The Franck Provost difference

By Sarah Stowe | 12 Apr 2017 View comments

Starting as an apprentice hairdresser in Paris, Franck Provost is now cutting it as a franchisor with a network of more than 600 salons in 30 countries. Inside Franchise Business: Franck Provost talks franchising, strategy and success.

Eight years after launching in Australia with a salon in Sydney, French hairdressing brand Franck Provost has 15 outlets in the city – the biggest representation of the brand in a single city outside Paris – and another nine around the country.

The man himself hit the town in spring 2016, bringing with him a small entourage and plenty of relaxed French style.

“I really like the vibe here. For we French, it’s like a dream country,” he says through Australian master franchisor Jean-Francois Carre, acting as translator. “I’ve been here only three days and feel that the people are relaxed and very different from Paris or New York. I like the pace. I feel I could live here. It’s very aligned with the values of the brand. It is a good fit.

“There is still plenty to do because it’s a big country, and we’re very excited.”

In its eight years, Franck Provost Australia has launched 24 salons. “We don’t want to rush. We want franchisees who will be true to the brand philosophy,” says Carre.

“Parisienne glamour” is at the heart of the brand, with a focus on colouring. Provost loves that blonde is a popular shade in Australia.

Built on basics

With the digital age dramatically changing the hairdressing scene, it is now much easier to see the latest look: an image from Paris is instantly available in Australia. But for an image-conscious business, its success is built on good basics.

“It’s always a long-term project to build strong foundations for the brand and values. The concept and location are important, but most important in our profession at the end of the day is education and training,” says Provost.

“What makes us different is that we are about tailormade and customised. We have fewer challenges in logistics but more challenges in HR,” he says. “This brand has a man behind it, genuine expertise and a close relationship with the team.”

It is a family business, with daughter Olivia heading up communication and son Fabien as official artistic director.

Provost’s Australian visit is geared to franchisees, whereas in France he has more of a superstar presence. And despite decades in the industry, he is still passionate about the people involved and their personal journeys.

Every segment

Gilles Bonnier is director of the international department of Provalliance and leads the portfolio of 12 product brands.

“We were the first company in Europe to have 3000 salons stocking Provalliance products worldwide, with 1700 in France. We target every segment of the population, there are brands for every level,” he says.

As well as being in 30 countries, the Provalliance business has 20,000 people in its network globally, with half of the 1000 corporate stores used to trial and test concepts. The company policy is to maintain about a quarter to a third of its salons as company-owned. “For the new franchisee, it shows that the franchisor has invested in the business model, and still owns stores.”

Provost has a tendency to become involved in detail, says Carre – right down to the cost of chairs. “The position of our brand – accessible, discreet, luxurious – is about quality and selling the Parisian dream. We’re accessible in our approach. We want customers to have a nice experience, and look and feel beautiful.”

“We try to do our job in the best possible way, always improving the wellbeing and experience of franchisees, introducing new techniques and products,” says Provost. “We always have to anticipate, because retail changes faster than ever before. You need to be always on the alert, but not too early, just on time.

“First of all, I’m a hairdresser. That is important because I understand hairdressers and consumers. I have the eye of a hairdresser. You need to like people. It’s very important to listen, listen to the entire network and partners, stay curious and care about everyone’s wellbeing.”

One step at a time

Asked about the source of his commercial acumen, Provost says he does not know. “It’s important to remain modest. I started as an apprentice and just moved one step at a time.”

He says that spotting the right opportunity and recognising good partners makes a significant difference to the success of a business. “The best way to have strong foundations is training and vision. It is collaboration and control.”

Provost says his focus is firmly on long-term success and ensuring franchisees are happy. “For success you need a good team and training. You need passion. Franchisees need commitment and attention to detail.

“This profession is extraordinary. Everyone needs a hairdresser. There is something special between a hairdresser and the client that doesn’t exist elsewhere. You get to meet everyone and people you never dreamed you would meet.

“I started by chance, but I would do it all again. It’s a very scaleable business – you can be happy with one salon and team, or have bigger dreams. It can be fulfilling. Franchising is a fantastic opportunity, but you still need to have the passion.

“In life, to receive, first you need to give. The opposite never works.”