“My goal is to expand on the Women in the Trades program by getting more women involved in the trades and inspire them to business ownership. I also love teaching people and organizations how to keep their values front and center in a world in need of more value guided leaders.”
I had the pleasure of interviewing Dina Dwyer Owens, Brand Ambassador for the Dwyer Group. Dina is a certified franchise executive with more than 37 years of industry experience, 15 years as CEO of Dwyer Group. That business, headquartered in Waco, Texas, now includes 21 service brands and supports franchise organizations under the umbrella brand Neighborly in the United States and Neighbourly in Canada.
Thank you so much for doing this with us! What is your “backstory”?
I literally grew up working in the business before it became a holding company for multiple franchised service brands. By the time I was 13, I was learning all about sales and customer service at a car wash my father owned. From there I went on to work in almost every aspect of our company. From cleaning carpets to franchise sales, I learned by doing.
While I was CEO of Dwyer Group, I relaunched the most successful program for Veterans owning their own franchise businesses called VetFran. Today, some 650 franchise brands participate in VetFran, offering financial discounts, mentoring and training to veterans who want to work for themselves.
I was the second woman to serve as Chair of the International Franchise Association.
I am also known for participating in CBS’s Emmy-winning hit reality show “Undercover Boss” and the first-ever special episode “Undercover Boss: Epic Bosses.”
I am the author of two books: Live R.I.C.H. and Values, Inc. that both share my global message for living and leading with a proven code of values.
Why did you found your company?
Don Dwyer, Sr. began what would eventually become Dwyer Group when he developed Rainbow International in 1981. He envisioned a company that would specialize in buying and building related businesses that would provide high-quality residential and light commercial services.
When my father passed away in 1994 at the age of 60, it was a tough journey forward for my mother, me and my brothers and sisters, all of our relatives and close friends, not to mention everyone associated with this incredible organization he had built.
A straw poll was taken by top franchisees when I became Acting CEO of the Dwyer Group and they voted that I should not be the permanent CEO- basically because it was a male dominated trade service business and I had no experience as tradesmen. I agreed that I had no experience as a tradesmen and suggested they give me 6-months to prove myself… who better to run the company than a woman who happens to be the primary customer for service providers.
What is it about the work you’re doing that’s disruptive?
Through my own professional journey, I know that we can break down the stereotypes of effective leadership and financial know-how to encourage more “She-E-O” success at work, at home and in life. And I can speak from a female perspective about the advantages I personally harnessed in a traditionally male-dominated industry of the service trades.
Finding those skills within myself not only made me a better leader, but it also allowed me to be a voice for more women with similar pursuits. I have been blessed to champion women in business in franchising at-large, across the service brands at Dwyer Group, and also in a special initiative at Dwyer Group called the Women in Trades program that has supported and encouraged more women in variety of careers across the service trades. Since the launch of the program, Women in the Trades has awarded over $50,000 to 42 scholarship recipients. Dina and her husband fund the scholarships each year.
We all need a little help along the journey — who have been some of your mentors?
My mother grounded me in my faith and my father in a strong work ethic. I was raised listening to leadership and positive motivational cassettes, featuring role models such as Zig Ziglar, Stephen Covey and Ken Blanchard. I was inspired by what they shared in those tapes and used them to shape my own journey.
How are you going to shake things up next?
My goal is to expand on the Women in the Trades program by getting more women involved in the trades and inspire them to business ownership. I also love teaching people and organizations how to keep their values front and center in a world in need of more value guided leaders.
Can you share 3 of the best words of advice you’ve gotten along your journey? Please give a story or example for each.
Robert Schuller once said, “the best leaders surround themselves with people that are smarter than they are.” When I became CEO at 35-years old of a publicly traded company, I surrounded myself with people with great operational and franchising experience. The people I chose to work with had a high IQ, but I had a high EQ (emotional intelligence) and understood how to inspire people.
A former president of one of the Dwyer Group’s brands told me to have fun. When you don’t love what you do anymore, it’s time to do something else. Because when you stop having fun, you are no longer benefitting the team, the brand, or the customers.
My father, Don Dwyer, told me to lead with values. It is so important to have clarity of values so that when it comes to making a difficult decision, you have your guidelines in front of you. When he passed away in 1994, the one thing our leadership understood we had to do right, was to keep the values front and center in our business. Now here we are 25 years later and our company is thriving, and I believe that is owed very largely in part to our strong values. Under the leadership of our CEO our 37 year old company grew 125% in the past 4 years- leading with Values creates Value!
What’s a book/podcast/talk that’s had a deep impact on your thinking? Share a story with us.
Lead Like Jesus by Ken Blanchard. Even if someone is not a believer in Jesus Christ, the book teaches you to lead with your heart, head and hands. It is truly about servant leadership. Of course, that speaks to me in so many ways since the nature of our business is in the service sector, and also because I consider my faith a great source of strength in being the leader I am today.
Some of the biggest names in Business, VC funding, Sports, and Entertainment read this column. Is there a person in the world, or in the US whom you would love to have a private breakfast or lunch with, and why? He or she might see this. :-)
I’d love to sit down with President Trump. We need to bring values back into how Washington is run. I can help him make America great again!
How can our readers follow you on social media?
This was very inspiring. Thank you so much for joining us!