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When it comes to entrepreneurial chutzpah, our top minority entrepreneur of the year's rapid rise to success in the distribution industry may be one for the records. Warren Anderson, 46, is president of the Anderson-DuBose Co., a Solon, Ohio, McDonald's distribution center with 1998 sales of more than $122 million.
Anderson's decision nearly 10 years ago to leave the ranks of the employed to become an entrepreneur was a shock to those who knew him. After all, the then general sales manager of a Hartford, Connecticut, TV station had earned a master's degree in broadcast journalism and then spent the next decade cultivating his career in that field.
When he first expressed interest in purchasing a distributorship in 1989, McDonald's officials were less than encouraging. "You don't know anything about distribution," they told him. "But I'm willing to learn," Anderson responded. Laying it all on the line, he persuaded McDonald's to structure a first-ever distribution apprenticeship--unpaid and full time.
The apprenticeship would give Anderson eight months to learn the business from one of the burger giant's Midwestern distributors--with no guarantees of an eventual purchase. When eight months turned into 18, he stayed the course, determined to hang in there until a distributorship came up for sale. "Failure wasn't an option," he says.
Finally, the Cleveland, Ohio, distributorship owned by The Martin-Brower Company agreed to negotiate with Anderson in 1991. Together with longtime friend Steve DuBose, he bought a controlling interest. "But there were performance benchmarks [in the deal] so that if for some reason I screwed it up, Martin-Brower had the mechanism to take me out," Anderson adds. It needn't have worried. In 1993, Anderson bought out DuBose to become the sole majority owner, and in 1995, he purchased Martin-Brower's interest, gaining 100 percent ownership of the company.
Later that same year, McDonald's called on Anderson to scout out a suitable distribution center for its fledging operations in South Africa. Unable to find a company that could meet McDonald's exacting standards, Anderson was awarded the rights to develop the South African distributorship himself.
Today, in addition to burgeoning success in South Africa, the Anderson-DuBose Co. supplies 270 McDonald's restaurants in Northeast Ohio, Pennsylvania and West Virginia, providing frozen hamburger and chicken, produce, paper products, operating supplies and Happy Meal toys.
Looking back, Anderson knows he's proved himself and then some. "This would register very big on the radar screen of fantastic feats," he admits--and not immodestly. As the saying goes, if you can back it up, it ain't bragging.