Chances are you have a favorite product or brand… for a variety of reasons as well. Maybe it’s the convenience, or the taste, the design, the cause, or the culture. Above all else, what makes the products and brands we love come to life is the people.
This is what Junior Bridgeman banked on when he bought 5 Milwaukee-area Wendy’s in 1987. Bridgeman may be known to some as one of the NBA’s best 6th men – the guy who doesn’t start but comes off the bench and makes an impact night after night. He’s also the player (along with three others) who the Milwaukee Bucks traded to the LA Lakers for Kareem Adbul-Jabaar.
Today Bridgeman’s restaurant portfolio contains over 240 stores and he is Wendy’s second largest Franchisee with 195 locations. He credits two leadership characteristics that set him apart and helped him succeed. The first was his recognition that burgers don’t sell themselves – it was up to people to sell them. So he hired better workers and empowered them. “What I tried to do was to get everybody to understand that we were a team,” he says. “We worked together as a team, we win as a team, and we lose as a team. Once everybody bought in and believed that we could be successful, it was amazing how quickly things started to improve.” The second was his approach to how he treated his people. Once hired, Bridgeman began investing in them as people, helping some make rent and bailing others out of jail. Once they saw how much he cared they worked harder for him.
A team orientation combined with caring leadership will work in any business. This is not a chicken or egg equation. It all starts with leadership! You know the leaders who you admired so much you didn’t want to let them down. More often than not, it wasn’t due to their technical expertise, their salesmanship or financial acumen. It was because you felt they cared about you and wanted you to be successful.
What boss or leader do you admire most and why?