Bob Bowman, director of risk management for The Wendy’s Co., may not be a compliance officer, but he certainly understands the symbiotic relationships that integrate ethics and culture-building into the fabric of an enterprise.
Wendy’s has staked its ground on making quality a key differentiator. As coined by its founder, Dave Thomas, nearly 50 years ago, “Quality Is Our Recipe” is a slogan and mantra for all Wendy’s employees. It not only relates to food, but to all facets of the company to ensure its reputation as a quality leader in the “quick service restaurant” industry.
That focus on quality and reputation is a foundation of for the future. Wendy’s currently has approximately 6,500 restaurants in the United States and 29 other countries. It continues to expand that global footprint and attract new franchisees.
As Wendy’s grows and builds upon its market dominance, Bowman, as an overseer of risk management, will continue to play a key role. During his four years at Wendy’s, Bowman has focused on compliance and culture-building as an ongoing education process for the company and its franchisees. This focus on “doing the right thing” is crucial in an era where social media can taint a restaurant brand faster than a customer can order chili and a Frosty.
About Bob Bowman
Title: Director of Risk Management, The Wendy’s Co.
About Wendy’s: The Wendy’s Company is a global restaurant chain, known for its old-fashioned square hamburgers, french fries, and “the frosty.”
Location: Dublin, Ohio
Years of experience: 20
Areas of expertise: Insurance procurement, contract review, business continuity, risk management systems
Quote: “Compliance can become a resource for enabling business and a catalyst for relationships and, when you reach that point, the function is embraced as part of a framework for success. It is imperative to help others understand how the compliance obligation relates to making the business more effective.”
Bowman’s recipe for success incorporates four main ingredients: equal parts education, process development, reflection, and capitalization. His vision and mission: to be intentional in supporting an environment that furthers the company’s core values.
Can you tell us about yourself and the path to your current position? How closely do your duties intersect with broader matters of compliance?
My role and career path are likely quite different than many of the other award recipients. I do not come from an audit, governance, or compliance background. My background is primarily in the insurance, claims, and operational risk management areas. At a certain point, however, it became my perspective that those traditional areas of risk management had a very strong relationship with other areas, such as business continuity planning, crisis management, enterprise risk management, and governance, risk, and compliance.
This recognition led me toward compliance and the concept I refer to as “integrated risk management.”
The concept of integrated risk management considers risk at the enterprise level and seeks to manage and affect risk in a comprehensive and consistent manner throughout the organization. This concept challenges many of the existing structural paradigms within organizations and seeks to establish a common risk-based decision-making culture.
What does your role at Wendy’s as director of risk management entail?
My current role at The Wendy’s Company reflects direct responsibility for a number of the traditional components of operational risk management, such as insurance procurement, claims management, environmental health and safety, contract review, and oversight of our total cost of risk.
I also partner with and support professional counterparts relative to accountability for some of the non-traditional and emerging components of risk management, such as crisis management, business continuity management, enterprise risk management, risk analytics, and various forms of risk mitigation and response.
Our collective perspective regarding integrated risk management, and the synergies we realize as we continue to collaborate more effectively, have resulted in the elimination of a number of historical distinctions between and among these programs and are becoming key differentiators in the manner in which we achieve results.
Can you elaborate on this statement from your nomination about a vision of compliance programs being, “equal parts education, process development, reflection, and capitalization,” which you strategically integrate to increase visibility and promote cohesion?
As it relates to me, this is less about direct oversight and direction of our compliance programs, and more about the partnerships we form relative to the concept of integrated risk management. In this regard, I find myself working directly with those who hold primary accountability for both audit and compliance.
As we continue to more effectively leverage and integrate our respective programs, I have a unique opportunity to observe the manner in which education and awareness, process development and maturation, reflection and data visualization, create the traditional opportunities for control, identification of deficiencies, and demonstration of diligence, as well as unique opportunities for identification of strengths and the ability to capitalize on, or exploit, certain challenges, creating opportunities and strategic advantage.
How is communication essential to the success of compliance and risk programs at Wendy’s?
An integrated risk management program is premised on communication and effective cross-functional collaboration. In such a program, it seems that we begin to move away from the traditional siloed approach to business toward shared accountability, active partnership, and the introduction of a risk-based decision-making culture.
Can you explain how “Quality Is Our Recipe” has become more than advertising and is now a guidepost for all Wendy’s employees?
“Quality Is Our Recipe” has always been a guidepost for the Wendy’s system. This was one of our founder Dave Thomas’s five core values, and it continues to guide our decision making today. It has always been a part of who we are as a brand, and it continues to serve as a pillar for both personal and organizational success, more than 15 years after Dave passed away.
Can you talk about what makes “fast food” such a risk and compliance challenge? Especially when social media can quickly stain a restaurant brand.
The quick service restaurant sector includes numerous operational and support functions and, as a result, we are challenged on an ongoing basis regarding a myriad of legal, regulatory, and compliance obligations.
Each function introduces compliance obligations relative to different industries and different sectors.
Some of these obligations relate to one another closely, or logically, and can be managed uniformly, whereas others are derived from entirely different industries or regulatory bodies and require entirely different or unique expertise, processes, and oversight.
Our industry is also a consumer-facing industry. We need to always keep the customer at the center of everything we do. The introduction of social, digital, and other emerging forms of media enable information, accurate or inaccurate, to spread at an exponentially faster pace. In our industry, where our brand and reputation are at the center of our relationship with customers, we must be highly sensitive and very responsive to ensure that we are fulfilling our obligation as brand stewards.
How do you control the risks inherent in the benefit and chain differentiator offered by Wendy’s of fresh, not frozen beef? Many have tried to get this right and failed at the logistics. Another fast food chain, as an example, had health issues arise when they tried to shift to entirely local providers and seemingly failed to grasp the inherent risks of a national chain doing so. Wendy’s, in contrast, spent nearly three years procuring a viable supply of fresh blackberries to get things right when it launched a new salad.
Food safety is our highest priority. We have developed and maintain a strong food safety and quality assurance program that reflects the standards that enable us to assure that our differentiators—including fresh, never-frozen beef—are appropriately protected. Our program has been in place for many years, and includes high standards, ongoing monitoring, and strong compliance requirements.
Can you talk about some of the risk factors you face and how they are dealt with?
We elaborate on risk factors in our 10-K, and it becomes apparent, very quickly, that they arise from a wide variety of sources. We manage risks within our enterprise risk management program and within business functions, utilizing a variety of identification, assessment, control, and mitigation techniques.
What role does translation serve in ensuring global transparency? Are there linguistic challenges to conquer?
Transparency is key, and any business that operates globally must effectively recognize and adapt to language barriers and differences across a wide variety of categories.
A quote from your nomination I’d like you to comment on: “Bob’s vision to advance compliance programs at Wendy’s is simple: Be intentional in supporting an environment that furthers the company’s core values. He envisions compliance programs creating solutions rather than challenges. In addition, he aims to reduce demands on leaders.”
Compliance can become a resource for enabling business, a catalyst for relationships, and a facilitator of communication. The balance of the business is built around our values. When we integrate compliance programs into this context, and they join in reflecting and supporting our values, they become a means of meeting challenges and accomplishing solutions.
How do you meet the goal of streamlining compliance operations?
While I do not hold responsibility for compliance operations directly, I do participate in efforts to streamline our compliance efforts, through strong partnership and open, ongoing communications with my counterparts on our compliance, legal, and audit teams. As we continue to coordinate our programs and the data related to them more effectively, we realize gains in both efficiency and effectiveness.
Among your priorities, you said, was demonstrating the value of compliance to the overall business. What’s your advice?
Compliance can become a resource for enabling business and a catalyst for relationships and, when you reach that point, the function is embraced as part of a framework for success. It is imperative to help others understand how the compliance obligation relates to making the business more effective.
When we recognize and respect the needs of the business, along with the compliance obligations, in the design and execution of our compliance measures, it’s possible to attain compliance requirements while simultaneously facilitating business success.
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Bob Bowman: The quality king