How much do you believe in your client’s product, service or brand? How much do you believe in the company’s mission, in its prospects, in its leadership?
Enough to cast your lot with them?
Let me tell you how great it feels to say YES!
More than 20 years ago, when I started my career as a technical writer at Burger King Corporation, I trained in the company’s restaurants to learn the operations and procedures so I could write them. I was fortunate enough to meet a kind operations manager named Don Fox, who trained and then mentored me throughout my career at Burger King. Always there to provide information or advice, Don taught me the restaurant business.
In 2011, thinking about new career opportunities I researched Fort Lauderdale-based Zimmerman Advertising as a prospective employer. In reading about their clients I found myself fascinated by sub franchise Firehouse Subs, an up-and-coming restaurant brand with a backstory as charming as the company’s turnaround story.
Firehouse Subs was founded by brothers Chris and Robin Sorensen, both firefighters—and its CEO was none other than my old friend and mentor, restaurant veteran Don Fox. I can’t overstate my exhilaration at the possibility of working with Don again. That sort of serendipity is rare in a career.
I interviewed at Zimmerman for a position working directly on the Firehouse Subs account. The hiring process included interviewing with the client’s CEO—Don. I remember thinking before the meeting: “What can he possibly ask me that he doesn’t already know about me?” We managed to have a fine time of it, and I knew that working at Zimmerman Advertising with Don Fox on the client side was where I should be.
As Group Account Director and lead on the Firehouse Subs account, I threw myself into learning all facets of their business. I got to know Chris and Robin Sorensen, I learned their philosophies regarding their family’s business, I saw their passion for their charitable organization, the Firehouse Subs Safety Foundation, which I respect and admire so much. I got to know the corporate marketing team, the franchisees, the field teams and the vendors. Next to working at Zimmerman, this is a business and organization with which I really enjoy partnering. Firehouse Subs is a brand I personally believe in and I am deeply committed to their success. I understand their business, I study their success and I’ve lost sleep over their challenges.
I attended a franchisee convention – which is called a “family reunion” – and was blown away by the positive and collaborative atmosphere between the franchisee community and the company. A feeling of partnership was evident between franchisees and the Firehouse Subs brand, and they did treat each other as family. In my career, I have always been involved with franchisee business models and I knew the Firehouse Subs model was a very different one, one on a path to great success.
My husband and I had often discussed franchising. We wanted to create a business for our young children to take over someday, and his 20 years in restaurant operations combined with my restaurant marketing experience made a restaurant franchise a logical career extension. But not just any restaurant would do. I understood the business model at Firehouse, knew and trusted the leadership, and was aware that with only one restaurant open in Miami this was a territory they wanted to expand—and one my husband and I know extremely well.
Last year we earnestly started the process of becoming a franchisee. I believed so strongly in my client—and they in me—that I am now a proud Firehouse Subs franchisee. My husband and I plan to open our first Firehouse Subs by the end of the year, and we look forward to opening multiple stores in Miami over the next few years.
Everyone at both Firehouse Subs and Zimmerman has been tremendously supportive during this process. I’m so grateful that my position at Zimmerman brought me to Firehouse Subs, where I am able to work with Don Fox and Vice President of Marketing Doug Reifschneider to carry out the Sorensen family’s business vision that will become my family’s business and legacy. What’s more, becoming a member of the Firehouse Subs franchise family has given me even greater insight to the company’s business and needs. So Zimmerman’s success is my success, but on both ends for me now: Not only for my company, but for my family’s business as well.
Commitment to one’s clients can be seen in both tangible and intangible ways. But for me, there’s only one way… all in.