For decades, I've spoken of McDonald's as one of the premier examples of how to build a company, scale it, and ultimately sell it. In this example, of course, the "selling" is in a Franchise model, but for any entrepreneur, the final customer - the one who buys the company - is the customer that the entrepreneur needs to have in mind as they design the company.
Ray Kroc did and that worked out pretty well for him.
Here's the catch - Kroc designed McDonalds before most of you guys were born.
At the same time, the sheer volume of units that the company holds and the natural inclination for the performance of a company to be graphed on a Bell curve means that an awful lot of the restaurants you might encounter are below "average" for any given standard.
Let me tell you about one I encountered just the other day...
No, I'm not going to tell you where it was, but I am going to describe the experience, since the ultimate goal - to get some breakfast - was not only achieved, it reiterated to me that a well-designed system for performance and training will result in customers that are truly happy.
Let's start with the perceived problems that fast-food - not just McDonalds - has: unengaged workers performing multiple jobs quickly and at a very basic skill level.
The result is usually menu items that taste the same from St. Louis to Moscow and bear a passable resemblance to the item as pictured on the menu board. The overall cleanliness of the restaurant is usually "pretty good" and the employees that interact with the customer usually do so in a reasonably personable manner.
None of that was the experience that greeted me two weeks ago.
The first thing that hit me was the number of customers in the restaurant, then it was the broad, beaming smile that the young lady at the cash register. She greeted me warmly, she took my order, and she communicated clearly with me and her coworkers.
This was a marked improvement over some of the more recent experiences I've had.
Looking around, I noticed just how clean the store was - no evidence of "good enough" cleaning that we so often see - black stains at the edge of the floors, sticky spots by the soda fountain, and not a spot of dust to be found anywhere.
...And my Egg McMuffin? It could have been used in a commercial. The slice of cheese was melted exactly in the center of the egg; the egg, cheese, and ham were all perfectly centered in the muffin, and the entire thing was piping hot but not burned.
In other words, my entire experience was the result of this franchisee simply using the systems and training the standards. Of course, they also (obviously) held their people accountable, but the overall effect was simple - I had the best experience I could possibly have had for the $5 it cost me.
More importantly, based on the volume of people coming into and out of the restaurant that morning, I'm willing to bet that the vast majority of people had that same experience, over and over again.
Just for giggles, I went back the next day and the experience was exactly the same.
To me, it served not only as breakfast, but also the validation that well-designed systems for training and control allow business owners to ensure their customers and staff can do the right thing without ever having to work hard to do it.
Are you building that, too?