PROFILE - He’s lovin’ it

Peter Ritchie, former CEO of McDonald’s Australia, tells Real Estate Business’ Jessica Darnbrough that building a successful business is easier than ordering a Big Mac

He may not be a household name, but the company Peter Ritchie directed for 25 years most certainly is.

During his long and distinguished career at McDonald’s, Ritchie helped turn a lone restaurant in the Sydney suburb of Yagoona into a thriving and high-profile franchise.

McDonald’s now serves more than one million people in Australia every day.

With more than 85,000 employees in Australia, McDonald’s is arguably the nation’s biggest and most successful franchise. A large part of that success can be attributed directly to Ritchie.

A qualified accountant, he has also helped make McDonald’s one of the nation’s most instantly recognisable and iconic brands.

THE IMPORTANCE OF TRAINING

Following his recruitment by the chain in 1970, Ritchie not only became the first employee of McDonald’s in Australia, but also its first employee outside North America.

Within a few years, he had been promoted to the role of chief executive officer, implementing a lot more than just a menu and captivating ad copy.

Ritchie played a major role in every aspect of the company’s development, from selecting raw product suppliers to the construction of new stores and development of training programs.

It is the training programs of which Ritchie is most proud: “McDonald’s always had excellent training programs in place; I just saw scope to improve them,” he says.

“Training and educational programs are crucial to the success of any business.

“Without the right structures in place, you can potentially lose great staff, miss out on hiring better staff and hinder business growth.”

Ritchie says Australian businesses are, by and large, incredibly under-resourced when it comes to training programs.

“I am truly embarrassed by the lack of education in this country,” he says. “Training programs should be the norm in any company, not the exception.

“Those with training programs in place are able to foster strong employer/employee relationships, which can have significant bottom line benefits.”

Good employees want to be challenged, according to Ritchie. They need their work to be fun, rewarding and engaging. They also want to know there is scope for career progression.

“The best employees think about their future,” he says. “They want to know where they are heading and they want to work towards something. Great employers will provide this through well thought out training and educational programs.”

He has a few words of advice for businesses toying with the idea of introducing training programs but that don’t know how much they should invest in the area.

“Think about how much training and education would be appropriate, and then triple it,” he says. “You can never offer your staff too much support.”

Companies that provide their employees with unparalleled support will be rewarded with loyalty and productivity, says Ritchie.

“At the end of the day, the success of any business is predicated on the quality of staff the company retains,” he says. “My rule of thumb has always been this: the harder I work for my staff, the harder they will work for me.”

TOP TIPS

Ritchie’s rule of thumb worked well for him when he was recruiting franchisees – something that he admits can be a daunting task.

“Your franchisee is representing the company and its brand,” he says. “If they are lazy or unprofessional, the whole company suffers.”

He also has a few words of advice for brokerages that are eyeing a move to extend their reach. Employers should be acutely aware of two things, he says:

“First, never hire investors as franchisees. Employers must recruit people that are hands-on and will love working for the business, on the business and in the business.

“You need your franchisee to run the business,” he explains. “An investor will outsource the jobs and, as a consequence, the business will never reach its full potential.”

The second most important thing to remember, he adds, is profit. There must be enough profit in a business to reward both the franchisee and the franchisor. If there is only enough money to properly remunerate one or the other, the business will never be able to properly grow.

GOOD, BETTER, BEST

In June 2003, Ritchie was honoured with an Order of Australia award for services to industry and business development in Australia.

The award recognised his provision of employment opportunities and training for young people, as well as his giving corporate, financial and material support for health and educational facilities in the community.

Despite his career successes, Ritchie remains incredibly humble. He also attributes much of that success to luck and the rest to hard work.

“Luck played a large part in my getting the job at McDonald’s,” he says. “It was literally one of those ‘right time, right place’ moments.”

He also believes people make their own luck: “The harder I worked, the luckier I got,” he says.

So, how can others – brokers and professionals from every walk of life – replicate the success Ritchie achieved in his career?

“Work f---ing hard,” he says, without batting an eyelid. “Successful businessmen are not successful because they sit on their bum and let others do all the work. Successful businessmen never shy away from a battle. They roll up their sleeves, get dirty and never throw in the towel when the going gets tough.”

Ritchie admits there were many times in his career when he wanted to give up and wave a white flag, but his competitive spirit and determination stopped him.

“I always wished I had franchised the business earlier,” he says. “But you can’t waste time crying over spilt milk.

“The key is to erase any negative thoughts. Have faith in yourself and your abilities.”

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