Founder and President Heidi Ganahl and franchisee Doreen Martin-Valentine of Camp Bow Wow have cold noses and warm hearts when it comes to “Man’s Best Friend” — and a keen knowledge of what it takes to become successful women entrepreneurs and executives in today’s economy.
So how did it all start? That’s a question that usually reveals the essence of great leaders, because contained in the answer is the vision, mission, and commitment that infuses the culture of their entire organization. For Heidi Ganahl, it all started as a “dog thing” — a love for those droopy eyes, wagging tale, and adoring look that says “You’re the most wonderful person in the world” — you know the things you’re greeted by at the end of a hard day when your husband opens the door . . .
OK, I’ll get abuse for that line, so let’s get down to business: women in franchising.
A man writing about women in franchising? Well, thanks to The Franchise Show that I host each week, I’ve had the opportunity to “hear it from the top” — from the top women in the 3 trillion dollar industry that I’ve spent my entire career in: franchising
And here’s what I’ve found from women founders and executives like Heidi and Doreen:
* Women make great leaders. I don’t know all the reasons why — I’m a man — but I suspect it has something to do with the mysterious combination of intuition, intellect, and the ability to understand people. I like the 1983 movie “Trading Places” with Eddie Murray. Billy Ray wasn’t a woman, but Billy Ray understood people:
“Okay, pork belly prices have been dropping all morning, which means that everybody is waiting for it to hit rock bottom, so they can buy low. Which means that the people who own the pork belly contracts are saying, “Hey, we’re losing all our damn money, and Christmas is around the corner, and I ain’t gonna have no money to buy my son the G.I. Joe with the Kung Fu grip! And my wife . . . my wife ain’t gonna make love to me if I got no money!” So they’re panicking right now, they’re screaming “SELL! SELL!” to get out before the price keeps dropping. They’re panicking out there right now, I can feel it.”
* Women are creative problem solvers. I don’t understand this, either. As a man, the shortest distance between two points is a straight line, and any deviation from that path tries my patience — a trial I usually lose. For a woman, there are additional circuitous paths to reach one’s destination, but they’re really not circuitous at all — only to men.
* Women are smarter risktakers. That counters most man-wisdom that says women don’t have the ability to make the big decision, go for broke, bet the farm, race for the pink. But women are better risk managers. Why? I think it’s because women understand the human part of the equation. People aren’t just “casualties”, “collateral damage”, or “unemployed” — they’re people. And women understand the impact on people with every risk they take. It keeps them from being reckless.
When you buy a franchise, you’re really buying a management team, so why not take some time to see if you and your potential new team share the same values, culture, and world views? Women at the helm often have a different business perspective than men, in spite of the fact that we men have had “yes-yes” on our lips — these people-oriented principles for years — while actually performing “no-no” in our actions.
So when you’re thinking about what type of organization you want to be part of over the next 20 years, start with the question, “So, how did it all start?” and maybe pretend you’re giving the answer. If the answer has the potential to be a great story, take the next step in bringing it to fruition. Heidi Ganahl and Doreen Valentine-Martin did, and they each tell a great story.
Jeff D’Arcy is host of The Franchise Show each week, and has served in executive-level positions with major companies such as McDonald’s, Blockbuster, and Wherehouse Entertainment. He holds business degrees from two Southern California universities, and is an esteemed graduate of Hamburger U. He is also one of TALKERS Magazine’s Frontier Fifty radio hosts for 2009. He welcomes your comments at jeff@wsRadioLA.com