Editor’s Note: Portions of Claudia’s story below first appeared in the July 2016 issue of Franchising World magazine. Read the original article in its entirety.
If you’ve ever met someone who embodies true servant leadership, you know it’s both inspiring and humbling. I was lucky enough to grow up with this type of person as a central figure in my life. My father, a career military man, taught me from a young age to lead and serve wholeheartedly. His example inspired my own career of service and helped lead me to the full, meaningful life I have today.
In 1992, I joined the U.S. Navy Reserves at age 22 as a Commissioned Officer. While serving in the Reserves, I followed my second passion – education – working as the business manager for a local college. I was also a wife and mother of three, and I loved every minute of each role. However, my desire to serve kept pushing me to look for new opportunities. Soon, I focused that desire on opening my own business.
I knew my new business had to focus on helping others. As a mother, I’ve experienced firsthand the struggle parents face looking for high-quality child care, so I decided to focus on children and families. Armed with the “why” and the “what” of my decision, I sought out educational franchise opportunities so I could have the support of a proven business model.
In 2009, we opened Primrose School at Cahoon Commons. To anyone thinking of opening a franchise or a new business, you should know it is challenging. To serve well, you have to give 100 percent (or more) to every commitment. There are days I am worn out, but I can’t imagine anything I’d rather be doing.
A servant-leader seeks to serve first, and learns to lead in the process. Throughout my career of service, I’ve learned some best practices that have made me more successful as a Primrose Franchise Owner. For me, success starts with planning. If you’re thinking about taking on another role or starting a new business, I believe the following guidelines will put you on a good path for the future:
Manage Time Wisely: As a captain in the Navy Reserves, I learned to deeply value this skill. I keep a schedule for my entire family – even my husband. We’re all very time-conscious and we strive to be as efficient as possible.
Set Honest Expectations: From the moment you decide to take on new responsibilities, be honest about the expectations of your career and your passions. Before I became a Franchise Owner, I made the decision to step down from the manager position I held at a local college. To my surprise, the college offered me a position as an assistant professor in business. This teaching job gives me the flexibility to help run our Primrose school, but still stay involved in education at the collegiate level. Now, my students range from 6 weeks old to 50 years old. Being honest about expectations helps you find the best positions in which to serve.
Create a Solid Support System: My support system consists of my parents, my best friend (who is also the Co-Franchise Owner of our Primrose school), our School Director, Assistant Director and of course, my husband and children. On the business side, Primrose does an excellent job of selecting the right people for its National Leadership Support Team, so we have the best resources, the right tools and anything else we might need to serve children and families through every step of the process.
Trust Your Team: I learned how to trust my team in the military and believe wholeheartedly that trust is a skill every franchise or business owner must have. Nothing gets done without team effort, and every team member is important. This mindset has helped me trust my School Leadership Team instead of trying to do everything myself. Just like leading soldiers in the Reserves, I’ve learned who on my team does what role best and I make sure each task is assigned to the person best suited for it.
Evaluate Your Motives and Abilities: Before taking on more responsibility, do a very serious self-evaluation. Ask yourself the following questions:
- What are my strengths and weaknesses?
- Will I be able to put in the necessary work?
- Do I have the support system I need?
- Why am I really doing this?
Each of these questions addresses potential challenges you’ll face along the way. Being honest in your evaluation will help you identify red flags before they become real problems.
I’ve learned a lot on this journey so far. I’m certainly still learning, and always will be. I feel blessed to have found a career that lets me practice servant leadership every day.