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Inspiration from Dave Thomas

Estimated Lesson Time: 3 minutes

David Thomas (1932-2002) was the founder of Wendy’s, one of the world’s largest restaurant chains of over 5,000 restaurants located throughout the U.S. and in 34 countries.

Success is humility. In his books and in interviews, Thomas talks of being approached by those who recognize him from television and say he must be someone famous. Dave says he replies, “I’m nobody, really. I just make hamburgers for a living.”

Success is having positive influences in your life. Dave’s adoptive grandmother, Minnie Sinclair, taught Dave that as long as you work hard you will never have enough time to feel bad for yourself. Miss Sinclair also taught him that he should never cut corners (thus the square hamburgers) because the minute you begin to cheat yourself, you begin to lose quality and performance.

Success is in moments of inspiration. After the death of Dave’s birth mother, and his father’s divorce of his stepmother, Dave and his father began to eat out more. This was when Dave got the idea of someday owning his own restaurants.

Success is in moments of conviction. In his youth, Dave was fired from several jobs, some because he had to lie about his age. Dave’s father was so upset that he told Dave that he would never be able to hold down a job as long as he lived. Dave was so affected by his words that he made a vow to himself that he would never lose another job as long as he lived.

Success is getting experience. After his employer became an early Kentucky Fried Chicken franchise owner in 1956, Mr. Thomas worked closely with Colonel Sanders, instituting now-famous innovations and acquiring his own hugely successful Kentucky Fried Chicken franchise in Columbus, Ohio from stores he ’turned around.’ He later returned to KFC management, in charge of 300 stores.

Success is thinking huge. Dave opened the first Wendy’s Old Fashioned hamburgers restaurant November 15, 1969, in Columbus, Ohio. Then, in 1973, Dave began franchising the Wendy’s concept.

Success is promotion. Dave was a great promoter. One of Wendy’s most successful promotions ever was with the “little old lady” Clara Peller (now an 80s icon). She was the old woman who made famous the line, “Where’s the Beef!?”

Success is thinking of others. Thomas established the Dave Thomas Foundation for Adoption in 1992, a not-for-profit organization focused on raising public awareness of adoption issues.

Success is for the “average guy.” Dave Thomas was an adopted child who dropped out of high school and had no advantages growing up. Dave proved that success is anyone’s; they just have to want it and take it.

[Sources: http://www.medaloffreedom.com, http://columbusoh.about.com, Thomas R.David. Dave’s Way-A New Approach to Old Fashioned Success. New York: G.P. Putham Sons, 1991.]

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 Some discussion questions (some may not apply to this lesson):

  • Have you implemented this idea in your life? How has it been working for you?
  • Do you have any interesting stories related to this lesson? Do tell!
  • What do you admire most about this person? (success biography days)
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    Year To Success
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