One of Carrie’s earliest examples of what a passionate and determined work ethic looks like occurred when she was just 10 years old. Around this time, she began helping her father with his small business — a manufacturing facility specializing in tool and die in her hometown of Rockford, Illinois. At that impressionable age, each step of business ownership seemed foreign and yet absolutely thrilling to her. She took in every second and kept a careful eye on her father’s behavior, like the respect with which he treated each customer or the graciousness he wasn’t afraid to verbalize to his employees.
Watching him, she learned the true meaning of entrepreneurship. He ingrained in her the need to demonstrate a dedication to one’s craft, the importance of putting forth your most diligent effort, and the perseverance, honesty, and integrity it takes to own a successful business. From that day on, she just knew that she would follow in his footsteps, forever chasing that euphoric sense of accomplishment, birthing new ideas, and molding them together into flowing processes.
And so it began. At age 15, she took her first paid position working at the local Dairy Queen. Even though the work was often hot, sticky, and just plain messy, it felt like she had found her place. The management team there had a lasting and significant impact on her, and ultimately, the trajectory of her life and career. This is where the seeds of love for the restaurant industry were planted and where she witnessed how being a truly effective leader and a genuine, caring human being can resonate with a team of employees, regardless of their diverse backgrounds.
Throughout her teens and early twenties, she continued to work in various restaurants and positions, learning a lot about their inner workings, the business side of things, and loads about how to effectively manage people. In addition to those jobs, she continued to “side hustle” for most of her youth and early adulthood. Nothing illegal though! 😉 But she began testing the entrepreneurial waters, stretching her wings and forming small business ventures. From cleaning windows for local restaurants to designing balloon arches for Home Depot to coordinating job fair events to opening a flower shop, she had her share of hits and misses.
In 1997, she moved from her little hometown to Chicago. Thankfully, she quickly found her way, landing positions in the city’s bustling restaurants and nightclubs. Within a year, fate intervened when she crossed paths with the visionary behind Potbelly Sandwich Works. At that time, Potbelly had three locations, but they had exciting plans for the company’s future. And needless to say, she wanted in. So in June of 1999, she was brought on as Potbelly’s Director of Human Resources.
For more than a decade, she worked in this amazing role, surrounded by talented teammates and doing the work she loved. Through the development and restructuring of Potbelly’s recruiting process and HR functions, those three restaurants bloomed into more than 200 restaurants in ten markets.
But after an incredible career with Potbelly, she had a vision of her own — to help restaurateurs and entrepreneurs learn how to better manage their people, HR systems, and processes. And with that, she founded Restaurant HR Group in 2010.
Everyone gets into this industry or starts becomes an entrepreneur for different reasons. But for Carrie, the entire reason she’s in the restaurant HR business — and now branching out into advising and training — comes down to three simple reasons:
- To make the world a happier place. Yes, it may sound a bit cliché, but that doesn’t make it any less true. Not only does she want to create a happier workplace for her own team, but she also wants to extend that to each and every restaurant, business, and person out there in the world.
- Because great leadership matters. Carrie believes that effective leadership comes down to building emotional connections with your team, customers, and community. By simply being a stand-up human being, many people find out that they have what it takes to be a great leader. Carrie helps employees uncover their leadership traits so they can guide the next generation.
- To create more restaurant success stories. Once you have leadership and systems in place, and a well-planned and unique concept, your odds of success rise exponentially. And with consumers spending nearly half of their food dollars in restaurants, the demand is absolutely there. Carrie is bound and determined to create even more restaurant success stories.
Carrie does have life outside of her professional goals and aspirations. She is a mom of two amazing boys and married to an incredible man — who happens to be a fabulous restaurant operator to boot! In her spare time, she loves to travel the world, pick the brains of successful entrepreneurs and business people, and go to as many Pitbull shows as possible. Yep, Carrie Luxem is a total Pitbull fangirl! 😉