As women, we often face various hurdles in the workplace, but the most common adversary professional women face is the gender gap. Dina Dwyer-Owens, former CEO of The Dwyer Group, was raised by her entrepreneurial father to work hard and achieve her dreams, regardless of her gender. Now as a prominent business leader and author, she is a powerful advocate for mentoring and creating more career opportunities for women.
4word: Growing up with a family business, were you taught to not limit your ambitions just because you’re a female?
Dina: My father loved the Napoleon Hill quote: “Whatever the mind can conceive and believe, it can achieve.” And that’s how he raised his children, too. My parents had a full house with six children, boys and girls. We literally grew up in the business. My father gave us big responsibilities from a young age, and work was never based on gender. It was never about being a son or a daughter. It was about working hard and achieving your dreams.
I learned to appreciate that growing up. And along the way I’ve made it a mission to create career opportunities for more women across our company and our service brands. Today, we have a very popular Women in the Trades Program at The Dwyer Group. The program offers scholarships for women to pursue educational training at accredited schools for our service trades. And we see more and more women succeeding across the industry. In fact, a large percentage of franchise owners across our service brands include husband and wife teams, where the woman plays an integral role in those operations. So my experience is not unique. I see many women being empowered to do great things.
4word: Had your father mentored you to one day take over the company?
Dina: Yes, he did. Growing up, he would have me listen to business tapes and motivational speakers. And then he would test me on that material. As I grew older, he would take me on business trips to shadow him. I can remember going to annual meetings for the International Franchise Association as a teenager to hear him and other leaders share with the industry. Before long, I was learning about sales, marketing, real estate and more. He was a wonderful teacher, but he was also tough and demanding. He didn’t give out praise lightly; you had to earn it.
And while nobody expected him to leave this world as soon as he did, he left us a wonderful roadmap to continue in his footsteps. He left us his Code of Values for The Dwyer Group, which we turned into our operationalized Code of Values moving forward. But moving forward also looked much different in his shadow. He was a founder who wore many hats. And I was fortunate to have a wonderful management team to share our goals and responsibilities together.
4word: One of 4word's passions is mentoring professional Christian women. As an awarded and respected mentor in your industry, how important do you think it is for a professional woman to seek out and invest in a mentorship?
Dina: Mentorship is incredibly important. And I believe that giving is just as important as receiving. I am grounded, first and foremost, in my faith and the wonderful support of my family. Add to that the wonderful mentors I have been blessed with in my life, and my knowledge and abilities grow exponentially to be the best person that I can be. In return, I purposely seek out opportunities to pass it on. I want to give all that I have learned so that others can benefit as well. I personally mentor others in the franchising industry, I like to give back to my church and my community, and I also teach a “Design Your Life” class to everyone who joins our company or our service brands that encourages them to go after their lifelong goals as well.
4word: With all of the responsibilities and demands that come with being a business leader, how have you and your husband balanced your time together? Has it ever been difficult for you to prioritize your marriage over career?
Dina: Today, I serve as the Co-Chair of the company, and I consider it one of the greatest achievements of my career. I turned over the day-to-day duties of running The Dwyer Group to our CEO Mike Bidwell, who had previously served as President and Chief Operating Officer of the company. It was a move that made perfect sense to balance my involvement with the company and my priorities to spend more time with my husband, children, mother, and my immediate family, to write a new book, and to accept speaking engagements that take time away from the office but also benefit the impact and awareness of The Dwyer Group as well.
More importantly, when it comes to the topic of work-life balance, I believe it is challenging to attain and maintain balance. Yet with careful planning and prioritizing, I believe a state of harmony can be achieved. You must prioritize. And that can mean hard work up front for big rewards in the end. There were years of heavy travel when I made the decision to invite a friend or family member to join me for any trips lasting three or more nights. I would work during the day, and we would enjoy each others company during the night and possibly plan an extra day for sightseeing. I love creating a mini-vacation into every trip when possible. Either you make time for what’s important, or you only short change yourself. That focus is also why I try to attend Mass every day. Even when I am on the road, I try to find a Catholic church where I am visiting to attend Mass. That’s how I stay grounded and keep the important things of life first and foremost.
4word: In your book "Live R.I.C.H", you discuss building success using a Code of Values. How did you come up with the Code of Values, and how have you applied these principles to your own career?
Dina: My father Don Dwyer came up with a written Code of Values when he established the company. They were closely held aspirational beliefs that helped him guide the company. And they attracted a caliber of people to The Dwyer Group that helped us succeed. But after he passed away, we needed those values to translate into measurable and action-oriented goals. So we established an operational Code of Values to communicate more clearly to our growing company. Those values follow the themes of Respect, Integrity, Customer focus and Having fun in the process. And following those values is how we Live R.I.C.H.
It has established an incredible company culture from the home office to our service brands around the world. At The Dwyer Group, when we have a meeting of three or more people, we begin that meeting by reciting the Code of Values. We regularly share Code of Values stories, showcasing our values in action, in our company newsletter. Our franchisees use these values to lead and teach their service professionals. These are the men and women who make more than two million service calls to customers each and every year. And we strive daily to lead by example at all levels across the company, beginning with me and our executive team.
This is what I speak about on stages across the country and around the world when I’m invited to discuss ethics in business. I call this a “living Code of Values.” Because unlike so many companies who work hard to define their values, write them down, and hang them on a wall for everyone to see, that’s where their journey ends. They don’t put those values into action each and every day. When you put your values into action, when you recite them, when you look to them to solve problems or answer questions in your business, you are truly making those values work for you.
My new book, Values Inc., discusses this on a much broader level. Because the more I speak about my experience and the focus that we’ve placed on values at The Dwyer Group, the more I see and hear from others the desire to find that for themselves. This book will show that all of that is possible. And it will shine a spotlight on other companies and leaders who are achieving that with great success. If there’s one thing I have come to admire, it’s the universal understanding of the Golden Rule and the real-world examples that exist to do well by doing good.
Thanks to her empowering upbringing and her determination to have an impact, Dina Dwyer-Owens has made huge strides for professional women. No matter where you are in your life, never be afraid to dream and push toward what you’ve always wanted for your life. Through determination, mentorship, and God’s grace, you truly can accomplish anything.
What kind of “hurdles” have you come against in your professional life? Have you ever felt like you couldn’t do anything? How did you overcome that?
Want to win a copy of "Values, Inc."? Click here to enter! Winners will be chosen on April 4, 2015!
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 30 years of industry experience, having grown up in The Dwyer Group. That business now includes eight franchise brands and more than 1,600 locations around the world through direct franchising and master license agreements operating as Air Serv, Glass Doctor, Mr. Appliance, Mr. Electric, Mr. Rooter, Rainbow International, The Grounds Guys and Five Star Painting. Collectively, those service brands make more than 2 million customer calls a year and account for more than $1 billion in system-wide sales.
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 480 franchisors that offer franchising financial incentives to veterans of the U.S. Armed Forces. To date, more than 5,600 military veterans now own a franchise through the VetFran program, and The Dwyer Group has awarded more than $2.3 million in financial discounts to VetFran franchisees across its own service brands. In 2002, the IFA awarded Dina the Bonny LeVine Award, the IFA’s highest award for women who mentor other women and advance the careers of women in franchising.
In 2005, Dina launched the Live R.I.C.H. campaign to promote The Dwyer Group Code of Values and the themes of Respect, Integrity, Customer focus and Having fun in the process to a growing company. She also released her book, “Live R.I.C.H.: How to build success in your company and your life with a proven Code of Values.” Dina is a regular speaker for how to Live R.I.C.H. within her company and to audiences around the world, and she credits ethics in business and in life as a foundation to true happiness.
Dina is married to Mike Owens and they have two wonderful children.