You might agree with Ana Madan's refrain that ketchup runs in her veins. The 49-year-old entrepreneur owns and operates six McDonald's restaurants in Northern New Jersey. Correction: high-volume McDonald's restaurants. Meaning busy. Meaning successful.
True, she may have had a leg up of sorts. Her father, Roberto Madan, became a McDonald's owner/operator in the late 1970s, while Ms. Madan was a teenager, and she began to learn the ins and outs of the hamburger giant during weekend work shifts.
But in those days she never pictured being a McDonald's career woman.
Ms. Madan emigrated to the United States from Cuba when she was only nine months old. Naturally, she doesn't recall a thing about her homeland. "For me, Cuba is everything I've heard and pictured in my mind, not a place I know," she said.
In Cuba, her parents were teachers -- her mother, Ana Maria, a Ph.D, taught math, while Roberto, a squash champion, taught physical education. After coming to the states, they eventually became teachers again, settling in Toms River, N.J. Roberto taught Spanish at Toms River High -- Ana's alma mater.
Toms River didn't do much to expose Ms. Madan to foreign cultures. According to her, it was less than colorful.
When she left to attend American University in Washington, D.C., Ms. Madan was for the first time immersed in a truly multicultural environment. Once in that atmosphere, she "never wanted to work at McDonald's again."
At least not at first.
But by her sophomore year, there she was, working at a McDonald's store in the Metro D.C. area. It was happenstance: She fell into a conversation with an owner/operator, they talked a little shop, and the next thing Ms. Madan knew she was helping him open the store.
Joining The Family Business
"We have ketchup in our veins -- we really do," she said with a laugh, adding that she also continued helping out in her father's store during summer breaks. As she continued to study, work, and plan out her life, Ms. Madan came to a realization: McDonald's itself offered great career diversity.
"I took a hard, long look and decided I could move the family business forward, and bring something to the table," she said.
Ms. Madan was a mere 23 when she made the decision to dedicate her career to McDonald's, and she never looked back. She then went to work with her father and her brother, Jose Mato. Shortly after that, in 1986, at age 26, she took a percentage of a McDonald's restaurant and joined them as an owner/operator.
Now, with 23 more years and five more restaurants under her belt, Ms. Madan is refreshingly open about the advantages that come with being a successful McDonald's owner/operator.
"To be honest -- it's very lucrative," she said.
To put that success in perspective, the approximate national average yearly sales at a McDonald's store is about $2 million, according to Ms. Madan. Her sales average more than $3 million per store, and combined for more than $21 million in 2008.
Accordingly, she's a powerful proponent for her 300 employees -- the largest percentage of which, she said, are Hispanic.
"More ground breaking needs to be done," she said. "I'm the only woman and Hispanic to ever be president of the New York Metro Co-Op," a group representing about 600 McDonald's restaurants with command of a $40 million-plus local budget. She held the position from 1997 to 2000. More recently, she's been East Division President of the MHOA -- McDonald's Hispanic Owners-Operators Association -- and sits on that group's National Board of Directors as well. The association is one of several formed by McDonald's owner/operators that provides support to a specific group.
McDonald's U.S. sales were up by 4.7 percent in the first quarter of 2009.
One of the keys to thriving in the recessed economy is the company's national reputation.
Ms. Madan was a little reluctant to commit to a preferred item on McDonald's menu, saying "I love everything." But, after a pause, she quickly confided: "Double Cheeseburger -- my favorite. And fries."
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