After much planning over the course of the past few years, 2019 has become the year of implementation for Wisconsin-based sub shop franchise Cousins Subs. In addition to celebrating the opening of its first out-of-state location in downtown Chicago in January, Cousins has reshuffled its executive leadership team, leaving the brand well-equipped to begin capitalizing on development opportunities in new Midwestern markets.
Also in January, Chief Financial Officer Jason Westhoff was appointed to a new role as President of the brand. Christine Specht, who previously served in a dual role as President and CEO, is now focusing her efforts squarely on her duties as CEO. Specht said this strategic adjustment allows her to be more “visionary” and spend more time on long-term strategy, relationship-building within the Cousins franchise system and pushing forward brand values.
“As we prepare ourselves for expansion beyond Wisconsin and across the Midwest, we needed to put our leadership team in the best position possible to execute,” Specht said. “By taking the time to look inward and strategically adjust the composition of our team to best utilize all of our varying skill sets, we’ve arrived at a place where we can carry out the vision and move the brand forward. When it comes to Jason, specifically, there’s no better person to spearhead our growth. He really thrives among the detail, processes, and systems necessary to scale the brand in a systematized way. That skill set, combined with his knowledge of our system and the ins and outs of how we operate, makes me more than confident in his ability to lead our team.”
“The restructuring of our team has really allowed us all to focus on our personal strengths that much more,” Westhoff added. “Christine is the visionary, I’m the integrator. She comes up with ideas and I come up with plans to execute.”
Despite his modesty, Westhoff has traits of a visionary, as well. Fortunately, this strategic adjustment gives him the chance to utilize the rest of the Cousins leadership team to execute his vision. In his previous role as CFO, Westhoff built financial plans that incorporated all aspects of the business, which equipped him with the skillset to capably and efficiently integrate all functions into deliverable plans. As President, he will continue to build upon the strong relationships he’s grown with the brand’s franchise system to further promote systemwide success in the midst of substantial brand growth.
When asked what long-term success in this role looks like to him, Westhoff recalled the past before mapping out the future.
“Two years ago, we took a hard look at our long-term plan and came up with a 10-year target for where we wanted the business to be, both profit-wise and size-wise,” he explained. “My role at the time was to develop an actionable plan by analyzing the numbers and the assumptions behind them in order to challenge it over time. In the past two years, the plan has been tweaked and refined, and I’m now in a position where I’m charged with implementation. It’s an exciting undertaking because I drafted it, but I also recognize the accountability I have in the matter. That being said, you always take on more risk when there's more reward to be had. But I’ve never been fearful of that.”
Changes are abundant elsewhere in the brand during this time of growth, as well. In addition to Westhoff assuming the role of President, Cousins is adding to its leadership team to ensure that the competencies are in place to execute the brand’s vision from all sides of the business. Recent additions to the Cousins leadership team include Alan Lundeen as Senior Director of Operations and Talent and J.J. Grube as VP of Finance. Further examples of the brand’s commitment to its ‘develop from within’ philosophy, include J.J. Palmert’s promotion from Franchise Sales Manager to Director of Franchise Sales.
“I think Christine and I knew this is where we wanted to be five years ago, but we had some heavy lifting to do before we got to the inflection point,” Westhoff said. “Now, we’re staffed the way we need to be to double the size of our organization and couldn’t be more excited about it.”
“The new composition of our leadership team will help us grow, keep pace with our long-term plan and foster stronger relationships within our franchise system.”