Does It Matter If You Vote?

This isn’t a post about who to vote for in the upcoming election. It isn’t even a post encouraging people to participate in the November, 2020 contest. Rather, it’s about whether or not elections matter at all. Spoiler alert – they do. It was the early morning hours of Wednesday, November 4, 2016 and I was sitting at a bar in Little Rock, Arkansas. Donald Trump had been declared the winner of the Presidential election and, like many people in America, I was trying to figure out what happened. I have a political background and understood that Nate Silver at www.FiveThirtyEight.com forecasted that Mr. Trump had roughly a 30% chance of winning so I wasn’t focused on the probability of the moment. I just wanted to know why individual people had made the choices they made. It didn’t take long to find my first clue.There was a guy, probably in his mid-20s, sitting next to me at the bar. As I am accustomed to doing, I chatted him up.  The election coverage was playing on the…

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COVID-19 and Operating Assumptions

COVID-19 and Operating Assumptions
COVID19 and Operating Assumptions

A ton of articles have been written about Covid-19 during 2020. As of July 2020, I cannot remember any situation during my lifetime that has received such extensive news coverage as Covid-19. The only thing that rivals it is the terrorist attacks of September 11 . But, even those horrific attacks did not touch the lives of every single American, and indeed every member of the human race, the way the global pandemic has altered our everyday lives. I am not a scientist and I offer no opinion on the science and won’t regurgitate the facts that are easily available on the Center for Disease Control or John Hopkins University websites. Rather, I want to talk about the principles of “I don’t know” and “operating assumptions” in the context of Covid-19. I tell everyone working within my company there are only two answers to any question: First, the answer that is factual and exactly correct; Second, the answer of “I don’t know but I will find out.” I don’t have room for speculation, rumor,…

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Police Encounter

I was born to an Irish father and a Hispanic mother. My name is very Irish but I favor my mother’s looks. Either way, to most of the world I just look “white.” Ironically, the only time I remember being racially slurred was when my mother cut straight across my black bangs and a kid in junior high believed I was Chinese. I tried to explain but he didn’t get it. In short, I don’t know what it’s like to be a racial minority. I don’t know how it feels to be discriminated against on a daily basis because of the color of my skin. There is really no way for me to fully understand or empathize with a black person in America. But, there was this one time where I had an encounter with police power. It was one of the scariest 20 minutes of my life and it briefly gave me a window into how discrimination might feel. At a minimum, it showed me how intimidating a confrontation with the police can…

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Failed Ventures

Do you remember when you got your first job and made your own money? There was nothing like that feeling for me. The idea of receiving an allowance, having to beg my parents for money, was anathema to me. I wanted the freedom and independence that came with earning my ownway through life. There is a certain pride with being financially independent. And, there is an even bigger pride with owning your own business. I have owned several businesses during my lifetime. But, I have only built a couple of them from scratch. I like to think that I have a creative streak but the truth is that my highest value is letting someone else get the ball rolling and then for me to come in and make it better. So, today, I want to share two business stories with you that ended without a rainbow at the end of them. I don’t call them failures because I learned a ton about business through running each of them. The first business I started was…

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Franchising 101

Franchising 101
Franchising 101

I grew up as the son of a McDonald’s owner. My father, Mike O’Brien, had the opportunity to become a franchisee at 48 years old. Dad served his country in World War II, he overcame a reading disability to graduate from college using the G.I. Bill and he tried every way he knew to become a successful businessman – and failed every time. It was not until an old high school acquaintance in Sioux City, Iowa called to ask if he wanted to partner up in a McDonald’s franchise that dad finally hit a home run. He moved his family South and opened up a store in Jacksonville, Arkansas on January 3, 1973. It became the first McDonald’s in the Southern United States to surpass the $1 million in annual sales milestone. It was once said that McDonald’s Entrepreneur Ray Kroc created “more millionaires than any other American in history.” My dad was one of them. McDonald’s is often credited with creating the franchising industry as we know it. In 2019, there were over…

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