A smart idea, and how the people involved even got there. Plus, 7 other things worth your time.

We have had a lot of new subscribers over the last few days. So I’d like to start out by saying welcome, and thanks for signing up! I hope you get value out of Understandably. (Also, here’s a handy subscribe link if someone forwarded it to you.)

I always hate to lose subscribers, but I also don’t want to clutter anyone’s in-box. If you find this isn’t for you, here’s how to unsubscribe.


Something smart: A couple of cities set up drive-through Covid-19 testing facilities, but then realized they were totally inefficient. People were waiting too long, maybe not getting tested as a result.

So, you know what they did? They brought in the experts: people who run fast-food franchises and drive-throughs for a living. In a town in South Carolina, for example, the owner-operator of the local Chick-fil-A got the call. His name is Jerry Walkowiak.

"I called Jerry and asked if he would come help us out," said Will Haynie, the mayor of Mount Pleasant, S.C. "He said, 'There's your problem right there. It's backed up because you have one person checking people in.' Then he showed us how to do it right."

This just makes so much sense I don’t know what to do with it, so I’m going to focus on the fact that it seems to be Chick-fil-A managers coming to the rescue more often than not, at least in the cases I’ve heard about.

Because the one thing I know about Chick-fil-A, for someone who has rarely eaten there, is that you can’t “fall into” the job of running one.

In fact, out of all the franchises in the world, Chick-fil-A is probably the hardest to get—harder than getting into Harvard, for example, at least statistically:

  • Harvard 2020 admission rate: 5.2 percent

  • Chick-fil-A franchise rate: 1 percent

Why? Reason number one is probably that a Chick-fil-A franchise costs far less than most other franchises: $10,000, including a refundable $5,000 deposit. Put that up against say, McDonald’s, where the fee can run easily into the millions.

Then consider the $4.17 million average gross revenue that an independent analysis says Chick-fil-A stores make each year. No-brainer.

As a result, something like 60,000 people take the first steps in the application process annually. Most of the ones who get selected can point to very relevant experience managing similar sized teams — in the military, for example, at other retailers and restaurants, and sure enough — sometimes working at Chick-fil-A.

A while back, I interviewed their head of franchise selection, Maureen Donahue, and she told me that they ask one question they ask over and over in the selection process: “Why do you want to own a Chick-fil-A?”

They expect applicants’ answers to evolve as they go through the process. But it’s a reflection of the idea that the only way somebody can be successful in the job is if they really, really, really want to be there.

That always made sense to me. There’s a quote that people like to credit Dave Eggers with minting, but I think it actually originated on the British version of The Office:

“It's better to be at the bottom of a ladder you want to climb than halfway up one you don’t.”

I’ve certainly found it to be true in my varied and winding career path. So if you’re hiring people, the takeaway is to spend some time figuring out if they really, really, really want to be with you.

  • Do the requirements of the job match their skills and goals?

  • Does the lifestyle match their families and other interests?

  • Does your culture and mission match their values?

The expensive way to learn the answers to these questions is to hire them and see what happens. The easier way is just to ask them — and do it over and over and over.

(And if I had to figure out how to run a drive-through in a hurry, I’d like to hope I’d be smart enough to look for those people, too.)

7 other things worth your time

Thanks for reading. If you’re not yet a subscriber, please sign up for the daily email newsletter—with thousands and thousands and thousands and thousands of 5-star ratings from happy readers—and now, with a kazillion little heart icons, since I realized only a year into this that if people click the heart, it apparently improves the reach of my newsletter. Whoops.

And of course, please share Understandably! Seriously, if you’ve wondered, What can I do to help Bill build this? That’s the #1 thing—for people who enjoy this newsletter to encourage friends and family to sign up as well. Thank you!

Share Understandably

Finally, if you liked this post, please click that little heart icon below. Comments are always welcome, and if you reply to this newsletter, it will go straight to my inbox. Thanks!

Leave a comment