99 BIG Franchisees: Gina Mehr

Teaching and Understanding: The Real Way To Develop Talent

Name: Gina Mehr
Title: President
Franchise system: IHOP

Personal/ @Home

  1. Age: 50
  2. Family: Husband, 6 children and 10 grandchildren
  3. School (alma mater): None
  4. Memorable first job: IHOP waitress
  5. Current book reading: YOU, The Owners Manual
  6. Best advice you ever got: Pull your own strings; don't seek approval of others

Professional/ @Work

  1. Number of units: 3
  2. Business type: LLC and S-corp
  3. Years in business: 33 years
  4. 2004 sales revenues: $6 million
  5. Top of your business wish list: To develop employees to be leaders
  6. Best advice you ever gave: Base decision on fact and truth, no perceptions and opinions.

Gina Mehr has experienced success; now she wants to be effective.

"I don't look for short-term results anymore," Mehr says. "I want long-term."

"I love to keep learning," she says. Although she prefers a man's wham-bam way of tackling issues, she says women can run a business in a kinder and gentler manner, and be more effective. "We need the details, but we can't get bogged down in the minutiae."

Mehr has always felt a little out of step with the norm. In the 1960s, she didn't feel that she fit into any of the career paths available to women: teacher, nurse, secretary, stewardess or housewife.

"I tried teaching and made $8,000 a year," she says. "I liked waitressing, but there was a stigma to that. But I went back to it anyway and made closer to $12,000 a year and went traveling regularly."

She met her husband at an IHOP in New Jersey when he was making plans to purchase an IHOP. They looked at a list of available units and decided Arizona would be a good place to start. They borrowed from family and friends and opened their first in 1972.

"We knew one thing--work hard," Mehr says. "We struggled. I was the cashier and he was the cook. We evolved with the franchise."

She says that when they purchased their third unit, "all hell broke loose." She had to learn how to delegate, hire and train people. "I'm a teacher now," she says. "I really teach them life skills. The kinds of skills you need in business translate into all areas of your life."

Best advice she gives to women is to not try to run a business with power.

"Understand rather than trying to be understood," she says. "And use your better instincts; they won't fail you."

Mehr says she hires a lot of Hispanic workers and they call her "mom."

"We need to think about our qualities as women and use those as our strengths," she says. "It's a big challenge."

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