Buffalo Wild Wings CEO: 'Having diverse leadership brings out the best in any industry'

March 10, 2017 | by Cherryh Cansler

Editor's note: In honor of International Women's Day and Women's History Month, FastCasual interviewed several female leaders in the restaurant industry to learn about their success and how they feel about leading in a male-dominated industry. To read the entire series, click here.

Sally Smith, CEO of Buffalo Wild Wings, didn't start out in the restaurant industry. In fact, she was working as CFO of a hearing company in 1994, when Buffalo Wild Wings hired her to write a few financial statements. She eventually left the company to work full time for BWW and shortly thereafter became CEO.

Leadership, to Smith, is about passion and the desire to make yourself and your team better. 

"Women have a unique opportunity — they figure out a way to 'do it all.' If you have kids, if you are married, if you are a caregiver, if you have any sort of medical setbacks, and you have a job, you have to figure out how to accomplish it all," she said. "Having been in a male-dominated industry for most of my career, to me, I don't look at a person's gender. Instead, I look at the value that each individual brings — who is the right person for the job.  Being a good leader is about being clear about expectations and ensuring people understand them. A good leader also must remain open to feedback and continuously seek to learn to grow in their role and as a person."

On why women make great leaders
"The restaurant industry provides tremendous opportunity. Having diversity in leadership is important, and I think women bring unique perspective to their leadership roles, just as all individuals do. I've always said having a diverse workplace with unique perspectives helps bring out the best in any industry. " 

Advice to women looking to lead
Network, work hard own your own development and get a mentor. Ever heard of the saying, 'It's not what you know, it's who you know?' Taking the time to build your network is a benefit to you but you will also realize how much you can give back to your network, too. 

Good old fashioned hard work is noticed. It may not be immediately, but doing what you say you will do, going above and beyond, and volunteering for things outside of your 'day job' are things that will help you succeed. Owning your own development is a key piece to success. If you have something you want to go after, do it. You are your best advocate. 

Find a mentor or multiple mentors. These individuals will become your personal board of directors, they are the people that will give you honest feedback and help guide you. Mentors have been known to be involved in my life for multiple years and through my entire career journey.

Another piece of advice is to not be afraid to make a lateral move because it will prepare you for other opportunities down the road.


Topics: Staffing & Training



Cherryh Cansler
Before joining Networld Media Group as director of Editorial, where she oversees Networld Media Group's nine B2B publications, Cherryh Cansler served as Content Specialist at Barkley ad agency in Kansas City. Throughout her 17-year career as a journalist, she's written about a variety of topics, ranging from the restaurant industry and technology to health and fitness. Her byline has appeared in a number of newspapers, magazines and websites, including Forbes, The Kansas City Star and American Fitness magazine. She also serves as the managing editor for FastCasual.com. wwwView Cherryh Cansler's profile on LinkedIn

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