don-thompson1After hearing about the resignation of McDonald’s first black CEO, Mr. Don Thompson, I started thinking about my letter to him concerning the minimum wage debate. As of February 28, Thompson will no longer be head of the #1 fast food franchise in North America. My only hope is that Don goes out with a bang while doing the right thang. What do I mean? Let me explain…

McDonald’s is the super giant in the fast food space thanks to Thompson’s many initiatives during his more than two year run. Yes, the Golden Arches have always been America’s favorite place for burgers and play time. This establishment has captured the hearts of adults and kids alike, and has remained at the forefront of special foods, fast and reasonably priced. And when Don became head of the leadership team, he instituted several new measures that kept the iconic brand front and center, while all the other competitors followed a distant second.

Unfortunately, over the last year McDonald’s found itself probably wishing it was not the leader of the pack. Because when this over due debate of higher wages raised its meaningful head, Don and his thousands of franchise locations across the globe became the poster child for the raging argument. This was not good, especially as this brother sat at the helm trying to guide this massive ship, and manage the heated pressure aimed directly at (him) and his collective team of McDonald’s owner operators.

Recent data released shows that burgers have become more popular than ever, and are being consumed by more people today than any time in history. So what’s wrong with the king of burgers? The problem is that they’re taking the brunt of the minimum wage protester’s fury, due to, again, them being the face of the wage debate. That’s the price of being number one.

Thompson is a damn good manager of people, and again, he has steered this food giant into profit making territories over his tenure. But nothing could have prepared him for this global fight, except one thing, in my estimation. And I expressed this in my letter. I even got internal word that changes were being discussed in relation to my suggestive note to him.

Not to say that my request was the reasoning behind some closed door meetings about the minimum wage crisis, and how to handle it. I only wish that things had happened sooner than later, as I recommended. Because if so, even during Thompson’s planned departure, he could be a hero to so many, and a legendary leader in this area of doing what I believe is the fair and equitable thing to do.

Mr. Don Thompson

Don Thompson should have aggressively pushed to have the McDonald’s franchise get out-front of this crisis and increase the wages for their world-wide world force. Maybe he wanted to and tried, I don’t know. Maybe his old greedy board, like all board of directors, did not see this as a winning play call for profits. If so, they’re wrong. And that’s why McDonald’s have seen their profits dip globally. That’s not Don’s fault, it’s just the times of transformation in America, which is happening everywhere, and leadership needs to recognize and attempt to either right some wrongs or become casualties of war.

And McDonald’s has become a casualty of war. Will McDonald’s survive this fight? Absolutely! But this is not primarily about the franchise brand, per say. This is about a man who I feel could have had made such a bigger impact on a multi-billion dollar industry. He could have won favor across the world with the common man. And folks, regardless of Thompson’s current professional status, he’s very much the common man.

Growing up on the Southside of Chicago, you are common. Now, as you progress in life, you can take on two faces: One is self-banishment from your community that groomed you for hardship. Or two, you can embrace your upbringing and continue to make it a part of your life, regardless of how high you climb the latter of success. Don stayed grounded and continues to love his hood. This I know.

I only hope that Don can salvage enough of himself as he prepares to exist for a much needed and extended break from corporate life. Because behind the walls of major corporations, many decisions and management changes happen that either boost your ego or deflate your spirit.

There is a war in the fast food industry being waged by tens of millions of people who’s only outcry is equality and fairness. If Don is not able to push his current brand into making the tough decision before he leaves, maybe his influence within the hallow halls of McDonald’s will inspire the next CEO to take this fight on and make things right.

Regardless the outcome, Don’s presence and leadership has motivated the next generation of corporate leaders, as well as graduates from colleges and universities across this country. Job well done homie. Now go find your next mission and aspire for continued greatness! Peace and One Love.

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