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During a recent school outing with my daughters, I ran into a childhood friend. We worked together when we were both teenagers, making the best ice cream sundaes around at a Dairy Queen in Dearborn Heights, Michigan. After that meeting I began to reminisce.

At an old little shack along Ford Road back in 1988, I forged some lasting friendships, realized the importance of a job, grew as a manager and quite frankly learned everything I need to know about life.

Photo courtesy of

Photo courtesy of

Here are a portion of the life lessons I learned while splitting bananas and blending blizzards:

Work hard and it pays off

As the youngest person to ever manage this popular franchise location, from counting cash flow, to ordering stock and supervising staff, I quickly learned the importance of responsibility. Striving to manage this location and sell more than my counterparts, I served with a smile and managed the same. I always expected the most of myself and my staff and still do that today in my current position. Since the days of cones and sprinkles, a strong work ethic has served me well.

The customer is always right

Interpersonal skills are a dying trait. Don’t get me wrong, I love to text and email as much as anyone, but the skill of communicating with someone in person is very critical to success. When a customer is standing in front of you and loudly offering up their concerns, it is imperative to take control of the situation. You must listen and then take quick action to solve the problem. Even today I do my fair share of client relations and have never forgotten what I learned.

The importance of a team

No sundae is complete without the toppings, just as a team is not complete without all crucial players involved. Playing to the strengths of those you manage is critical. I knew who on my shift was best at the register and who was most efficient at making sundaes and serving up cones. Even today I do my best to allow each and every one of my team members to do their best work on their terms (within reason). I encourage them to trust in their instincts and deliver an end product that they are proud of.

So for me that first job was more than gas money and a night out with my friends, it was a life lesson that I will never forget.

Tina Benvenuti Sullivan is EVP/COO at Franco.

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