The Secret of Success

Diane Gier works hard, demands excellence from her staff, increases sales annually, and does it all in an atmosphere of humor and good will. Who wouldn’t like working for her?

Nobody, if comments from two employees at her Arby’s restaurant in Oak Harbor are any indication.

“I love Diane, I think she’s great,” said Leann Masters, who recently worked her way up to shift manager under Gier’s tutelage. “She’s fun to work with —= it’s like family fun.”

Overhearing the comment, Gier playfully holds out several dollars bills to Masters for speaking so nicely about the boss, but she quickly pulls them away before Masters can take advantage of the opportunity.

Masters, who grew up in Coupeville, said she most appreciates the leadership skills she has learned from Gier, that you can be demanding while enjoying the people you work with.

“Diane’s a wonderful boss,” she said.

Co-worker Kristen Varone, a trainee for shift manager, agreed.

“Diane’s always willing to work around your schedule,” she said.

Varone worked at Arby’s during high school without having to stop playing sports because Gier was so cooperative. And today she can work and study nursing at Skagit Valley College, again thanks to Gier’s flexibility.

With 28 employees at her Arby’s store on Highway 20, Gier has a lot of people to manage, but she does it with an attitude of fun and enthusiasm. Working on a big catering order from the Chamber of Commerce, she rings up the $265 total and exhorts the crew, “Come on guys, I really need those 35 sandwiches! Come on guys, let’s work together!”

Taking note of her efforts, the Greater Oak Harbor Chamber of Commerce has named Gier and Arby’s as its Business of the Month for June, citing Arby’s mission of delivering quality food in a fast and friendly manner.

Gier points to the company’s corporate philosophy in explaining her own business style: “Dream big, work hard, get it done, play fair, have fun and make a difference.”

Arby’s is a national chain that encourages operating partners like Gier to take an ownership role. “I have more of an investment in the store and run it more like an owner,” she said. Referring to Arby’s executives she says, “They all know this is Diane’s store.”

Gier made the move to Arby’s seven years ago last May, after having managed Henderson’s restaurant for seven years before that. She came to Oak Harbor in 1980 as a Navy wife. “I stayed, he left,” she laughed. She raised her two kids, Jeremy, 25, who works at the new Oak Harbor Home Depot, and Jamie, 24, who is an operating partner at Arby’s North Bend store.

In fact, it was Jamie who urged her mother to apply for the Arby’s position in Oak Harbor. Gier admits it was scary to leave a stable job at Henderson’s.

“It was a move out of my security blanket, she said. “But after raising the kids it was time to do something for me.”

Gier has no regrets at having taken the risk. Sales have increased in double digits each year under her management, and she frequently wins company prizes for sales gains, such as cruises and trips to Whistler and Las Vegas. She is also proud of many former employees who have left her store to enjoy success elsewhere.

Arby’s started out decades ago as a roast beef sandwich enterprise but since then has greatly expanded its menu. Today some of its most popular items are its Market Fresh sandwiches and low car wraps, Gier said. It’s her job to assure the food is presented fresh and fast either at the drive-in window, which accounts for 58 percent of the business, or to the squeaky clean booths inside the restaurant.

Although Arby’s is located on the island’s major highway, Grier said most of her customers are locals who keep coming back. “This is a small community and I have to get that repeat business,” she said. “We know the customers’ orders as they walk through the door.”

Grier and her staff also take an active role in the community, volunteering with the Chamber and participating in projects benefitting local organizations such as Help House and Big Brothers/Big Sisters.

Looking ahead, Grier sees more happy, successful years ahead at the Oak Harbor Arby’s.

“They’ll have to roll me out of here,” she said with her trademark laugh.

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