Today, John Kohler is one of the largest area developers in the entire Sport Clips system. But if you had asked him a few years ago if he would ever consider becoming a franchisee, his answer would have been a resounding “no.”
Since 1984, Kohler had been a major figure in the corporate world. As the senior vice president of global operations for telecommunications giant Tellabs, Inc., Kohler had more than 4,700 workers reporting to his division. But in the early 2000s, when the dot-com bubble burst, the fallout forced the company to start outsourcing tasks to other countries. Ultimately, Kohler had no choice but to lay off nearly 3,800 of his employees. The experience wasn’t easy, and Kohler realized it was time to move forward and do something completely different with his life. He accepted an early retirement package and began his hunt for the next great business opportunity.
Then, on a day in March 2004, Kohler unexpectedly found himself driving to a seminar on franchising, which had been arranged by an executive outplacement firm.
“I was hesitant at first, and I remember reluctantly driving to that seminar,” Kohler said. “Now when I look back, I’m so glad I saw it through to the end. I was so inspired by the broker I met that day. He presented me with a total of eight different franchise opportunities that he thought would be a great fit for me, but one in particular stuck with me—Sport Clips. It was such a simple yet incredibly efficient franchise model. It’s a cash business, everyone needs a haircut every few weeks, and it’s a service you can’t outsource.”
By June 2004, Kohler signed on with the brand as an area developer in Northern Illinois. His goal was to build out the Chicagoland area—a sweeping territory that was untapped at the time. Development picked up quickly, and three years later, he acquired the rights to bring Sport Clips to Eastern Missouri. By 2011, he was expanding the brand’s footprint throughout Eastern Michigan. Today, he oversees more than 130 stores throughout those three regions.
“It’s crazy to think how about how far things have come since I started with the brand 12 years ago. When I first signed on as an area developer in Northern Illinois, Sport Clips only had 143 stores. Today they have more than 1,500. What’s even more incredible is that over the past six years, the brand has only closed five stores,” Kohler said. “This has been an unbelievably positive and rewarding experience.”
Kohler believes that Sport Clips’ secret to success is its culture. Gordon Logan, the brand’s founder and CEO, built a system based on one simple principle—just do the right thing. This means that Sport Clips embraces full transparency. They do whatever it takes to make sure their franchisees are successful. And they’re always focused on inspiring every single person in the system to achieve next-level greatness.
“The people who join the Sport Clips team aren’t in this business for the sake of being in the business. We’re all unified by a common bond—to focus on how we can best serve our clients. Sport Clips cares deeply about our customer base in whatever we do,” Kohler added.
Kohler’s goal now is to keep growing alongside a brand that has become his lifeblood and his passion. As he sets his sights on reaching his 209-store-goal within the next five to seven years, Kohler will be representing the brand—and its immense opportunity for growth—at the upcoming International Franchise Expo (IFE) in New York. Between June 16 and 18, prospective franchisees will be able to explore what exactly a successful future with Sport Clips could look like.