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Why Mentorships in Business Matter

Anyone who has ever been successful at anything in life could probably identify at least one or two people, if not more, that have significantly impacted their rate of success.

By Nick Powills1851 Franchise Publisher
SPONSOREDUpdated 11:11AM 01/30/17

For Dave and Rich Van Buskirk, being Dairy Queen franchisees is so much more than just serving their community of Murfreesboro, Tennessee with cold treats and delicious food—it’s about helping local students get a head start, too.

When the father and son business partners opened their first DQ Grill & Chill location in 2004, neither of them had much experience running a business. They knew that to run a successful company, they needed to hire a talented and hard-working crew that was willing to put their heart and soul into every step of the operations. To make this happen, the Van Buskirks decided to hire young people to work in their restaurant—but what they found was that many of these students didn’t have the right work skills to make their DQ Grill & Chill restaurant the best it could be.

“From day one, we promised ourselves that we would never compromise our standards. We wanted to maintain the quality and our high standards every single day—that meant ensuring that our service and our food were always up to par,” Dave said. “We realized it was so important to hire, train and mentor the best crew possible. We hired a lot of young students, but we found that many of them didn’t understand how important being at work on time is, or how having the right language skills matters in customer service.”

The Van Buskirks saw an opportunity to help. Rather than watching their employees struggle, Dave and Rich contacted Rutherford Country’s Career and Technical Education (CTE) Coordinator Tyra Pilgrim, who works with the DECA Club at local schools. DECA is an organization that prepares leaders and entrepreneurs for careers in marketing, management and entrepreneurship. Together, the Van Buskirks and CTE have been able to offer valuable work study programs for qualified students, giving them a chance to work on site at their Murfreesboro Dairy Queen location to gain real-life experience and hone professional skills.

“It’s so important to us to teach the younger generation the same work ethics that helped us get to where we are today. By partnering with the local community, we’re able to make a real and meaningful impact,” Rich said. “We always tell our crew that we want them to go on and be successful in whatever they dream about. We don’t expect them to stay with us forever. What we want is for their experience at Dairy Queen to be a learning ground. No matter what they do in life, this experience can apply, and it’ll teach them valuable lessons in the years to come. We’re honored to be able to help students along in their journey.”

Both of the Van Buskirks are proud to say that because of this training program, they’ve been able to promote a high percentage of these students. In fact, their mentoring has evolved into such an important part of the local community that one of their locations in Murfreesboro has become a national training center for other employees in the system. Through this, they’ve watched students perfect their customer service skills. And others have benefitted from Dave working closely with them to fix bad grammar. These are just a few examples of many that showcase how the Van Buskirks are preparing the next generation of successful entrepreneurs—one Blizzard order at a time.

“We have a genuine heart for making our student employees better workers. Helping them develop a good work ethic and watching them grow is one of the greatest rewards of running our DQ Grill & Chill business,” Rich said.

Hundreds of other franchisees, executives and entrepreneurs have realized the value of mentorship, too. It’s pretty safe to say that anyone who has ever been successful at anything in life could probably identify at least one or two people, if not more, that have significantly impacted their rate of success. Did you know that Steve Jobs gave Mark Zuckerberg advice on how to grow his company. And Bill Gates has seen his fair share of tough situations as he led Microsoft, and to think about success long term, he credits learning those things from Warren Buffett.

According to Bill Spae, a Dairy Queen multi-unit franchisee who owns upwards of 70 locations throughout Texas, mentoring—whether you’re the mentor or mentee—has several benefits. After 40 plus years of experience, he’s seen companies come and go, careers take off and customers become more vocal about what they expect His biggest takeaway? Every person involved matters, from employees to customers.

“Hire the personality and you can train the skill,” Spae said. “This business is really about people. It’s about serving the guests and doing that well, but also the mentorship and guidance of people who work with and for you.”

Spae is also quick to say that he wouldn’t be where he is today without the support and mentorship of others. He attributes much of his success to the team he worked with during his time at TGI Fridays when he was first beginning his career in the franchise and restaurant industries.

“I’ve had the great blessing of working with some of the icons in the industry and they all helped me by mentoring me,” Spae said. “I took that information and do my best to turn it around and give it to someone else. My greatest pride in this industry is the sheer number of people I’ve worked with who’ve gone on to run businesses in the industry, too. I’ve been blessed to be mentored by great people, and turn around and be able to mentor others to be successful as well. That, for me, is the greatest achievement you can accomplish in your career.”