Neal Courtney: A cut above the rest
Neal Courtney is no stranger to the role of CEO—or the franchise industry. Prior to his acquisition of the Cookie Cutters Haircuts for Kids franchise, Courtney was CEO of Famous Brands International, the parent company to such recognized brands as Mrs. Fields Cookies and TCBY. Courtney has more than 20 years of leadership experience in franchising, retail and e-commerce, and that experience has served him well in his various roles as CEO. He recently relocated the Cookie Cutter’s headquarters to Salt Lake City and has put new systems in place to re-energize the company’s national expansion plans.
Neal admits he has made plenty of mistakes in his career—and also enjoyed some successes—but in both cases he continues to grow as a leader. “Leadership is not just about the title on your business card or the number of people that report up to you on an organizational chart. Leadership is about being passionate about what you are doing,” he says.
It is that kind of passion he credits to the Cookie Cutter franchise success. Cookie Cutter has been franchising for 20 years and has operated in Utah for the past nine years. The franchise has 30 stores in seven states and one in Canada. “We have realized some amazing momentum over the last 12 months that has significantly exceeded our expectations,” he says.
Courtney says he has learned a lot about himself on his journey as a CEO. Instead of trying to be the smartest guy in the room, he believes in surrounding himself with the best and brightest people who have a complementary skillset to his. “My goal is always to create as much intellectual creativity and synergy as possible on our management team. I have an inclusive style and rely on my teams,” he says.
The most rewarding part of being a franchise owner for Courtney is providing entrepreneurs with the opportunity to see their dreams come to fruition. He says it’s a great feeling to see individuals grow both personally and professionally, and to see them build confidence.
Creating and fostering a culture of accountability is crucial to the success of Cookie Cutters. Courtney believes in holding himself, and his team, accountable for the results, good or bad. “One of my main mottos in business is ‘if an effort isn’t driving a result, change the effort.’ I build teams that have the confidence and autonomy to realize the best results possible.”
Cookie Cutters fits a simple niche and fulfills a basic need of providing children with a good haircut that is on trend, he says. For potential business owners, the franchise provides a low cost of entry, a turnkey business model and the potential to provide a strong return on investment.
Courtney says that in business, keeping it simple is the winning formula. “So often in life we try to overcomplicate everything. If we take a step back, take a deep breath and prioritize those things that are most important, everything becomes so much more manageable.”
Courtney has ambitious plan for Cookie Cutters, with 15 additional stores slated to open over the next year. His projection is the franchise will have 150 stores by 2020.