Thursday, December 27, 2007

Millions and Millions Served

From George Will, a rarely heard and desperately needed cheer for one of the icons of American business: McDonald's.

McDonald's exemplifies the role of small businesses in Americans' upward mobility. The company is largely a confederation of small businesses: 85 percent of its U.S. restaurants -- average annual sales, $2.2 million -- are owned by franchisees. McDonald's has made more millionaires, and especially black and Hispanic millionaires, than any other economic entity ever, anywhere.

What Will doesn't mention is the hard work that goes into running a successful restaurant. It begins with the headaches that go with managing squadrons of mostly young people. Small business owners all say the same thing: finding, getting and keeping good employees is their biggest challenge.

What happens without good employees? Imagine getting the same call, every day at 4:30 am, explaining why yet another employee cannot make it to work. Now you have to scramble to fill holes in your staffing.

Imagine investing everything you have in a venture where you rely exclusively on the good will of customers who spend less than five or six dollars apiece, and who expect their orders filled in a few minutes and without error, sometimes for twenty four hours a day. Imagine being in a business where, just to pay your taxes, you must successfully conclude hundreds of transactions each hour. The hours are long, the work is hard, and profits accumulate very slowly. McDonald's didn't make those millionaires. They made themselves.

The story of McDonald's and its franchisees is yet another example of the truth in the statement that a profitable business, honestly run, is one of mankind's greatest and least appreciated achievements.

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