Life After Corporate America...It's Gonna Be Great!

By Ross Miller, Director,
Illinois Small Business Development Center, Bradley University

David Hands is the owner of 10 Great Clips franchise locations in the Peoria Metro Area. Since opening his first location in Peoria, he has developed all of the locations within the past six years. David runs this business with the help of his wife Tanja (Wistehuff) Hands (Bradley ’90), who manages the human resources, payroll and other administrative functions of the business.  The success of his business rests in the strength of his branding, hiring great personnel, and utilizing business resources that are available in the area.

David Hands - owner - Great Clips Peoria

David is no stranger to success; as Managing Partner of a pharmaceutical staffing company, he led the company’s growth from annual sales of $2.7 million to over $45 million in just seven years.  When the company was sold in 2006, he found himself without a job and looking to control his destiny.  He identified the consumers’ need for value and found the hair salon industry to be sheltered from the uncertainty of fads, internet competition, or other typical factors.

During the summer of 2006, David attended a “Starting a Business in Illinois” Workshop at the Illinois Small Business Development Center at Bradley University. That fall he came back to learn how to develop a business plan.  He remembers, “It was a business plan that I was stuck on, and the SBDC offered an excellent workshop that pointed me in the right direction.”

David decided the best route for him was a franchise purchase. “My skills are in marketing and staff management. Unfortunately, I didn’t have a recipe for a business. That’s what franchising is for…to provide the business recipe to outstanding management ‘chefs’ who create great franchises.” Great Clips provided him that recipe. The Great Clips recipe involves hiring very experienced stylists, which allows them to provide the same or better quality service than higher priced salons, with walk-in availability and a minimal wait time.  “Our wait times are below 15 minutes at least 85% of the time, plus we offer extended hours for the busy consumer,” explained Hands.

By the spring semester of 2010, David already had several locations in the Peoria Metro area.  He utilized the Senior Consulting Projects program through the Foster College of Business Administration to help determine the next location to open.  According to him, “We had a very real business dilemma, and the senior tackled the dilemma with incredible diligence and execution. They delivered to me a very powerful recommendation that I should open a new location in the shadows of one of my current successful locations.  More specifically, the question was whether the addition of a location in the Metro Centre would harm my business at my location near Target.  Thanks to their consulting we went ahead with the Metro Centre location.”

With the challenges of the new healthcare mandate, David will be focusing on his current locations for 2013.  The franchise’s 10 locations have all been very successful and hope to be in 2013 too.  A goal for 2013 is 312,000 haircuts.

Hands sees his greatest accomplishment as “the development of my 11 managers from hair stylists to managers of businesses.  The joy of watching these young employees accomplish something that they thought they would never achieve is a huge reward.