SHE MIGHT NOT BE THE PERSON YOU WOULD EXPECT TO SEE SEATED AT THE TOP OF A COMPANY IN A MALE-DOMINATED INDUSTRY. BUT DINA DWYER-OWENS, EXECUTIVE CHAIRWOMAN OF THE DWYER GROUP, IS VERY COMFORTABLE AT THE HELM OF A COMPANY OPERATING ACROSS THE FIFTY UNITED STATES AND SEVEN OTHER COUNTRIES AROUND THE WORLD. SHE EARNED THE POSITION AND RE-EARNS IT, EVERY DAY IN EVERY WAY.
Founded in 1981 by Don Dwyer Sr., The Dwyer Group has grown from Rainbow International Carpet Dyeing and Cleaning Company to seven franchise concepts represented by more than 1,600 franchisees and almost $1 billion in annual system-wide sales. Don Dwyer started Rainbow International by recruiting loyal, ethical, and honest people who looked to the system for the guide to providing superior customer service and building a solid business. He wanted people who believed in the Code of Values which were the foundation upon which he lived.
He was a devout Catholic, a demanding leader and a great big dreamer. Although his life was cut short in 1994 at the age of 60, his legacy lives on with the support of his family, the company’s associates and the franchisees who embody Don Dwyer’s Code of Values in their businesses and their lives.
Her Father’s Daughter
She is her father’s daughter. Like Don Dwyer, Dina is a devout Catholic, a dynamic leader and measures the success of her company by the number of people she can help become a success in theirs. But Dina is also authentically devout herself and leads the company from a firm foundation that is grounded in her faith.
In 1998, when she was first named acting President and CEO of The Dwyer Group, Glamour Magazine interviewed her for an article about the secrets of successful “SheEOs.” Dina reflected that the key to her success was not a secret. “The number one thing is my faith. Without my relationship with God, I couldn’t do what I do. The second most important thing is being surrounded by an amazing team and support structure at work and at home. The third ‘secret’ is systems. With franchising, operating systems are critical.” These three “secrets” still hold true today.
Recognizing the importance of operating systems for the success of the company, the executive team expanded on the original guiding principles established by Don Dwyer to create an operational Code of Values organized under the themes of Respect, Integrity, and Customer Focus While Having Fun in the Process. The Operational Code of Values provides measurable principles to keep the company on the right path and a memorable acronym that personifies their purpose – to Live R.I.C.H!
At every opportunity, Dina passionately shares the Code with employees and franchisees throughout the company. “I am certain that successful growth of the company has been and will continue to be founded on the Code of Values. However, I don’t want the Code to be perceived as a list of overbearing rules. Live R.I.C.H. is something that is easy to remember, understand and a gateway to the bigger message.”
Dina always credits the Code of Values at The Dwyer Group for fostering the environment that makes the company unique. To see if that message had spread throughout the seven franchise concepts across the country and around the world, Dina went undercover in 2012 on CBS’s Emmy-winning hit reality series Undercover Boss.
“We approached Studio Lambert, the company that produces Undercover Boss, because we wanted the opportunity to find out if our Code of Values was truly making it to the front lines. Our company was celebrating its 30th anniversary, and with a woman at the top in a male-dominated business, we felt we had a winning story.”
While the original intent was to confirm the Code of Values was being honored throughout the organization, Dina soon recognized that God had intended something much more important.
“As soon as I learned that they were interested in me going undercover, I started receiving all these messages which in my mind were from God. The morning of the casting interview, I was in Mass and Fr. John’s homily was about evangelizing. He said ‘Every time we get a chance, we should be sharing the Good News.’ That thought stuck with me as I went into the casting interview later that day.”
Armed with her pastor’s words of encouragement, Dina ignored her concern that the producers and the audience would not welcome the story of a CEO who was so open about her faith. She chose “Faith Brown” as her undercover name, and the true Dina was revealed.
The episode began following Dina through a typical day; making pancakes for her children, chatting over the paper with her husband and attending church. “I need the nourishment I receive from daily Mass. I am not good at sitting at home and being prayerful. I see too many things around the house that need to be done. I put myself into a place where I can be prayerful and quiet, and all the busyness of the world is kept in perspective. It keeps me grounded in what is really important.”
Throughout the filming, Dina was touched by the people she encountered. She was overwhelmed by the awesome responsibility God has given her to lead this company. “I am responsible, in some way, for so many lives, and these folks really do work hard to live our values. They really do care about our customers in the way we want them to.”
Her concern that being open about her faith could be viewed as negative proved to be unfounded. Within moments of the show airing, Dina began receiving texts and tweets of encouragement. Of the 2,000 messages she received from viewers, not one was negative about her faith. In fact, she received hundreds of beautiful notes thanking her for being open, authentic and transparent. “I think I have the record for the most tears on Undercover Boss, because I can get very emotional. There are times that I have to work very hard to hold it back, because it is not the right occasion. But, on most occasions, if I tear up, I tear up. It is who I am.”
While Dina went “undercover” to learn about her company, she learned far more about herself. “I came away from the experience with the attitude, ‘Be not afraid.’
I learned that no problem I encounter in business, no decision I make, nor challenge with any human, is more important than living God’s will for my life. Dina Dwyer-Owens
It is something that I have to remind myself of daily. If I pray for the wisdom from God, and listen and apply it, what do I have to be afraid of?”
“I also learned so much about myself and my role as a Catholic Christian in evangelizing and being a light for His Kingdom. It is unbelievable the doors that God has opened when He says to me ‘Here is a door you need to walk through now, and I want you to talk about your faith.’ Or, ‘I know they are calling you because they want you to speak about The Dwyer Group’s values, but I want you to talk about your faith.’”
The audience responded favorably to the Boss of The Dwyer Group, and out of 56 bosses, Dina was one of ten who was invited back for the 2013 season finale “Epic Bosses.” While the viewers were impressed by her vulnerability, Dina considers it essential to authentic leadership. “If we are not taking some risks, we are not being great leaders.”
In February of 2014, after holding the position of CEO for 15 years, Dina handed those reins over to Mike Bidwell, an amazing and capable leader who has been with the company for more than 30 years, and she took on the title of Executive Chairwoman. Today, her primary responsibility is the culture of the company. “My number one priority is making sure that we live The Dwyer Group’s Code of Values no matter how large we get.”
Her second duty is public relations and networking. As such, Dina spends a lot of time speaking and telling The Dwyer Group story – mostly about the Code of Values and the team of employees and franchisees who live those values. “As the Executive Chairwoman of The Dwyer Group, I have to be my best authentic self. I am a Christian first. Every speech I do, even if they ask me to avoid politics and religion, I speak about my faith, because it is who I am.”
Thirdly, Dina is responsible for seeking out strategic acquisitions of businesses that fit The Dwyer Group’s menu of services. “Our mission at The Dwyer Group is to teach our principles and systems of personal and business success so that all people we touch live happier and more successful lives. Personally, I will continue to work to do that for as many people as I can.”
THE DWYER GROUP CODE OF VALUES - WE BELIEVE...
- …in superior service to our customers, our community and to each other as members of The Dwyer Group family.
- …in counting our blessings every day in every way.
- …success is the result of clear, cooperative, positive thinking.
- …that loyalty adds meaning to our lives.
- …management should seek out and recognize what people are doing right and treat every associate with respect.
- …challenges should be used as learning experiences.
- …our Creator put us on this earth to succeed. We will accept our daily success humbly, knowing that a Higher Power is guiding us.
- …in the untapped potential of every human being. Every person we help achieve their potential fulfills our mission.
- …we must re-earn our position every day in every way.
- …in building our country through the free enterprise system. We demonstrate this belief by continually attracting strong people to The Dwyer Group.