1851: WOMEN WE LOVE IN FRANCHISING
1851: WOMEN WE LOVE IN FRANCHISING

The franchising industry has long been a stronghold for driven individuals to find success. And recently, it also has become an increasingly favorable space for female entrepreneurs.

According to the 2013 State of Women-Owned Businesses Report, the number of female-fronted firms is growing 1.5 ti.....

The franchising industry has long been a stronghold for driven individuals to find success. And recently, it also has become an increasingly favorable space for female entrepreneurs.

According to the 2013 State of Women-Owned Businesses Report, the number of female-fronted firms is growing 1.5 times faster than the national average. And, with nationally recognized resources such as the Women’s Franchise Network offering support, more and more women are moving up in the industry.

Not to mention, franchising has a wealth of highly visible — and highly successful — women executives that are paving the way.

As the industry gathers at the International Franchising Association (IFA) convention in New Orleans, 1851 Magazine spoke with a few of the female forerunners in the franchising industry in the hope that their experience might inspire more women to follow the trail that they are blazing.

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Melanie Bergeron, Chair of TWO MEN AND A TRUCK® and Vice Chair for the 2014 IFA Convention Committee

You’ve been in the position of chair since 2009. How have you grown since then?

Since taking the position of chair, I’m more in a position of outreach, working with strategic and executive planning. I’m also enjoying continuing my work with nonprofits, the IFA and mentoring.

You come from a line of highly successful women, including your mother, TWO MEN AND A TRUCK® founder Mary Ellen Sheets. Do you think success is in your blood?

I think the common thread between us is work ethic. Growing up, I watched both of my grandmothers and my mom work incredibly hard to grow their businesses. That work ethic came to me naturally – it’s a way of life for our family.

When you first started with TWO MEN AND A TRUCK® did you anticipate that you would move up so far, so quickly?

Our family grew the business together, but I don’t think any of us knew where it was going when we first started. My career took on a life of its own as I continued helping my mom. TWO MEN AND A TRUCK® continues to evolves past our family. We’re all thankful and astonished about where the business has gone and where’s it’s headed.

What advice could you offer to a young woman looking to move up into an executive-level career?

First, she needs to know there’s always room to improve. Second, she needs to ask those around her, whether they are her peers or superiors, what she can do to improve. Finally, she needs to take action and make those improvements. For me, the way to success is by always trying to be your best self.

Who is one woman in franchising that you admire?

Absolutely Dina Dwyer-Owens [Chairwoman and CEO of The Dwyer Group]. She’s successful, yet humble and spiritual. She’s always trying to do all the right things, not for her own gain, but for the gain of everyone around her. Not to mention, she’s a working mom and wife and she holds it all together. Dina is the real deal and it’s a really special thing to see.

What’s next for you and for TWO MEN AND A TRUCK®?

With our skillset, technology, great franchisees and our high rate of customer satisfaction, the sky’s the limit. We’re consistently breaking records and growing, but we also are making sure not to forget our core values and keeping those front-and-center. For me personally, I try to hold those core values in my own initiatives as well, which means I’m continuing to promote good causes through my work. My goal is to use my skills and position to help others succeed.

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Dina Dwyer-Owens, Chairwoman and CEO of The Dwyer Group®

How have you grown since first being named as CEO and Chair of The Dwyer Group®?

One of the biggest things that I’ve learned is to be honest about my strengths and weaknesses. When I came into the position as acting president and CEO, I think everyone was hesitant about having a 35-year-old woman being at the head of the company. A group of franchisees were asked whether they thought I was ready for the position, and they voted no. I wanted to understand and address their concerns, so I approached one of the individuals and asked why they didn’t think I was ready for the job. He told me, “You’re not a plumber.” I said, “You’re right, but I am a customer, and I understand that 60 percent of Mr. Rooter’s customers are women in the household.” I didn’t pretend to be something I wasn’t, and in the end, I didn’t need to. Now I’ve got people to help me and I try to surround myself with individuals who can complement my strengths and weaknesses.

You come from a line of highly successful individuals. Do you think it’s in your blood, or did you get good training for your family?

It’s a combination of the two. I’m blessed to have been raised by parents who gave me different character traits. From my father, I learned hard work and how to be a lifelong learner. My mother grounded me in my faith and the importance of being good and kind to others. But success is a never-ending progress. I’m still under construction.

Who is one woman in franchising that you admire?

I really admire Melanie Bergeron from TWO MEN AND A TRUCK®. I first met her and her mother, Mary Ellen Sheets, at a small franchising event where we shared best practices and benchmarks. At the time, there were very few women involved in franchising, so it was really a great thing to be able to lean on one another for support. I still admire Melanie today and we continue to support each other. I truly respect the way she and her mother have run the business. There are many other women that I admire and I’m thrilled that there are so many role models in our industry.

What advice do you have for a young woman looking to move up into an executive-level career?

One piece of advice that I’d give to a young woman is to really have confidence about who she is, to be her best authentic self and not worry about what others think — especially what the guys think. Women who worry too much have a hard time moving up. Of course, I never worried too much because my dad raised me to believe in myself. Instead of worrying, I spent my time and energy focusing on how can I be the best for the company, for the employees and for the franchisees. If you focus on those areas of your life and career, you will find success. It takes a lot of practice, studying, working with others and asking for help, but it’s possible. 

What’s next for you and The Dwyer Group®?

I see wonderful growth ahead for The Dwyer Group®. We’re seeing strong double-digit growth across all our brands and we continue to attract wonderful franchises. Personally, I’ve had the privilege of being invited to share the message of our company’s Live RICH values. I’ve found that the world is hungry for authentic leadership; they want companies that are powered by people who want to be a part of something special. Having central, core values is how we can achieve that. I’m blessed to share this message — it’s truly a passion of mine.

As far as franchising goes, we always need more women! Our presence in the industry has grown so much recently, even over the course of my career. Women continue seeking out opportunities for growth and are finding executive-level careers. Franchising is a very friendly industry, so any women interested in moving up should not be afraid to ask for help. The only reason I’m in my position today is because of the amazing men and women who supported me in my career path.

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Kat Cole, President of Cinnabon

What’s one story about your professional career ascent that you don’t get to share that often?

The experiences I have had with nonprofits and my industry board roles have provided mentorship, experience and perspective that have enhanced my leadership skills. As a young executive, I was the chair of a nonprofit board while we were shoring up the business model and transitioning the organization’s leadership, and that provided invaluable governance and executive training that I still use today. I serve on another board of directors, the Women’s Foodservice Forum, where we are so clearly mission-driven and have such a collection of high-caliber industry executives, that I grow every year by learning from the leaders who surround me in that group and organization. Without those roles and leadership opportunities, I don’t think I would have been prepared as early as I was for the business opportunities I received. I wouldn’t be where I am without the many great people and opportunities in those organizations, and I will be forever in their debt as a result.  

You’ve been in the position of President for nearly three years now — how have you grown or changed during that time?

We now have a very good team that has allowed me to pull out of the more detailed elements in certain areas of the business and focus more on the brand as a whole. When you are first building a team, you are likely simultaneously doing several functional jobs to keep the work going and to help you recruit talent with clarity on what the company needs. Working in various roles (as the president) can teach you great things, but if allowed to continue too long, it can prevent you from truly evaluating critical opportunities in the business. Our team is fueling strong growth, and the more they grow, the more the brand and business. My sense of accomplishment came from cleaning up certain parts of the business in the early days, and as the team came together, it has come from seeing the accomplishments of our team and franchise partners.

What’s one challenge that you encountered in getting to where you are today?

Email and time management — the more you take on and the more others depend on you, the more you need to evaluate and prioritize every moment and every communication. Some days are better than others, but it’s something I constantly work on — but I still despise email.

What advice do you have for a young woman looking to move up into an executive-level career?

Bring your full self to work, don’t hold back, don’t listen to the voice in your head that questions whether or not you deserve to be there, get a reality check on how you are perceived and compare that to how you hope to be perceived — then do something about the gap if there is one — be curious and learn constantly, get results with integrity, teach and help others to be the best they can be, be candid and kind, don’t be too hard on yourself, build lifelong relationships, volunteer to help with special projects — even if it requires extra time — focus on strengthening the business model, always be an advocate for your team, franchise partners and your brand — when the s*(%! hits the fan, be there for others- that’s when they need you the most.

Who are some women in franchising that you admire?

Cheryl Bachelder, Dina Dwyer Owens and Catherine Monson

What’s next for you and for Cinnabon?

What’s next for me is continuing to serve our industry and communities in need, and continuing to support and grow our team, franchise partners and brand partners. What’s next for Cinnabon — fun, portable product launches in the franchise bakeries, franchise growth in the U.S. and all over the world and continued launch of great products in other foodservice operations and in the packaged goods retail space. Cinnabon is becoming one of the world’s greatest indulgent consumer brands — that’s pretty exciting for all involved.

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Mary Ann O’Connell, CFE and President of FranWise® and Chairwoman of the IFA Women’s Franchising Committee (WFC)

How have you grown since first assuming the role of CFE and President for FranWise®?

I think business ownership makes you grow in the same way that parenthood does. You have full responsibility; the "life and death" of the venture rests on your early decisions, so you have to find your focus from the outset and learn it all.

What's one challenge that you encountered in getting to where you are today?

The most important thing I had to learn was to ask for help, and to ask the right people. No one knows everything, so build a network of experts and friends and ask for their advice, then thank them and reciprocate.

What advice do you have for a young woman looking to move up into an executive-level career?

Be true to yourself. When you know who you are, you know which compromises will work for you on your way to the next level.

Who are some women in franchising that you admire?

There are so many, but Rhoda Olsen CEO of Great Clips was a true inspiration for me. Just a few others are Sharon Dietrich of Franchise Solutions, Julia Stewart of IHOP, Susan Black-Beth of SuperWash, Marianne Murphy of Floor Coverings International, Shelly Sun of Brightstar, Nina Green of Genovese Joblove & Battista and Lisa Druxman of Fit4Mom.

What’s next for you, FranWise® and Women Franchising Committee?

Life is a fun adventure, so who knows what’s next? FranWise® will tackle new technologies so we can better serve franchisors. I step off the WFC this year knowing those talented women can and will do anything they put their minds to — maybe mentoring college grads in a franchising career.

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