Female Mentors: Catherine Deano Leading the Next Gen to the C-Suite
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Female Mentors: Catherine Deano Leading the Next Gen to the C-Suite

Female Mentors: Catherine Deano Leading the Next Gen to the C-Suite

Name: Catherine Deano

Title: Founder

Company: Painting with a Twist/Twist Brands

Years in Franchising: 15

Number of units: 225

Can you describe the role mentoring has played in your career? Mentoring has played a huge part in my journey in franchising and even before. I am a serial entrepreneur and have owned a restaurant, a jewelry company, and a catering company. When I had the jewelry business, I had friends who were artists who guided me in how to design, price, and market my products to customers.

When I got into franchising, my former business partner and I were the first mentees of the International Franchise Association’s Franship program. We were paired with Melanie Bergeron from Two Men and a Truck. That was a gift. I learned from Melanie to say, “I don’t know the answer to that, but I can get it for you.”

Why is mentoring so important for female franchise leaders? Although women have certainly come a long way in franchising as well as business in general, there is still a bit of a glass ceiling. Mentoring makes you look past that and realize it is not about breaking through that glass ceiling but just ignoring it and finding success despite the difficulties. My first mentors were my parents, who taught me to never let the fact that I was a female stop me from working toward my dreams.

What are the key elements of a good mentoring relationship? First and foremost are trust and respect. Also, knowing that your mentor is on the same page philosophically helps. Mentoring is an intellectual as well as an emotional experience. There needs to be a connection for it to be successful.

What are the benefits of mentoring programs for female leaders looking to advance their careers? Mentoring empowers women to move forward, speak out, be heard. It gives us someone to bounce ideas off and learn from. A mentor should be someone who will be impartial and give true feedback that helps you grow.

What should the mentoring process include? One of my mentees heard me speak on a panel, and I have a different approach to imparting information in those settings. It has been described to me as “real,” and it is not for everyone. Others have read articles about my road to franchising and connected with my story. Regardless of how they found me, they would connect with me and start a conversation. Sometimes, it is just one long conversation, and that is it. And sometimes, it has been an ongoing conversation.

How is a mentor different than a coach? That is an interesting question, and I think the lines can be blurred. In my experience, mentoring is more about helping and empowering the other person’s success. Mentoring is not a career but more of a passion. Coaching is more of a business endeavor. It’s not that the motives are not the same; they’re just presented in a different form.

What role did mentoring play in your path to the C-suite? When we were approached by three of our customers within two weeks about franchising our business, we were literally deer in the headlights. Mandeville, Louisiana, is not exactly a franchise mecca. We did have PJ’s Coffee in the area, and we went to them for advice. They mentored us through our first years, and that was an extremely helpful experience. As mentioned before, the IFA’s Franship program and many of the people we met through the IFA were instrumental in getting us through those first years.

How has what you learned from a mentor helped you navigate difficult career challenges? When things are difficult, you need someone to help you think things through—hopefully, someone who is not attached to the challenge in any way. Many times, your lens is cloudy when looking at a situation. A mentor has a broader view of the situation and can help clarify and redirect your thinking on a situation.

How did mentoring help you in other business relationships? Advice from my mentors helped me feel more centered and up to the task of being a leader and being able to shepherd my company in the right direction. It made me more aware that my decisions affect not just me, but the lives of my employees as well as my franchisees.

In what ways has mentoring helped you build confidence in your decision-making? Having mentors to rely on for advice as well as a sounding board has helped me see issues from different perspectives and ensured that my decisions have been given a full and comprehensive look. It keeps me from being impulsive. On the other side, watching someone I have mentored make well-informed, intellectual decisions shows me that my mentoring has value.

In what ways has mentoring helped you set goals and achieve objectives? Mentoring has made me more confident in my decision-making. I do not second-guess every decision. It has helped me realize your first gut reaction is the right one most of the time. It has taken fear out of the equation when making decisions.

What were the three most important things you learned from mentoring? The three things I’ve learned from mentoring are 1) my decisions have a direct impact on others; 2) a failure is not a failure if you can learn from it; and 3) there is always something to learn from someone else.

How can mentoring help the next generation of women on their path to the C-suite? Mentoring can empower women to move forward with decisions that will propel them to the next level. I do not know one C-level woman who did not have the help of a mentor in their rise to the top. Find a mentor whom you admire, who meshes with your personal and work philosophy, and then listen, ask questions, and absorb information.

What advice do you have for female executives considering mentoring? Do it! It is so gratifying. Mentoring the next generation gives back to the industry and universe. You did not get where you are on your own. Now, it is your turn to put your hand out and help others reach their goals.

Published: March 31st, 2024

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