In my series on people who are making a difference, I interview Diane Pleuss. By the way, her last name rhymes with choice, voice or Rolls Royce! (I love that.) Diane has matched hundreds of entrepreneurs with their perfect fit franchise opportunity. (Did you know? I learned PR in the 80’s by working for a Chicago-based PR firm who specialized in expanding franchises in local markets by securing earned editorial mentions in daily newspapers. A lot has changed since I did that in 1989, however, being open to opportunity, as Diane explains, will always be a core secret to success.) Enjoy this interview with a woman who reinvented her career and is now teaching others. My favorite part? She finds it a privilege to show people the ropes and loves helping them prepare for their next opportunity.
Thank you so much for your time! I know you are a very busy person. Can you tell us a story about what early experiences brought you to your specific career path?
In 1994 we moved to California for my husband’s job. My previous work experience was in media sales with a small advertising agency. I answered one newspaper ad for a Marketing Director and was hired. It was for a franchise development company and that is how I moved from advertising to the world of franchising.
A couple years later the president of that company was recruited to become the president of a packaging and shipping franchise and brought me along as the Marketing Director. While I was not in franchise development, occasionally I would talk with candidates who were considering that franchise. For some it was a very good fit to their skills and interests. For others, not so much. I would see them come in and unfortunately, some did not make it.
Fast forward a couple years and the packaging and shipping franchise I was with was struggling and I was downsized. I was shocked as I was part of senior management, but it turned out to be a very good thing as I was invited to join FranChoice. FranChoice is a consortium of independent franchise consultants with deep roots in franchising. I was invited to join and that was 16 years ago.
Can you share the most interesting story that happened to you in your career or education?
When I was a freshman in college at University Wisconsin – Stevens Point (UWSP), we experienced a housing shortage for female students. Instead of a dorm room, I stayed on the top floor of a hotel with sixty other women. In those days, men were not allowed in the women’s dorms, so they were also not allowed in the hotel lobby.
One night a group of us went out on the town to celebrate a birthday and we invited some guys back to the hotel lobby to have some cake. The Resident Assistant (RA) caught us allowing boys inside the hotel lobby and decided to make an example of us. She threatened to kick us out of college and told us we would be the first students ever expelled. To avoid expulsion, we needed to individually meet with the Assistant Dean to discuss the incident. We were all very worried about our academic future. The Assistant Dean turned out to be a very nice man who simply said, “Don’t do it again!”
Long story short, I was allowed to remain at UWSP and am now the Foundation Director for the UWSP Board of Directors.
Can you share a story about the funniest mistake you made when you were first starting out on your career? What lesson did you learn from that?
Have you heard the guidance, “measure twice; cut once”? When I worked for the packing and shipping franchise, we needed to make custom boxes based on specific measurements. I did not follow that guidance and as a result, my boxes did not look all the other boxes the team constructed. Lesson learned!
What are some of the most interesting and exciting community projects are you working on now?
Recently I joined the Bay Area Consultants Network (BACN), an organization focused on improving the practices and business success for consultants through relationship building and programs. I support this organization by finding and vetting speakers to support the programs BACN offers its members.
What are 5 things you would tell your younger self?
1. Risk more.
2. Have more fun.
3. It is better to ask for forgiveness than permission.
4. You are enough.
5. Believe in yourself.
You are a successful person. Can you share some tips on how young people today can get ahead?
My greatest piece of advice is to have an open and ready mindset and look for opportunities – they are everywhere and there is so much serendipity amongst us!
They say the new influencer is a #Givefluencer — how are you paying it forward with others in your life?
I belong to Toastmasters International, an organization that I have learned so much from with respect to public speaking. As a Distinguished Toastmaster (DTM), I pay it forward by encouraging others to join and mentoring those who have joined. It is a privilege to show people the ropes and help prepare them for their next opportunity.
Is there a particular book that you read, or podcast you listened to that really helped you in your career? Can you explain?
I enjoy listening to the podcast, “How I Built This.” On a recent episode, filmmaker Ava DuVernay spoke about her journey and how she was able to change the way films are made, and who gets to make them. The episode reinforces my guidance on being open and ready minded as life is full of serendipitous moments.
Because of the role you play in the community, you are a person of great influence. If you could inspire “good news” what would be your headline and 3 talking points?
There’s More to Franchising than Fast Food and French Fries!
1. The average Joe (or Jane!) can do great in franchising – no superhero skills needed!
2. Build your dream while helping your community
3. Don’t have a million $$? No problem – financing options are available!
How can people connect with you?