Fantastic Sams Franchise Review — Advice from Owner who Lives 5 Hours from his Salons

Jerry Dalzell of Scottsdale, AZ, talks about the strategy of managing a large territory in this Fantastic Sams franchise review

Fantastic Sams Franchise ReviewJerry Dalzell lives in North Scottsdale, AZ, and owns nine Fantastic Sams salons in Las Vegas. With help from his wife, Dena, and his son Aaron, he has been able to grow a strong business despite the five-hour drive between the two cities. Aaron lives in Las Vegas and provides daily hands-on support, as well as feedback to his father. Jerry regularly travels to Las Vegas to gauge the pulse of his stores and meet with his employees, whom he considers “like family.”

This is his story.

How did you find out about Fantastic Sams?
When my oldest son, Aaron, who acts as general manager now and lives in Las Vegas, was 9 or 10, he played a lot of sports — soccer, football and baseball. I coached the baseball team, and a teammate’s dad was part of Fantastic Sams. He told me about the investment opportunity in Las Vegas. I decided that since it was out of town, it wouldn’t be worth my time to open just one salon. I decided to open 10 of them in the south of Las Vegas.

I opened my first salon in December 1997. Back then, Las Vegas was going through explosive growth. They couldn’t build shopping centers fast enough. I signed agreements to bring Fantastic Sams into some of the new centers, and the first new center opened at the end of 1997, the second one in February 1998 and the third in November of 1998. So I wound up opening my first three stores in less than a year. It was a challenge to launch that quickly. I’m not a hair stylist. I spent 32 years in the corporate world with UPS, and I was living in Southern California at the time and managing the stores in Las Vegas. I would drive to the stores every weekend. I was working all the time. That was a challenge, as well as putting all the money together really quick. UPS eventually transferred me to Scottsdale, AZ.

Was it hard to manage the business from out of town?
It was. Aaron is 32 now, and he went to Las Vegas when he was 25. That helped a lot. This is not a turn-key business, and I knew that going in. When I did my due diligence and talked to other people who lived near their salons, they would ask what made me think I could run a salon as an absentee owner. I’ll tell you this: Nobody looks after your business like you or your family. I hired a general manager and spent weekends with the GM and with managers in the salons. The GM was able to take me to a certain point, but we didn’t get to the next level until my son came on, because he has a vested interest.

What do you mean by “another level?”
The managers in your salon are typically stylists, and they don’t have a lot of managerial experience. The GM I hired was a GM overseeing salons, but she was a stylist. My son does not know how to do hair, but he is a business person. I was asked by my staff, is Aaron going to get his cosmetology license? No. I want him managing the business, not working in it. Stylists don’t always look at the business as a business and understand how everything affects bottom line. Last year our product sales were up about $30,000 because we put things in place to educate our stylists about them, and because Aaron is holding managers accountable to make sure stylists perform their duties as we expect. We offer coaching, counseling and training — and then we hold them accountable.

How were you able to pull it off in the early years?
A big help was my experience at UPS. You would be a division-level manager who oversaw operations within two or three hours, and that experience gave me the confidence that I could do it.

What does a typical day look like?
My wife, Dena, handles the payroll and administrative tasks. I handle the marketing and leasing, and I am also heavily involved in the regional advertising for Fantastic Sams in Las Vegas. I also deal with HR issues so that Aaron can focus on working with the stylists and helping them grow. Aaron and I probably communicate three or four times a day.

I go to the gym at 7 a.m., get back to the house around 8:30, and start looking at the business results from the day before to see if anything sticks out. I get a lot of data from the dashboard since there are nine salons. I look at all the coupons that have been redeemed to make sure my marketing is working right. I don’t like to wait until the end of the week or the end of month. I deal with the marketing vendors. I start around 9, and I could probably stop at 3 or 3:30 and feel comfortable, but some days I stay in the office until 6 or 6:30 because that’s what I want to do.

Understand, I’ve been doing this for 15 years. If you would have asked me 15 years ago, I might have had totally different answers. When I was trying to get three stores going at once? That was more challenging than it is today. Also, over the years I’ve learned a lot, and my son is in the business every day. He gets to the salons every day, and I know if he has an issue we’re going to talk about it.

What made the business compelling?
I think it’s recession-proof. Everybody needs haircuts. We offer family hair care at a mid-range price point. We are not going after the high-income folks, but I have stylists I’d put up against anybody — stylists who are very skilled and talented, as well as some who are young and who we are developing. We offer a great value at a reasonable price. When you can get an adult haircut and shampoo for $14.95, that’s a pretty good thing in this market.

How do you feel about the support offered by corporate?
It has been very good. They provide us training every month — educational training for stylists covering various services and products, and training on delivering great customer service. They also offer a management training class for salon managers. Instead of always hearing how to handle things from me and my son, they get an outside perspective on how to manage the salon, how to handle challenging employees, and about the numbers and what they mean about the business. That class is great to have.

What do you like about the job?
The satisfaction of knowing that I provide employment for about 75 people. They’re like my family. I know every one of my stylists and managers. Every time I go to Las Vegas I make a point to go to any salon where I have a new employee and introduce myself and talk to them. I think it’s important for them to know you. Have you ever been in a corporate world where you know the name of the person at the top but you never meet them? I want my employees to know who I am, and to know that at any time if they have a concern or issue, they know they can talk to me. We have a picnic every year for employees and their families. I think that’s important. You care about your employees and want to do things for them. I think it makes a big difference when you are a multi-unit owner, too. Stylists talk among themselves and with their friends, and you want employees and potential employees to want to work for you. When they hear that you are a good person to work for, it’s powerful for your business.

What sets Fantastic Sams apart from other hair franchises?
We are a full-service hair salon. Sport Clips caters to men. Great Clips focuses on cuts. Supercuts focuses on cuts and does a little bit of color, but it doesn’t match our offerings. We are full service. We do cuts, color, highlights, waxing, and we wash your hair before we cut it. We give customers an experience. The shampooing is part of that. If you are not washing someone’s hair, feeling their hair and taking a look at it, how can you recommend the right product? That’s part of the consultation. We talk to you about your cut and what you did last, as well as what you would like. Then, once we have shampooed their hair and understand its condition, we can tell them, “based on what you told me, this is the product I’m going to use in your hair, and this is what it is going to do for you, and you’ll be able to feel the difference.

Is previous salon experience important?
I don’t think so. You just have to have a little bit of business sense and understand you are dealing with a retail business and a service business, so you will be dealing with guests. If you aren’t good at interacting with people, you shouldn’t get into any retail business. You do have to be involved in your business. I have seen too many people who think they can let their stylist run the salon.

Would you recommend a Fantastic Sams franchise?
Yes. People need haircuts. Kids need haircuts. Women want their hair colored. And we offer a great value.

Learn more about Fantastic Sams

Fantastic Sams is the oldest full-service unisex salon franchise in the nation, and we have grown to more than 1,100 units over the past 40 years. We offer customers current styles at affordable prices in a convenient atmosphere. Unlike discount haircut franchises, we serve more women than men, and we offer cuts, styling, color and facial waxing — which drives up our average ticket price. That means larger profit margins from the same level of investment you might make in our competitors’ salons.

You don’t need any salon experience to open your own Fantastic Sams salon franchise; you just have to be passionate about people and have good business sense. We’re seeking franchise candidates with a minimum liquidity of $60,000 and a net worth of at least $200,000. You can open your own Fantastic Sams salon for about $185,000. To start a conversation about this franchise opportunity, please fill out the form at right or call us at 855-371-3465. We look forward to hearing from you!

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