Dina Dwyer-Owens is the co-chair of The Dwyer Group – a billion-dollar organization with more than 2,800 franchisees around the world operating under service brands like Mr. Rooter, Mr. Electric, Glass Doctor and more. America also knows her for appearing in the CBS reality show “Undercover Boss.”
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Time Stamped Show Notes
(click the time stamp to jump directly to that point in the episode.)
- [01:12] – Dina was raised in a family of 6 kids
- [01:15] – Her father is very entrepreneurial
- [01:20] – She worked at age 13 to clean carpets
- [01:38] – Dina is so grateful to her dad for what he taught her
- [02:26] – Dina’s area of expertise is keeping value front and center
- [02:45] – One BIG and Unique Value Bomb: People don’t tend to take action
- [03:04] – Leaders sometimes don’t know how to execute their plans
- [04:01] – Worst Entrepreneurial Moment: In 1998, Dina was the VP of Operations and their company was losing a million dollars. Their outside board of directors invited Dina to act as president, but they had a meeting and a strong poll of voters said Dina should not be the permanent president of the company
- [05:35] – Dina asked for 6 months to prove herself
- [06:22] – “When you live your values, your values really work”
- [06:36] – Live Rich is a mantra at the Dwyer’s house
- [07:11] – It’s about treating people with respect and dignity
- [07:48] – Entrepreneurial AH-HA Moment: Dina was featured on Undercover Boss. During the casting interview, Dina was asked about her personal life. The producer couldn’t believe that she goes to church before she goes to the office. The feedback Dina got from people was amazing – they thanked her for being authentic
- [10:01] – “Authenticity attracts people like a magnet”
- [10:57] – Values drive value
- [11:05] – The Dwyer Group just launched a platform called GetNeighborly
- [11:44] – What is the one thing you are most FIRED up about today? “I would be most excited if the listeners took action”
- [12:37] – The Lightning Round
- What was holding you back from becoming an entrepreneur? – “Letting somebody else set the temperature in the room instead of being my authentic self”
- What’s the best piece of advice you’ve ever received? – “Tough times never last, but tough people do”
- What’s a personal habit that contributes to your success? – “Daily mass is the key”
- Share an internet resource, like Evernote, with Fire Nation – FreePrints
- If you could recommend one book to our listeners, what would it be and why? – Values Inc by Dina Dwyer-Owens
- [15:31] – Connect with Dina on her website and download her FREE Create Your Culture Workbook
Dina: John, I am so fired up. That reminds me of my high school cheerleading days, and my chant is: Let's get fired up!
Dina: I am ready.
John: Dina is the coach here of The Dwyer Group, a billion dollar organization with more than 2,800 franchisees around the world offering other service brands like Mr. Rooter, Mr. Electric, Glass Doctor, and more. America also knows her for appearing on CBS's reality show "Undercover Boss". Dina take a minute, fill in the gaps from that show, and give us just a little glimpse from your personal life.
Dina: Raised in a family of six kids, three boys and three girls. I had a father, who was super entrepreneurial, and a mother, who grounded me in my faith. Went to work at about the age of 13, because my father believed in a strong work ethic. And did everything from cleaning carpets, to helping run a million square foot real estate empire that he had. And the good news is, he worked me hard. I didn't like him all days, but looking back I am so grateful for what he taught me.
And he had me listening to tape programs, cassette tapes, John. You're much younger than I am, but cassette tapes. And if I would listen to the cassette tape, these are leadership cassette tapes, you know the Zig Ziglar kind or Earl Nightingale, and listen to the tapes six times, because "repetition is the mother of skill". And at the end of the week, if I could answer a few of his questions pretty good, I'd get an extra five buck allowance. That was like five or six gallons of gas back in those days.
John: You can get a long ways with six gallons of gas; let me be honest with you.
Dina: In a Volkswagen Bug.
John: Now Dina, we were talking a little bit in the pre-interview chat about systems, about automations, and you have a lot of skills you've acquired over the years. What would you say is your one area of expertise, if you could just pinpoint one?
Dina: I would say it's all about keeping your values front and center, and how that can take an organization or an individual to an amazing place.
John: Now, what don't we know, as entrepreneurs, in that area that we probably should because it will help us out?
Dina: Well, what I've learned is about 95 percent of the companies, John, who spend time and money defining their values, you know, a lot of people do these strategic planning processes, get clarity about vision, mission, and values and then they get home and what happens? Maybe it goes on the wall, maybe it goes on the website, but people don't tend to take action, especially on the values piece. So, what's missing? I don't think they're bad leaders. I think what's missing is they don't know how to execute on the values. It just seems so insurmountable.
Well, we're a franchise company. What franchise companies do is, we take what's most important and we create systems around that, so it can be replicated. So, we decided with our own core values, we would do the same. We basically created a system around keeping our values front and center.
John: That's what I love, Fire Nation, about systems with automations is that, if you know what your team is doing, and something happens to someone on that team; they leave, they're sick for the day, someone can step in and fill that role because you have the systems, the automations in place, critical for your continued success as an entrepreneur.
Now Dina, you haven't always been such a rock star. I mean you have, but you've had your ups and your downs as well. And what I would love to hear from a story from you, is what you consider your worst business/entrepreneurial moment to date? What is that worst moment? Tell us that story.
Dina: Okay, I have to pick just one. So, we're a publicly traded company. This is 1998. I'm the VP of operations. Our outside Board of Directors is basically freaking out. Our company is losing a million dollars at this point. Got to do something different. Feel like we have the right people on the bus, but in the wrong seats. So, they invited me, and I was 35 at the time, John. They said, "We'd like for you to be the acting presidency."
Dina: They didn't want to go full in, but they wanted to give me a chance because they believed in me. Well, I had a group of very large franchisees, who didn't know me. So, in all fairness they didn't know me. They had a meeting, took a straw poll, and basically voted that I should not be the permanent presidency of the company. So, for a brief moment I had this amazing self doubt. I let somebody else dictate how I felt about my ability to grow this company. And the truth is I had to apply one of our values.
One of our values at Dwyer's asking clarifying questions if we disagree or don't understand. And I met with the ring leader and I said, "Look. I hear you guys voted against me. You don't know me, so I'd like to understand why you had that vote." And he said two things. "1.) You've never run a company this size. 2.) You're not a plumber. You don't know anything about our business."
And you know what? I had to face the truth. He was right about both of those. I had never run a company that size, and I certainly wasn't a plumber. And I said, "But you know what I am? Is I'm the customer. 60 percent of the people that we serve are the woman of the house, and who better to run a company than someone who understands the customer." I said, "Give me six months. In six months if I don't prove myself, I'll be the first one to step down. There's too much at risk for me to let my pride get in the way of taking this company forward." So, this guy ended up being my greatest cheerleader.
John: "I'm the customer." Fire Nation, think about how powerful that comment is. Put yourself in the situation of your customer, with their problems, with their obstacles, what their challenges are. And then guess what? You create the solutions for them, because now you're in their place. You're that customer and you're creating those solutions that they need from your product, from your service, from your company, whatever that might be.
So, so many take aways from there, Dina, but just one that you want to make sure our listeners get. If you could just pull out one golden nugget, what would it be?
Dina: I think that the golden nugget is: when you live your values, your values really work. And so again, I had to face the truth about what he was right about. He was right about everything he said other than he didn't really know my capabilities.
And so, we have the theme at Dwyer called "live RICH". And it's a mantra that's really all about treating people with respect and dignity under the acronym of Respect, Integrity, Customer focus, and Having fun. The beautiful thing about it is that when we run into difficult things in our personal lives and our business, we think about our values as the solution to those problems. And it just makes leading businesses easier; not simple, but easier.
John: I love that acronym. One more time for Fire Nation.
Dina: Yeah, "living RICH". And again it's not about money. We're all in business to make money, but it's first about treating people with respect and dignity. And when you do that and provide a quality product or service, as my friend Ken Blanchard says, "Profits are the applause you get."
John: Dina let's talk about another story. You know, this is going to be one of the greatest ideas that you've had to date. One of those "aha" moments that you've had. Of course you've had tons over the years, I mean that revelation that you're the customer, and the fact that you were able to take that to the promised land. That was a huge "aha" moment.
What's another one that you can tell to Fire Nation, you know, this entrepreneurial listenership, these small business owners that you think would really resonate with them?
Dina: People are really attracted to authentic leaders, and I learned this while undercover.
So, I had this undercover boss experience. It's been an amazing gift to me and to our company. But during the casting interview Studio Lambert came to Waco and they put a camera in my face for about three hours, John, and you know they're just drilling. They're just wanting to find out all this questions, and they're looking for the drama, and what's going to make this episode special if we consider her.
And they asked me a question. They said, "What do you do before you go to work? What do you do when you get home at the end of the day? We know you're the CEO. We know how hard CEO's work, but what happens in your personal life?"
And I said, "Okay. So, before I get out of the bed in the morning, I count my blessings. I've got so much to be grateful for. And then I go down and make my son pancakes for breakfast."
By the way my pancakes were really flat, John, and viewers even mentioned that to me. I got a recipe for fluffier pancakes out of that whole episode. It's crazy what people care about.
John: That's so funny.
Dina: But the producer said – and then I said, "I chat over breakfast and the newspaper with my husband, and then I head to church."
He said, "You do what?"
I said, "I go to Mass."
He said, "Wait a second. So, you're telling me, before you go to the office, you actually go to church? Why?"
I said, "Look. We're all built differently." And I said, "I need that. I am not good at being quiet at home, and I need that quiet time where I can just ground myself and what's most important in my life, and then I'm much more productive throughout the day."
So, he said, "Do you think we can follow you to church?"
I said, "I don't know. Let's find out." And sure enough my priest said, "Let's do it."
And so the episode is one of the few where you find a CEO actually being prayerful. So, we were in church before I started on my undercover journey, and we actually landed back in the church at the end of the journey.
And it was amazing the feedback I got from viewers. Not one person, John, said to me, "How dare you be so open about your faith on national television." Instead what I heard from people, who were even Non-Christians, "Thank you. Thank you for being authentic. It's about time CEOs and leaders of organizations or government are willing to be real about who they are."
Dina: Yeah. You know what? It's a big lesson for me, and what I find is that, again, authenticity attracts people like a magnet. Because people see right through facades.
John: So, many value bombs there, Fire Nation. I'm just sort of thinking about my life. I'm like, "How far is the nearest church from me right now?" Because that would just be so quiet and that sounds so nice right now.
But Dina, what I kind of want you to do, just like with the worst moment, you dropped all these value bombs. What's the one thing that you really want to make sure that our listeners walk away with?
Dina: Yeah, I think it's all about keeping your values front and center, and when you do something wonderful happens.
Our company is 36 years old this year, and we've got an amazing CO. He's been around our company for many years, started as a franchisee, Mike Bidwell. But in the last three years he, because he's a values guided leader surrounded by people who've been attracted to our company because of our values, he has grown our company almost 100 percent over the last three years, and we're 36 years old. So, values drive value.
And just recently, what I'm extremely fired up about is, we just launched a platform called "Neighborly". It's a community of home service experts. It's the only platform out there. You might think of an Angie's List, but get Neighborly.com as a comprehensive home service platform that really leverages our 2,700 franchisees over 13 home service brands.
And it's a game changer, because it's the only platform in the industry where there's that human element. We know every one of these service providers were recommended to you as a homeowner, and this would not have been possible, John, I am certain, had we not built our company on this foundation of values.
John: So, you just mentioned Neighborly, which of course you're fired up about right now, but what's the thing you're most excited about today?
Dina: I would be most excited if the listeners took action, and really looked at – many people already have their values clearly written, but they really haven't put them into specific behavior statements where; how do we measure that we're living up to our values, and then enrolled their team, and then used them as they work to attract the right people to their organizations whether they're employees or customers? In our case we have employees, franchisees, and the end-user customer.
The more aligned we are in our values, the greater our organization grows. I mean we're knocking at 1.6 billion now.
John: Unbelievable. And Fire Nation if you think that you've been given value this far, and if you're not excited about taking action right now after what Dina just said, I mean, check your pulse. Let's do this.
But I mean, we have some amazing things coming up for you in the lightning round, when we get back from thanking our sponsors.
Dina, are you ready to rock the lightning rounds?
Dina: I am ready. Let's go!
John: What was holding you back from becoming an entrepreneur?
Dina: I really think it was letting someone else set the temperature in the room. Instead of being my authentic self, and just not being afraid to let people know this is who I am. I'm confident, just give me a chance. And I ended up doing it, but initially I was – I really had some self doubt. I mean, it was sleepless nights for a while.
John: What's the best advice you've ever received?
Dina: And this is one of those pieces of advice that I heard listening to, it must have been Robert Schuller. "Tough times never last, but tough people do", and the idea of surrounding yourself with people that are smarter than you are. But also remembering when it's not fun anymore, you're probably not the right person for the role. And be willing to step away from it regardless of your identity issues. Be willing to step away from it.
John: Yeah. For the sake of the job, and the people around you, but also for the sake of you. I mean, if it's not fun anymore Fire Nation – life is short. Let's do this.
What's a personal habit that contributes to your success?
Dina: Yeah. I've kind of mentioned this already, but for me, daily Mass is the key. It gives me the confidence to do what I do everyday, and the truth is, I can be anywhere in the world and almost always find a church to go to. And it's a beautiful experience too. It's amazing, the people I meet, I feel like I'm at home even though I could be 5,000 miles away.
John: Can you share an internet resource with our listeners?
Dina: This might seem silly to the listeners, but for me it works out great. So, I do a lot of traveling, and I use "Free Prints". When I get back from a trip, what I do is I do – it's kind of a free book but you pay for shipping, and I put the little memory book together. Otherwise, scrapbooking, or photo albums, or even doing digital albums, I'm just not good at it.
But boy, I can get on my iPhone and I can quickly put together a 27 picture memory book. And before you know it, it's in the mail. And I usually make multiple copies and send it to the people who were on the trip with me. And so we've got that nice little memory sitting on our cocktail table.
John: That's so cool.
If you recommend one book, Dina, what would you choose and why?
Dina: Well, I have to recommend Values Inc., I mean, that is my latest book.
John: Yeah, you are an entrepreneur. Let's do it.
Dina: I am. And it's how to incorporate values in your business and life, and when we do that, we will change the world. Values Inc.
John: Values Inc. And you've written a couple other books as well.
Dina: Yes. Live RICH is my other book, and it's really all about the story as how we got there with the values and systematizing the values. And anytime we have a meeting with three or more people, basically John, we review the values. And that is what's kept our company so strong. It's that repetition, that reminder of: this is who we are, and this is how we do it here.
John: And again, that's Live RICH, Fire Nation, the Acronym "RICH" that we've been talking about today. Awesome stuff.
Now Dina, I want to end today on fire with you giving us a parting piece of guidance, the best way that we can connect with you, and then we'll say goodbye.
Dina: Yes, I would just ask everybody if they'd go to DinaDwyerOwens.com, and that's D-W-Y-E-R Owens.com. I'd like to invite them, John, to download my free "Create your Culture" workbook.
So, if they're really interested in taking their values to the next level, there are six easy steps in that workbook that will take them through getting clarity about – there's 106 potential values that I've identified with my friend, Robert Cooper, and that gets them started thinking about, "What are my values?" And then, "What are the behaviors that go with those values?" And then, "How do we create a mantra around those so that we can rally around it?" And then "Testing those values and making sure they're truly the right fit for your organization". And then "Measuring performance".
You know, it's never ending. We've got to always look for ways to get better. But the "Create your Culture" workbook can be downloaded for free at DinaDwyerOwens.com.
John: Fire Nation, you're the average of the five people you spend the most time with, and you've been hanging out with DDO and JLD today so keep up the heat, and head over to EOFire.com, just type Dina, D-I-N-A, in the search bar. Her [inaudible] [00:15:35] will pop up with everything we've been talking about today. These are the best show notes in the biz: time stamps, links, you name it.
Dina, thank you for sharing your journey with Fire Nation today. For that, we salute you, and we'll catch you on the flip side.
Dina: Thank you, John.
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