The food is fast, but Green is in for the long haul
McDonald's franchisee plans to grow from 8 to 30 locations
"Can I have some fries with that?"
Isaac Green of Aquasco spent many a high school basketball game enduring such taunts about his after-school job at McDonald's. Today, he still is ready to respond to the question, only now as the owner of eight McDonald's franchises throughout Maryland.
"My grandmother always said she knew I'd be successful," Green said. "I told her I'd be a millionaire. By the time she passed away in 2002, I had six stores. Unfortunately, she had never been in one."
Green, 47, began franchising with the Oak Brook, Ill., fast-food giant in the early 2000s and now employs 450 people at his locations, which pull in $21 million in total annual sales, he said. His eateries include four in Prince George's County, one at National Naval Medical Center in Bethesda and three in Virginia. His goal is to have 15 stores within the next two years and 30 within the next five.
"I get offended when people look at McDonald's and say it's a dead-end job, because it's not," he said. "In what other industry can you start out as a crew member making $2.95 an hour and later become a franchise owner managing a $5.7 million payroll?"
Green has worked the gamut of McDonald's jobs in his 15 years with the company, from crew to store manager to human resources positions. He would have tacked on regional manager, but he decided that position was more of a vice president role compared with the more presidential position of franchise owner.
"The buck stops here, with me," he said.
He wants to make sure others like him have the same opportunity for success, he said, adding his locations offer financial counseling to his employees and have managers who serve as a resource for young female employees.
"I want them to be able to look at these stores and say, You know what? That's an African-American male that owns that restaurant. Maybe I can do that too,'" Green said.
More than 19.3 percent of all franchised businesses were owned by minorities in 2002, the most recent year for which U.S. Census survey data is available.
McDonald's "has been recognized by various entities as demonstrating best practices in minority recruitment," Miriam Brewer, director of education and diversity at the International Franchise Association, wrote in an email to The Gazette. "Two areas often highlighted include their numerous affinity groups (such as the African American Franchise Owners) or their LAMP program (Leadership at McDonald's program) at the corporate level pointing to their commitment to diversity."
The leadership program helps store managers with high potential improve their skills and develop exposure beyond just McDonald's, according to company information.
Both the National Minority Franchise Initiative and Black Enterprise Magazine have listed McDonald's in their top 40 and 50 rankings for best franchises for black and other minority owners.
"When I can look at a crew person and see them become a manager or an operator, it makes me say that I did the best I could, and they are truly adding value to their community and the country," Green said.
Green comes across as someone who makes himself accessible, but stops short of micromanaging, said Andrew Wallace of Buildsol in Accokeek, which has renovated Green's restaurants.
"You work with other McDonald's operators and they're not as responsive," Wallace said. "He doesn't come across as jumping in your face, but anything he wants, he won't stop to get it," Wallace said, emphasizing Green's integrity and praising Green's ability to rally his workers behind him.
McDonald's requires its franchisees to be active in their communities, and Green helps out with school spirit days, senior breakfasts and other nonprofit events, during which the stores donate a portion of their profits toward the cause.
But he worries that such efforts will be tougher to afford when major changes in the federal health insurance law kick in in 2014. Green anticipates a $360,000 annual outlay for employee coverage under the new law.
"Let's make sure it's fair and consistent as we move through," he said of the new law, as franchise owners must plan three years in advance for remodeling and other capital expenditures.
Green already has invested $250,000 each into remodeling two restaurants. He also plans to start rebuilding his store at Marlboro Pike this month and is pushing for a permit to refurbish the façade of some locations.
He also is concerned about the current controversy about debit card fees. Although the new Dodd-Frank Act requires the Federal Reserve to re-examine and cap the swipe fees that banks charge for using debit cards, the banking industry continues to campaign against it. Recently, the retail sector has begun waging its own lobbying and media campaign backing the measure, saying it will save merchants and consumers $1 billion per month when it takes effect in late July, according to the National Retail Federation. Green said his stores need the new law because the McDonald's brand is not conducive to imposing a minimum purchase requirement that other stores can use to mitigate the fees.
Green lives with his wife, Susan, and has five children. He spends his off-work time with his 11-year-old son and enjoys exploring the woods, driving all-terrain vehicles and exercising.
"What I love about being a franchise owner is the ability to help folks. As a franchiser, you have to follow the playbook, but you can also change the plays, you can localize them for each community," he said.