A Catholic Executive Goes ‘Undercover’
An interview with Dina Dwyer-Owens, CEO of The Dwyer Group
Editor’s Note: Randy Hain will be a guest on Register Radio on April 12. Listen on EWTN Radio at 2pm Eastern, with encores at 7pm Eastern on Saturdays and 11am Eastern on Sundays. Or listen online here.
I was introduced to Dina Dwyer-Owens a few months ago via a mutual friend, having never heard of Dina, her popular episode of Undercover Boss, which aired on CBS in January 2012 or The Dwyer Group, which she leads as chairwoman and CEO.
On Undercover Boss, senior executives disguise themselves and work in entry-level jobs within their companies in order to learn how their businesses operate from an often eye-opening perspective.
In Dina’s episode, she candidly shared her devotion to daily Mass and the importance of her prayer life. What I discovered in our long and enjoyable conversation was a gratifying and rare find in today’s world: a Catholic executive who is guided by a core set of company values and makes decisions through the filter of her faith.
Our conversation ran the gamut — from the instant celebrity status she earned from the show to her supportive family to her passion for leading The Dwyer Group, an $800-million holding company of seven service-based franchise organizations: Aire Serv®, Glass Doctor®, Mr. Appliance®, Mr. Electric®, Mr. Rooter®, Rainbow International® and The Grounds Guys™ started in 1981 and founded by her late father.
I was struck by her humility, passion for the employees of the company and a strong desire to serve others. My family even became the beneficiary of her compassionate character. After I mentioned to Dina in our interview that my 15-year-old son has high-functioning autism and is a big fan of Undercover Boss, she sent him an autographed picture of Dina “in character” from one of the scenes in the show, with a personal note to my son as well as a signed copy of her book Live R.I.C.H. and a DVD of the episode. My son was delighted, and I am grateful for Dina’s thoughtfulness and the smile she put on my son’s face.
It is important for us to live out our faith in the public square, and Dina is doing this through both her words and her actions in such a way that can serve as an example for everyone.
Dina, how has life changed for you since being featured on CBS’ reality show Undercover Boss back in January?
I feel a real responsibility, I’d even say a calling, to help our nation get back to our roots of prospering with good, wholesome values, and I’ve been invited to speak all over the country about The Dwyer Group’s philosophy of living R.I.C.H., an acronym for our values of Respect, Integrity, Customer focus and Having fun in the process. My audiences have ranged from high-school students to veterans. The pace of these speaking invitations has increased of late, as the show has been re-aired all over the world.
To many in the Catholic world, you have become a hero for your open, joyful and unapologetic devotion to our Catholic faith, which you shared on the show. Are you frequently asked how you integrate your faith with your business life? How do you respond?
First, I’ve never thought of myself as a hero, but I’m often asked how to live one’s faith in the workplace. My answer is always to be your best, authentic self and treat others with respect and dignity. When you do that, your faith will shine through.
You launched the Live R.I.C.H. campaign in 2005 to promote The Dwyer Group’s “Code of Values” and the themes of respect, integrity, customer focus and having fun. How has your Catholic faith influenced the values you live and promote in your company?
I consider my Catholic faith my foundation for personal success and The Dwyer Group’s “Code of Values” as the foundation for the company’s success. I believe it’s important that all of our team members and franchisees have clear expectations of how we want them to treat others and that allows them to be their best self. The bottom line is that our company values go hand in hand with my personal faith.
Many professionals are challenged today by the concept of leading a balanced life. You are a Catholic mother, wife, successful CEO, author, speaker and mentor. How do you balance all of this? What is the secret?
Funny you should ask! Well, as I am driving to the airport for another speaking engagement, my daughter has been generous enough to drive while I am on the phone responding to your interview questions before I get on the plane. That’s balance!
The real answer would be at The Dwyer Group, where I teach a three-hour course to all new associates and franchisees in basic training. The course is called “Design Your Life,” which includes a segment that specifically addresses finding balance in the six areas of life (spiritual, social, physical, financial/career, family and mental). So my secret is to follow my own advice, which is to be clear about my priorities and have a laser-like focus on managing my time, energy and investments to best serve those priorities.
For example, when I was invited to be CEO of The Dwyer Group in 1999, I was concerned about being away from my family more than I already was as VP of operations. I calendared my daily activities for two weeks and discovered where I spent time in the various areas of my life. This helped me to make some necessary changes at home and at work which allowed me to continue being an active mom, wife and CEO. The change has not been easy, and it takes commitment and focus, but I am surrounded by a loving family and have my Catholic faith to support me as I lead our company.
What message and advice do you wish to convey to Catholics in the business world who will read this interview?
Probably the greatest advice I can give is to attend daily Mass as often as possible and utilize that prayerful time to help keep you focused on the priorities of your life. Most communities have daily Mass available at different times of the day and should be able to accommodate most any schedule.
Randy Hain writes from Atlanta.
He is senior editor of IntegratedCatholicLife.org.