The CEO who took over Burger King at age 32 learned that any major problem at work usually boils down to one of 3 reasons
- As the CEO of Restaurant Brands International, Daniel Schwartz oversees Burger King, Tim Hortons, and Popeyes.
- Schwartz started as CFO at Burger King in his late 20s before becoming CEO at 32.
- He said the most important management lesson he learned was to realise that in business, bad execution is the result of either the wrong owner, the wrong people in roles, or the wrong strategy.
When he was 29 years old, Daniel Schwartz went from managing a single person at the investment firm 3G Capital to becoming the chief financial officer of Burger King. A few years later, he was CEO of the brand, and then that role soon turned to CEO of a fast food conglomerate, Restaurant Brands International.
It was the highest level of learning through experience, and while it could have gone terribly, Schwartz adapted to his new roles and has been successfully growing his three brands: Burger King, Tim Hortons, and Popeyes. In an episode of Business Insider's podcast "This Is Success," Schwartz said that the most important management insight he had growing into his CEO position was one that's both simple but easily overlooked.
"The biggest lesson is to always realise that if something's not working, you either have the wrong owner, the wrong person managing it, or the wrong strategy, and you need to be pretty sure which one that is," he said.
For example, when 3G bought Burger King in 2010, the brand was far behind its rival, McDonald's. At the time of the sale, Reuters noted that Burger King suffered from decreasing demand among its core audience and a lack of adaptation to changes in consumer trends that McDonald's and other brands had latched onto. After 3G put Schwartz in charge, he gave the brand a new look and voice, and updated its menu.
Those were the result of ownership and strategy, but Schwartz told us the most common cause of problems is with assigning roles. He noted that most often, "it's a people issue and we need to make sure that we have the right people in the right places."
Laughing, he said that even though some outlets (including Business Insider) liked to portray him as a "whiz kid" due to his unusually young age for his position in the industry, he wasn't a "prodigy." Rather, he explained, his two greatest skills were spotting talent and assigning employees to roles where they can flourish. The key to this, and to the entirety of his greatest management insight, is moving quickly.
It sounds straightforward, but it's not easy. Employees are human beings, not numbers on a spreadsheet, and on top of that, it can be difficult to abandon even a failing plan for a new one when people become personally invested in it.
"But if you could be honest with yourself and you always put the business before any of these other personal situations, that allows you to be more nimble and to fix things quickly," Schwartz said.
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