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WomanOf The Month 1-09: Christine Specht

LIKE FATHER, LIKE DAUGHTER
Christine Specht Continues Family Legacy at Cousins Subs

Ask any child what they want to be when they grow up and they will most likely answer, “I want to be just like my mom and dad.apostrophe Christine Specht, the daughter of Cousins Subs co-founder Bill Specht, is no exception.

Born in 1974, just two years after her father and his cousin, the late Jim Sheppard, opened the first Cousins Subs shop in Milwaukee, Christine literally grew up with the concept. By the age of 15, she was working part-time in her parents’ restaurants doing everything from making sandwiches, bussing tables and working the register. While she enjoyed the family business, Christine took a hiatus from Cousins while attending Marquette University and American University – where she earned a bachelor’s degree in criminology and a Master of Public Administration, respectively – and spent time volunteering with homeless families in Florida and working in a variety of legislative positions. By 2001, however, Christine realized she couldn’t deny her roots and returned to Cousins to head up the company’s newly-created human resources department.

“Coming back to Cousins was like putting on an old sweater: even though you haven’t worn it in a while, you still remember exactly how it feels and smells,apostrophe said Christine, now 34. “It’s what my family talked about around the dinner table my entire life. It’s part of who I am and to reintroduce something of that magnitude back into my life was a great feeling.apostrophe

After her return, Christine knew she would be with Cousins for the duration of her career but fate intervened to dictate in what capacity. As Bill and Jim aged, they no longer wanted to be involved with the company’s day-to-day minutiae and began searching for an individual capable of continuing Cousins’ commitment to excellence well into the future. When Jim passed away in July of 2007, Bill knew that he needed to look within the company for its new leader and approached Christine about assuming the role of president.

“This was not a plan laid out upon my arrival by any means but so many things that happened over the past year – specifically Jim’s death – brought these concerns to the surface,apostrophe said Christine. “It was a very serendipitous occurrence, yet I am confident that I’ll do right by my family and make the next 30 years just as, if not more, exciting for Cousins than the previous 30.apostrophe

Since March of 2008, at 34 years of age, Christine now faces the challenge of assuming the role as president and COO of Cousins Subs. While the company has been solid since opening, Christine plans to revamp an aged business model by getting back to the basics. Strengthening old relationships and building new ones has been at the forefront of Christine’s plans, along with implementing intelligent, strategic growth in all markets and reworking the franchisee selection process.

Though this is a time of great change for Cousins Subs, one thing remains constant: Christine still wants to emulate her father and make her family proud.

“They say that your family will love you no matter what and that’s no different in my family,apostrophe said Christine. “But I know I have some big shoes to fill and I plan to do everything in my power to continue the Cousins legacy well into the future.apostrophe