Alex Howson always wanted to be an entrepreneur and build a business of his own. Returning to the United States after years developing a prominent brand in Asia, Howson decided to change course and exit the corporate world. He enlisted the help of a franchise consultant and began his search for a business opportunity that would fit his personal and financial goals.
When it came to investing in a franchise brand, Howson was very clear on his selection criteria. After spending more than two decades of his career in brand management for several leading international companies, he had an expert understanding of what makes a brand successful.
For Howson, the brand had to be well positioned for growth and have differentiated itself within its industry. “Sport Clips Haircuts immediately struck me because it is the only male-oriented haircutting brand with a national footprint. Its national advertising budget is substantial, and its reputation is solid. I knew they had carved out a niche and would be leaders of their industry for a long time.”
After further investigation of the brand, Howson says, “I loved what the brand stood for and I could see its potential for continual growth. The financial model made sense to me and I loved the role I would play as a team leader. I would be building a business and leading people, helping them grow. I wouldn’t have to be constantly out there selling like a lot of the other business models out there required.”
In 2007, Howson became a Sport Clips team leader. Soon after opening his first store, he teamed up with another new team leader in his market, Mark Kalas. “Mark and I realized we had very complementary skillsets and, as we like to say, by joining forces ‘one plus one would equal three.’ Together, we could leverage our compatibility to grow our businesses exponentially.”
And grown they have. This year the business partners are set to open their 19th store. “In 2007 Mark and I sat down and made our goals for where we wanted to see our business in 2020. We set specific store number and profit goals, which I am pleased to say we have just about hit. We just set even bigger goals for 2025,” says Howson.
As their business has expanded over the years, Howson found the brand’s support and training have been instrumental to their growth. “The training is incredible. The coaches have really been a key to our success. Sport Clips has built out a comprehensive support system that trains team members in everything they need to deliver on the client experience. It really makes my job all that much easier.”
In addition to Sport Clips’ comprehensive training, the brand’s systems have also been important to success. “The systems are incredible. We can measure and share the performance of the store with the team in a way that gets everyone on the same page,” he explains. “Sport Clips has the right systems in place to help you be as successful as you want to be.”
Howson has also found the brand’s culture and strong values to be an asset. “I love the culture here. It focuses on caring and excellence and really comes down to the core value of treating people the way they want to be treated. If ever we are in doubt on how to handle an issue, we can always fall back on that. This really starts from the top. Founder and CEO Gordon Logan emulates this value and it transforms across the entire system.”
As an example of this, Howson recalls one instance when he and Kalas wanted to expand to an unproven market. “Gordon got involved and really listened to us. He took the time to make sure that our decision wouldn’t set us up for failure. He truly wanted us to be successful.
“I spent years on the Team Leader Advisory Council. I appreciated how communication with leadership was a two-way street. They really listened to and valued team leader input. I also saw how they were clear on what Sport Clips is and isn’t. That is so important to maintaining brand integrity.”
Being a part of Sport Clips and its network of franchisees has been a rewarding experience for Howson. “This brand is bigger than any one of us individually. It is such a good feeling to be a part of something that is bigger than yourself.”
To someone considering investing in Sport Clips, Howson says, “Think long term. Think out five to seven years. You are building a business and not buying a job. Also, realize this is a multi-unit business. You need multiple stores to be successful. A growth mindset is important.”
“It doesn’t matter what industry you come from or what functional skills you have,” he adds. “Those aren’t important. What is important is that you have the business and people leadership skills needed to build a business. You will spend a lot of your time solving issues with people. You need to solve problems one-on-one, taking the time to understand the situation and all the options available.”
Howson ends with this bit of seasoned advice, “Plan on where you want to go, but you also need to be flexible about how you get there.”
Hear more from Alex Howson on this month’s Validation Conference Call.