Meg Roberts says her professional career path changed lanes unexpectedly and took her into franchising. The Michigan native always thought she would be in the advertising business: she studied it in school and went to work for one of the largest ad agencies, BBDO in Chicago, eventually working on major accounts such as Wrigley.
The high stress and long hours weren't conducive to a family and any life outside work, so Roberts moved back to Michigan where she lived... not far from Molly Maid's headquarters. She knew someone who worked there, one thing led to another, and in 2007 she became director of marketing for the 30-year-old brand.
"One of the things that I came to realize very early on was that franchise marketing is much more complex than consumer retail marketing," she says. "You don't only have a brand marketing strategy, you also have to work with and influence the franchisees so that everyone is on the same page and executing effectively."
Roberts didn't waste any time putting her marketing acumen to work at Molly Maid. She introduced a customer-building online marketing campaign, driving leads up by more than 150 percent in 2010, and she channeled resources into social media. Under her leadership, Molly Maid notched double-digit sales growth three consecutive years.
In 2011, she was promoted to vice president of marketing for Molly Maid and Mr. Handyman (Service Brands International owns Molly Maid, Mr. Handyman, and ProTect Painters). She and her marketing team continued to improve their online strategies and consistently increased website traffic and, most important, leads to franchisees significantly year over year, racking up quite a reputation in the process. Last year Roberts was named president of Molly Maid.
Roberts says her marketing background continues to influence her management style, but "I've discovered that I'm more of a motivator than a marketer," she says, and favors a collaborative approach to leadership, working closely with her team at corporate. For example, digging into customer demographics and other data, she and her team discovered about 200 additional territories they think they can build out.
They're also turning to technology to ensure they're ready to meet the emerging Millennial customers on their terms. "We've been refining our web presence, capitalizing on social media, and upgrading our technology to provide better service," she says.
Roberts hopes these ongoing initiatives will help the brand add at least a dozen new franchisees each year. In fact, she says, "I'd like to sell a couple of dozen this year." Sometimes, changing lanes takes you exactly where you need to go.
Name: Meg Roberts
Company: Molly Maid, Inc.
Family: 2 sons, Luke 10, and Erik 7
Years in franchising: 5
Years in current position: 1
What is your role as president?
To lead a diverse staff and diverse franchisees with precise goals and strategies. The ultimate goal is system satisfaction!
Describe your leadership style.
Respectful, clear, with high expectations and fun-spirited.
What has inspired your leadership style?
Being part of winning athletic teams, which taught me teamwork, leadership, and the concept of togetherness.
What is your biggest leadership challenge?
I struggle at times with balancing the long-term strategic vision with "get it done now" priorities.
How do you transmit your culture from your office to front-line employees?
Respect all team members as contributors, "clients," and collaborators.
Where is the best place to prepare for leadership: an MBA school or OTJ?
Definitely on-the-job training. With the right mentors and team members, on-the-job training provides all kinds of exposure.
Are tough decisions best taken by one person? How do you make tough decisions?
Collaborative decisions are great. Still never take credit for the good, yet always be willing to "own" the bad.
Do you want to be liked or respected?
Advice to CEO wannabes:
There are no truer words than "No one cares how much you know until they know how much you care!"
Describe your management style:
Laid back as a result of being highly organized and very clear about high expectations.
What does your management team look like?
The best "motley crew"! We have leaders and champions of IT, marketing, operations, and franchise development.
How does your management team help you lead?
Required: accountability, respect, and collaboration. Not required: consensus. We challenge each other.
Favorite management gurus/books:
John Maxwell, The 21 Irrefutable Laws of Leadership.
What makes you say, "Yes, now that's why I do what I do!"
When my teammates say they love their jobs and when our franchisees say owning their own business changed their lives!
What time do you like to be at your desk?
Before everyone else, typically 8:15 a.m.
Exercise in the morning? Wine with lunch?
Exercise always, wine rarely. For me, there's no better pair than cold beer and college football!
Do you socialize with your team after work/outside the office?
Yes! Everything from exercise to travel.
Last two books read:
All Things at Once by Mika Brzezinski, and In the Woods by Tana French.
What technology do you take on the road?
I never travel without my smartphone.
How do you relax/balance life and work?
The best work-life balance includes quality time with the kids and daily exercise.
Favorite vacation destination:
Sullivan's Island, S.C.
Favorite occasions to send employees notes:
Favorite company product/service:
You just can't beat good Target shopping "therapy!" I also love Greek yogurt.
What are your long-term goals for the company?
They include continued growth and satisfaction for existing franchisees, as well as reinvigorated sales of great territory to further the brand and service availability.
How has the economy changed your goals for the company?
Our goals remain unchanged but our focus on franchisee profitability, technology to improve efficiency, and gold standard service is even more precise.
Where can capital be found these days?
Capital appears to be loosening, though it is still not what is was five years ago. Local bank loans, retirement funds, and savings are often combined to provide financing.
How do you measure success?
Obviously sales are the essential numerical metric of success, but system satisfaction, attitude, and positivity are key. You feel this more than measure it.
What has been your greatest success?
Contributing to growth, whether in personnel development, franchise business success, or my former contributions to marketing. Helping someone or something grow is truly satisfying.
Sure, but if you learn from regrets and mistakes then they are lessons. Always focus on the upside.
What can we expect from your company in the next 12 to 18 months?
Increased energy, increased visibility and branding, and increased speed to franchisees with technology advancements.
A targeted, quarterly magazine that takes CEO's, VPs and Sales Executives to the cutting edge of franchise development.