Women in Business Q&A: Heidi Morrissey, CFE Vice President of Marketing and Sales, Kitchen Tune-Up

Heidi Morrissey joined Kitchen Tune-Up, the country's leading kitchen and bath remodeling company, in May of 2003 at the urging of her father and Kitchen Tune-Up founder, Dave Haglund. Prior to joining Kitchen Tune-Up, Heidi worked as an elementary school teacher and ran her own home-based business for 11 years when her dad convinced her that her skills could be best used for the family business.

Heidi joined Kitchen Tune-Up and worked in different areas, finally finding a home in marketing and sales, where she felt she could make dramatic transformations. Heidi has grown the sales and marketing departments, allowing her to get out of the day-to-day tasks and concentrate on growing and strengthening the Kitchen Tune-Up system.

How has your life experience made you the leader you are today?
If I look back at many of the groups and organizations with which I have been involved, the common theme appears to be that I am leading that organization. This includes everything from serving as president of a church council to leader of a moms group. Leading groups has always been natural to me and never felt like a burden. When I was not leading, I loved to learn from others through observation.

How has your previous employment experience aided your tenure at Kitchen Tune-Up?
After college, I was a teacher for four years. My experience as a teacher has helped guide our franchisee development and training program in multiple ways. Following my tenure as a teacher, I also worked in direct sales, which has had a profound impact on creating our sales process and franchisee sales training program. From selling to groups of women, to speaking in large group formats and training others to sell, direct sales definitely gave me related experience for Kitchen Tune-Up.

What have the highlights and challenges been during your tenure at Kitchen Tune-Up?
The highlights include:
• Creating a National Advertising Program and implementing with an owner committee
• Watching my parents receive a 17-day cruise to Norway on the 20th anniversary of Kitchen Tune-Up from the loyal and kind franchise owners
• On the 25th anniversary, witnessing owners give emotionally charged statements of what Kitchen Tune-Up has done for them. A bonus was having my youngest daughter at that presentation where she was awe-struck by the size of the company and admiration they felt for her grandparents.
• Helping hire and train a talented staff that continues to grow and exceed my expectations.

The challenges include:
• The recession was by far the biggest challenge we faced. The lack of consumer funding, lack of business loans and duration of the recession was eye opening. What we gained during that time was a very resilient, resourceful staff and franchise group. It shined a spotlight on areas that needed fine-tuning and we had the time to create some amazing tools to assist our owners.
• A second challenge is perseverance in a male-dominated field. Many people in the industry feel it is a "man's world." As a woman and the daughter of the founder, I knew I would have to prove my value with hard work. Our franchisees have witnessed my value to the organization and I have a great relationship with all of our owners.

What advice can you offer to women who want a career in your industry?
I would advise women who want to start a career in the remodeling industry to keep the following in mind:
• Accept opportunities to lead whenever they are presented (in the industry or not). Lead parent groups, co-ops or start a group you are passionate about.
• Read voraciously. Read industry magazines, read biographies of successful people, read fiction and more. Expose yourself to new information and as you process it, write down key learnings.
• Write daily. Take your ideas and document them. Expand them and improve them. This process helps you to become a better communicator. Use the least amount of words that gain the most impact.
• Don't give up your identity to try to conform to men in the industry. This was a lesson I needed to learn. When I started in this industry, there were only male leaders and mentors and so I tried to imitate their style, which did not work. When I went back to my authentic style, it worked much better and leading became easier.

What is the most important lesson you've learned in your career to date?
People are your most valuable resource. Take time to learn about their goals and give them the tools they need to achieve them so you can have the best possible people on your team. This is true for employees and franchisees.

How do you maintain a work/life balance?
I am frequently asked how I am able to juggle three kids, three rescue dogs, a happy marriage, a busy home life and work.

My life is a constant balancing act through scheduling, prioritization and paying attention to my surroundings. Making time for self-care is vital for women in business. Regular exercise, time outdoors, massages and making sure that you are eating quality food can really impact your mental state.

What do you think is the biggest issue for women in the workplace?
The biggest issue for women in the workplace is actually the same as men, in my opinion. It is the ability to communicate effectively. When I started to shape the culture at Kitchen Tune-Up, I knew open, honest communication would be the most beneficial. Choosing positive words and positive actions keeps the business running smoothly. Also, letting people know that they can go to the source if an issue arises so that little things do not become big things.

How has mentorship made a difference in your professional and personal life?
My mentoring relationships have been somewhat nontraditional. I don't limit my learning to just people in our industry; I try to take pieces from all of my encounters, such as with franchisees, employees, business coaches and life coaches. Each interaction expands my views of people and the world. These informal mentoring relationships have been pivotal in shaping the leader that I am still becoming.

Which other female leaders do you admire and why?
There are many leaders, male and female, that I admire. Anyone that follows their truth in an authentic manner has my admiration. One example of I leader I admire is Oprah Winfrey. She was told no many times, but persevered and has helped influence and empower many women.

What do you want Kitchen Tune-Up to accomplish in the next year?
As we come into our 28th year in business with an economy on the rebound, I am looking forward to steady, strategic, consistent growth. Our business goals include opening new Kitchen Tune-Up locations in untapped markets and supporting our existing franchise owners. I would also like to continue to help our corporate staff grow. Offering ongoing education and training to help them reach their career goals is also on the list for next year.