January 29, 2008
WISDOM FROM THE GROUND UP
You wouldn’t know it by looking, but Bill Johnson is a man with a lot of OTC experience. The kind you’d expect from someone whose career was built—stacked, if you will—from the ground up in a company that does business in 199 countries on six continents and spends millions of dollars on research and marketing. The secret to Bill’s success—as former CEO of McDonald’s Mexico and Canada, his over-the-counter sales are celebrated in neon—is a combination of common sense, business savvy and gut instinct that crosses all industries. And judging by the full house in attendance at the PMCQ January meeting, we all wanted in on his secret.
Bill is a businessman from the old school. Work hard. Respect others. And above all, listen. Many of us are so caught up in the bigger picture that we lose sight of the basics. Granted, his industry focuses on creating demand while ours is mostly dictated by it, but that shouldn’t change the fact that the concept of supply and demand, regardless of the industry, relies on the same common denominator: people. And not just the folks at the top. Listening to your suppliers, as Bill puts it, is key to getting the lay of the land. Remember, where he comes from, franchisees own 92% of the business, so keeping an ear to the ground was never just an option.
Sure, our marketing tools use hard-nosed terms like compliance and contraindication while his use cleverly crafted words like McChicken® and McFlurry®, but there are parallels. And the lessons are grade-school simple: Have a team in place. Communication is key. Maintain a dialogue with the public. Plan ahead. What does the customer want? Listen to your employees. Because change is inevitable, change is constant. Change is how we learn to adapt. Like the time McDonald’s removed pizza from their menu because it took 6 minutes from start to finished product and ate into the lucrative 60% drive-thru business; a victim of its own success. That’s how we adapt.
What I liked about Bill’s discussion—interrupt me at any time, he kept saying—is that the lessons shared were not the result of statistical analysis, boardroom rhetoric or corporate bravado. I kept thinking to myself, there’s no secret to what he’s saying. I know all this. This is exactly what he wants us to think. There’s no secret. No compendium of Ivy League business practices. No quick fix. No McPharma. And that’s exactly what makes Bill’s lessons so valuable. We already know these things. A quick look around the room would confirm it. Nodding and smiling the whole time as it all became so perfectly clear. Sometimes it takes the wisdom of a truly centred person to show us the flaws of our thinking. Thanks Bill.