaining and developing quality team members is important to a successful store,” he says. “You have to identify their strengths and provide them with the tools and opportunities to improve and advance their careers.”
For Wills, who is working on opening his second store later this year, being an owner is a family affair. “My kids are enjoying the process. It takes a lot of time management and prioritization, but it is worth it because I am building a future for them. My oldest even has her own little reports that she runs. They all enjoy visiting ‘Daddy’s store’.”
Wills is finally the entrepreneur he has always wanted to be and on a path toward financial independence and flexibility in work life. “I have wanted to do this for a really long time,” he concludes. “It has been a great experience, just how I thought it would be. Anyone can do this with the right discipline. You have to put in the work and be engaged. If you follow the system, it works out well.”
Hear more from Mike Wills on this month’s Validation Conference Call.