Dina Dwyer-Owens Interview

Did you have a favorite coach or mentor in your career who invested in your development?

I have so many mentors yet there are two favorites and I call them mom and dad. My father, Don Dwyer, Sr., taught me work ethic. Growing up in the Dwyer household was a job in itself. Along with my brothers and sisters, we literally grew up in the business. And there was no substitute for honest hard work. My father used to give me cassette tapes from some of the best motivational speakers. And listening to those tapes was only the beginning of the lesson. Then I had to go back to him and take a verbal test to see what I had learned. Don Dwyer gave tougher lessons than any teacher I ever had in school. And little did I know at the time, but they were lessons that would prepare me for the biggest job imaginable when, after his unexpected death, I would train to run and lead the company he had worked so hard to establish. Meanwhile, equally important was my other coach, my mother. Terry Dwyer was the glue that kept our family together. While my father was busy teaching us about business, she was busy teaching us about faith and family in a way that only a mother and her superior instincts for nature and nurture can achieve. Her guidance to always say please and thank you, and be kind to others, was monumental. It’s because of her that I navigated the delicate balance of work and family as a businesswoman, wife and mother in my own adulthood.

You have developed many talented leaders in your company, what was your approach to coaching leaders?

My approach is Live R.I.C.H. and strive to be a Servant Leader. That’s my mantra! I love talking about our incredible leaders at Dwyer Group. And I love the approach we have for attracting great people and cultivating and developing an exceptional group of professionals that believe in our organization. Our success rests in the Code of Values and our idea to Live R.I.C.H. in business and in life.

What has been your greatest impact at Dwyer Group?

I have always looked at my role as being a head cheerleader, promoting a corporate culture that is founded upon the themes of Respect, Integrity, Customer service and (my favorite one) Having fun in the process. Those themes in the operationalized Code of Values at Dwyer Group have been a theme song that I like to sing daily. That’s my single, most important job: cultivate our culture. It doesn’t mean we are a perfect company that doesn’t make mistakes. We just work very hard to do our very best each and every day.

What was a situation where, in retrospect, you would do it differently?

I would release people quicker who don’t fit the culture. There is no one situation that rises to the top, but rather instances where skill sets or personalities are not a fit, but you give it another try expecting a different outcome. In retrospect, our culture is not for everyone, and the people who don’t fit that culture won’t be successful for the job at hand. Those who do fit are the ones who excel. Lesson learned.

What are some of the questions that you like to ask leaders to spur their personal growth?

“What gives you energy?” In a business that includes more than 2,600 franchise owners in 11 countries around the world, there’s no doubt that the people who excel across our service brands have a real passion for the business. They wake up ready to go to work. There’s an energy about them, and it radiates to everyone around them — their service professionals, their end-user customers, even their families and friends. Who doesn’t want to harness that? But it’s not just leaders in our organization. The same is true for leaders in all walks of life. If they can answer that question, it’s a little bit of a roadmap for a road they should all like to travel.

How does your approach change when you are coaching a person who is underperforming?

The important word is coaching and not criticizing. I am a big believer in praising the good and communicating honestly about the opportunities for improvement. And, above all, I want to make sure that he or she knows that I care. Communicating honestly and with purpose is part of our Code of Values.

Now that you have stepped down from your role as CEO of Dwyer Group, do you continue to coach and develop leaders?

Ironically, even more so. When I was leading the company, it was important to me to share my message with a vast and growing organization. So I wrote a book called Live R.I.C.H., and I filled it with stories of our Code of Values in action across our system. That helped to take my message to people I might not necessarily coach in person or on a regular basis. And it soon expanded beyond the walls of our organization. When I served as Chairwoman of the International Franchise Association, that book and my message expanded to a whole new level. Then, when I was invited to participate on “Undercover Boss” and go undercover in search of our Code of Values across our system, that message graduated once more to millions of people, from TV viewers to college professors and fellow CEOs to stay-at-home moms. It was incredibly uplifting.

As a result of that interaction, I knew I wanted to graduate my message to the next level and help others navigate their journey to live and lead with values. I came out with a new book, Values, Inc., which was named by Forbes as one of the Top 10 Business Books From 2015. And the invitations to speak and share that message have been incredible. From Congress to Harvard and places in-between, the audiences have been incredible and the transparent want and need for positive change has been amazing.

When you meet a young leader today, what advice do you want to give to them? 

I encourage them to surround themselves with people with similar values who compliment their strengths and weaknesses. I attribute much of my success to doing the same thing – surrounding myself with incredible people. I often get credit for the past success of Dwyer Group, or the growth of our organization during my time as CEO. But I am the first to shine the spotlight on the amazing team in place. I was just smart enough to surround myself with great people; they are the ones who make it happen.

dina dwyerCo-Chair, The Dwyer Group®

Dina Dwyer-Owens is the co-chair of The Dwyer Group. America also knows her for participating in CBS’s Emmy-winning hit reality show “Undercover Boss” and the first-ever special episode “Undercover Boss: Epic Bosses.” A winner of the 2012 Ernst & Young Entrepreneur of the Year Award for the Southwest Area North, Dina leads by example and credits a growing team for the franchise family she presides over today.

Dina is a certified franchise executive with more than 34 years of industry experience, having grown up in The Dwyer Group. That business now includes 12 franchise brands and more than 2,600 franchisees around the world operating as Air Serv®, Glass Doctor®, Molly Maid®, Mr. Appliance®, Mr. Electric®, Mr. Handyman®, Mr. Rooter®, Rainbow Collectively, those service brands make more than three million customer calls a year and account for more than $1.3 billion in system-wide sales.

IFA Chair, Philanthropist & Published Author

In 2010, Dina served as the chair of the International Franchise Association (IFA) in Washington D.C., the world’s largest advocacy group for franchising as a business format. She also spearheaded the reintroduction of the IFA’s VetFran program in 2001, which now includes some 645 franchisors that offer franchising financial incentives to veterans of the U.S. Armed Forces. More than 6,000 military veterans now own a franchise through the VetFran program.

Headquartered in Waco, Texas,

Dina is married to Mike Owens and they have two wonderful and entrepreneurial children.

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About Cheryl Bachelder

Cheryl is a passionate restaurant industry leader who serves as CEO of Popeyes Louisiana Kitchen, Inc., a publicly traded global chain of 2300+ restaurants. Cheryl is known for reinvigorating great brands and inspiring leaders to reach their full potential – with exceptional performance results. She has enjoyed a rewarding career working at Procter & Gamble, Gillette, Nabisco, Domino’s Pizza and Yum brands. Cheryl and her husband Chris have been married thirty three years and are parents to three adult daughters   »  Learn More

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