Editor's note: This story first appeared in the fall 2019 issue of the Concordian, the official magazine of Concordia University Wisconsin.
Get to know one of our “uncommon” Concordians, Christine Specht-Palmert, CEO of Cousins Subs, Foundation Board Chair and member of the Board of Regents.
There was never a discussion about the day Christine Specht-Palmert would step into her father’s shoes and head up the successful East Coast-style sub sandwich chain that he and his cousin built from the ground up.
Specht-Palmert is thankful for that, because, while she did eventually work her way to the top of Cousins Subs, she did so on her own terms— and the company is better for it, she contends.
Today, the 47-year-old Cousins Subs operates about 100 restaurants, mostly in Wisconsin. Specht-Palmert stepped into the roles of president and COO in 2008, and in 2015 her father passed on the CEO title. She has helped to steer the company through a series of strategic moves—including a branding refresh and menu enhancements—in order to position it for scalable growth in the years to come.
She’s brought her business acumen, winning people skills, and commitment to quality to her role as Chair of Concordia’s Foundation Board and as a member of the Board of Regents for the past nine years. Just like the family business, when Specht-Palmert believes in something she puts her all into it.
What made you want to serve on Concordia’s Board?
I always wanted to continue this idea of service to others, and while I’m not an alum of Concordia I remember thinking at the time I was fi rst asked that I liked what they were doing. I thought Concordia filled a need in higher education—to provide a Christ-centered education while obtaining readiness for the next step of your career as a young adult.
You’ve said you appreciate that your parents gave you space to spread your wings when you were first starting out. Why was that important?
If it isn’t a person’s dream to run the family business it will impact their ability to have personal satisfaction, and it will affect the culture. I believe wholeheartedly you really need to want to be where you work. So, ultimately, I would say I choose to be at Cousins, I love what I do, and I think that authenticity resonates with everyone.
How does that choice or desire to be with Cousins translate to your employees or franchisees?
I take an example from my dad because he’s always been really good about visiting restaurants and respecting that the business succeeds because there are hardworking people who are making it happen every day. I try to demonstrate that as much as possible in my own way. For example, this year I’ll cashier at all of our corporate locations, which gives me opportunity to interact with our guests. The best part though is meeting the teams in the restaurants. They all have a story and it’s fun to get to know them.
Besides your dad, who else has served as a model for growth for you?
I’m a big believer in surrounding yourself with people who are smarter or better or more accomplished than you because there is always something to learn. That’s another reason why I wanted to be on Concordia’s Board. Obviously, Dr. Ferry is one of those people, so seeing him in action and learning from him has been a true blessing.
As president of the Foundation Board, you played an important role in helping The Robert W. Plaster Free Enterprise Center come to fruition. What is the importance of the new building?
It demonstrates that Concordia has its finger on the pulse of what the needs of its students are. Overall, it’s about giving students what they need to be servants of Christ in the Church and world. At a time when higher ed is facing great challenges, Concordia is looking ahead to the next 10, 15 years.
The fall 2019 Concordian hit mailboxes the end of September. View a PDF version of the magazine here. If you are not on our mailing list, but are interested in receiving a free copy, call 262-243-4333.
— This story is written by Kali Thiel, director of university communications for Concordia University Wisconsin and Ann Arbor. She may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 262-243-2149.
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