When Dave Thomas opened the first Wendy’s Old Fashioned Hamburgers in 1969, he sought to build a marketing campaign based on some principles that apply to every start-up. He succeeded in developing a niche in fast food that made Dave Thomas’ legacy a ten-fold lesson for every small business (and even the big ones).
- Make a product people want. If there’s no market for it, it won’t sell no matter how great your marketing efforts.
- Tell the people why they want your product. This is where you tell them why your product is better than what’s already out there.
- Give your company a face and a personality. Dave Thomas used his own face and down-to-earth personality to grow his brand, and now his daughter, Wendy, is continuing that tradition.
- Grow when it makes sense. Thomas didn’t take on Wendy’s growth by himself; in 1973 he began to sell franchises.
- Surround yourself with people who believe in your product. Wendy’s went from a family business to a franchise that replicated a growing family.
- Don’t apologize for success. Thomas made sure that he gave back to his community, and he even established a foundation that supports adoption. But, Thomas was also famous for saying, “Profit is not a dirty word.”
- Pay attention to details. Back at the Wendy’s helm in 2000, Thomas shared his chain’s secret for great fries, which he developed: shaking off ice crystals before frying. He called it slaking, and he thought it was a detail that made his product better than all the others.
- Tell your story. Dave Thomas was a busy man, yet he still made time for any size media outlet wanting an interview. He had a rags-to-riches story that people loved, and he knew it.
- Make your company self-sufficient. Like Thomas, it’s possible for any business owner to have constant input in every aspect of his company. Also, though, learn to delegate. (See No. 5.)
- Keep your perspective. Being a household name and one of the most recognizable people in the country didn’t affect Dave Thomas’ personable nature, which was an essential part of the Wendy’s brand.
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