Thursday, November 01, 2012

Grand Success Stories: Don Thompson

When you have the support of a grandmother like Rosa Martin, anything is possible—even rising to the top of the world’s biggest foodservice company. Just ask Don Thompson.

Thompson, the newly-minted president and CEO of McDonald’s, credits his success to his grandmother’s love and encouragement. Thompson spent his early childhood in a rough area of Chicago, where his grandmother raised him from the time he was two weeks old. When Thompson was ten, his grandmother decided she needed to raise her grandson in a safer environment, so the two moved to Indianapolis.

Thompson’s entrepreneurial spirit began at a young age, and was directly affected by his grandmother and her friends. "When I was 11 years old, I printed up little business cards and distributed them in a nearby convalescent home," Thompson told the Franchise Times, "The residents hired me to do errands or clean their apartments."

That entrepreneurial spirit, coupled with Rosa Martin’s emphasis on education, led Thompson to enroll at Purdue University’s School of Engineering. "My grandmother gave everything she had to get me into and through Purdue," Thompson told Black Enterprise magazine in 2007. After earning his bachelor’s degree in electrical engineering, Thompson worked in aeronautics until an executive recruiter came calling. The recruiter was pitching a job that involved working with robotics and control circuitry for one of the best-known corporations in the world: McDonalds. Thompson accepted the offer and began a 22-year ascent to the top.

Now that Thompson is leading an internationally popular fast-food chain, he still remembers where he came from and the important role his grandmother played in his success. According to the Chicago Sun-Times, when Rosa Martin was told that her grandson was McDonald’s newest CEO, she began crying, saying, “I must have done something right.”

To read more inspiring stories of people raised in grandfamilies, download Generations United publication Grand Successes: Stories of Lives Well-Raised today!

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