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Our Leading Edge: Our Leaders

By the end of 2002, Jack Greenberg was gone. As mentioned previously, the retired former vice chairman and president Jim Cantalupo replaced Jack. Jim promoted Charlie Bell to become the new president and COO. Jim and Charlie’s leadership focused on rebuilding the McDonald’s brand with a renewed sense of urgency.

These were the two right people at the right time to lead the turnaround of the company. When Jim took the helm in January 2003, he refocused worldwide attention on not just being bigger but getting bigger by creating a better McDonald’s experience. He stated that “Focus and discipline get the job done. That’s what we’re about. If we execute at a higher level, it is going to pay dividends on the top line.”28 We had to “right the ship.”

Franchisees welcomed the renewed focus on the Golden Arches. “We have a lot of confidence and faith in the McDonald’s brand,” said Reggie Webb, a franchisee of 11 McDonald’s restaurants in Southern California. “The best way to maximize on that future is to focus 100% on the McDonald’s brand.” Reggie was also the leader of the franchisee organization. He was among the original franchisee leaders supporting the new brand revitalization priorities.

Charlie Bell started working for McDonald’s when he was 15. At 19, he was the youngest Australian store manager, eventually joining the Australia board of directors at 29 years old. Charlie held the positions of president of McDonald’s Asia/Pacific, Middle East, and Africa Group, and president of McDonald’s Europe before Jim chose him to be president and COO. He became my biggest supporter. His leadership was essential to the development of the McDonald’s Brand Promise as well as the McDonald’s Plan to Win.

It was an incredibly heady time. The doom-and-gloom scenario was transformed by Jim and Charlie’s enthusiasm and unquenchable belief in the McDonald’s brand. Together, they turned the sense of brand urgency into a galvanizing brand rallying cry of “being bigger by being better.”

No matter what kind of brand you own, and no matter shape it is in, nothing is as positively contagious as a management team that passionately believes in the brand. As Jim Cantalupo expressed it, “Our competitors duplicate our standards, but they cannot duplicate the brand.”29

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