When Maria J.R. Struik met her husband, John, he was the area franchisee for Dixie Lee Food Systems. They were very successful and opened many outlets throughout Northern Ontario. In January 2006, corporate ownership changed, and in June 2006, she and John became entangled in a legal battle with the new corporate owner. In May 2008, John became suddenly ill and was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer; he passed in June 2008. Mrs. Struik had always been involved in the business, but more in a supporting role. After John’s sudden death, she honored his previous agreement with Dixie Lee and finished the legal battle in September 2011. She then started her own business in the hospitality industry, building it based upon the principles in which she and her late husband believed so strongly.
“Love what you do so you don’t work a day in your life,” says Mrs. Struik. She now serves as the president and chief executive officer of Roosters Diner, a restaurant that is known for its simple, good food, and great hospitality. She enjoys helping people reach their greatest potential and seeing them succeed. She loves her job and aims to attract people with the same business philosophy. Mrs. Struik has been a three-time finalist for North American Marketing’s Marketer of the Year award, and she received the Celebrity Press Editor’s Choice Award in 2012. She has four bestseller slots on Amazon.com for the book that she contributed to, titled “Women Who Mean Business.”
Mrs. Struik is an honorary member of America’s Premier Expert and holds a bachelor’s degree equivalent in business, which she earned in the Netherlands. She attributes her success to her faith and hard work, and looking ahead, she hopes to have the company built up to many more units, and wants to have a restaurant in Bruce Mines, Canada.
Conversation with Maria J.R. Struik
Worldwide Publishing: On what topics do you consider yourself to be an expert?
Maria J.R. Struik: I consider myself to be an expert in hospitality. I feel as though I can help those who may be lost in the corporate world of the hospitality industry. I am able to give my franchisees the best of what I have learned over the years. I used to be a franchisee, so I know the problems they face.
What characteristics help to separate you from your competitors?
I love helping people as opposed to just loving money. Big corporations (must) just love money. If you love helping people get what they want, you will get what you want and then the money will come. If you love to help people, things will come naturally.
What motivates you?
Helping people attain their dream. I love to see people do well. I want to make a difference by leading, helping and serving people.
What lessons have you learned as a professional in your field?
Stay true to yourself and believe in what you do. Do everything with the highest integrity and you will never be sorry.
What short-term and long-term career goals are you currently pursuing?
My long-term goal is to build my group of franchises and expand it to wherever opportunities arise — We must grow from the inside out.
How do you plan to achieve these goals?
By attracting the right kind of people.
What is the most difficult obstacle or challenge you have faced in pursuit of your goals?
The loss of my husband, John, who loved hospitality and franchising.
What is the most significant issue facing your profession today?
Finding team members who share the same vision.
Did you ever consider pursuing a different career path or another profession?
Always a different version of the same mindset: helping and serving people. After emigrating from the Netherlands, I was a translator at a real estate firm, which led me to become a real estate broker. After meeting my husband John, who was a very successful in franchising, I became involved in all the real estate aspects associated with growing the area franchise.
How did you end up working in the hospitality field?
I met my husband, John, and we loved the combination of hospitality and real estate.
What do you find to be the most rewarding aspect of your profession?
When someone tells me that I served them well.
What is your favorite or least favorite work-related task to do and why?
I love interacting with and helping people, that is when I am happy.
What advice can you offer fellow members or others aspiring to work in your industry?
Focus on people first. I would love to chat with anyone interested in the field. You have to truly love every aspect of dealing with people; serve them, help them and lead them.
Who have been your mentors or people who have greatly influenced you?
I had great examples by my husband, John and my parents.
What changes have you observed in your industry/field since you started?
A shift in our guest base; we actually have a fast growing elderly population in our Canadian market.
How do you see these changes affecting the future of your industry?
Be savvy and cater to the needs of the guests, whatever their age.
Have you contributed to any publications or to research in your field?
I have written a chapter in the book, “Women Who Mean Business.”