Regional Director of Operations Sheila Brown-Norris outlines the many benefits of the Cold Stone team’s support for franchise owners
When franchisees in Cold Stone Creamery® Red River region (which covers all of Texas and portions of Arkansas, Oklahoma and Louisiana) have a problem, they know that help is on the way. Regional Director of Operations (RDO) Sheila Brown-Norris oversees this area, assisting Cold Stone Creamery franchise owners to help them make their businesses as healthy as possible.
Brown-Norris is just one of dozens of RDOs in the company — support representatives tasked with helping franchisees with all aspects of running their businesses. It’s an incredible benefit to franchise owners — having someone from the corporate office ready, willing and able to answer questions, troubleshoot concerns, monitor their progress and offer objective business-building advice.
We recently spent a few minutes with Brown-Norris, hearing more about her experiences, her work as an RDO and the difference she’s brought to business owners with whom she’s worked.
How did you get started with Cold Stone Creamery?
I’ve been with Cold Stone® for about 15 years now. I started off in the logistics and construction department in the corporate office back in 2003. At the time, my husband was working in Houston, getting ready to retire from the Army. He decided that he wanted to buy a Cold Stone once he retired. Since I worked in the corporate office and loved Cold Stone, I agreed. We actually ended up buying four Cold Stone stores. We really bought the stores for our kids to have to run some day, but by the time our kids graduated, none of them wanted to run the businesses. So, after we sold the last one, I went to work as an RDO in the corporate office.
Describe your role as an RDO for Cold Stone Creamery.
As an RDO, I support our franchisees by helping them increase their sales, giving them guidance and direction and ensuring them that they know how to run a business. We help them learn the operation side of our brand. One of our main responsibilities is inspecting the stores to help make sure they are clean.
When I first came to the territory, cleaning up the stores was a huge priority for me. I felt like they responded well and what I was trying to do because of my background as a previous franchisee. I wasn’t just an RDO. I could relate to them and knew where they were coming from. They were more accepting of me because of that, I think.
Talk more about how your previous role as a franchisee benefits your work as an RDO.
I know what they are going through, and I know how hard they work on a daily basis. Being a small business owner, you don’t get verbal positive recognition or that feeling of being appreciated, and when I was a franchisee, I struggled with that. So I try to be positive and encouraging and tell them how they’re doing. I try to point out the best of what I see in them and so they listen to me more. I tell them that I know the struggle of being a business owner, and I know the rewards of being a business owner. That makes me a stronger RDO for my region.
And now, I’m able to work with them on what I think is the most important thing — knowing their numbers, going over those financial reports when I see them, inspecting their labor and payroll percentage — things that are key factors in running a business.
What do you like best about working as an RDO for Cold Stone?
I like it all, but my all-time favorite part of my job is training. I love training, and I love training people on the Cold Stone Creamery service philosophy, which is the “power of nice.” People just aren’t nice anymore! So, I train my franchisees and the crew members on our brand’s service procedure, which is called, “act: act nice to your customers.” The stores that do that are the stores that do best because good customer service is the key to our growth.
What’s does a prospective Cold Stone franchise owner need to know about this company?
When a new franchisee buys a Cold Stone, they get tons of support, and not just from their RDO. We have an amazing marketing team, and each region has their own marketing rep who helps market the stores in their area. We have an incredible team of trainers who are phenomenal. We also have training stores where the new franchisees get to go in and actually work in a store for two weeks. When they open their store, they know how to run it.
I believe we’ve got their backs from day one. We are the ones who guide them through the purchasing of the store. We train them on how to run the operations of the store.We work with them on marketing the store and learning the financial side of the business. Once they’re given the keys to the store, the RDO is there to help them grow and become strong business partners. We are a partnership. It’s not just the RDO. It’s a whole team.
How does the role of the RDO make a difference for the franchisees and their businesses?
I have a story that shows how RDOs help our franchise owners. One of the franchise owners in my region took over a store that was struggling. But he came in and worked really hard at finding a crew, training the crew and focused on winning back his customers. The first year, he did really well with that.
The second year, he started slacking off. My role as an RDO is to tell the truth. He walked through the store with me; he had been busy doing other things, so he wasn’t aware how bad the store had gotten.
So, I had to talk to him about his loss of focus and the repercussions of that. I had to put him “out of compliance,” and he was livid at me. He didn’t talk to me for weeks.
But after he had time to process what I was saying, he realized that I was there for him and wanted to support him. At first, he started texting me with questions and then he started calling me. He apologized to me for his behavior and said that what I did was a good thing because it changed him.
Fast forward … today, he owns three stores and is in the process of purchasing another one. If he didn’t think this was a great brand, he wouldn’t stay with Cold Stone Creamery. He’s my success story. That’s a great example of the franchisee/RDO partnership, and it speaks volumes for Cold Stone.
Bring Cold Stone Creamery franchise to your community
Doing business for 30 years, Cold Stone Creamery has become a national institution, beloved for offering The Ultimate Ice Cream Experience®. Our brand’s super-premium ice cream is made fresh in more than 1,000 locations in the United States and in hundreds of other locations around the world. We are actively recruiting new franchisees to open stores in territories from coast to coast.