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Great Clips' Rhoda Olsen: Company CEO (and Mom-in-Charge)

You seem to be big on company culture and team building. How do you make sure that filters down to the franchisees and their employees as well?

Olsen: It's OK to look at a culture and say, "We really do want people to feel great here." We use the word love all the time. I hear our stylists talk about loving their franchisees. I tell our franchisees I love them. It's kind of funny because that used to be really kind of an odd thing, but in today's business culture, it's all about the emotional connection, and people clearly say they want to be emotionally connected.

So I think from a culture standpoint we've worked really hard at developing trust and I'd say love and connection -- building a strong community for people to support one another. I think we have a great sense of community and people really do want to help other franchisees.

In a way, it sounds almost like you have to be a mom to hundreds of people. Can you elaborate about how being a mother, because you are one, helps you in the CEO role?

Olsen: Being a mom is probably one of the most important, humbling, learning roles that we can ever have, and so I don't mind it when people call me a mom because I think what a mom does is care at a deeper level. They care beyond, and I don't want to say men don't, but I think moms just care at a really deep level. They see beyond what's in front of them. They care about someone's feelings. They'll take an extra step with someone.

For a lot of our franchisees, they're often fearful and that extra kind of warmth and caring often gets them over the hump. I mean, it's scary. They're putting a lot at risk.

We actually just had a situation out in one of our New York salons where a customer actually died in the salon on Christmas Eve and our business services director, who happens to be a male, was in the salon as quickly as he could, hugging the stylists, spending time with them, helping the franchisee. This is a fairly new employee and he knew that he needed to be there, but even the e-mail I got from the franchisee said, "John didn't need to be there. He took one of the stylists in the back room that was crying and got her settled down, and he just ..." So, I think mom experience really helps create that sense of kindness and caring. I think moms also have to learn to hold people accountable and learn tough love, and that helps as well.