Alan Sager is the first “Veteran” SFA franchisees to be included in the Meet the SFA Interview Series. Alan lives in Austin Texas and runs 57 stores in Texas, Louisiana and Mississippi with 59 stores total by June 1.
Here is his story…
I am Alan Sager. I started in 1981 in Austin and was an original SFA member. As to the exact year, who remembers things that far back? I have a law degree from Michigan, Ph.d. in Political Science from Northwestern and B.S. in Chemical Engineering from Tufts, all of which together qualify me to be in the hair cutting business. I am one of the original set of franchisees who worked at EST, an educational corporation, in San Francisco in the late 70’s and 80’s. Two former staff members, Gary Grace and Howard Sherman, put the franchise program together for Frank Emmett and Geoffrey Rappaport.
Other things I have done in my life include practicing law for a year, teaching full time at the University of Texas, working on the staff of Chief Justice Warren Burger and working at Est, now known as Landmark Education. I am back lecturing in Government at U.T. and have done so for the last 24 years. I have also run for office and been involved in politics at all levels for decades. My wife Susan and I have 4 children. The third, Rebecca graduated from college and went to cosmetology school. She works in our shops and part time at the office. Our youngest, Jacob, is completing an incredibly difficult and backbreaking one year MBA in Entrepreneurship. Our second daughter, Jessica, is a business coach and consultant. These 3 live in Austin. Our eldest lives in Maryland and is the one who makes grandsons, 2 going on 3 soon. Finally, while I have attended many Universities and grew up in Chicago as an Illinois fan, I am a Longhorn through and through!!
Tell us about your favorite vacation destination or the last place you visited.
Most of the time, the last place I have visited, if you want to call it that, is New Orleans. I lead managers meetings there every month. People always ask me about how I like the food and what restaurants I visit. Well the truth is during the past year I was there for at least 18 nights, Except for one night when I had a contractor from Austin looking at a build out there, and I ate dinners at Whole Foods. For a number of years, our favorite destination was where ever the Weekly Standard Cruise went.
Why did you choose Supercuts or how did Supercuts choose you?
I chose Supercuts on the recommendation of Howard and Gary. At the time they were consulting with the creators of Supercuts and a car wash franchise. I looked at both. I thought Supercuts was a better opportunity to work with people and make a difference in the life of staff and guests.
Who or what has had the most impact on your success?
The who has had the most impact on my success is probably not just one person. Werner Erhard the creator of Est had a tremendous impact since he trained me to work with people in a way that made a difference in their lives. Gary Grace and Don Cox, who was an original franchisee and President of Est, also had an enormous impact by teaching me about business. Knowing a lot is one thing, actually putting to work what you know is a whole lot different in the real world.
What kinds of things are you doing to take care of your employees?
Aside from offering them the best training in cutting hair available and the followup to it, we have offered health insurance since we started in 1981 and all the other benefits except 401K’s. We tried them along time ago and administering them were overly cumbersome at the time Despite our size we offer a family atmosphere and our staff knows they can count on what we say and promise. We have people who have worked for us for 30 years, some having raised their children and welcomed their grandchildren. We offer $1000 per year scholarships to the children of our staff who go to college as long as they maintain a B average.
What innovative technologies are you using in your stores to increase business and customer engagement?
We have not gone full blast into social media yet. Some stores have facebook pages. We are watching to see if our Advertising Agency finds better ways to reach our customers.
On the one hand, we think the best way to increase business is delivering quality service and a quality experience to each and every guest. On the other hand we are about to begin barcoding all of our mail and couponing down to the customer level to be able to do more directed media communications.
What would you like to accomplish with your stores in the next 10 years?
I plan to expand to over 70 shops in the next 7 years, around 2 shops per year average.
At that point, hopefully, robots will not be cutting hair at home for our customers,violating all Cosmetology Board regulations. Then my children can carry on for another 30-40 years if they wish.
What areas would you like to see the SFA focus on in 2014?
While I don’t think advertising often makes a big difference, I still think SFA should work on improving our advertising in all available media. Of course, I always want them to go back to our Supercuts/Other Cuts ad that I think was the best advertising we have done over the last 33 years. I also want to go back to our ancient slogan, WE CUT HAIR FOR YOUR EGO NOT OURS, which is more applicable today than in 1981 when I started. Slighly updated for current language, it speaks directly to milleniums whom we need to get into our stores. Also we need to develop better customer databases to keep up with some of our competitors.