Tuesday, July 24, 2007

Everything I learned about PR … I learned at McDonald’s

I’ve been interviewing a lot of interns lately and they all have similar backgrounds: a BA in some useless course and a theory-based PR course from one of the Toronto-based colleges. Just enough to get a foot in the communications door.

When I landed my first PR gig almost 20 years ago (as a receptionist at National PR), I had great computer skills but absolutely no formal schooling in PR. I didn’t know it then, but I had number of skills that made me uniquely suited for the PR field. Oddly enough, those skills were gleaned over a two-year period in my very first job – at McDonald’s! At 16, it was a great experience and I took away some valuable lessons that I applied in my role as a PR practitioner and still do today as an entrepreneur. Specifically:

Teamwork: Nothing makes you gel as a collective team than working the lunch shift on a busy Saturday afternoon. Long hungry lines of kids and parents made everyone from the cooks in the back to the servers act in unison. When one batch of fries came out, another went in. When the coffee was low, we quickly made another pot. When the Apple and Cherry pies got cold, we fried new ones and threw out the cold batch. We all helped and looked out for each other. No customer ever waited for food on our shift.

Billability: I learned very quickly that productivity counts in the service business. I started my shift with a $50.00 float in my till and when my shift was over the swing manager on duty would cash me out. After a few months I was asked to see the head manager in his office. He sat me down as he was eyeballing a large spreadsheet in front of him. He said he never saw anyone in a four-hour shift move so many orders through. I was the top server in productivity for three months straight.

Creativity: After about a year of working four shifts per week and eating countless McChicken meals (I’m addicted to those), I was getting quickly bored of the food. So I got creative. If I worked a breakfast shift, instead of the standard boxed breakfast that was on the menu I had the boys on the grill whip me up a cheese and sausage omelet or create piggies in a blanket with sausages rolled up in pancakes. For dessert I’d crunch cookies as a sundae topping and mix soda and orange juice for an afternoon pick-me-up. I probably broke some rules, but with a little creativity and ingenuity I kept my taste buds active.

Customer Service: One day a gentleman ordered a Big Mac and fries. He opened the box and looked at his Big Mac and said there was no mustard on the bun. “Oh, I’m sorry”, I said. “They must have forgotten to add that condiment. I’ll put some on the bun immediately.” The manager on duty overheard the discussion and quickly chimed in, “Sir, the Big Mac does not come with mustard but its own special sauce so we can’t add that.” The customer insisted on the mustard but the manager stuck to his guns. The argument went on for several minutes until finally my manager succumbed to pressure and went to the back and squirted mustard on the burger and handed it back to the customer in a huff. I couldn’t believe it. This poor guy just wanted mustard! A few weeks later the same customer returned and ordered a Big Mac. I remembered him, added his mustard to the pattie and, with a wink, told him the burger was just as he liked it. “Thanks,” he said, and handed me a one dollar tip. The lesson: customers may not always be right, but give them what they want anyway.

Patience: During my second year, I graduated from the front till to being the hostess for children’s parties. Nothing can try a teenager’s patience more than screaming, demanding little snot-nosed three-year-olds. Throw in the overbearing parent and it’s enough to make Ronald McDonald lose his grin. Still, I learned to be patient, stay cool and calm and remember that tomorrow is another day.

I’m not suggesting you start your PR career at the Golden Arches. But if you do, try and garner as much from the experience as I did.

Thanks, McDonald’s, for some valuable career lessons.


Donna Papacosta said...

Nice post, Julie. (I am trying to picture you in a McD uniform! You probably added your own stylish twist to it.)

Your post proves that if you have the right attitude, EVERY experience in life is an opportunity to learn.

David Jones said...

Seriously, post the photo of you in the polyester McD uniform. The PR industry demands it.

Julie Rusciolelli said...

No... Never, never, will go to my grave before anyone looks at that photo ... same goes for pictures of my permed hair in the seventies, big shoulder pad suits in the eighties and huge earrings in the nineties ...

MarilynDickson said...

never mind all of that .... holy moly Jewels, just caught your picture ... GORGEOUS ... as always...