Primrose Schools CEO Jo Kirchner received the 2017 Bonnie LeVine Award, a recognition given by the International Franchise Association for outstanding leadership and mentorship to other women in the franchising industry. Check out Jo’s award video on YouTube.
In February, I was honored to be recognized as the 2017 International Franchise Association (IFA)’s Bonnie LeVine Award winner.
Every year, the IFA presents this accolade to one female franchisor or franchisee in recognition of her accomplishments in franchising and mentorship of other women business leaders.
Throughout my life, I’ve been fortunate to develop deep relationships with many accomplished men and women who have played an important role in shaping my career trajectory. Women in my Leadership Atlanta class have provided excellent networking opportunities and opened the door to new relationships. Strategic consultants like Dona Young (former Chairman, President and CEO of a Fortune 100 company) and Dr. Laura Jana (Pediatrician and Associate Research Professor at Penn State University) have been instrumental in providing leadership and management support as well as innovative ideas to help grow our business. Their invaluable guidance and support have helped us develop education and business partnerships that have empowered our success – and inspired me to make mentorship a priority at Primrose Schools.
Mentorship is essential to personal growth and success, as well as business success in franchising. As I reflect on the mentorship component of the Bonnie LeVine Award, I am once again reminded of how essential these relationships can be to empowering the next generation of leaders.
The Value of Mentorship
At Primrose, we seek people who are passionate about providing a brighter future for all children through early education and we’re intentional about recruiting leaders who align with our values. And, at all levels of our organization, we encourage our employees to always continue learning and growing—just like we encourage the children in our classrooms to do every day. Finally, we believe in having open and honest conversations and providing guidance.
When I think back to the earliest days of Primrose, I am both humbled and inspired by our growth and progress. Much of our success is the result of investing in trusted relationships—between Franchise Owners and their Leadership Teams, Directors and Teachers, and Teachers and parents. Teamwork is not just a concept that we model for our students. It’s also an essential component of growing a successful business.
Strength of Women Leaders
Many of our Franchise Owners are women who previously had successful careers in industries like technology, health care, real estate and marketing. A large majority of them found Primrose as parents, but later decided to open their own school to apply their career skills in a setting that offered more work-life balance and personal satisfaction.
One such owner is Pratiksha Rigley, a Franchise Owner in Dallas, Texas. She and her husband, Noel, now own multiple schools that continue to succeed year after year because of the strong leadership and culture she developed among her Teachers and Staff. Although Pratiksha can’t be in all of her schools at once, she has developed a team that shares a common commitment to excellence and warmth that’s apparent as soon as you enter any of her schools. It’s mentoring relationships that have enabled Pratiksha to develop the trust needed to run a multi-unit franchise.
Establishing a Network of Support for Women in the Workplace
Even though there are now more women in the workplace than ever, it’s important for working women, and especially working mothers, to plug into a network of support. Mentorships offer both parties the opportunity to support each other through every season, inside and outside the workplace.
As a working mother myself, I struggled to find the right work-life balance. I learned that you can’t be a perfectionist in every aspect of your life. For example, I made the conscious choice to limit the number of close personal friends I have and to learn to often say no to social events so I could put my family first and my career second. Because my work is about children–and they are my passion–I never felt I was giving up time for other things. I was simply spending my time on what I truly loved and wanted to be doing.
I’ve learned the key is to set realistic, but high expectations and surround yourself with like-minded people who share your personal mission and values. And, that includes a mentor who can walk alongside you during challenging times and will be frank and honest in identifying your opportunities for improvement in your leadership style.
This award—and what we’ve accomplished together—is really a testament to our passionate commitment to service excellence for children. Our people and culture are at the heart of the success of all of us at Primrose, and I feel privileged that we’ve been able to take this journey together. It’s exciting to think that as our collective mentoring continues, there may be parents or Teachers currently in our schools who will one day be led to open a Primrose school of their own.