Thirsty Thursday: Everything I know about business began with milkshakes

You might think that worn out is all you’d get from flipping burgers for a job. It’s true the work was hot, hard and unglamorous. But it bought me a Volkswagen

copyright by vovan

copyright by vovan

Beetle and a college diploma, and it gave me an accelerated lesson in work leadership that plays into every day as a freelance writer/editor. I started as a milkshake maker and left as an assistant manager at age 19.

When McDonald’s came to my town, there was no other place where a kid could earn $ 1.65 an hour plus a coveted fringe benefit: She was entitled to one sandwich, one order of fries and one beverage of her choice per shift, preferably while watching a film from the Basic Crew Course.

On its surface, the six-film course taught how to run all the work stations, step by step, but at its heart were the company philosophy called “QSC” – quality, service, cleanliness – and the principle called “hustle,” as in “hurry. ”

Hustle, hustle, hustle, the manager shouted during busy times, clapping his hands for emphasis.

The rules seemed endless. Your uniform had to be clean, your hair had to be pinned up, your smile had to look sincere, you got docked for being even a smidgen late, idle moments were to be filled with wiping and polishing.

To this day, I know how to ensure a hamburger cooks all the way through by pressing it to the grill with a spatula.

I also know that customers – and editors — require friendly cultivation, and that “thank you” is a magic phrase for bringing back business.

By the time I became a manager, with my pay catapulted to $ 135 a week, I was firmly grounded in QSC and hustle.

Managers went first to Hamburger High, the prep school for Hamburger University, the company’s national training center.

That’s where we learned how to work with people.

On any day, a quarter of the crew – we had 62 employees – could be affected by personal crises. Love crises, homework crises, pimple crises: We had to be aware of them and be kind — and be flexible.

We learned that, if a customer complained his order was filled wrong, we should make the correction without complaint. Then we should explain to the employee that the customer is always right, even if he isn’t.

And we learned the importance of thanking every employee every day for their work – exactly as now we thank editors, photographers and layout artists for theirs.

Shortly after graduating from Hamburger High, I quit to go to college full-time rather than balancing school with a 50- to 60-hour workweek.

I kept my Hamburger High notebook. It details such trivia as the sugar content of buns for proper toasting, procedures for checking soda machines and how to make out cash sheets – all of which was necessary knowledge for someone in charge.

The people-management skills are the interesting part to me now, because they are so simple, so successful and so neglected by many businesses. Volumes have been written about people-management skills, but my notebook says them in three no-frills paragraphs.

“Qualities of successful management,” the notebook says.

“Leadership. Communication skills. Organizing and planning. Self-evaluation.”

And a long one: “Make a person want to do a good job. Satisfaction getters are achievement, recognition, responsibility, advancement.

“Set goals. Imagine the ideal situation. Listen to others. Ask questions. Read.”

All of these still hum in the background when I write about business and entrepreneurship.

A lot of people think that flipping burgers at McDonald’s is a lowly, no-brainer job with nothing to gain but tired feet.

They must never have done it.

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What day is it?

June 2015
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