Oliver Adams was just nineteen when he became the youngest person in the Just Cuts franchise to own a salon. Today he is the proud owner of eight, all on the Central Coast. This month, Oliver celebrates twenty years in business, spanning literally half his lifetime. Quite an achievement for someone who has essentially grown up with the brand! His team of fifty-four qualified stylists is responsible for creating 130,000 style cuts on the Central Coast annually and well over two million over the past two decades. This is the story of Oliver’s entrepreneurial journey and how he combats the challenges faced by employers in NSW who, like him, operate in a labour intensive industry.
Born in the UK into an entrepreneurial family and raised in Australia and the UK, Oliver knew from a young age that he would one day follow in the footsteps of his mother, grandparents and uncles and own his own business. At the age of seventeen, he was offered a job in his Uncle’s barbershop in the UK and it was there that he learned the trade. Returning to Australia eighteen months later, Oliver’s grandmother handed him an ad for a stylist position with Just Cuts at Miranda, a franchisor-owned salon. Wasting no time, he managed to secure the job the day he arrived back on Australian soil.
“Just Cuts has always encouraged multi-store ownership and that aligned with my vision from the start. I was always inspired to have more than one salon.”
It wasn’t long before Just Cuts management saw potential in Oliver and he was offered a position at head office within a year. One of the greatest highlights while working there was being sent with a team of Just Cuts representatives to cut hair in the athlete’s village during the 2000 Sydney Olympic Games. Quick to seize an opportunity and inspired by other franchisees, particularly those who owned multiple stores, Oliver jumped at the chance to purchase the franchisor-owned Tuggerah salon when it became available, with the help of a loan from his grandmother and vendor financing. Once the salon was his, he immediately set about putting the systems and organisational structure in place to acquire and open more stores in the future. “Just Cuts has always encouraged multi-store ownership and that aligned with my vision from the start. I was always inspired to have more than one salon,” said Oliver.
With a focus on exceptional customer service and quality style cuts, Oliver quadrupled the turnover at the Tuggerah salon within just four years. Being his first store, he continued to work on the tools six days a week to build up the business. Oliver opened his second store, a greenfield site, at Lake Haven, which started slowly but is now one of his best performing salons with a solid repeat clientele base that appreciates value for service. It was around this time that Oliver, then twenty-three, became the youngest franchisee to be voted on the Franchise Advisory Council, a position he still holds today and that allows him to have a voice on issues affecting franchisees.
In high growth mode between 1999 and 2009, Oliver regarded all shopping centres on the Central Coast as target locations due to their high volume of foot traffic. After Lake Haven, he opened Woy Woy, two salons at Erina (including one at Erina Fair), Gosford, Bateau Bay and Wyong. Of those, two were acquisitions and the remaining were greenfield sites, enabling him to capitalise on the advantages of establishing those businesses from the ground up with the support of the franchisor, which Oliver says has always been excellent.
The Just Cuts franchise model is based on a fixed franchise fee, no matter the size of the salon or its turnover. “Franchising has copped a bit of a bad rap in the media,” said Oliver. “But this is a very mature franchise with a lot of transparency.” Today there are 184 salons in Australia, twenty-four in New Zealand and the group has just opened its first salon in the UK. The business model offers franchisees a turnkey approach with all operational, ordering, digital support and marketing systems in place from day one. “It’s such a good system that my staff need only follow it for the salons to run smoothly,” said Oliver. He has six team leaders in place across the eight salons and, as a hands-on business owner, meets with them regularly and makes it a point to have a strong visible presence at each salon. He also runs an annual awards night with his team and consistently recognises milestones and personal bests measured against predetermined KPIs. “A heartfelt thank you goes a long way,” said Oliver.
Oliver has always employed staff based on attitude and cultural fit, first and foremost, although they must be fully qualified hairdressers to work for him. Considered an employer of choice who does everything “by the book”, his longest serving employees have been with him for eighteen years and overall, staff turnover is relatively low in an industry known for its high turnover. All staff members are employed on a permanent part-time basis giving them regular hours and security. To ensure his stylists remain up-to-date with the latest style trends and techniques, he hosts regular training sessions. He also visits salons randomly for a weekly haircut “to keep the girls on their toes”.
The upside of having eight salons across the region is that, “when one faces head winds, another will pick up the slack.”
While part of a growing ninety-owner strong franchise group, Oliver says he has the autonomy to run his business the way he sees fit. The only aspect in which he doesn’t have autonomy is the pricing model, with style cuts for men, women and children the same cost across the entire group, a point of difference that attracts customers but puts pressure on profit margins. The group also offers a seven-day written satisfaction guarantee on all style cuts, another point of difference favoured by consumers. “Our goal is to keep wages at around 55%, allow 15% for rent and 15 to 20% for other expenses. That leaves a rather lean profit margin,” said Oliver who combats this challenge by having tight rosters in place and keeping customer waiting times to a minimum. Oliver says the upside of having eight salons across the region is that, “when one faces head winds, another will pick up the slack.”
With fifty-four part-time staff on his books, Oliver says his annual payroll tax bill of around $80,000 is the number one deterrent to growth. “If we were a bottle shop with three staff doing the same turnover there would be no payroll tax to pay so it’s very unfair in a such a labour intensive industry and definitely a disincentive to grow and employ more staff,” he said. With eight salons from the south to the north, the market is well saturated in the region so any growth would take him away from the Central Coast, which is not something the father of two young sons wants to do at this stage.
Oliver is renowned on the Central Coast for his generous spirit. He donates hundreds of gift vouchers each year to homeless charities and regularly visits local women’s refuges to offer free style cuts for residents. Just Cuts Central Coast sponsors several rugby leagues clubs and is the major sponsor of the Warnervale Bulls. Oliver enjoys a good work/life balance, loves seeing his staff develop and grow and admits that while “you never really switch off as a business owner”, he feels very fortunate because “it really doesn’t feel like work”.
Source: ccbr Vol 28 February 2019 (page 4 + 5)
Author: Phaedra Pym, A Way With Words
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