Franchisee Spotlight on Mark Grace: South Bay Area, Calif.
Every now and again, I like to share a story of one of our franchisees on the blog. Just like a picture that tells a story, sometimes I think we learn just as much or more hearing about others as we do reading all the business advice we can get our hands on. There’s just something about a true story that helps us hold a mirror up to ourselves and re-evaluate. (Don’t worry – no cheesy Hollywood-style “based on a true story” flicks here!) But, Mark Grace got me thinking this week, and I hope you can glean something from him as well.
Mark Grace is a senior level executive in the IT hardware industry. He also co-owns three companies with his brother in upstate New York, where he grew up – commercial real estate, a restaurant and a daycare center. On top of these responsibilities, Mark has opened six Great Clips salons in the past year-and-a-half in the South Bay where he lives with his wife of 20 years, Jean, and his youngest son, a senior in high school. Their eldest son is a sophomore at UC Davis.
Mark is one of many Great Clips franchisees who prefer to hang onto their day job in addition to opening a salon. He said that he wasn’t ready to give up his career when he signed on with Great Clips; he wasn’t interested in trading in the position and the type of work he’d been doing for so many years. Mark started considering his options a few years ago as he approached two major milestones in his life—he and his wife would be empty nesters soon and he was coming up on 30 years of building a strong career. He and his wife started talking about what he’d do next, and they came to the conclusion that opening salons with Great Clips would be the perfect solution to three problems: they wanted to diversify their savings, Mark needed a fulfilling business venture to keep him occupied when he no longer works for a big company, and Mark was ready for a new hobby.
He told me that he knew it sounded a little crazy to choose business ownership as a hobby, not just a career, but said, “I’ve always had an interest in running small businesses and seeing how they work. It’s probably something most people can’t imagine, but I really enjoy it.”
Many franchisees in similar positions are able to keep working while simultaneously running salons. This is possible because the Great Clips’ business model is built on manager-run locations. And, as franchisees grow their business, they have the ability to hire top-notch general managers to take on many of the responsibilities that typically fall on traditional business owners.
A general manager is optional, and Mark does not have one. He says, “I have five great, solid managers for the six stores. It’s critical to have great people on the ground in your salons to handle all the things you can’t while you’re at work.” He also has an administrative assistant who, according to Mark, has proven to be invaluable.
As I talked to Mark, I had to keep reminding myself that his day job is not an easy one. He is so knowledgeable about his other business ventures, that it’s easy to forget about the job he spends upward of 60 hours a week doing. I finally broke down and asked how he does it. Humbly, he chuckled a little and said, “It’s very difficult, and I won’t say that it isn’t. Making it all work is really a matter of striking a balance, pacing myself and making sure my own expectations are reasonable.”
Anything about Mark resonate with you? Anything you still want to know about him? Leave your thoughts and your own stories in the comments.