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KFC celebrates prominent female franchisee, Joan Bowling, during Women’s History Month

Category:  Unlocking Opportunities

In celebration of Women’s History Month and in partnership with EmpowHER, Yum! Women in Franchising Conference, KFC would like to recognize the invaluable contributions women make to the success of our brand and celebrate one of our prominent female franchisees, Joan Bowling. 

Joan Bowling owns six restaurants in the Dayton/Columbus, Ohio market areas.  She started working at a KFC when she was 16, and it is where she met her husband, Don.  She was an RGM (Restaurant General Manager) at KFC through college and then left to start her family.  In 1988, an opportunity presented itself to start earning ownership in a KFC restaurant.  Joan came back to work to help her husband run this restaurant. Together, they almost tripled the annual sales of the restaurant, and soon purchased it and became franchisees.  Within a year, they bought their second restaurant.

Joan has always had an instinct for business.  As a kid, she started a lawn mowing business, and her dad made her pay rent on the mower.  Joan now owns six restaurants, having recently sold one of her restaurants to her daughter Heather, who is also in the family business.

Joan is the only female franchisee board member on the KFC NCAC (National Council Advertising Cooperative) and is committed to mentoring and championing women in the KFC system.  She sits on the executive committee and the National Marketing Committee and is the representative for RSCS.  When she is not working in or for the KFC brand, Joan is the proud mom of three children and three grandchildren.

We are pleased Joan spent time with us to discuss KFC and advocating for women:

Studies show that women are often not taught the “business of business” and must seek out this knowledge.  Who did you learn this from, and how did you go about educating yourself?

I was a science major in college.  When we bought the restaurants, I had three babies, six years old and younger.  I took the opportunity to learn the business and hired a woman for six months to train me in accounting, payroll, and building a P&L. 

Tell us about growing your business and team. 

You learn quickly that it is important who you surround yourself with and that you must have really good people.  You want to surround yourself with the people that have the skills that you don’t.  

What do you think are the attributes of a good leader?

Definitely getting to know your people on a personal level.  You need to learn what is important to them.  We really pride ourselves that our managers have a good quality of life at home.  We work them 45-50 hours a week and always try to give them a weekend day off.  As a woman, you realize that when you have children, you want to go to their sports games, and if you are asking someone to give that up, they won’t stay as long or be as committed.  They have to have a good home life on top of a good work environment.

What advice would you give other women that are looking to become franchisees?

There are a lot of opportunities out there, and you have to open yourself up.  I think that a lot of women are afraid to take the initial step.  When my husband retired, it was a big step for me to take on the whole business.  It was easier than I thought it was going to be because I think women underestimate ourselves sometimes. 

How do you handle being the only female leader in the room? 

At first, it is a little intimidating.  I found that KFC corporate and other franchisees were both so welcoming and make you feel comfortable.  I quickly realized it wasn’t going to be a problem.  And I had to make up my mind it was ok if I didn’t relate to everything that the guys were talking about. 

If you had the opportunity to give yourself career advice ten years ago, what would it be? 

Don’t doubt yourself so much and take that chance earlier.  I was terrified of public speaking, but then, once I started doing it, I was fine.  There are so many things you can do if you push yourself.  And there are so many people to help you and that want you to succeed.

What insights have you learned while representing our franchisees?

When you serve on committees, you get more than you put in.  You learn best practices, and when you are on committees, you have experts in all these different fields, and you gain information you can take back to run a better business. 

How do you balance work and home life? 

One thing I learned—it has to be scheduled.  It is how I get everything done.  We even schedule family time, a family dinner every Friday night.  So, my family knows that Friday night is our time. 

Your daughter, Heather, recently bought a restaurant from you.  How is your family involved in the business?

Heather worked in our restaurants while in college and has always been involved.  She was always hands-on in the business, and over the years, she has become my right arm.  I couldn’t run the business without her.  We depend on each other.  It is important to find the right team.  We also have a female area coach that we depend heavily on. 

Time is your most valuable asset.  How do you determine what you spend time on and what you delegate? 

Heather and I learn to divide our strengths; I handle certain things, and she handles certain things.  Heather’s strength is being in the restaurants.  And I take a more behind-the-scenes role with the business. 

Joan thinks the greatest part of KFC is the franchisees. She says they are always there to help and want to see you succeed.  She remembers when she bought her first restaurant, a franchisee came in to introduce himself and went out of his way to make her feel welcome.  Now, as a leader and representative for the franchisees, Joan’s goal is to help franchisees succeed and to support women leaders to become franchisees of KFC.