I finished reading Fast Food Nation the other night, what an incredible book. I highly recommend it to everyone. One thing I'm thinking about a lot is the treatment of workers described in the book, both at the meatpacking plants and at fast food restaurants in general. And thinking about my experiences now as a worker, rather than a manager or a company leader.
There's nothing to be gained long-term for any business by making your employees feel like shit. Nothing. One employee may leave. They may all leave, as is the case with most McDonald's, within three or six months, and you may say to yourself, "I'm saving money! I'm not paying for those slackers with no committment." But you know what? That's bullshit.
I believe most people want to work. They want to contribute to something and feel good about doing so. Human beings are social and they like to belong to something. After school ends, the workplace takes over as a place to "belong," it's where people form new relationships, socialize and interact, and contribute their piece to the "whole."
When a company treats people with respect, when they value their employees' contributions, when they listen to what their employees have to say, when they trust, the company is rewarded. Everyone feels better. Everyone works better. Have you ever worked someplace where people are excited and challenged and free to express themselves? It's magical.
But too many companies and corporations think the road to financial success lies in cutting costs, in mistreatment, in disrespect, in keeping employees in the dark, in keeping employees silent. Corporations steamroll their employees as they head down that road.
If I could change the way people are treated at McDonald's, I would. If I could revolutionize the conditions in the meatpacking plants in Nebraska and Colorado, I would. Part of me wants to buy a franchise right now, and do it differently, or to fly to Columbus, Nebraska and slow down the line and yell at everyone, yell, "What are you doing here? How can you treat the people who are making you your fucking money like this?!"
When Evan and I founded our company, one of my biggest hopes was to create a place where people would be happy coming to work. I wanted to create that special environment I'd yet to experience in my career, and to share it with other people who thought such a place should exist. And you know what? Even after everything that's happened, I know we succeeded. We didn't have the soundest business plan, we didn't manage as well as we could have, we messed up, a lot. But we also built something really special, and for a brief time, there was a great place to go to work. And it was called Pyra.