Bold Women in the C-Suite: Ammy Harrison
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Bold Women in the C-Suite: Ammy Harrison

Bold Women in the C-Suite: Ammy Harrison

Name: Ammy Harrison

Brand: Penn Station East Coast Subs; previously Papa John’s

Title: Vice President of Development and Strategy

Age: 45

Years in franchising: 23; 21 at Papa John’s

No. of units: 319; 5,000+ at Papa John’s

How important is making bold moves in a woman’s path to the C-suite? Absolutely! Being engaged and applying your knowledge and experience in your role is always expected as part of any job. However, I feel that having the ability to foresee potential roadblocks and to navigate through change and obstacles to better your organization is so important. Typically, this involves having a strategy and thinking in a new, divergent way to get the result you are looking for.

Describe bold moves you’ve made in your career. One of the many reasons I decided to join Penn Station was their quality focus and talent-rich franchise community. It was clear to me that while the system was having a lot of success, there were still significant growth opportunities within markets that were previously considered to have reached full saturation. My strategy included using site analytic software to assess every DMA the brand was currently in. We then defined our franchise development areas and developed a more robust broker network. This allowed us to identify and make available hundreds of new development areas to current and prospective franchisees.

How did you envision those moves changing the brand you were with? From a franchise sales and development standpoint, I wanted to see Penn Station well-positioned for growth not only as a Midwestern, regional sandwich chain, but also as a national brand. With these changes, we are now well-positioned and have the resources and infrastructure to support this.

How has your leadership helped evolve the brand? Penn Station is both an analytical and a “roll up your sleeves and get it done” type of organization. Once something is decided on, the leadership team always looks for ways to help move it along.

Was there pushback? How did you handle that? I don’t think anyone truly loves change, yet we really did not have much pushback. We completely evolved the way we went to market with franchise sales and awarding new development territories. Franchisees who were already in the system, most already larger multi-unit operators, adjusted very well to the new process. One of my very favorite things to do in my role is working with franchisees who want to grow. I spent a lot of time early on walking them through the new process and showing them where we want to open new stores. This worked out extremely well, and our franchisees have embraced it because it simplifies and makes new store development easier for them. A large percentage of our franchisees are also now actively developing new stores as part of our new process.

How are you imparting a culture of boldness to other women in your organization? By always questioning why things are done a certain way. If the answer is “Because we have always done it that way,” you probably need to gain a bit more understanding on that specific topic.

What motivates you as a leader? Achieving goals and getting things done. Seeing employees learn new skills.

What are some ways women leaders in franchising can drive change? Franchising represents so many positive opportunities, from owning your own franchise to working with franchisors and franchisees. Help others take advantage of new opportunities for growth and advancement. Listen well to your team, and remember to celebrate the wins.

What role has mentoring played in your career? How did you meet your mentors? I am so fortunate to have had many amazing leaders and mentors in franchising throughout my career, from executive leadership to direct supervisors to peers, co-workers, and franchisees. I have worked with some very talented people, learned from all of them, and I am still learning today.

Describe one of your biggest failures. What did you learn, and how did it contribute to greater personal or business success? Probably being a bit too averse to risk at times and missing out on good opportunities because of it. Take some time to learn more, seek to understand, and then decide instead of just automatically saying “No.”

What is one of the toughest decisions you’ve had to make, and how did it affect your life? I went from working for a very large company to a much smaller company. I was unsure if that would be the best fit for me. I’m now able to see from the perspective of both and have learned so much because of it.

If you could do it all over again, knowing what you know now, what would you do differently? I can’t think of anything I would change.

What advice do you have for aspiring female leaders? Every challenge always represents an opportunity. True growth happens during the difficult times.

Published: April 16th, 2023

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