Harland Sanders was born in 1890 and left school at the age of twelve to help support his family. He held diverse jobs through the years – farming, railroad work, insurance sales, secretary, and even ferryboat operator. In 1930 – at the age of 40 – he moved his family to the small town of Corbin, Kentucky, where he worked at a gas station. At that time, automobiles were the latest rage, and Corbin was on the main route from the north to Florida. Traffic was highly favorable for such a business.
During the Great Depression, tourism slowed, so Colonel Sanders began preparing meals for remaining tourists to supplement his income. He became well-known for his hearty breakfasts, and his business grew. Seeing additional opportunity, he also started the Sanders Court motel to provide a place for tourists to stay during their travels. His marketing genius was evidenced by the fact that on the way to the ladies’ room in the restaurant, he had a model motel room that the ladies would have to pass through. He knew that, in those days, the ladies would inspect the rooms before deciding whether or not the family should stay at a given motel. In essence, he had created the model for what marketers today call “the upsell”, and many who simply stopped to eat a meal at the restaurant also ended up spending the night with their families at the motel.
Through the years, he experimented with new and innovative ideas for recipes and created an ingenious method for cooking fried chicken in half the time using a pressure cooker. That process, together with his famous “11 herbs and spices” won him great notoriety in the area and among travelers. Sanders Café and Motor Court thrived from 1932 through 1956. But in 1956, plans for a Federal highway that would bypass Corbin were announced.
Colonel Sanders, now 66, was once again faced with a loss of traffic that would impact his livelihood. Given that the road was about to bypass him, he decided to sell the restaurant and take his recipe on the road. He began to sell his recipe to restaurants across the country and train others on his methods…and the rest is history.
Those who know me know that I do not cook chicken like the Colonel. We have charred evidence of that fact! But Colonel Sanders’ best recipe has nothing to do with 11 herbs and spices. It has to do with the fact that throughout his life, he chose to find a way to create success. In his formative years, that meant taking advantage of the different jobs he could find, no matter how diverse. In his forties, fifties, and early sixties, that meant running a business based on constantly improving his processes and looking for new opportunities in good times AND bad times. And at the age when many of us would have given up and retired, he took steps that led to his greatest success. In doing so, he created a true legacy business.
If you’re looking for a recipe for success, I suggest you try the Colonel’s REAL secret recipe:
- Identify opportunity in adversity;
- Continually improve your process and product;
- Know and serve your people well; and
- Find a way to deliver.