An undercover boss, with Dina Dwyer-Owens
Dina Dwyer-Owens is the co-chair of The Dwyer Group, a service-based franchise company which now includes 19 service brands and accounts for more than $1.5 billion in system-wide sales. She’s a certified franchise executive with more than 35 years of industry experience — 15 years as CEO of 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.” Dina is the author of two books: Live R.I.C.H. and Values, Inc. that both share her global message for living and leading with a proven code of values.
What you’ll learn about in this episode:
- The importance of celebrating the successes of yesterday but learning from the mistakes
- Why leading with values is important within a company
- Why you should always treat people with respect and dignity
- How to create a system around your company’s values
- Why “living” your values is critical to success
- Gaining access to a free “Create Your Culture Workbook”
- Why you should take every day as a learning opportunity
- Looking for the solution via your values when facing obstacles in your business
- The lessons that can be learned by letting yourself be vulnerable
- Why, as a leader, you have to be willing to let go of wanting to be great at everything
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How to best connect with Dina:
- Website: www.dinadwyerowens.com
This is Onward Nation, episode 620.
Get ready to find your recipe for success from America’s top business owners here at Onward Nation with your host, Stephen Woessner.
Stephen: Good morning. I am Stephen Woessner and welcome to episode 620 of Onward Nation, where five days a week, I interview one of today’s top business owners, so we can learn their recipe for success, how they built and scaled their business. In fact, our 12 success strategies eBook is a compilation of the best business building advice shared by our guest, just go to onwardnation.com/12download to get yours. That’s onwardnation.com/12download. Now, let’s welcome today’s guest, Dina Dwyer-Owens. Dina is the co-chair of the Dwyer Group, a service-based franchise company, which now includes 19 service brands and accounts for more than 1.5 billion dollars in system-wide sales. She’s a certified franchise executive with more than 35 years of industry experience, 15 years as CEO of 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.” Dina is the author of two books, “Live Rich” and “Values, Inc.” that both share her global message for living and leading with a proven code of values. Welcome to Onward Nation, Dina.
Dina: Thank you, Steve. I am thrilled to be here today.
Stephen: Oh my gosh, I am so thrilled and over the moon excited, can hardly even contain myself, Onward Nation in the pre-interview chat. I mean, It was one of those like, “Oh my gosh, let’s get this into the actual episode,” because it was so exciting. And Dina, one of the things that was just really inspiring was how you lead from values and I know we’re going to talk about that quite a bit. And Onward Nation business owners will be as inspired as I was, but before we get to that, take us behind the bio. Obviously very impressive. Tell us more about you and your journey and path and then we’ll dive in with the questions.
Dina: Okay, Steve. Well, I grew up in a family of six. So, three boys and three girls, kind of Brady Bunch, but from the same parents. And my father was in the entertainment business early on. New York, outside of New York, Huntington, Long Island, and did really well. Managed the band that produced the hit record, “Na Na Na Na Hey Hey Hey.” I think everybody probably remembers that.
Dina: Which, yeah, took us to California. So, we moved to California as a young girl. Growing up there, my parents realized it’s not the greatest place where we were living to raise a young family of six. So, my father went to a franchise show, and bought into a distributorship of Success Motivation Institute. And that’s all about, you know, positive leadership. So, it’s what you do with your podcast, Steve. But back then, it was on cassette tapes. So, as a young girl, I learned so much about leadership because my father would have us listen to these motivational cassette tapes, six times. You know, it was that, repetition is the mother of skill, so he’d have us listen to them six times in the old cassette player and at the end of the week, if we wanted our allowance, we basically had to answer a quiz, you know, just some questions about what we had heard. He wanted to make sure we really listened to it and didn’t just go through the motions. And, as a young person, I thought it was kind of corny, didn’t make a whole lot of sense to me. But what’s amazing is, all the good stuff he put in our minds by having us listen to those programs as young people. And when I got older, it was like, “Wow, I remember that lesson! I remember that lesson!” And I applied those lessons every day of my life today.
Stephen: That is, that is phenomenal. And, so when I think about that, I’m like, “Well, I’m so totally stealing that and using that with my daughter.”
Dina: It works!
Stephen: She’s 11 and, but, I love how you mentioned the repetition. And so, so you needed to listen to the lesson six times and then give some written highlights before, and that was tied-
Dina: It was additional, so we always got a little allowance, but if we wanted the extra allowance, we had to be able to answer his questions, at least, to the degree where he felt like, “Okay, she was being attentive.”
Stephen: Masterful. I mean, seriously, masterful. So, I’m sure, Caitlin, my daughter’s gonna be like, “Oh, for Pete’s sake.”
Stephen: She’s not gonna really like it at first, but I love this. I am totally stealing this and using it.
Dina: It’s one of those, “Just trust me, Caitlin, you know. When you grow up, you’ll thank me for this.”
Stephen: I love it. So, so now fast forward into, what’s the next step. Is the Dwyer Group the next step? Or what might be in-between?
Dina: Well, in-between, we ended up moving from LA to Waco, Texas. Because my father became the top distributor at SMI, and the founder happened to be based in Waco and said, “Don, I’d like you to come to Waco and be the VP of one of my divisions.” And that’s how we got to Waco, so I ended up going from a very large school in California to a country school in Bosqueville, Texas. So, I’m talking about, maybe, maybe 20 kids in my entire fourth grade class.
Dina: And what I learned, was just good work ethic from my father, and from the school I went to. Because part of what we got to do if we did well in school is, we got to go mop the cafeteria. And I actually thought that was fun, ’cause I’d go mop it with my friends. And then I moved into being a cheerleader. I always loved inspiring and cheering others on to success. So, in High School, I became the head cheerleader, and I learned so many lessons about leadership. You have to do sales, even, as a cheerleader, right? I had to sell ribbons. And I always wanted to sell more ribbons than anybody else sold. And I had to lead a group of other girls who were cheerleaders, which wasn’t necessarily easy, but I learned lessons on management at a very early age.
And went to Baylor University for a couple of years while I worked full-time for my father in the business. Always worked. He put me to work at the age of 12 at a car was that he had. A full service car wash. So I learned sales at a very early age, even before cheerleading. And he would have me work at the gas pumps. I had to sell gas, and then he wanted to sell the detail jobs and the polish waxes, and I’m like, “Can’t I just work at the back end of the car wash where all the cute guys are? And detail cars?”
Stephen: “Um, no.”
Dina: “Yeah, I want you to learn sales.” And I’m sure, for other reasons, he didn’t want me working in the back with the cute guys.
Stephen: Yes. It all became clear later, but, “No.”
Dina: It’s like Caitlin, right?
Stephen: “No, you can’t do that.”
Dina: “You’re not doing it, you know?”
Stephen: “Go sell gas.” That is awesome.
Dina: Amazing, the lessons you learn doing those basic things.
Stephen: Wow, okay, so early on in our conversation, here, I’m hearing the values piece already. I’m hearing the work ethic piece. I’m hearing the salesmanship piece, and learning those sales skills. And really, in the trenches like, where the, bad pun, where the rubber meets the road, when you’re talking about at the car wash. But in all seriousness, that is sales. And that sometimes is really hard sales. And, hard as in, difficult. And, especially, when I’m thinking of 12 year old girl, approaching adult, for an upsell into a whatever, yeah, that’s not easy, is it, Dina?
Dina: It wasn’t, but it was fun. Because I decided, “If I have to be here, I’m gonna make the best of it. And I’m gonna create challenges for myself and try to make so many sales.” Like father, like daughter, I guess. So I just ended up having fun with it. And realized, that, I did learn that you have to go through so many “nos” to get to a “yes.” And so, throughout my career, I don’t get depressed about not getting to the “yes” right away. And I just don’t give up.
Stephen: Because you recognize it as a progression. As either a learning opportunity, or that path to success. So, so then you’re in school at Baylor, still working for your father full-time. Then afterwards, what’s next?
Dina: Yep. So, two and a half years into my schooling. You know, Baylor’s a great school, but I wasn’t, I didn’t feel like I was making much progress because I was working 30 hours a week, plus taking a full load at school. I really wasn’t having fun and I am somebody who enjoys fun no matter what I’m doing. And I went to my father one day, I said, “Look, seems like something needs to change here, because I don’t think I’m doing my best at school because I’ve got all these hours devoted to work. I don’t feel like I’m doing my best at work because I’m worrying about not getting my homework done. Let’s talk.” And he said, “Why don’t you take a semester off, and why don’t you work side-by-side with me, get your real estate license.” He had a very large real estate company. “Get your real estate license and then let’s see after that semester what you think.”
And I did that, Steve, and to be honest with you, I learned so much working side-by-side with my father. It wasn’t easy. He was really tough on me, but I learned so much in that semester that I said, “You know, why don’t I just keep studying the things that are important to me, helping you grow this business versus studying some of the things that I just didn’t appreciate, right?” I didn’t see where they were going to fit into my future. And he said, “Fine, let’s do that.” And I quickly was put in the role of running, basically, a million square feet of real estate for him. Apartment communities, retail shopping centers, we even did some developments overseas. So, that was my next role, but I always had the opportunity. He and I were great friends, once I got past him telling me what to do and working me too hard and realizing it was all for my own good, I worked side-by-side with him as an ambassador in the franchising business. And he actually put me on his board when he took the Dwyer Group public in 1993. The sad news is, Steve, he died of a heart attack at the age of 60 in 1994.
Dina: Yeah. So, here’s this guy, this driven entrepreneur, who’s just taken his company public. Dream come true for him. He want people to have the opportunity, whether they were franchisees, or employees, or the public to invest in something special that he was building. And then he had a massive heart attack. So, the lesson learned was, when that happened is, we knew Don had built this amazing culture at Dwyer. And it was all about his values. He founded the company on this core set of values. His were more emotionally based beliefs, though. Things like, “Loyalty adds meaning to our lives.” One that I’ll never forget, I hear it every day as I come into the office. “We must re-earn our position, every day and every way.” So, you know, celebrate the successes of yesterday, learn from the mistakes, but what are you going to do today to be better than you were yesterday, to make a positive impact on the lives of the employees, the franchisees and the customers, in our case. So, we took his original values after he passed away, and we operationalized them. So, there’s a whole story, if we have time to tell, on how we did that and how that has led to tremendous success at Dwyer 36 years later.
Stephen: I would love to hear that, and I’m sure our Onward Nation business owners would as well. So, yes, let’s do that. And then, let’s take that into the Undercover Boss story, because you have such an interesting twist in how the show found you. So, yes, please go down the piece of operationalizing the values.
Dina: Right. So, Don held us accountable to the original values. Again, they weren’t black and white, they were kind of gray. And so he’d be the one to tells us, the company was much smaller than, if he felt we had reared our position today, for example. And if we didn’t, he’d hear about it, and he’d give us some coaching. So, yeah, I remember the long walk. My dad would click me into his office, right? He had one of those doors that you’d click and it opens up by itself?
Dina: That was pretty cool, right? In the late 80s, early 90s, yeah. And I remember that, it was only like 20 feet to his desk, but I remember that feeling, like a very long walk. But he would hold us accountable to the values. And when he died, we said, “We can’t let the values die with any leader of this company. They’ve got to live, outlive any leader. They’ve got to become part of the DNA.” So, we took his original values, we operationalized them, basically put them into four categories, we called it, “Living RICH at Dwyer.” The R is for respect, I is for integrity, C is for customer focus, and H is for having fun in the process. So we say, “We live RICH at Dwyer,” and at the end of the day, just amount making a profit, because we’re in business to make a profit. We are for profit company, but it’s really first about treating people with respect and dignity. And when we do that and provide a quality product and service, it translates into wealthy relationships. And with those wealthy relationships, we have amazing referrals. Steve, I’m sure your business has been built on referrals, too. So, with those referrals, it all translates into financial success for us. And, I’m sure there’s businesses out there that have great profits that aren’t values based, but I wonder how much better their profits could be if they were really leading with their values.
So, at Dwyer, the way we shifted from, kind of, belief systems to operationalize values is, we gamified our values. So, we took them to our employees, 125 employees back in 1996, and we laminated the values, and he handed them out in a meeting, we said, “We think we have the solution to keeping Dwyer’s culture special, and it’s this new operationalized code of values. But we need your help, employees. For the next 90 days, I want you to study these values. I mean, really study these values, and anytime you catch a leadership team member violating a value, we want your feedback.” And, we’re kind of goofy in Waco, so the feedback came in the form of a simple beet. Literally, Steve. So, if you’re walking down the hall, one of our values is, “Speaking calmly and respectfully without profanity or sarcasm.” And we’re in the trades business, so you might imagine, that could be challenging.
Dina: Not that all places’ people use profanity, but, some do and they don’t realize it. So, we asked employees to just beep us. I mean, just verbally, let’s say you hear somebody use profanity in the hallway, we want you to just give a verbal beep, and right away, we would know that we just violated a value, and hopefully not go, “Oh, Sh-” and repeat something we shouldn’t have said. But instead, take a deep breath, and say, “Thank you for that feedback.” So, we did that 90 days, and it was like the roadrunner was racing through our buildings. We were awful. It was comical, really. Or depressing, you could look at it either way. But what we said, as a leadership team, we said, “Wow, the employees took it seriously, and they loved the idea of catching us doing something wrong, so they really studied the values, so they got to know them very quickly.” And we said, “What if we really set the bar this high, because we’re bad. But what if we set the bar this high, and we got close to achieving it, how much better could we be as an organization?” And we all agreed to do it. So we said, “Let’s go for it.” And that’s what we implemented 22 years ago.
Stephen: Oh, my gosh. And so in light with the H of having fun, ’cause you, you found a good way to operationalize values without it turning into that burdensome, oh for Pete’s sake-
Dina: And the other thing I need to make sure that your listeners get, because I have, I have discovered that 95 percent of the companies in North America do nothing with their values once they’re written. And it’s not because they’re bad leaders, Steve. I mean, most people that are running their own businesses, first of all, there’s a lot of risk involved and a lot of work involved. They’re doing it because they want to do something special. I think what they’re missing is the secret ingredient that we have in franchising. So, what is a franchise company, what do we do? We take what’s most important in a business, and we create systems around it, so that those systems can be replicated, so that other people can have success. So, with the values, once we got agreement, alignment amongst the team, we said, “So how do we keep these values front and center?” And our solution was, “We got to create a system.” And that system includes hiring the right people, right? That are in line with the values, awarding franchises, this is critical that we award franchises to the right people. I just did basic training this morning, gosh we had a room of about 70 people.
Dina: Mostly new franchisees coming in for the first time for basic training, but these are people who believe what we believe in the values. We just haven’t had those values clear and written. So, it’s critical with values that you create a system around the values so that they’re front and center in your business, every day, not just once a month, or once every six months when you have a company meeting, but every day. Our system is simple. Any time we have a meeting of three or more of our team members or our franchisees, we take the time to review, sometimes all 15 values, sometimes just one value that maybe we’ve got some room for improvement on. But it’s about every meeting of three or more, taking that breath, that deep breath and saying, “Okay, how do we live our values? Let’s remind ourselves. And let’s start this meeting off on the right foot.” That’s made all the difference in the world. So, whether I’m here, or our CO Mike Bidwell is here, or not, shouldn’t matter as it relates to the culture and the values. If we’re doing the best job that we can, to hire the right people who are aligned, awarding the franchises to the right people, partnering with the right private equity groups, then we’ll continue to have success as we take the company to the next billion.
Stephen: That’s really, really smart, and it, because, it’s that, not in an overarching, over burdensome way, that’s not even a word, but how you’re doing that constant marination of the values, when there’s at least three or more? Love that.
Dina: Yeah, I like that with “marination,” ’cause it’s never ending. We, the minute we lay off of that, and we slow down on it, we’re gonna start going backwards.
Stephen: Okay, Onward Nation, so great values conversation, really wanted you to be able to hear that from Dina, because it’s, it’s not only great, but it’s special in how that they do that consistently, overtime, and they’ve been doing that for decades. And so, it is embedded into the culture, it is the culture. So, now, Dina, take us behind the curtain here, with Undercover Boss. And the reason why I want you to share this story in Onward Nation, why I’m excited for you to hear it, is because, how she was selected to be on the show is probably different than any other Undercover Boss that has been on the show. And so, Dina, tell us that story. It’s really unique.
Dina: Yeah. Well, I, I don’t watch much TV, but on Sunday nights, occasionally my family would sit down and watch Undercover Boss. And we really liked it, and thought, “This a really cool show.” A lot of learning from the bosses’ perspective, as well as from the employees’ perspective. And then, couple of my friends got on the show. And I thought, “Well, wait a second. If they can be on the show, why can’t I be on the show?” Because I knew the marketing opportunity was huge. I mean, this is a primetime CBS reality show. And I did a little homework with my publicist, and we researched to find out, “What are the viewers saying? What are they looking for?” And they were looking for people of color, and more women to be the CEOs. So, I qualified. They were looking for interesting stories, right? You know, “Share some unique stories with us,” is what the viewers were saying. So, here I was, at the time, I was the CEO, a female running a male-dominated business. I mean, we’re in plumbing and electrical and appliance repair. Not typical for a woman to be running that business, but in my case, it’s just what I’ve grown up in.
So, the next thing we did is, I wanted to go undercover to find out, were the values really making it to the front lines. I touch every new franchisee, and every new associate who works directly for Dwyer in this basic training class. The one that I taught this morning. I tell the story of the values and the importance of us leading with the values. But I don’t get to touch every one of the franchisee’s employees. You know, we’ve got, we can’t even keep up with the count list, just say, 15, 20 thousand frontline employees working out there on behalf of our franchisees.
Dina: I don’t get to touch every one of those team members. So, it’s up to the franchisees to train them to the values. So, we watched most of the episodes for the first two seasons, and we learned that only two bosses even mentioned the word “values” in their entire episode. And so, we knew this was a great angle, so we went to studio in Lambert, we said, “We think we have a great story for you. Dina’s the CEO of a male-dominated business, she wants to go undercover to find out were the values really making it to the front lines to that customer experience.” And, within three weeks, Steve, they were here with a casting director, right? With a camera in my face doing this casting interview. And then they, they kind of created a [sizzle reel 00:20:15] out of that after about after three hours of grilling you. And then they send it off to CBS, which is the network. And then CBS gave us the green light, and then, literally, this process started in April, I think we began to film in July of that same year.
Stephen: Amazing. Amazing. And, when you shared that story with me earlier, I mean, there are several pieces that I just find staggering. But, the first one was, the fact that in your research, there had only been two other mentions of values in all of those other episodes. Were you, ’cause, I know, since values are so important to you and your culture, were you surprised? I mean, granted, it was an opportunity, but were you surprised that it was so few, the two mentions?
Dina: The sad news is, I wasn’t surprised. I speak all over the world on values, and I survey my audiences typically, and I’ll ask them, “How many of you have clearly written values in your organization?” And most people raise their hands. And I’ll say, “How many of you review those values at least on a monthly basis?” And almost all the hands drop. “How many of you review those values on a weekly basis?” And only a few hands are still up. “And how many of you review your values on a daily basis?” Maybe, not even five percent keep their hands up. So, I wasn’t really surprised, Steve. I’m disappointed. I think it’s something that can be corrected, and I’ve got the solution for that, too, for your listeners.
Stephen: Oh, please.
Dina: Yeah. At Dwyer, again, we’re all about systems. So, I think what’s missing, and you’ve done this, and I’m sure your listeners have done this too, where you go through a strategic planning process, and you spend lots of time working on vision, mission and values, and you get back to the office, and you put the notebook on the shelf, maybe you throw the Mission, Vision, and Values on the website, but nobody really thinks about ’em again until the next strategic planning session.
So, what I suggest to your listeners is, dust your values off. Take a look at them, and again, I’ve got a free Create Your Culture workbook for all of your listeners. If they just go to my website, DinaDwyerOwens.com, they can download the Create Your Culture workbook for free. So, even if they have values already, they can take those and take them through this six-step process. Or, if they don’t have clearly written values, they can start from scratch by using this Create Your Culture workbook. And it will take them through the steps of, “How do we take the values, how do we make sure there’s alignment, especially amongst the key leadership?” And once key leadership agrees, then bring it out to your team members. So, the steps are, take it through a testing process, make sure your employees are going to buy into it, and they believe that you’re truly committed as a leadership team to living it. Come up with a mantra, right? We say, “We live RICH at Dwyer.” That’s our mantra around the campus, and throughout our franchisees. And then measure your performance.
You know, it’s one thing to talk about having clearly written values and to strive to live them, but unless we’re asking our employees, and we’re asking our franchisees, and our end user customers to tell us how we’re doing, we could be kidding ourselves. So, we survey our employees from time to time, our franchisees from time to time specifically about the values, and I would say, our end user customers. We use Net Promoter Score, Steve, as our measurement too. And, you know, are you familiar with that?
Dina: So, for your listeners who aren’t familiar with it, it’s all about the ultimate question. “How likely are you to refer us to a friend or family member?” And, remember, we’re in the mostly trade services, right? You know, we’ve got from maid cleaning to grounds care. And, most people don’t really love spending money on the kind of services we offer, but I will tell, our net promoter score on average is as, Stephen M. R. Covey said recently at our convention, “it’s off the charts.” So, for perspective, for the listeners, Amazon, Apple, and Southwest Airlines, known for really, really wonderful customer service, they’re all in the 60s in the net promoter scale. Our franchisees average, 74.
Stephen: Holy bananas!
Dina: I know. It’s, at first we thought, “Is that real? Could that be possible?” But we’re not the ones doing this. We’re not the ones surveying the customers, we have a third party that goes out and surveys end user customers on behalf of our franchisees, and its consistently 74, some franchisees are much higher, some are a little bit lower, but the average across our brands is 74. And we’re very proud of our franchisees.
Stephen: Well, as well you should be. I mean, so the score is amazing. The way that you have operationalized the values through your company, all the way through franchisees, and with their employees, very impressive. So, let me make sure that I get the title of the work bit correct, and then I’m gonna ask you for your website again. I think use said, “Create Your Culture” workbook, right?
Dina: That’s correct.
Stephen: And then your website address where Onward Nation listeners can get it?
Dina: Yes, DinaDwyer, and it’s D-W-Y-E-R Owens, with an S dot com. And when they get to the first page of the website, whether its mobile or, you know, on their desktop, they’ll see the free Create Your Culture workbook, free download. It’s one of the first things that pops up.
Stephen: Well, and another piece that I think is so remarkable about the story, about Undercover Boss, I think it’s fantastic from an opportunity perspective, you were obviously very proactive, you mentioned Stephen M. R. Covey, his father’s work, “Habit Number One, Be Proactive,” right? So, you’re living that habit, and doing that, seeking out that opportunity, you did that, which is fantastic. “Seek first, understand, then to be understood,” habit number five, all of that was in, kind of, that process. But then, also in our pre-interview chat, when you asked me, “Steve, what do you think is the reason why most CEOs decline the opportunity?” And really, it’s about, you know, transparency, is what I learned from you. Not finding anything wrong within their organization, and not really being embarrassed. Whereas, you had a completely different perspective, didn’t you? You were looking for things in order to get better. Is that a fair takeaway from our earlier conversation?
Dina: It is. So, you know, to be completely transparent, the marketing opportunity that Undercover Boss could bring to our company, we could never afford. So, you know, I was very motivated to get the opportunity to get our brand’s exposed to the end user customers. That was a wonderful opportunity. And then, for sure, we’re always looking to get better. You know, we are so far from being a perfect company, so just because we have clearly written values and we have this high bar we’ve set, doesn’t mean we reach the bar every day, Steve, so I want to be sure the listeners understand. I’m not saying, “Oh, yeah, Dina Dwyer-Owens and Dwyer group are perfect companies. They’re perfect leaders.” We are not. Every day, we’re learning. In fact, just today in my training class, there was a systems issue, and I had to look to the system for correction, that’s one of our values if something’s not working. And so, it’s just the matter of, when difficult things happen, in your business, it’s looking for the solution via your values. And that has just worked beautifully for us.
And with Undercover Boss, it was, the worst that could happen, in my mind was, we were gonna uncover something that would’ve been possibly embarrassing, or maybe just a broken system. Maybe it’s just something we weren’t aware of, and we’d get exposed to it, which would give us this great opportunity to correct it. And the viewers were fantastic. So, as far as I know, there’s been 50 million viewers plus that have now seen our episode, because it continues to re-air. And, again, we’re not paying a dime for this. So, our brands continue to get this amazing exposure, but what our viewers will let me know is how much they appreciate the transparency. How much they appreciate seeing a company that’s working hard to live by their values. They appreciate the vulnerability. So, as leaders, we’ve got to be willing to be vulnerable. We are, we can’t be good at everything. And as leaders when we think we can be good at everything, we’re kidding ourselves. I’m only good at a few things and I’m surrounded by people who are great at all those things I am not very good at.
So, the vulnerability piece, I think the viewers really appreciated, which allowed me to get on the Epic Bosses episode out of 55, I think, episodes, they picked ten bosses that they called, “epic.” So, it’s one of two things. Either, viewers really liked our episode, and really saw the goodness in what we’re trying to achieve, or they thought, “That girl cries a lot and I’m just gonna comment on her because she cries so much.” So, I was epic one way or the other, because I shed the most tears, or because people were really moved by the values message.
Stephen: Well, and the fact that you are, you are vulnerable, but it’s not from a false vulnerability, I mean, you can see that that is very genuine. Because, you and I, I’m sure, we’ve both met people who say, “You gotta be vulnerable,” but, that’s really not truly authentic. With you, it is. And I think that has obviously come through to listeners, viewers, and so forth. And, so let’s talk a little bit about the surrounding yourself. And because I, I think that also ties in to your love of mentorship, your love of being a mentor, so, tell us about the most influential lesson that you ever learned from one of your mentors, and then how that lesson help you become business owner, executive, thought leader that you are today?
Dina: Yeah. So, I would say that, you know, my father certainly influenced me so much in the area of business and leadership. But, I’m not gonna give him direct credit for this particular lesson. He had me listening to not only the success motivation institutive cassette tapes, but I was listening to the likes of Doctor Robert Schuller, Earl Nightingale, Stephen Covey, you know, the original Stephen Covey, not M. R., so I was constantly raised on listening to these cassette tapes. And I was no longer getting allowance, I just got into a great habit of listening to these.
But when I was still young, I was probably in my late teens, I’ll never forget listening to Robert Schuller’s “Possibility Thinking.” And one of the things Robert Schuller said was, “Smart leaders always surround themselves, they’re not intimated. The always surround themselves with people that are smarter than they are in areas where they have a weakness.” And when I first heard that, I thought, “Well, I don’t know if I like that, ’cause that means I’m gonna have to admit that I’m not good at everything.” But, as I matured, I got to thinking, you know, “I really am only good at a few things. And if I’m gonna build this business or any business, I’ve got to make sure I am surrounded by people who are much better than I am.” And, again, I could count on three fingers what I’m good at, and then the rest of it, somebody else has got to be doing it, there’s lots of stuff that has to get done around here. And so, that’s the biggest lesson I think I’ve learned is, as leaders, we’ve got to be willing to let go of being great at everything. And recognizing that it’s okay to have people around us that are smarter than we are. In fact, it’s necessary.
Stephen: When I hear you say that, that reminds me of, you know, how you and I were talking in our pre-interview chat about, you know, your title today is Co-chair. And it used to be CEO for, I believe 15 years, if I have the timeline correct?
Dina: That’s right. I was CEO longer than my father was.
Stephen: Yeah, and then, so, what was it that where, you said, “You know what? I think we need a change here.” And it was actually involving you?
Dina: Yeah. A couple of things. I love people. I love culture, and I love working hard to make sure that Dwyer’s culture stays strong, but I also love speaking the message how leading with values can also change the world, and every one of us can, we can only take responsibility for ourselves. And the actions that we take, so I had this passion for also getting out and sharing this message more. But operationally, I recognize that the company was getting bigger and bigger, and I wasn’t necessarily enjoying the operational side of the business as much as I had enjoyed it. So, sometimes we can even outgrow a unique ability. Something that we’re good at, surrounded by great people who are complementing us.
But our brand president at the time, the Dwyer brand president, was a guy who had been a franchisee, he had been a top multi-concept franchisee, and really, he and I worked hand-in-hand. We complemented one another in such an amazing way. And that’s the only reason Dwyer, not the only reason. A deep team of people is the reason Dwyer’s had the success we’ve had, but Mike and I worked very closely together. And it just got to the point where I thought, “I am no longer the best person to be CO of this company, and I’ve got to take responsibility for that.” And invited Mike to become CEO and sounds like it was a pretty good decision because our company has grown 100 percent in the last three years under Mike’s leadership.
Stephen: Oh my goodness.
Dina: And Mike has an amazing team, that, again, all the way down to the gals that work at the front desk, our Directors of First Impression, and our franchisees. If our franchisees aren’t succeeding, we’re not succeeding, so it’s a collective effort, but with Mike’s leadership and teaming up with a private equity partner, which is another fun story I could tell you, we’ve had tremendous success, for a 36 year old company, to grow 100 percent in the last three years is something to be proud of.
Stephen: It absolutely is. We’d love to hear the private equity story, but before we get to that, I want to make sure that I got this title correct. I think that you said that your teammates who are on the front lines, receptionists, I said, directors of first impressions.
Stephen: That is awesome.
Dina: Yep, yep. And I just gave a tour, one of the things I love to do. Again, I love touching the team. So, I’m kind of part-time at Dwyer, but I do the things that, again, culturally, I love to do. So I gave a tour to the new orientation team members who had just joined us. And, Susan, who’s one of our new afternoon Directors of First Impression, was walking a little bit ahead of me, and I have practiced picking up trash when I do this tours, because there’s always trash that gets into this little alley that’s a little vortex area, and it’s when I teach the lesson of, you know, we’re all responsible for keeping our campus looking beautiful and we should take pride in that. Well, before I even got to this piece of trash, Susan picked it up. She’s been with us for maybe a month now. And so I wrote an article today in our RICH newsletter, I have a RICH newsletter that goes out every Monday, and it was all about “No job is too small,” because that’s what she said to me when I said, “Susan, I am so impressed. You just took the initiative to pick that trash up.” She said, “No job is too small.”
Stephen: That is amazing what you just said now, it gave me goosebumps, actually, because “No job is too small,” is actually one of our core values, here at Predictive ROI. That is, that is phenomenal. And isn’t it wonderful when you can find a living, breathing example of your values, as she was in this case? Fantastic story.
Dina: Yeah, isn’t it fun? I mean, that’s why I love what I do. We get to work with great people and we get to help people get better.
Stephen: Well, I know that we’re quickly running out of time and I want to be respectful of your schedule, but before I ask you my last question, could you, could we go back to Mike, just real quick, and then talk about the private equity piece, that you were mentioning as it tied in with your growth?
Dina: Sure. So, Mike, again, became CEO, and Mike has surrounded himself with this amazing team of leaders, who’s really helping take the company to the next level, along with this private equity group, Riverside, came to us when we were publicly traded. So, in 2003, they took us from being a publicly traded company to a private company. And we had a wonderful relationship, we had some tough times as we built the business over a period of seven years with them as our partner, but just a wonderful trusting relationship, and the fun thing is, Steve, they actually created their own core values, or principles at Riverside after spending time with Dwyer, and then we had a second private equity group, so Riverside, you know, got a return on their investment, they sold the business shares in 2010, and we teamed up with TZP, another great private equity group, who also created their own values six months into the relationship with us.
But three years after engaging with TZP, and I teased Riverside for years about when we go to market again, I want you guys to buy us back, because private equity groups that we’ve done business with, investing companies, help add value, and grow those businesses, and then they, you know, they opt out, and they sell their shares and move on to the next investment. Well, Riverside, they ended up raising a 1.5 billion dollar fund in 2013 and early in 2014, called me and said, “You know, Dina, you’ve been teasing us about buying Dwyer back and that we’d have to raise a lot of money to be able to do it.” And they said, “We just raised 1.5 billion and we’re having a hard time finding companies that we want to put our money to work in.”
And they said, “Would Dwyer consider allowing us to buy them back? We’ve never done that before at Riverside, but here’s what we love about Dwyer. We love your values. You guys are so clear about who you are and how you want to build your business. We believe in the leadership team. We know you guys really care about the franchisees and helping them be successful, and that is a recipe for success in itself, and we know that the opportunities for growth at Dwyer are incredible. Every franchisees got an opportunity to build their businesses larger. And then we have all this white space, you know, all these other territories that are available for sale, and we can acquire complimentary businesses, which is what we’ve done.”
So, Riverside bought us back, three years, basically, after selling us, for a premium, Steve, because they knew that the TZP wasn’t gonna sell for peanuts, they knew that they were gonna want a big return on their investment, that they had not optimized yet. So, when you lead with values, the point is, when you lead with values, it creates value. It creates value not only in the relationships, but it creates value financially. So, we would’ve done okay as a company, financially, probably without the values, but, we wouldn’t have grown 100 percent. We wouldn’t be attracting the amazing franchisees that we have as part of our franchise family. We wouldn’t be hiring people who are saying to us, “I want, would you please hire me. I want to work for a company that’s leading with values.”
Stephen: This has been such a, such an inspiring story. I know that you didn’t share it to be inspiring, but it has been inspiring, but even more importantly, it’s been super helpful, because you’ve taken each of these lessons that you’ve shared with us, they’ve just been wrapped up in inspiration and it’s like, “Oh my gosh! What an amazing story!” But then you add in these additional layers, where you’ve broken it down, so it’s very practical and tactical, so that Onward Nation business owners, and myself, we can now operationalize, what we’ve learned from you. And that is so extremely helpful, and very, very valuable, Dina, that’s awesome.
Dina: Well, thank you, it’s been my pleasure, and if there’s anything we can do to answer people’s questions on the values, you know, if they go to Create Your Culture, to my website, that they can send me a request. But that really is a simple workbook, it’s not easy, I didn’t say easy, but it’s a simple workbook to take them through the process. And, Steve, I’ll tell you too. We’re also looking, as we grow the business, just launched a new brand called “Neighborly.” It’s a comprehensive home service platform, which is a community of home service experts. And we are looking for other great franchisees to help fill in that white space where we need alignment. We need more franchisees in the area where we don’t have existing franchisees to help us take care of the consumer. So, when a consumer goes to Neighborly.com, get Neighborly.com, it’s like a bit like Angie’s List, but it’s free, and there’s no terms or agreements that you have to sign. It’s really just one place to go to do all your home maintenance, service requests and management of your home maintenance service records, preventive maintenance reminders, anything you need for your home, but we do need to keep filling up the white space.
Stephen: Phenomenal conversation. And I know that we covered a lot, but before we go and close out, any final advice that you want to share? Anything you think that we might’ve missed, and then please give us, again, the best way to connect with you, Dina.
Dina: Yeah. The biggest piece of advice is, get clarity about your values. So, as leaders, you’ve got to know what’s most important to you as you build your businesses. So, you’ve got to slow down. We’ve raced through life, we’re so busy, that we’re not doing some of the things that are most important, right? Which is taking that deep breath and saying, “What kind of business do I want to grow here? And am I growing the business that I really want to grow? Are the values really aligned with who I want to be? And the people I want to attract?” So, get clarity of your values, and then take your team through that Create Your Culture workbook. That would be the greatest piece of advice that I could give. And my website again is simple, it’s my name, DinaDwyerOwens.com. And the free download of the Create Your Culture workbook is there, franchise information is there, information about discounts for our services, if you’re in need of home service, is there. Lots of great stuff. And you can reach me, personally, if you just go to the website.
Stephen: Okay, Onward Nation. No matter how many notes you took, and I took pages of them, or how often you go back and re-listen to Dina’s words of wisdom, and I sure hope that you do, the key is, you have to take action. And I know that might sound a little bit cliché, but it is absolutely critical. And as I learned nearly 20 years ago, from the late Doctor Stephen Covey, author of the “Seven Habits of Highly Effective People,” and we talked a bit about Doctor Covey’s work here today, he said, “We’re responsible for our own lives. We have the initiative and the responsibility to make things happen. Highly proactive people recognize that responsibility, and you heard that today from Dina.” And Dina, we all have the same 86,400 seconds in a day, and I am grateful that you accepted my invitation to come on to the show, to be our mentor and guide, to help us move our businesses onward to the next level. Thank you so much, my friend.
Dina: It’s been my honor, keep living RICH, Steve.
This episode is complete, so head over to OnwardNation.com for show notes and more food to fuel your ambition. Continue to find your recipe for success here at Onward Nation.
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