Suite Spot out your franchisees you can ’ t build your organization . It has to really be about them and mutually beneficial . To be able to do that , you have to understand the franchise model — not only from a financial performance perspective , but from what really makes it work : the relationship aspect of franchising .”
She says networking with different kinds of groups has been an invaluable part of her growth as a franchise leader . She was in the Entrepreneurs ’ Organization and has been involved with the Young Presidents Organization for about two-and-a-half years .
“ I think women definitely need to be part of organizations or have mentors and people who are in the same space , not necessarily in the same industry but in the same space in franchising ,” she says . “ Align yourself with people who have done it before and get that mentorship , or hire companies that can consult in franchising because that really helps with the learning curve .” She also speaks highly of the benefits of coaching .
Evans also sees value in looking beyond franchising for inspiration and advice . “ I think diversity is good . Don ’ t stick with just franchise conferences or women ’ s franchising groups , but go outside of that as well so you get a variety of perspectives .”
Work your way to the top The oldest of 9 children , Mary Kennedy Thompson , COO at The Dwyer Group , jokes that when she graduated high school her gift from her parents was a set of luggage . She joined ROTC to put herself through college , followed by nearly 8 years in the U . S . Marine Corps , departing as a captain . After the Marines , she was in sales for a couple of years before becoming a Cookies by Design franchisee . In her rise to her current role overseeing 11 brands , she ’ s held many positions , including multi-unit franchisee , franchisor , field consultant , vice president , and president . During her 9 years as president of Mr . Rooter , she also became a licensed plumber .
“ If a girl from a large family with a degree in English and a minor in astronomy
can become chief operating office of a company that does $ 1.5 billion in retail sales , it ’ s because franchising taught me how to read a P & L , how to understand a balance sheet , how to grow a business , how to market a business , and how to train people the proper way . I knew leadership because the Marine Corps taught me leadership , but I didn ’ t even know what P & L stood for when I started my first shop ,” she says .
For women ( or anyone ) considering a career in franchising , there are two routes , she says . One is to become a franchisee and build a business , as she did . “ What ’ s wonderful about that is it doesn ’ t matter what gender you are , because it ’ s all about creating results , building a team , and working toward a common mission . As a franchisor we don ’ t care if you ’ re a man or a woman , we care if you ’ re somebody who can move the needle and lead a team together toward a common cause and follow the system . And women are systems people , especially when they run families , because you have to be in order to run a family .”
The second route is to research franchisors and go to work for one whose culture and values match your own , get in on the ground level , and work your way up , which she also did .
The Dwyer Group operates on its Code of Values , which she says is a framework for how they do everything . “ It ’ s a whole lot easier making decisions when you know what the rules are . We have a clear set of rules on how we conduct ourselves , and it attracts other people who are similar to us .” She says it was the first place since the Marine Corps that she found a group of people “ who had a collective set of values that they all agreed on , that I get to belong to , and I love that .”
Franchising , she says , is about relationships , getting to know a person , building trust , and helping them meet
Mary Kennedy Thompson
their goals — traits women are ideally suited for , especially mothers . “ What were the things you did in raising a child , in loving them , telling them the hard truths , encouraging them to go do the things they were really good at doing , and showing them where their weaknesses were ? Those are the exact same skills you need in franchising . If you don ’ t love your franchisees , you don ’ t belong in franchising .”
Franchising also offers virtually unlimited opportunity for advancement . At The Dwyer Group , she says , six of the 11 brand president are former franchisees .“ Franchising has that path . If you ’ re good at building trust and relationships , inspiring people to change , to do things they wouldn ’ t ordinarily do on their own , and to create results , you rule your own destiny in franchising ,” she says .
“ I consider myself a student of leadership . I ’ m always studying it and trying to figure out how I can better serve and inspire others . I think franchising is the purest form of leadership because franchisees are not your employees . Yes , you have an agreement , but you can ’ t say ‘ I ’ m going to fire you .’ So you have to inspire and sell and encourage and show and push and pull to get people to do things .”
For Thompson , leadership is not about gender . When she took over as president of Mr . Rooter , she was flooded with requests for interviews because , they told her , she was the first woman to head up a major plumbing company . “ They would always say , ‘ What ’ s it like being a woman leading this company ?’ Well I don ’ t know . I don ’ t think leadership is gender-based . I think leadership is about taking care of your people , being technically and tactically sound , making sure that you ’ re growing as fast as your organization is , that you ’ re listening and collaborating , and then showing and lighting the way , saying ‘ Follow me .’ I don ’ t think it matters what gender you are ,” she says .
“ Franchising is the greatest opportunity , no matter which side you start on . Why would you not want to be part of it ?” n