Female Fast Risers - Dawn Weiss
Name: Dawn Weiss
Title: Chief Marketing Officer
Years in franchising: 16
No. of units: 200+ open, 400+ sold
What attracted you to franchising? Before franchising, I worked in tech and corporate environments building fast-track startups, all disruptive in nature. My husband told me about a job one of his customers was hiring for in franchising. I knew nothing about the space, but when I learned more about it I realized it was an opportunity for me to grow not just one business, but many small businesses that functioned like startups. Turns out the first opportunity was in the massage industry, which at first didn’t appeal to me, but during the process I realized it was disruptive and a spark was ignited.
What was your first job in franchising? I was on the founding team of Massage Envy, hired to build the marketing infrastructure for the brand in my role as brand continuity director. When I began, I was employee number 11. In my tenure over 6 years, we grew Massage Envy from 33 locations open and 83 sold, to more than 750 open and 850 sold.
What do you attribute your success to? Partnership. Many attribute my success to building large, notable brands, but what I have actually done best is build hundreds of small businesses around a common purpose. I have done that by identifying things that work in one location or region and adjusting them to be replicated in all locations to scale—like one suit pattern with many different fabrics depending on the region, the season, and the buyer. I believe a good franchise leader understands how to navigate three key principles of franchising.
1) You are using the franchisees’ money. You must learn how to earn their buy-in <and> make it easy for them to implement and execute your plan for the brand at the local level. They aren’t always right and neither are you, but you require each other to execute properly.
2) Franchise locations are labs, and franchisees are front-line workers. It is easier to be successful when you have so many labs locally all across the globe, to test, adjust, and scale your plans in real time. Feedback from franchise owners coupled with key performance metrics provide a holistic view of results.
3) You must plan for unknowns. No matter how experienced you are or how robust your plans and processes, locations in a franchise will experience things you didn’t plan for. Industries, weather, buying habits, and marketing channels always change. The only constant is change.
What challenges and obstacles have you overcome in your career? Most of the brands I’ve helped build began with limited budgets and resources, which made me better at being resourceful. Being one of the younger members of the C-suite in startup environments, I have had to be chief cook and bottle washer. Once the brands grew to be successful, we prepped them for sale, and though I reached an elevated position over that time and gained resources, the next job was always another new brand, which makes it feel a bit like a game of Chutes and Ladders: all the way up, then all the way down at the beginning again. Climb, repeat, climb, repeat. It has taught me humility in a way most people don’t understand.
I was in my early 30s when we built Massage Envy, and 39 when we built The Joint. While the brands were in their infancy, I was building a family. In many ways it isn’t just the usual executive/mom struggle, but raising my own family while being responsible for the livelihood of so many other families that kept me up at night. And, like many women, I have learned that I can be a great mother and a great executive and a great spouse, but very seldom, if ever, do all those things occur on the same day!
Describe your journey to your current position: A large portion of my career has been in wellness and fitness franchising. Even while I was in the beauty industry with Amazing Lash Studio, the demographic was largely a similar audience, so this is a space I feel at home in. Fitness has helped me change my life personally and professionally over the past 6 years, so when I received a call from the recruiter about an opportunity in the Xponential Fitness family of brands, even though it was during a global pandemic, I knew it was the right move. CycleBar was doing everything they could to keep their locations open, and though everyone seemed to go out and buy a Peloton, I knew a large number of people who wished they were working out with others. Community can’t be fabricated, and studio fitness provides a level of motivation and connection that we crave as humans. At that moment, when the recruiter called, group fitness was one of the things I missed and needed most. I knew it was the right move because CycleBar was looking to use the time to grow, not give up. For me, the mental and physical benefits of fitness outweighed the risk, and taking a job in fitness during this unprecedented time allowed me to put to the test what I had learned in my career in disruptive environments: that sometimes the best plans are the ones you put in place over the ones you had previously planned to execute.
What are your future career goals? To continue growing franchise brands to be recognized category leaders. Over the past 5 years I have had a more operations-focused perspective, and I will work to grow my knowledge into other areas of the franchise C-suite.
Advice to young female executives in franchising: I do know how it feels to be the only woman at the board table, or the gender minority in the C-suite, but that doesn’t define me. What defines me is that I made it there. I would tell any young female executive in franchising not to look for a glass ceiling to shatter. Focus not on external forces or perceived obstacles, but on your ability to overcome them. There is strength in connecting with women who have been in your shoes, but more importantly, in becoming a woman who empowers others. Don’t seek out only other women to mentor and help, but men too; strong female executives have the ability to redefine expectations, and that starts with helping build equality across gender lines.
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