In 1988, at the age of 27, Steve Hockett was working at what was then First Bank System. The company was successful, and filled with a lot of potential. But over time, Hockett grew restless, and he realized that banking wasn’t the best fit for him. That’s when he decided to take a big risk that would eventually chart the course for the rest of his career.
Hockett knew one of the first Great Clips franchisees, Roger Ledebuhr. Intrigued by what he heard about the opportunity, he decided to invest in what was still a small—but rapidly-growing—franchise. He loved the brand and what it embodied, and he soon became one of the earliest Twin Cities franchisees. But Hockett struggled to maintain the profitability of his location, and he began to worry that business ownership wasn’t the right career path for him.
“It got into my blood. I loved the business and I loved working the people,” said Hockett. “I was undercapitalized and over-leveraged, and I didn’t have the funds to expand on the franchisee side. That’s when I moved over to the corporate side because of the culture, the industry and all of the opportunities that came with it.”
Current CEO, Rhoda Olsen, saw a lot of potential in Hockett, and the two kept in touch even after his salon failed. Then, in 1993, she offered him a position as a marketing manager on the Great Clips corporate team. Hockett stayed with the company for almost a decade before leaving to become president of Fran Choice, a franchise consulting firm, where he gained valuable insight into the nuances of the evolving industry during his four years at the company. It was there that he also realized how Great Clips truly was one of the best-run, small-box retail franchise systems in the U.S.
From there, he used his expertise to lead an ink and toner franchise called Rapid Refill Ink, which he grew from 30 to over 100 locations during his tenure from 2006 to 2008.
During all this time, however, he still maintained his contacts with Great Clips. In May 2008, Hockett bounced back to Great Clips as vice president of operations, starting his ascent up the corporate ladder. Today, he’s president of the 4,091-unit company, and he’s preparing to transition into the role of CEO by the end of this year. Looking back, Hockett attributes much of his success to finding the roles he enjoyed, leveraging his strengths in the workplace and leaning on the mentors who inspired him along the way.
“Ray Barton, Dave Rubenzer and Rhoda Olsen were all early leaders in the business. I had the incredible opportunity to watch them and learn from their leadership style and their vision. I saw how their focus on helping people achieve their dreams – which in a way is what franchising is all about – really connected with me. I liked what they represented as leaders, and I wanted to work with and for them to build the brand,” said Hockett. “Today, I attribute a lot of my own leadership traits to what I’ve learned from them.”
Hockett has also come to realize the importance of taking risks. If he hadn’t taken a chance on Great Clips back in 1988, he may have never gotten to where he is today. That’s why, to those just starting out in their career, Hockett says to not be afraid to put yourself out there, take calculated risks and step out of your comfort zone.
Now, as Hockett and the rest of the Great Clips team eases into this transition period, he’s eager to work alongside Rob Goggins, who will be assuming the role of president, to achieve new milestone figures. Olsen has long said that Great Clips has the potential to reach as many as 10,000 salons, and Hockett is dedicated to making that happen. With the transition into the role of CEO, Hockett is also excited to tap into new and old markets, focus on generational franchisees and strengthen how corporate can better help current franchisees achieve their goals.
Much of that success, he says, comes down to communication, and being able to accurately and effectively tell the Great Clips story.
“Especially in franchising, you have to be comfortable standing in front of a group and presenting to two or 2,000 people and showcasing what your brand is all about in a way that inspires others. How do you tell a story or send a message? How do you present yourself in front of a group and get people to follow you? For starters, you yourself need to truly and passionately believe in the business you’re leading forward,” said Hockett. “This brand has been a part of my life for nearly three decades. Great Clips is rooted in this incredible people-first mentality, and it’s my job to continue telling that story.”