Family Businesses

4 Lessons This Family Learned From a Lifetime Growing Their Franchise Business

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Bill and Donna Kyle celebrated 50 years of marriage this year, along with 42 years owning and operating multiple McDonald's restaurants throughout the Magic Valley in Idaho. Both of their sons, Darren and Ryan, are McDonald's franchisees, which is difficult to achieve in the second generation. Kristin, their daughter, is also an entrepreneur. I was amazed at the many ways the Kyle family where setting records as owner-operators and wanted to know their secrets to success. Here's what Bill shared:

1. Don't give up too soon.

The first three years of his family business were difficult. It wasn't until year three that he finally broke even. Bill recalled, "I was not making anything. I was in fact losing substantial amounts of money each and every month." Donna is a teacher by profession, but worked the front counter and helped with public relations. "I went in undercapitalized. I didn't realize how undercapitalized I was until I was several months in," said Bill. He did not give up despite the pressures and demands of building up the family business, and now they own 10 locations throughout South Central Idaho.

Related: Remember, Persistence Pays Off. Stay Motivated With These 5 Tips.

2. Hard work is still relevant.

It was years before Bill could really take a day off. The reality for many families who own and operate a McDonald's franchise is that you work seven days a week to survive in the beginning. When the general public is off for weekends and holidays, owner-operators are the busiest.

Bill said, "I couldn't afford to pay managers to open or close the store. My average day was 12 to 15 hours a day. Many days it was more than 15." The mistake that some families make is thinking that success is a guarantee because McDonald's is a well-known franchise. Bill warns, "Treat it like an independent business. The only difference is I've purchased the right to use a very specified menu and system of doing business."

He added that McDonald's sales projection for the growth of his business did not occur as planned. He was in the red longer than they anticipated, but  hard work made the difference.

3. Don't push family business on your children.

Darren joined his father in the business 11 years ago. He graduated with a degree in accounting and worked for a major accounting company before joining the family business. Darren has been a McDonald's franchisee for nearly seven years, and Bill's other son, Ryan, became a franchisee 10 days prior to our interview. Bill says that his daughter, Kristin, is a successful business owner. He doesn't view her any different because of her choice to pursue something else.

Bill only required three things of his children growing up: "Stay out of trouble. Get your education. If you decide you want to get into this business with us, don't talk to us until age 30."

He wanted them to have some of life's experiences and he wanted them to come back on their own terms. "I never wanted them to feel that I was pushing them in this business," Bill said.

Related: To Franchisees, McDonald's Arches Aren't Looking So Gold

4. Making a difference in your community.

I asked Bill about the importance of developing the community around you as an entrepreneur and family business owner. He did not hesitate in his response: "That's the price you pay for the space you occupy." His family business uses a portion of their revenue and all donations to give back to communities around the 10 locations they own. They also support the Ronald McDonald's House in a neighboring city, which provides a place for families to stay near their children who are hospitalized for an extended period. There are bedroom suites to accommodate the family, which include play areas and kitchens. It's one of the primary charities that they support each year, but the they support other charities in the communities they do business in.  

Bill loves the daily interactions with his family. He said, "Working with my children gives me a renewed energy to stay in the business. I really enjoy working with them. It's fun. How many parents get to say that these days? That benefit of family business is immeasurable."

Related: The Soul of Entrepreneurship: How Giving Back Adds Value