We recently had the opportunity to chat with some of the many female Business Development Agents for Subway® restaurants. A Business Development Agent (or BDA) is responsible for growing the Subway franchise in a specific area. They scout locations for new restaurants, help franchisees open new businesses, train new employees — and that's just the tip of the iceberg. See their take on leadership, women in business, Subway culture, giving back, and lessons learned.
We asked the Subway BDAs what leadership means to them. Their responses ranged from empowering employees to thinking ahead of the curve to balancing work and family life.
One major theme throughout their responses: As a leader, things are always changing. It’s your responsibility to anticipate what’s coming and help your team adapt.
Adapting means learning, which is perfect for Datin Cynthia Cheong, who owns 32 restaurants in Malaysia. She has a background in education and encourages learning for employees at all levels as part of her leadership style.
"Leadership means guiding, coaching, educating, and sharing of good knowledge and resources with my team and my family of franchisees," says Cynthia. "Being in this franchise business certainly provided the opportunity for all of us to learn so much because by being an entrepreneur, the sky is the limit."
Some of the women feel that female entrepreneurs may have an advantage when it comes to management styles. Women tend to lead in a spoke-in-the-wheel structure instead of as a hierarchal structure. They find this helps employees feel valued.
"I’ve had a lot of experience with traditionally male-run businesses," says Jennifer English, who owns 12 restaurants in Texas. "It’s important to believe in yourself as a woman and empower other women to feel confident. Not only are your thoughts important but your history and your gut feelings are important."
As leaders, Subway BDAs aim to set an example for others and focus on creating a positive environment for their team.
"Our culture is about putting each other first and helping one another succeed. I see my role as a leader in setting that tone and culture," says Margot Micallef, who owns five restaurants in Canada and has been with Subway for 11 years.
"What makes Subway great is that we can learn from each other across the country and internationally. I have made some great friendships all across the world," says Jennifer. "We can all connect and it’s nice to have that global feeling that there are other people out there like you and realize that everyone is willing to help."
"My husband was one of the founding franchisees in Costa Rica, but he got sick in 2010 and passed away," explains Montserrat Odio, who owns 78 Subway restaurants in Costa Rica. "That is when I had to jump in. When everything happened, Subway was really supportive of making sure I received the training necessary to take over."
At both the corporate and franchise level, Subway values giving back to the community. We asked the group how they deliver on that mission.
"We’ve been able to partner with USO and make lunches for soldiers who didn’t have money," Jennifer says. "We used to do a fitness challenge with local underprivileged elementary schools. The winning school would get money from us and then the gym teachers would buy new equipment. The excitement that those kids had was really fun to watch."
Patience is key, accept that you can't control everything, and learn how to delegate.
"The most important thing is acceptance and feeling comfortable with uncertainty," says Montserrat. "There are things out there out of your control and you have to embrace that and go forward."
There's something to be said for getting out of your comfort zone. "When you’re out of your comfort zone, everything works better. Your senses are alert, and your decisions are bolder and more thoughtful," she says.
Top Image Credit: Subway®