The Feldman File Featured

9:28am EDT August 20, 2004
Born: 1952, Chicago

 

Resides: Hinsdale, Ill.

 

Education: B.A. and MBA, University of Illinois

 

First job: Retail department manager (age 16)

 

Career moves: Cidair Structures -- "I had the opportunity to manage this little $2 million business shortly after I got out of graduate school, which was a terrific opportunity for me to really understand many facets of running a small business. I had to make payroll every Friday. I had to hire and fire people. I had to negotiate international deals at the age of 22 and 23. I think all of that gave me a great perspective, certainly for franchisees, because they run small businesses and have all the challenges that I had early in my career."

A.T. Kearney -- management consultants, seven years

PepsiCo -- From 1983 to 1994, served in financial and operations posts at Frito-Lay and Pizza Hut. At Pizza Hut, named senior vice president of operations, 1990, and senior vice president, business strategy and chief financial officer, 1993

McDonald's -- president, McDonald's USA, 1998; president and chief operating officer, McDonald's Americas, 2001

 

Boards: Past member of the boards of Goodwill, United Way and the Goodman Theater

 

What is the greatest business lesson you've learned?

 

There are five things to me that are really important that I try to live by as I lead. First is to serve those who serve the customer. The ethic and the culture that we have to have is to make sure we're doing everything we can to take care of the customer.

Second, recognize people and progress on the way to perfection. It's always easy to continue to push ahead and try to get to the goal line. But what's really important in leading people and organizations is to stop and pat people on the back and make sure you enjoy the moments when you have them. Part of that is to make sure you don't confuse effort with results --that would be a third thing. At the end of the day, particularly in a franchise business, we can do a lot of things, but if it doesn't improve the sales and profitability and customer service at our franchise locations, maybe we haven't been working in the right things.

Fourth is to make the future arrive ahead of schedule. Business changes very fast in today's world, and you can't wait for the future to happen; you have to make it happen, and the sooner you can get there, the better you are. And the last thing that I try to do every day is to maintain a relentless positive attitude about our business, about where we're going and about the people in it.

 

What is the biggest business challenge you've faced and how did you overcome it?

 

I'd have to say it was Midas 2003, honestly. When I walked in here at the beginning of last year, we had a financial crisis, our loan was expiring, we were over-leveraged. We had a business crisis -- our sales had been declining for over two years. The profits of our franchisees and the company had been declining.

We had a relationship crisis with our franchisees and their willingness to trust and follow the leadership of the company. We had many things going on, not many of which were good that I faced, Day 1, when I walked in here.

Eighteen months later, I feel terrific about where we are as a company, as a system. We're not where we want to be because we haven't achieved 4-3-2-1 yet. But we have a mission, we have a vision that our franchisees, our suppliers all understand, all embrace. We have a plan that supports that, that our people are working against, that they talk about, that they are enthusiastic about, and I think we've provided the leadership, the communication and the conviction that we mean it because it comes back to promises made, promises kept.

 

Whom do you admire most in business and why?

 

There are two guys I admire -- Michael Dell and Howard Schultz. They're entrepreneurs in every sense of the word. They've built great businesses and great brands. They've kept their companies on edge through what might have been opportunities for them to lose their competitiveness or get off focus.

But I think most importantly, they have a clear line of sight to their customers, and they have never lost sight of who their customer is and how to take care of their customer better than anybody else in their business. I think those are great qualities.