When we think of fast food, hamburgers or amazing success stories, it’s hard not to think of McDonald’s. Since its inception in 1955, it has grown into a global company, and, today, its brand is one of the most recognizable on the earth. Over the years, it has given billions of gifts to its customers, ranging from free hamburgers to plastic toys, yet I can’t think of one that is more valuable than the one McDonald’s is giving our industry today. You see, this time, rather than giving us something we can eat or pass along to the kids, McDonald’s is giving us a business lesson that is unlike any other. McDonald’s is showing us that if you take your focus off of the customer, you will pay a dear price, if not lose your entire business.
Consider this: It’s no secret that McDonald’s is going through the toughest time in the history of the company. Additionally, many question whether it will ever be the company it once was. So, what happened? Although everyone will certainly have an opinion, I feel its decline has been brought on by three things.
First of all, I feel McDonald’s got its priorities a little mixed up. Rather than focusing on the customer, and the customer’s experience, McDonald’s was focused on store growth. Although this strategy may bring healthy profits in the short term, there is an incredible price that’s paid over the long run: Don’t put so much attention on profits that you forget the customer.
Secondly, McDonald’s grew to a point where it was trying to be everything to everybody. Although it found incredible success in its early years by limiting its menu to hamburgers, milkshakes and fries, more recently the McDonald’s menu has grown to include kid’s meals, senior meals, healthy choices, desserts and a whole lot more. Ironically, while McDonald’s was busy expanding its menu, companies like In-N-Out Burger and Five Guys swooped right in and took its core business.
The lesson here is that we need to focus on what we do really well; we need to continue to hone that product or service; and we need to avoid trying to be everything to everybody.
The third lesson McDonald’s is now providing us with is that we can never get complacent. When companies get to the point where they feel they have it all under control, when they take their customers for granted, and when they underestimate the strength of their competitors, they begin their journey to the bottom.
I ask that you consider the priceless gift that McDonald’s is now providing us with, and learn from it. As you move forward in the coming years, you’ll need to remain laser-focused on customer satisfaction and not let the quest for profits blur your vision. Secondly, you’ll need to remember that you can never be everything to everybody. This doesn’t mean you can’t service different types of vehicles, or offer a wide variety of services, but you will need to have a clear vision of who your ideal customer is, and build your business to fulfill their needs. And then, last but not least, you can never become complacent and take your customers and competitors for granted. You’ll need to pay close attention to the upcoming changes in our industry, and the changes in your customer base as well. Hybrids, electric vehicles and infotainment systems are certainly a part of our industry’s future, so they need to be considered in the evolution of your business model.
If you have clearly defined goals that extend out for years, and the passion to reach those goals; if you hire truly remarkable people; and if you live by a principle of never putting money ahead of people, then you will not only be able to build an amazing business, but you will find that this priceless gift from McDonald’s is one that will pave your way to success.