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Succeed Like KFC: 5 Business Hacks From The Colonel

Succeed Like KFC: 5 Business Hacks From The Colonel

As we watch Colonel Sanders return to the airwaves in several KFC commercials, we often forget that unlike Ronald McDonald, Sanders was a real human being.

Harland David Sanders was born in 1890, and did not start selling fried chicken until 1930. But when he finally sold his business at the age of 75, he set a path for one of the largest fast food chains in the entire world.

So what were his business secrets? Here are five important secrets which any businessman can learn from the colonel, both in starting a business and maintaining it afterwards.

It is never too late to start a business

Harland Sanders worked all sorts of jobs before he set up a small restaurant. He labored on a railroad, selling insurance, and operating a ferry boat. He even operated a legal practice for about five years until he attacked his own client in court.

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Did Sanders’s time operating a ferry boat or practising law help him create KFC? Probably not. But while Sanders was repeatedly licked in whatever job he did, he just kept on working until he was able to find his niche. And it is never too late for you do the same thing.

Do one thing – and do it well

In 1929, Sanders opened a gas station in Kentucky. He opened the restaurant as a diversion a year later, but the station became more and more known for his excellent food. A short while later, Sanders decided to just close down the gas station and focus on his restaurant.

And Sanders is not the only example of a fast food founder cutting down to what he specialized in. The McDonald’s brothers originally started their first restaurant specializing in barbecue until they realized that about 80 perfect of their profits came from hamburgers.

There are a lot of businessmen who try to be all things to all consumers, and as a result just end up annoying all consumers.

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The best form of advertising is word of mouth

Sanders did not have Facebook, or Twitter, or Instagram as a way to attract customers. What he did have was word of mouth, and a recommendation from Duncan Hines’s Adventure in Good Eating. But that was enough to keep his restaurant thriving, as Sanders added additional seating and kept expanding for the next 20 years.

Advertising is a means to an end. As much as businesses stress out about marketing, they often forget that the product is the most important thing.

Don’t give up

Sanders’s business continued to flourish. In 1950, the governor of Kentucky honored him with the non-military title of “colonel”, the actual origin of his name as opposed to a military background. Sanders began to look into franchising, and in 1952 began selling the rights to “Kentucky Fried Chicken” to local restaurants in exchange for four cents for every chicken sold.

But then in 1955, a new interstate built for the Kentucky Derby bypassed Sanders’s restaurant and drew customers away. Sanders sold the restaurant at a loss in 1956, leaving him with just his savings and his Social Security check. He was 65 years old and had arthritis.

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A lesser man would have just hung his hat and called it a career. Not Sanders. He got into his car and began driving to restaurants across the country, looking to franchise his chicken. Eventually, businesses started coming to him. By the time Sanders sold his business in 1964, there were more than 600 KFC franchises.

If a 65-year old Sanders can keep working even after watching his longtime business fail, then other businesses have no excuse for not adapting to sudden and harsh circumstances. There’s always to pick yourselves up after something goes wrong, if you can sit down and calmly figure out what to do next.

Be careful of what you sign

Not every lesson from Colonel Sanders is a positive one. In 1964, he sold the rights to KFC for $2 million, which is about $15 million today. But while Sanders could have retired and lived out his remaining days in comfort, he instead became a massive thorn in the side of KFC.

Sanders filmed commercials and made appearances as “The Colonel” for KFC. But in the franchise’s first convention after its IPO, he denounced management in front of everyone. In 1973, he sued Heublein Inc., the company which owned KFC at that point. Then in 1975, Heublein sued Sanders back for slandering the new KFC recipes. Sanders would repeatedly criticize the new recipes, calling it “sludge” and “wallpaper paste.”

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But while Sanders ranted and raved, he still signed the contract which gave up his rights. He probably wanted the $2 million more than control of KFC, but his rants towards the end of his life helped no one and harmed both his reputation and KFC’s.

Featured photo credit: Mike Mozart via flickr.com

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Last Updated on March 29, 2021

5 Types of Horrible Bosses and How to Beat Them All

5 Types of Horrible Bosses and How to Beat Them All

When I left university I took a job immediately, I had been lucky as I had spent a year earning almost nothing as an intern so I was offered a role. On my first day I found that I had not been allocated a desk, there was no one to greet me so I was left for some hours ignored. I happened to snipe about this to another employee at the coffee machine two things happened. The first was that the person I had complained to was my new manager’s wife, and the second was, in his own words, ‘that he would come down on me like a ton of bricks if I crossed him…’

What a great start to a job! I had moved to a new city, and had been at work for less than a morning when I had my first run in with the first style of bad manager. I didn’t stay long enough to find out what Mr Agressive would do next. Bad managers are a major issue. Research from Approved Index shows that more than four in ten employees (42%) state that they have previously quit a job because of a bad manager.

The Dream Type Of Manager

My best manager was a total opposite. A man who had been the head of the UK tax system and was working his retirement running a company I was a very junior and green employee for. I made a stupid mistake, one which cost a lot of time and money and I felt I was going to be sacked without doubt.

I was nervous, beating myself up about what I had done, what would happen. At the end of the day I was called to his office, he had made me wait and I had spent that day talking to other employees, trying to understand where I had gone wrong. It had been a simple mistyped line of code which sent a massive print job out totally wrong. I learn how I should have done it and I fretted.

My boss asked me to step into his office, he asked me to sit down. “Do you know what you did?” I babbled, yes, I had been stupid, I had not double-checked or asked for advice when I was doing something I had not really understood. It was totally my fault. He paused. “Will you do that again?” Of course I told him I would not, I would always double check, ask for help and not try to be so clever when I was not!

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“Okay…”

That was it. I paused and asked, should I clear my desk. He smiled. “You have learnt a valuable lesson, I can be sure that you will never make a mistake like that again. Why would I want to get rid of an employee who knows that?”

I stayed with that company for many years, the way I was treated was a real object lesson in good management. Sadly, far too many poor managers exist out there.

The Complete Catalogue of Bad Managers

The Bully

My first boss fitted into the classic bully class. This is so often the ‘old school’ management by power style. I encountered this style again in the retail sector where one manager felt the only way to get the best from staff was to bawl and yell.

However, like so many bullies you will often find that this can be someone who either knows no better or is under stress and they are themselves running scared of the situation they have found themselves in.

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The Invisible Boss

This can either present itself as management from afar (usually the golf course or ‘important meetings) or just a boss who is too busy being important to deal with their staff.

It can feel refreshing as you will often have almost total freedom with your manager taking little or no interest in your activities, however you will soon find that you also lack the support that a good manager will provide. Without direction you may feel you are doing well just to find that you are not delivering against expectations you were not told about and suddenly it is all your fault.

The Micro Manager

The frustration of having a manager who feels the need to be involved in everything you do. The polar opposite to the Invisible Boss you will feel that there is no trust in your work as they will want to meddle in everything you do.

Dealing with the micro-manager can be difficult. Often their management style comes from their own insecurity. You can try confronting them, tell them that you can do your job however in many cases this will not succeed and can in fact make things worse.

The Over Promoted Boss

The Over promoted boss categorises someone who has no idea. They have found themselves in a management position through service, family or some corporate mystery. They are people who are not only highly unqualified to be managers they will generally be unable to do even your job.

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You can find yourself persistently frustrated by the situation you are in, however it can seem impossible to get out without handing over your resignation.

The Credit Stealer

The credit stealer is the boss who will never publically acknowledge the work you do. You will put in the extra hours working on a project and you know that, in the ‘big meeting’ it will be your credit stealing boss who will take all of the credit!

Again it is demoralising, you see all of the credit for your labour being stolen and this can often lead to good employees looking for new careers.

3 Essential Ways to Work (Cope) with Bad Managers

Whatever type of bad boss you have there are certain things that you can do to ensure that you get the recognition and protection you require to not only remain sane but to also build your career.

1. Keep evidence

Whether it is incidents with the bully or examples of projects you have completed with the credit stealer you will always be well served to keep notes and supporting evidence for projects you are working on.

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Buy your own notebook and ensure that you are always making notes, it becomes a habit and a very useful one as you have a constant reminder as well as somewhere to explore ideas.

Importantly, if you do have to go to HR or stand-up for yourself you will have clear records! Also, don’t always trust that corporate servers or emails will always be available or not tampered with. Keep your own content.

2. Hold regular meetings

Ensure that you make time for regular meetings with your boss. This is especially useful for the over-promoted or the invisible boss to allow you to ‘manage upwards’. Take charge where you can to set your objectives and use these meetings to set clear objectives and document the status of your work.

3. Stand your ground, but be ready to jump…

Remember that you don’t have to put up with poor management. If you have issues you should face them with your boss, maybe they do not know that they are coming across in a bad way.

However, be ready to recognise if the situation is not going to change. If that is the case, keep your head down and get working on polishing your CV! If it isn’t working, there will be something better out there for you!

Good luck!

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