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How Kip Churchill Went From Pharmaceutical Vice President To Great Clips Franchisee

After a successful career in the pharmaceutical industry, the Toronto-based franchisee found a new direction with Great Clips salons.

By Emily ClouseStaff Writer
SPONSORED 12:12PM 05/01/19

Kip Churchill describes his experience franchising with Great Clips as an “adventure.” Now with five salons open in the Toronto, Canada area, Kip attests that it certainly has been a journey of learning.

Churchill grew up in Toronto, Ontario, and moved to Schenectady, New York to attend college, courtesy of a hockey scholarship. He graduated and began working in Certified Public Accounting firms.   

After ten years of working in corporate positions in the United States, Churchill took the opportunity to return to his hometown of Toronto.

For the next 20 years, Churchill served as vice president of finance at one of Canada’s largest over-the-counter drug companies, only to find out that he was about to experience what it’s like to go through a corporate take-over.  At this point, he was faced with a choice: either move back to New York, or look for a finance role at another company. As a father of four, moving the family again seemed daunting. What he didn’t realize in that moment is a third option would present itself—become a Great Clips franchisee.

In the thick of searching for finance positions, a colleague convinced Churchill to attend a presentation by a team of franchising consultants that specialized in helping people explore franchise opportunities.

Churchill was interested in learning more. After spending time researching, he knew which franchise opportunities matched his interests and skillset.  One of those brands that rose to the top of his list was Great Clips.

Though dramatically different from the pharmaceutical world, the Great Clips opportunity was actually a perfect fit for Churchill. His father-in-law, a barber, had owned his own shop, so Churchill had learned firsthand how the hair salon operation worked on a small scale. But what stopped Churchill in his tracks was how numbers-driven the franchise organization was.

“Great Clips is all about numbers—haircut times, wait times and the overall customer experience. Being a finance guy, it fit my personality,” he said. “If you want to run a successful operation, you have to pay attention to the numbers.”

So, at age 53, Churchill left the pharmaceutical world. He used his severance package to jump-start his franchise. “I had been with a $900 million company, and now I was going to start a brand new adventure where it was all of my own money being invested. It’s certainly not an easy decision to make to become a small business owner, but I just thought at that particular time in my life, it was something I wanted to pursue,” he said.

Churchill opened his first salon in May 2011 in a small town north of Toronto. He co-owns the business with his wife, Maria, and heads up most of the operations. Churchill now has five salons in the greater GTA. It was a fun moment for Churchill—when driving down the 407 one day—he realized he had a salon located off each of the next five exits.

Churchill enjoys seeing the numbers and consistent growth of his salons. Equally as important, he helps grow leaders. One area manager has been with Churchill for five years, and he’s watched her grow and excel as a leader. “In the end, that’s a satisfying thing, seeing the development of your people,” said Churchill.

Churchill said he’s become a better communicator and more of a people-person since his pharmaceutical days. He’s learned that running a successful business requires working through others, and developing relationships with the managers and staff in salons goes a long way. He’s even gotten back to his athletic roots by sponsoring local recreational hockey and baseball leagues in the communities he serves.

While some people excel at one or the other, the ability to prioritize both numbers and people has set Churchill up for success as a Great Clips franchisee. “What defines success is to me is growth in numbers and people,” he said. “It’s truly inspirational seeing people grow and getting them to grow with the business. To run a successful business you need good people, and you need them to treat your customers well, otherwise there is no growth in the numbers.

*This brand is a paid partner of 1851 Franchise. For more information on paid partnerships please click here.