(Great Clips CEO Rhoda Olsen is the sixth female executive to be profiled in our series highlighting women in business.)
NEW YORK (
) -- Over her 25-year career with
, CEO Rhoda Olsen has had many haircuts by the Minneapolis-based company's employees.
Olsen began her journey with Great Clips as a consultant in 1984. She joined full time as vice president of human resources and training three years later. At the time, the chain had 180 salons and was owned by three partners, one of whom was her brother, Ray Barton, who recruited her. She became its president in 1999 and succeeded Barton as chief executive in 2011. (Barton is now chairman and Great Clips' majority owner.)
After all this experience, Olsen knows the company and its franchisees pretty well.
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Today, Great Clips stands at 3,200 salons throughout the U.S. and Canada. According to Olsen, the company has had eight straight years of same-store sales growth.
Olsen attributes the success of the company equally to the strong community the franchise has created among corporate employees and franchisees, and the convenience and professionalism it provides to customers.
She says that being a good CEO means making sure franchisees feel important, whether it's celebrating a store milestone or getting feedback on suggestions of how to run the company more efficiently.
Olsen is a strong supporter of career-dedicated women (about half of Great Clips' franchisees are women, many with families) balancing their work-life schedules.
One of the biggest challenges for her in becoming the CEO of a large company was being able to step back from the day-to-day operations to fulfill Great Clips' strategic vision.
A conversation with Olsen follows.
When you became CEO, what were some of the priorities you had for the company?
The primary things that were really important to me were, first of all, making sure that we leveraged the importance and value of the stylists in the salon every day, the value of the industry and the organizations or the schools that provide us those stylists.
The second one was technology -- to try and make sure that we connect with customers in a way that's meaningful to them and innovate around technology to support our brand. We really want the brand to be simple in the salon. We want stylists to be able to deliver a consistent brand, but we also know technology can support that and enable that and help customers get more convenience and feel more connected to the brand. Although we did do some things regarding data internationally, it was really more of the customer data and the customer side that was a priority.
The last priority really was the growth at the salon level, both in sales and profits for the franchisees. We just finished our 32nd quarter of [same-store] salon sales growth. [As of Dec. 31], we will be at 33 quarters of straight growth. Sometimes when you're growing year over year over year, that growth is a little harder to continue to get. We have to stay focused on making sure that we are growing solidly.