Thom Brown, McDonald’s Owner, Offers Tips for New Entrepreneurs

Thom Brown, McDonald's Owner, Offers Tips for New Entrepreneurs
Thom Brown, president of the BMOA.

The exterior of Thom Brown’s Elk Grove, Ill., McDonald’s restaurant is tastefully old school, while the interior however, is decidedly new school. In a way, the restaurant is reflective of Brown’s business mantra. The president of the Black McDonald’s Operators Association says he’s found success with an old-school business instinct fused with new-school sensibilities.

Brown knows human nature. Prior to operating his two successful McDonald’s franchises, (he also owns a store in Hanover Park, Ill.), Brown worked in human relations for Kraft and Keebler.

“This is a ‘people business’ and my experience with hiring and training, and managing issues with people are very transferable in this kind of business.

Thom Brown spoke to rolling out recently about his career and the significance of giving back to the community. –zondra hughes

Why is the Black McDonald’s Operators Association so important?

Most of our store activity is in our communities, the African American consumer markets, and there are some challenges that we face in operating stores in our market. The BMOA helps us to identify the needs of the community … and allows us to more clearly focus on the things that are important to the community where we live.

Why did you decide to invest in the McDonald’s franchise?

I always wanted to be in business for myself, and franchising came to the top of the best way for me to get into business. In 1990 … when we looked at franchises, McDonald’s came to the top as the franchise that had a great support system and a good training system.

How do you determine who would make a successful employee?

Generally I read body language in addition to listening to the words that people say. I know how to re-frame the question if it doesn’t give me the information that I need. If I ask, “what would you like to do in five years?” and the response is, “I’d like to be working here as a store manager.” — that’s the kind of answer that would cause me to ask a different question. “How long do you think it would take you to become a store manager?” And if the response is, “Oh, I can do that in a month,” there’s no realism involved in that answer. However, if they respond, “I know it’s a path, and I get in and learn as fast as anybody else can. I’m willing to learn, I’m willing to put in the hours that [are] required of me and then I’ll be promoted based on the contributions that I make.” I know there is some thought behind that answer.

Why is your support of the Bud Billiken parade so important to you?

It is one of the largest events that take place in Chicago in the black community. There are millions of folks who are tuned into that parade, and that are concerned about Back to School — the theme of the parade. It helps to highlight those things and it also gives people information about how to access them.

Also, Bud Billiken allows us to showcase a lot of our involvement in the community, so that in one effort we can identify to more people what we are involved in.

Thom Brown and other BMOA members will participate in the upcoming Bud Billiken parade, held in Chicago. Check your local listings for air dates.

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