If You Want To Be Successful, Believe In Yourself And Shoot For The Moon
For as long as Heather Gillihan could remember, she wanted to be a NASA astronaut. After college, she found herself working for the U.S. Army Space and Strategic Defense Command as a rocket scientist.
As the years went on, she relocated across the U.S for numerous jobs in the Air Force, moved across the world to Israel with her husband, and even found herself wrangling alligators in Georgia. But she says her hardest and most exciting adventure is the one she’s enjoying right now – running her own business.
She is the franchise owner of Zoom Room, a national indoor dog training gym in Trophy Club, Texas.
I had the opportunity to interview Heather recently. Here are the highlights of that interview:
Jill Griffin: Where did you grow up? Describe your early childhood and its significance on your life.
Heather Gillihan: I grew up in Clanton, Alabama, almost right in the middle of the state. I am the oldest of three children and the only girl. My father is a pharmacist and has worked at the same store since 1970. My mother was a high school science teacher. In 1984, when I was in the eighth grade, my father bought the pharmacy and gift shop he was working in (Wright Drug & Gift), and my mom would go to the store each day after school to help run the business. That meant I had to step up as well! My job was to take care of my brothers, the house and cook dinner for the family each evening. Yes, it was difficult, but even at that age, I understood the sacrifices my parents were making for us. I saw how hard they worked and their determination to succeed and it made a definite impact on my life.
Griffin: When did you first get the whisper you belonged in business?
Gillihan: My father instilled independence in me from a young age, as well as the confidence to pursue anything I wanted out of life. So, I shot for the moon… literally. I wanted to be an astronaut with my whole heart. I got my love of science from my mom and, yes, she was my ninth grade science teacher in high school. I didn’t quite make it to the moon, but after graduating from Auburn University in 1994, I did become a rocket scientist, my first job being with the U.S. Army Space and Strategic Defense Command in Huntsville, Alabama.
I met my husband at Kirkland Air Force Base and over the years we moved around a lot. He retired from the Air Force in 2011, and was immediately hired by Dyn-Corp International, and it was time to move…again. This time, however, we were half the world away in Jerusalem. We lived there for four years, and it was one of the best times of our lives! We knew it wouldn’t last forever, though, and my husband began prompting me to consider what I wanted to do when we moved back to the states. He said, “This time, do what you’re passionate about… dog training!” I knew he was right, having loved every minute of training our Rottweiler, and then our Golden Retriever, when we were first married and then, more recently, our Great Dane. I just had never thought about making a career of it, and had no idea how to get started.
One day while watching TV I saw an interview with the founder of Zoom Room, a dog training franchise. It was all about Zoom Room’s method of positive-reinforcement training and I saw them do an agility course demo. At the end of the interview, it was mentioned there were franchise opportunities with Zoom Room. I was hooked! I told my husband then and there that Zoom Room was in my future. Zoom Room Trophy Club opened its doors on June 20, 2015, and I have never looked back!
Griffin: Was there an early teacher that inspired you? Who and how?
Gillihan: Absolutely! Her name is Patricia Vines (Patsy), and she was my piano teacher from the ages of 5-18! I often say that Patsy helped raise me. Second only to my parents, she was the most influential person in my life! Not only did she instill discipline and a strong work ethic in me, but like my parents, she always told me that I could be and do anything I wanted to do. She was also responsible for fostering my love of travel and adventure, taking me on my first plane ride and adventure out of the south. She took me to New York when I was 15, to Europe when I was 16, and back to New York again when I was 17.
Griffin: What’s a great piece of business or life advice you received, who gave it to you, and how has it enhanced your life?
Gillihan: This one is easy. It came from my husband… well… sort of. It’s actually a quote from Abraham Lincoln. “Whatever you are, be a good one.” It reminds me that no matter what I’m doing, personally, or professionally, to do it (or be it) to the best of my ability.
Griffin: Please give me the top three bullet points in your Personal Leadership Credo.
1. Whether it’s employees, returning clients, or new customers, treat them like family. This is the staple of my business. If someone walks through our doors and feels like they’re “home,” they will keep coming back!
2. Communication is the key to success. Communicate your expectations clearly and your employees, clients and customers will rise to every challenge.
3. Do no harm. Conflicts and misunderstandings will arise in every business and relationship, but in trying to resolve any issue, do so with kindness and respect.
Griffin: What advice do you have for young, talented, ambitious women who want to rise?
Gillihan: First of all, you need a strong support system. Surround yourself with people who will uplift, support, and encourage you no matter what is going on in your life! I could NOT have made this leap without my wonderful husband who supported and encouraged me through every difficult (and exciting) step of the way!
Second, know who you are, what you want and what you are capable of achieving.
Third, do your research (extensively) and after that’s done, follow your heart! When I began looking into Zoom Room seriously, there were many who said, “Don’t do it! It will never work.” I graciously took in the information they offered, as well as that from those who had a positive outlook on the proposition. After analyzing every viewpoint, I knew that if it could be done, I could do it!