11/30/2013 07:56 am ET Updated Jan 30, 2014

Women in Business: Q&A with Dina Dwyer-Owens, CEO of The Dwyer Group

Dina Dwyer-Owens, CEO of The Dwyer Group, former Chairwoman of the International Franchise Association and author of Live R.I.C.H. Dina oversees a franchise empire of more than 1,600 franchise locations around the world. Dina appeared on "Undercover Boss" on CBS, and from that experience launched the Women In The Trades Program to attract more women to The Dwyer Group service brands.

How has your life experience made you the leader you are today?

I literally grew up working in the business before it became a holding company for multiple franchised service brands. By the time I was 13, I was learning all about sales and customer service at a car wash that my father owned. From there I went on to work in almost every aspect of our company. From cleaning carpets to franchise sales, I learned by doing. I also had the privilege of being raised by parents who expected the best from all of their children. My mother grounded me in my faith and my father instilled a strong work ethic to, as we like to say, "re-earn my position every day in every way."

Of course, I also can't overlook the great lessons I inherited as a head cheerleader in high school. Whether it had to do with fundraising, creating agendas for pep rallies, managing a team of high-spirited girls, or speaking in front of large groups and inspiring the student body, faculty and families, I embraced those invaluable skills. And in many ways, I call myself the head cheerleader of The Dwyer Group today for some of those very same things.

How has your previous employment experience aided your position as the CEO of The Dwyer Group?

I had to learn our company from the ground up and earn my positions. This allowed me to see that every role in the company was integral to the success of the whole. As a result, I work hard each day to show respect and appreciation to every team member. And I am never as concerned with job titles as I am with assembling a great team.

How do you maintain a work/life balance?

I actually teach a class every month to all the new associates and franchisees at The Dwyer Group called "Design Your Life." This class is about helping people have clarity about who they are, what they want to achieve in life and how to have balance in the process. I believe you can have balance, but it takes real focus and lots of planning and prioritizing. I absolutely love teaching this class, because it forces me to constantly look at myself as the instructor too. I am always reminded to review my "wheel of life" and make adjustments. So, it's a never-ending process.

One of the greatest investments I have made to help my work/life balance is to surround myself with a talented team in all aspects of my life. From my amazing and talented team at The Dwyer Group to my housekeeper at home, there is freedom in finding and embracing experts in their fields to do what they do best so that I can focus my attention where it matters most. And speaking of experts, you can be sure that I have the best service providers taking care of my home. Yes, The Ground Guys maintains my yard. Mr. Appliance keeps the appliances working, Aire Serv keeps my home comfortable, and so on.

What have the highlights and challenges been during your tenure at The Dwyer Group?

Our founder, my father, passed away in 1994 just after taking the company public. His passing came with many challenges because he ran a very lean operation and had his hands in most areas of the business. The greatest challenge was that our very foundation for success was at risk. He was the visionary who created a unique family-oriented culture at The Dwyer Group with his Code of Values. Now we had to determine how we would keep that culture going and growing without his presence. Almost 20 years later, I am proud to share that our decision to operationalize and systemize his values into our daily routine has worked. Our Code of Values follows the themes of Respect, Integrity, Customer focus and Having fun in the process. We call it living R.I.C.H. And that vision is interwoven at all levels of the business.

One of my greatest personal challenges was when I was invited to be the "acting" CEO of our then public company in 1998. I had a group of top franchisees that didn't believe I was the right person for the job. They were quite vocal. I met with the leader of that group to understand their concerns. They felt that because I wasn't a Mr. Rooter plumber I could not do the job. I asked them to give me six months to prove that "being the customer and homeowner who hires the service" is much more important to the leadership role than being a plumber. They gave me that time, and I went to straight to work. I'm proud to say that I won over my critics, and the leader of that group ultimately became one of my greatest supporters in my role as CEO.

What advice can you offer individuals who are seeking to franchise?

Be very thoughtful about your passion and purpose and find the franchise that fits. Be sure to do your homework: visit the franchisor, call and visit existing franchisees and read the Franchise Disclosure Document so that you clearly understand the expectations of the relationship. And finally, be prepared to work hard to build a successful business. Owning a franchise simplifies many aspects of business ownership, but you still need to lead and implement the systems. The system works if you work the system!

What do you think is the biggest issue for women in the workplace?

Many times it's themselves. I find that some women tell themselves it's hard to make it in a man's world. My advice is that women need to work hard, work smart, and know their business better than the next person. When this happens you can walk with confidence and you will reap the rewards.

What are your thoughts on Sheryl Sandberg's Lean In book and movement?

I am sorry to say that I have not read this book, but I just looked it up and we seem to be on the same page!

How has mentorship made a difference in your professional and personal life?

Mentors for me come in all walks of life and most have not been formal relationships. I am a constant learner. I watch what successful, giving people do. Then I ask questions and work hard to follow their lead. Many of those people are on my team and in my family. My father provided me with many mentors as a teenager growing up. He had me listen to leadership cassette tapes (yes, cassettes). So I was surrounded by great inspiring minds like Zig Ziglar, Stephen Covey, Paul Meyer, Earl Nightingale, Napoleon Hill and of course Don Dwyer.

Which other female leaders do you admire and why?

My mother, Theresa, is one of the strongest and most admirable women I know on this Earth. She taught me how to be kind to all and this is one of the greatest lessons any one can learn.

Mother Theresa. I admire her challenge for us to always be our best and remember that in the end it's really about what God thinks that matters.

My sister, Debbie Hood, who is a smart, hard-working woman who is always giving of herself.

Mary Thompson, the President of Mr. Rooter at The Dwyer Group. She sets a high bar of excellence in life that I have not witnessed by many. She continues to make me a better leader.

What are your hopes for the future of The Dwyer Group, as well as the Women in the Trades Program?

I want The Dwyer Group brands to be the names that consumers call on when they are looking for a World Class customer experience.

I want our Live R.I.C.H. values to inspire other organizations, businesses, schools and even our government to live and lead by good strong values. The world will be a better place for us, our children and our grandchildren.

I want 50 percent of our frontline people to be woman. I also want to inspire and assist them in owning their own franchise if that's their desire.