The Oc­ca­sional Cheese­burger

Take time to get to know the mar­ket you serve. Some­times this means mak­ing cer­tain res­tau­rant choices.

Financial Planning - - Contents - BY BRAD GRIS­WOLD

Take time to get to know the mar­ket you serve. Some­times this means mak­ing cer­tain res­tau­rant choices.

I have been eat­ing Mcdon­ald’s cheese­burg­ers since I was 4 years old. I still re­mem­ber the first time I went to a Mcdon­ald’s. I couldn’t see over the counter, so my fa­ther had to hold me up while I bawled my or­der at the very pa­tient young lady be­hind the counter. I was only al­lowed one cheese­burger per visit. I think we went back three times that day. To­day, the present owner of that Mcdon­ald’s is a client of our firm and I am for­ever grate­ful that I had a very pa­tient fa­ther.

Our firm has been for­tu­nate to de­velop a niche mar­ket work­ing with Mcdon­ald’s own­ers/ op­er­a­tors through­out the coun­try. Though not a con­scious de­ci­sion orig­i­nally, it has proven to be a re­ward­ing ex­pe­ri­ence for our firm and per­son­ally as an ad­vi­sor. How­ever, as with any new en­deavor, there was a learn­ing curve and some sur­prises along the way.

A Mcdon­ald’s owner will tell you they’re just folks who sell ham­burg­ers, but in re­al­ity, they are run­ning a com­plex op­er­a­tion in a highly com­pet­i­tive mar­ket. Con­sider the ex­e­cu­tion in­volved to de­liver a con­sis­tent prod­uct at an at­trac­tive price point in two min­utes or less. Not easy, but the com­pany has been do­ing it for more than 60 years and it ex­pects no less out of the pro­fes­sion­als who work for them.

To be suc­cess­ful within any niche mar­ket, you need to im­merse your­self in their world. It is im­por­tant to un­der­stand the com­mu­nity, the cul­ture, even the vo­cab­u­lary and this needs to be done on a per­sonal level. You can­not fake it. You can­not read a book about it. You need to get your hands dirty.

For ex­am­ple, our team trav­els ex­ten­sively to meet with our clients. Like many busi­ness trav­el­ers, we’re try­ing to squeeze in meals on the run. Where do we eat? Mcdon­ald’s or their com­pe­ti­tion. We need to ex­pe­ri­ence the brand as cus­tomers in or­der to bring value to the re­la­tion­ship. We’ve en­joyed many con­ver­sa­tions over a meal and in­vest­ing that time has equipped us to pro­vide more im­pact­ful ad­vice.

And, it is im­por­tant to un­der­stand that when you work in a niche like Mcdon­ald’s, you are work­ing within a fam­ily. Like any fam­ily, re­la­tion­ships are crit­i­cal. We didn’t re­al­ize at first how tight knit this com­mu­nity can be, but if you con­sider the shared strug­gles and multi-gen­er­a­tional in­volve­ment of the fam­i­lies it is not re­ally sur­pris­ing.

When you work in a niche like Mcdon­ald’s, you are work­ing within a fam­ily. Like any fam­ily, re­la­tion­ships are crit­i­cal.

I re­cently had lunch with a re­tired Mcdon­ald’s owner­op­er­a­tor. He had been work­ing in the sys­tem for more than 30 years, and I asked him if he was en­joy­ing re­tire­ment. He thought for a mo­ment and said, “I don’t miss the headaches of run­ning the busi­ness, but I do miss the peo­ple.” I con­sid­ered what he said and re­al­ized we had more in com­mon than I thought.

For more than 20 years we have de­vel­oped per­sonal and pro­fes­sional re­la­tion­ships work­ing in the Mcdon­ald’s com­mu­nity and hope to con­tinue to do so for another 20 years. Is it easy? No. Is it re­ward­ing? Ab­so­lutely. But to be suc­cess­ful you have to live in their world and have the oc­ca­sional cheese­burger.

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