C-Suite Profiles: Melissa Strait & Cara Whitley

C-Suite Profiles: Melissa Strait & Cara Whitley

Our 4th Annual Women's Issue of Franchise Update magazine featured profiles of 28 "C-Suite Women" who are not presidents, CEOs, or founders. While not necessarily in the spotlight, these women fill critical roles necessary for a franchise system to prosper and grow. Their titles run the C-Suite gamut: chief marketing/brand officers, chief financial/accounting officers, chief development officers, chief legal officers, chief operating officers, chief technology/information officers, chief people/talent/HR officers, a chief communications officer, and a chief quality, supply chain, and commercialization officer. Several hold dual positions, including executive vice president, senior vice president, vice president, co-owner, co-founder, and board member. In short, effective female leaders who help make the franchise world go round. In recognition of their contributions to their systems, their franchisees, and to franchising as a whole, we're presenting their profiles, two per week.

This week: Melissa Strait, Chief People Officer at Arby's and Cara Whitley, Global Chief Marketing Officer at Century 21 Real Estate.


Melissa StraitMelissa Strait

Title: Chief People Officer
Brand: Arby's
Years in franchising: 32
Years with current brand: 32
Franchised units: 2,288
Total units: 3,339
Brand revenue: $3.5 million

Background: Melissa Strait began her tenure with Arby's in 1984 behind a restaurant counter, learning leadership and guest service skills at the front line of the company's operations as she worked her way through college. In 1995, she became Director of Training, and in 2000 was named Vice President of Training and Development. Shortly afterward, she was named Vice President of Human Resources, Training, and Development, and later became Senior Vice President of Human Resources and Leadership Development. In October 2014, she was promoted to Chief People Officer reporting to CEO Paul Brown. In this role she is responsible for leading the strategy, development, and execution of human resources and key organizational effectiveness and talent management programs across the company. She graduated from Hope College with a B.A. in psychology.


Cara WhitleyCara Whitley

Title: Global Chief Marketing Officer
Brand: Century 21 Real Estate
Years in franchising: 20
Years with current brand: 1.5
Franchised units: 6,950
Total units: 6,950
Brand revenue: NA

Background: Cara Whitley, a 20-year veteran of loyalty marketing, business development, strategy, and change management, joined Century 21 in September 2015. Since then, she has re-focused the organization-wide marketing strategy to enhance brand pride and preference, increase franchised acquisitions and sales, and recruit and retain relationships with both real estate consumers and industry professionals. The brand's revamped national advertising, marketing, and public relations campaigns included a series of new television commercials that were recognized with a Gold Stevie Award for Women in Business. Previously, she was Chief Marketing Officer of Squaw Valley Ski Holdings,. Before that, she served in executive roles for American Express, Epsilon, and Hilton Hotels. She earned her B.S. in Communications from the University of Miami Coral Gables.

Published: June 17th, 2017

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