MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) — Minnesota is the home of 19 Fortune 500 companies. All week, the WCCO Morning Show is taking a look at some of the people in the Twin Cities who’ve made it to the top.

Rhoda Olsen is the CEO of Great Clips, which is headquartered in Bloomington. Great Clips has more than 3,500 hair salon franchises around the country.

Last year for the first time, system-wide revenue topped $1 billion for the first time.

So how did a self-described have-not from Minnetonka rise to spend more than 20 years as an executive leader at Great Clips?

Overlooking the 494 and France Avenue interchange in Bloomington, it isn’t what you’d expect a CEO’s office to look like. Olsen has a stand-up desk, right next to her treadmill. But when you sell haircuts for $13, an over-the-top office would be out of touch.

“I don’t have an office chair. I haven’t had one in 26, 27 years,” Olsen said. “It’s absolutely on purpose. Great Clips is an everyday brand. We’re very strong financially, but we’re also very conservative.”

But conservative leadership doesn’t mean avoiding risk. Olsen is a voracious reader of leadership books.

“Leadership is relationship building, trust building, generating influence, inspiring people,” she said.

Olsen believes in getting up and walking around, but she also blocks out time for the big-picture, learning from and admitting her failures.

“I spend quite a lot of time thinking. I didn’t think that was important before. I really do spend time just thinking. For me thinking is often writing on my legal pad, and kind of bucketing ideas,” she said. “I’ll make a sexist statement: I think women take things way too personally. A lot of times you get caught up in taking things personally and not really seeing the issue and why someone disagrees. You think they disagree because they don’t like you, and they really disagree because they disagree.”

Olsen said that she used to believe that a CEO’s job was to have all the answers. Eventually, she realized that the job was about having all the questions.


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