Franchise Update Magazine Issue II, 2013 - Page 9

When she was approached by an equity partner, the timing, his experience, and the strategies he brought to the table were just what Nichols was looking for. LEADERSHIP What is your role as CEO? To guide the ship that is Dogtopia. First I have to figure out where we are going, but then I need to be aware of the many things affecting our ability to get there and regularly course-correct and adjust as we go. Describe your leadership style. Inspi- rational is what I aim to be. I want my team and our franchisees to do their best because they feel excited and motivated to grow and develop Dogtopia. Once you have a motivated and committed group of people, there are few things you can’t accomplish! What has inspired your leadership style? I am a naturally passionate per- son and I try to harness that energy and use it in a positive manner to inspire others. I know I am personally at my most effective and productive when I am inspired, so I try to do the same for my team. Sometimes my inspiration comes from reading a great article in Inc. magazine, watching an amazing TED talk, or meeting fellow entrepreneurs. What is your biggest leadership challenge? We just began offering regional developer agreements and are entering a period of rapid growth. We can’t predict the future, but with three regional developers already on board, we now have more stores in development than we have open. This is a big change for us, as our growth has been relatively slow and steady over the last couple of years. This is a terrific “problem” to have, and I am really excited to grow our home office team. We are adding positions and support that we have always wanted to provide, but were previously not large enough. Grow Market Lead ated more than $1 million in revenue. That’s when Nichols knew she was on to something and had to figure out how to grow it. She attended an IFE event and was franchising her fledgling company by early 2005. Growth was slow but steady for the next few years until the economic meltdown. She says the company hunkered down and focused on operations and support during this time. But she also began to recognize that the old ways of franchising development weren’t really working any more. “Growing our brand one unit at a time was not the most efficient way for us to expand,” she says. So when she was approached by an equity partner, the timing, his experience, and the strategies he brought to the table were just what Nichols was looking for. Together, they created new strategies and approaches, most notably a new regional director expansion model. “We now have three regional directors on the ground who are selling and supporting our brand in San Diego, Orange County, and Colorado,” she says. This model gives the company a representative who can work a territory, earn a percentage of the royalties, and support the franchisees in that territory. Nichols says she would eventually like to have as many as 30 regional reps across the country. For now she remains the majority owner and passionate brand leader. With four children (and innumerable canine customers), she manages to balance her business and personal lives—with some very important help. “My husband is my partner, and together we make it all work,” she says. Dogtopia recently launched an expansion initiative in Canada, and Nichols has set a goal of reaching 400 total units open or in development by 2020. “It’s a great time in our company’s evolution,” she says. “With our new equity partner and regional director strategy in place, I think we are going to experience significant growth.” How do you transmit your culture from your office to front-line employees? Our culture started on the front lines. When I first created our company values, they were based on my role at that time as CEO/store manager. I wanted a way to transmit to my employees not just what we do, but why we do it the way we do. When we decided to franchise the company, those same values applied in our relationships with our franchisees. To this day our company values of honesty and integrity, responsibility and accountability, exceptional customer service, active community service, passionate enthusiasm, and unlimited potential are used to guide us in all company decisions. Where is the best place to prepare for leadership: an MBA school or OTJ? Learning from case studies is certainly valuable, but learning through experience is more meaningful and therefore more memorable. I often say that we all make mistakes; that is how we know we are pushing ourselves, but the goal should be to learn from them, so that we don’t repeat them. Are tough decisions best taken by one person? How do you make tough decisions? Ultimately someone has to be accountable for every decision made by the company. But you make better Franchiseupdate I ssue I I , 2013  7