Mark Blessing

LETU electrical engineering graduate and former stand-out collegiate wrestler Mark Blessing ‘86 is using his engineering skills in a fresh way, applying them to what he calls “Human Engineering.” Blessing is an entrepreneur and franchisee of more than 10 Great Clips hair salons in the Dallas/Fort Worth area and plans to open 4 more soon, in Abilene.   

“A haircut is no different than calculus,” he said.  “It’s all about elevation and angles. Cutting hair uses Piecewise Linear Equivalence, using a straight line to approximate a round object.”

While Blessing leaves the haircuts to the professionals, he realizes it’s not the typical kind of business for a man who was Nebraska’s undefeated high school state champion wrestler before coming to LeTourneau in 1981. As a college athlete at LeTourneau, Blessing started racking up first place wrestling awards in the NCCAA championships his freshman and junior years, with 3rd and 2nd place finishes his sophomore and senior years, respectively.  LETU recently inducted Blessing into its Athletics Hall of Fame as the school’s top wrestler of all time.

After achieving two patents for his inventions during a successful engineering and consulting career, Blessing became a Great Clips franchisee in April 2004 with his first salon in Granbury, Texas, just south of Fort Worth.  Suddenly, he was the employer to a group of 20-something, artistic young ladies.

“I wrestle, coach and motivate in a certain way, but I found it doesn’t work with ladies,” Blessing said.

That’s when the idea of “human engineering” came to his mind to answer the question, how do you grow people into being the best they can be? Blessing said he was surprised to discover that many of his initial employees had never been held to a high standard of punctuality or responsibility.  He said he had to let go some employees at first but was willing to give second chances once they grew in maturity if they wanted to return.

“We do know we are part of God’s plan for them,” he said, “but they might not be part of God’s plan for us. We provided a structure to many employees who had never had structure before. I was interested in creating a space for them to flourish, and they were given an opportunity to succeed that they didn’t know was possible.  It became a family, like many had never had.”

As owner and CEO, Blessing saw that salons with the best managers don’t have a lot of turnover, and when he demoted two managers, his retention reports showed improvement.

“I learned it’s in hiring great people, and then get out of the way,” he said.

One of his best hires, he admits, is his office manager Susie Sanford, whom he hired after replacing 13 assistants in two years. She handles whatever he doesn’t, which led him to call her the COEE, for “Chief of Everything Else.”  

“She handles payroll for nearly 90 employees, nearly all of them ladies,” he said.  “She anchors me.  She’s like the Mom of the organization.” 

Sanford had 30 years of banking experience, but when she relocated to Granbury, found no job openings in the banking industry.  She responded to Blessing’s Craig’s List advertisement for an office manager, and the two have worked side-by-side for the past six years.  

Sanford described Blessing as generous with his employees, remembering a time when an employee came to him needing an advance for her house payment.

“We paid it,” Sanford said. “She never showed up again.” She said they erred on the side of generosity but don’t regret it. “We do what God tells us to do. We don’t always know what the plan is.”  

Blessing said while his business is successful today, he remembers leaner times that required them to exercise their faith.

“My favorite example was once when we knew we would be short on payroll one Thursday,” he said. “We prayed about it.  Susie was in the office by 8 a.m. Our operating account didn’t get debited, and yet everyone all got paid. That next Monday was a federal holiday, the credit card deposits showed up Tuesday morning, before the payroll was then debited.  God gave us a float for 4 days.  You don’t get faith until you have to step out and use it.  We understand the other side of being generous.”

Managing the Granbury Great Clips location is Candace Brockett, who was named Manager of the Year in 2018. She’s worked with Blessing for the past five years, and said she appreciates that he encourages team-building opportunities like attending national conferences that help build relationships and make work more like a family.

“Mark is the best franchisee I’ve ever worked for,” she said. “I’ve always felt like more than just a person standing behind a chair. He always believed in me and gives me freedom to manage the salon the best way I can. I’ve never been so happy with my work-life balance.”

Blessing’s emphasis on “human engineering” includes keeping the customer in mind since Great Clips is so much a people business.

“We have a unique opportunity for one-on-one relationships with people,” he said.  “For many of our Great Clips customers, the only time they are touched by another human being is when they have their hair done.”

Realizing this, Blessing says the goal is to create an atmosphere to brighten someone’s day, and even witness to them.

“There’s a positive spirit in the salon,” he said. “It’s vibrant, growing. People want to be here, and they want to come back.”

Blessing said reading R.G. LeTourneau’s autobiography Mover of Men and Mountains in 2009 reminded him that his business is more than just a way to make money.

“I got into this business to make money,” he said, “but realized there is a ministry here.”