CEO, Great Clips
With more than 20 years of executive leadership experience in various positions throughout Great Clips, Rhoda Olsen has developed a deep understanding of what makes successful organizations work. While providing leadership at the corporate level as CEO, Olsen also works closely with franchisees, helping them take advantage of a powerful network of people, tools and resources. When she joined the company’s executive team in 1987, Great Clips was a regional chain of 180 salons owned by three partners—today the company’s 3,300 salons throughout North America employ approximately 30,000 stylists. Olsen has prior experience in human resources, business leadership and consulting with various leading companies, including food and agricultural giant Land O’Lakes.
From where does your entrepreneurial drive originate?
My mother struggled for many years trying to build her own business, but she always seemed energized and committed to making it work. Watching her learn every day made it clear to me that being in a changing and growing environment creates energy and motivation. My entrepreneurial drive comes from loving to work and having an impact.
As you grew your company/brand, what “ah-ha” moments of clarity helped you shape its future course?
There were many “ah-ha” moments, but one that stands out was when Great Clips was early in the process of launching a new salon design. We knew we needed to update our salons and we knew it would have impact on our franchisees. There was a lot of energy around this needed change, but there was actually more energy inside of Great Clips, than with the Great Clips franchisees. We stumbled pretty significantly because the design was not as consistent with our brand image as it should have been. The costs were higher than expected and we had not gained enough broad franchisee feedback on something that would have such a significant financial impact to them. As we struggled with shifting our course and stepping back, we all felt a little defensive. We thought we had done the right thing and were focused on improving the franchisees’ business but clearly we needed to start over.
It was during this situation it became clear that in those times when things just aren’t right, you don’t need to blame someone, you don’t need to become defensive, you don’t need to go backwards, you can simply say, “we just aren’t where we want to be, so let’s back up and start over.” It worked incredibly well in this situation and it continues to work when we hit roadblocks with our franchisees and want them clearly engaged and focused on the change that we believe is important for the brand.