For more than 30 years, Rick Ohle’s work week as hospital administrator was filled with 10- to 12- hour days in a suit and tie attending what seemed like endless meetings. “There was a lot of stress involved in my job. Things were constantly changing and being reorganized,” says Ohle.
As another merger loomed, he began to think about what he should do next. With four grown children spread out across the globe, Ohle and his wife Nancy wanted more flexibility and financial freedom to be able to spend more time with their family.
For Ohle, transitioning into healthcare consulting seemed like the most obvious move, but he felt the pull to do something entirely different. “I have always been very involved with my community. I was on my local school board for 20 years and coached youth sports. I felt becoming a business owner would help me develop an even closer connection to my community,” Ohle explains.
“I took the next nine months researching a variety of business opportunities. I enlisted the help of a franchise consultant. I went to the International Franchise Expo in New York City. I looked at many different business models. Sport Clips Haircuts really stuck out to me and I started to compare all options to it.”
Ohle quickly eliminated the quick-serve restaurant concept, with its owner-operator model, from his search. He says, “I wasn’t interested in the food industry. It all seemed too involved, with all the food prep and having to be there all the time. I realized a semi-absentee business model best fit my goals.”
He goes on to say, “Sport Clips has done an exceptional job differentiating themselves as a business model. They have really homed in its niche. There are not many concepts that even come close to it. With other brands, it is you get in and you get out, and getting a haircut is relegated to just another chore or maintenance task. The Sport Clips MVP experience elevates the haircut to something more.”
Ohle spent the next eight months doing his homework around the brand. “I really dug into learning everything I could about Sport Clips. I looked at the history and track record of the brand. I was really impressed with its growth rate. I even drove to 13 different stores in Michigan. I found all the team leaders (franchisees) to be so gracious and helpful.”
He also found alignment with the brand’s mission and values. “I am a high-energy and passionate guy, so building a team in a fun and creative environment to deliver the MVP client experience sounded like a good fit. Sport Clips' values and mission, especially the focus on community involvement, resonated with me.”
He continues, “I am a charts and graph kind of guy, and I divided my goals and objectives into five areas. First, provide a great customer experience. Next, provide a positive work environment for my employees. Third, community involvement. Fourth, Challenging and fun. Lastly, long-term financial reward. I felt confident the Sport Clips business model fulfilled all five areas.”
In 2016, Ohle opened his first two stores within a month of each other. “Opening stores so close together is not very conventional, but since I had already left my full-time job, I was able to dedicate all my energy to getting both stores off the ground concurrently. Be it one store, or in my case two stores, you really have to invest a lot of time and energy upfront at the beginning. You can’t be hands off,” says Ohle.
When asked about the support he received during the start-up period and beyond, Ohle makes this observation: “Speaking to franchisees with other brands, I see that the support team leaders receive from Sport Clips is outstanding. This brand is made up of good and knowledgeable people who are willing to help,” he continues, “And the network of team leaders has truly been an asset. We lean on each other. They have all been so generous with their time and advice.”
As a Sport Clips team leader, Ohle is very hands-on. “It is in my nature to be very involved. I put a lot of time in establishing the relationships with my team members and managers. I meet with my leadership team face-to-face every two weeks and visit the stores regularly. My wife makes a birthday cake for each and every one of our 35 stylists and we take the team out for dinner occasionally. They appreciate knowing who they are working for and that we care about them as people.”
Ohle has also been able to become more involved in his community, saying, “I also put a lot of time in developing local partnerships and sponsorships. Having spent 30 years in a corporate job, I find working with other small business owners to be refreshing. They are very dynamic and creative. I really enjoy being part of the local business community. I am also very engaged and involved with all three Chambers of commerce in the communities my stores serve.”
With Ohle, about to open his third store he says, “I have learned a lot so far, and I feel I still have so much to learn. And that is exactly what I wanted when I got into this, something that provided me the opportunity to constantly improve and grow. And I have gained more flexibility in my life. With all the technology available to me, my work is able to be spread out over the week. I am connected in real time to my stores and am always just a phone call away. I have zero regrets about investing in Sport Clips.”
Hear more from Sport Clips team leader, Rick Ohle, on this month’s Validation Conference Call.