Second Generation Success

(Last Updated On: December 31, 2015)

Stephanie Oliver was 9 years old when her parents opened the doors to their first McDonald’s franchise in 1979. Born and raised in Chicago, her first job was wiping down tables in the restaurant’s dining area.

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McDonald’s operators, Stephanie Oliver and father, Carroll Oliver.

“My favorite item on the menu was the caramel sundae,” recalls Oliver.

Three decades later, she is carrying on the family legacy as the owner of three McDonald’s restaurants and is the second African-American independent female operator to own a McDonald’s franchise in the Houston area.

Of the 17 African-American owned McDonald’s franchises in the Houston region, five are female-owned, and Oliver is one of about three independent female owner-operators.

In July, Oliver, along with more than a hundred Black McDonald’s operators from across the country, recently convened in Houston for McDonald’s

Next Generation Conference, a series of seminars aimed at inspiring family members of existing operators to carry on the legacy of franchise ownership.

According to Oliver, the ultimate goal of the conference is to turn the business over to the next generation of family members as a means of building and passing on family wealth.

President of the Black McDonald’s Operators Association of Greater Houston for the past six years, she credits her father, Carroll Oliver, for his impact on her life and constant encouragement.

“My father was always one that inspired me to reach for the stars and do things higher. He would always say he wanted me to do things ‘bigger and better’ than him. And those are some huge shoes to fill,” says Oliver.

“I am very proud of him. He always pushed me to get out there and do it on my own and he would always be on the sidelines to guide me along the way,” says Oliver.

Working in the family business represented more than just a first job for Oliver, and her older brother, Cedric, who is now director of operations for her restaurants, but also served as an alternative to the activities many of their friends were involved in growing up in Chicago.

While most of her friends were going to parties or the movies or just hanging out, says Oliver, she and her brotherwere working at their father’s restaurant, something she appreciates now.

“I thank my father for that, not only did he instill good work ethics in me, but in Chicago there were some rougher sides and with him having a business it helped to keep me and my brother busy and we never got in trouble,” says Oliver.

Oliver calls her father her hero. Owner of three McDonald’s restaurants, Carroll Oliver provided for the family and set the example for Oliver to follow in mapping out her own independent career path.

“My father did not give me anything, but an opportunity. He was one that believed that if you wanted to get paid, you had to work,” she says.

Although Oliver held great admiration for her father and his entrepreneurial spirit, following in his footsteps was not a part of her initial plans.

She had her mind set on going to college and obtaining a business degree so that she could make her mark in the corporate world. On graduating from college, she returned home and took a summer job working for her father as she awaited other doors of opportunity to open.

While there, she began to notice areas of the restaurant that could be enhanced.

“I realized that computer-wise the restaurant wasn’t where it needed to be. Had I not gone to college I would not have been able to identify the different areas where improvements were needed,” says Oliver.

Three months later her father offered her a position as store manager. In 1997, her commitment solidified after hearing a presentation by a femaleblack McDonald’s owner-operatorwhose husband had been killed.

The woman stressed the importance of passing down the family legacy of franchise ownership.

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Black McDonald’s Operators Association of Houston

“My father did not give me anything, but an opportunity. He was one that believed that if you wanted to get paid, you had to work,” she says.

Although Oliver held great admiration for her father and his entrepreneurial spirit, following in his footsteps was not a part of her initial plans.

She had her mind set on going to college and obtaining a business degree so that she could make her mark in the corporate world.

On graduating from college, she returned home and took a summer job working for her father as she awaited other doors of opportunity to open.

While there, she began to notice areas of the restaurant that could be enhanced.

“I realized that computer-wise the restaurant wasn’t where it needed to be. Had I not gone to college I would not have been able to identify the different areas where improvements were needed,” says Oliver. Three months later her father offered her a position as store manager.

In 1997, her commitment solidified after hearing a presentation by a female Black McDonald’s owner-operator whose husband had been killed. The woman stressed the importance of passing down the family legacy of franchise ownership.

“She said that if our parents or spouses own a McDonalds, you really need to be licensed as an owner to protect your business and your assets. If not of course you would just sell your restaurant back to McDonalds, but if the family has worked so hard to purchase and run this business, don’t just let it go away,” says Oliver of the presentation.

The woman’s passionate plea convinced her of the importance of securing licensing and passing down the family legacy of franchise ownership.

“That is what opened my eyes to being more of a family business and working together so that we can have more and carry on a family legacy,” says Oliver.

Oliver carved out her own unique path in an arena where most second generation operators follow the trend of remaining connected to their parent’s franchises.

“Children of owners have the option of staying in business with their parents or branching off to establish their own restaurants. A lot of operators stay with their parents because you are going to need a store that you actually are going to be training in. And they also are looking at some proven strategies,” says Oliver.

Unafraid of a challenge, Oliver has set her own course.

“My father and I are actually two totally different entities. I didn’t stay with my parents’ business, I have my own three McDonalds and my parents have their own three McDonalds,” Oliver says.

She credits faith, being true to herself, setting realistic goals, never forgetting where she came from and reaching back to help others as the keys to her current success.

At the age of 42, not only has she assumed the helm of three independently-owned successful restaurant franchises, she is training and passing on the values instilled in her to her management team and employees.

Many of the employees at Oliver’s restaurantshave grown up in the business working as fry cooks to store managers and have risen above troubled backgrounds to achieve a level of success that gives Oliver great pride.

“God has given me the grace and the spirit to change their lives and show them that they can do and be anything they want to be, that is what I am most proud of,” says Oliver.

Fifteen years ago she spoke at a career day at a Houston area high school, and today, one of the students now supervises one of her restaurants.

Half of the employees who have risen to the ranks of manager in her restaurants stem from single parent homes where there was no father; some were victims of past abuse of various forms and still others came from households where their parents may have suffered from AIDS or been incarcerated.

“I have many stories of people that have worked for me who said there were things they thought they couldn’t do and I showed them that ‘yes you can,’” says Oliver.

A single-mother of three, she is now focused on instilling a strong work ethic and values in her children.

“My daughter is going to Baylor this year to study pre-med. My son is thinking about possible franchise ownership and my daughter also, at times. I let them be who they are and don’t force anything on them. I want them to do like I did and experience college as well as life. I think that they can bring a different perspective back to the business, maybe something I haven’t thought about, like I did with my father,” says Oliver.

On The Fast Track To Success

Tarus Morgan is on the fast track as a second-generation McDonald’s operator. He was approved for his first franchise at the age of 27, a process that normally takes most operators 5 or more years to complete, and now, at 29, owns and operates a McDonald’s franchise in southwest Houston. 

“A lot of people said that I was too young. I became an owner operator at 27. A lot of people told me I wouldn’t get approved this fast. It only took me a year and a half. It depends on the person, it depends on you,” says Morgan.

Morgan takes great pride in carrying on the legacy started by his father, Wendell Morgan, a first generation Black McDonald’s operator, who worked in McDonald’s corporate offices for 15 years before assuming ownership of his initial franchise.

“I had a fantastic base. One of the things my dad put in my head is that people are amazed at how fast a rocket flies, but a rocket cannot take off without a good foundation. And I have had a beautiful foundation, with my parents teaching me discipline and good values and the importance of not leaving a job unless I can sign my name to it, and keeping God first,” says Morgan.

A native of Tennessee, Morgan had always envisioned some day joining his father’s business. As a teenager, his first job was flipping burgers on the grill in his father’s restaurant 

“My dad was a real stickler for me learning the hard way and would always tell me that it would pay off in the end. I had the opportunity to work in every position which has helped me to be a better operator,” says Morgan.

An athlete in both high school and college, Morgan would work during the summers and during the off-season from sports.

“I might work a month or two and then go back and focus on whatever sport I was in and over time moved up from the grill to cashier to swing manager and other positions in the restaurant,” shares Morgan.

He maintained his focus, despite being teased by friends for working at McDonalds.

“A lot of my friends would make fun of me for working at a McDonalds, but my salary was about $15,000 more than their’s in the general market, not just working for my father,” shares Morgan.

Morgan believes many people mistakenly view working at McDonald’s as “just flipping burgers,” rather than an opportunity to learn how to help run a multi-million dollar business.

In 2005, Morgan earned his bachelor’s degree from Southern University and eventually returned home to work in the family’s restaurant after working a brief stint in sales for a national telecommunications company, an experience he says opened his eyes to the corporate world.

“I know life isn’t fair, but you start to see that if you know people you move up faster than others. It wasn’t always about talent or who was doing the most, it was about other things, so I realized then I needed to be my own boss,” says Morgan.

Morgan’s father had always wanted him to come back and join him in the business and had envisioned teaching him the trade.

“My dad had always encouraged me to work for myself and with him being in corporate so long he understood the corporate side of it and always pressed the value of being your own man, being your own boss,” says Morgan.

“I had planned on playing in the NFL for several years, but my parents were really big on education and always encouraged having a backup plan. So I have always had a Plan A, B and C,” says Morgan.

As a second generation McDonald’s operator, Morgan appreciates the career pathway that has been set before him.

“McDonald’s is a very lucrative career, it is a good business to grow in, there is unlimited opportunity, which is something you can’t say about a lot of fortune 500 companies that you can start from a grill person and become an owner,” says Morgan.

He also values the opportunity of being a second generation McDonald’s operator and having his parent’s business success as a blueprint to follow.

“My dad did a great job in making it look easy, and a lot of times in my young arrogance, I thought it would just be a piece of cake because he made it look so easy. But it is an extremely hard job because you have to manage a lot of different personalities.

You have to manage your personal life, and you are seeing all of this money, but you have to learn how to allocate it,” says Morgan.

For Second Generation operators parents can give their children 20 percent of the business which serves like earnest money to purchase a store, according to Morgan.

The Tennessee native met his wife, Veronica, in college, and discovered that her parents also were McDonald’s operators.

With the money gifted to him through his parents’ franchise, Morgan bought stores from his father-in-law, Dave Moss, owner of eight McDonald’s franchises.

With Morgan’s wife in the McDonald’s spousal program, his goal in the next five years is to expand to ownership of six restaurants.

“I want to enjoy quality of life. I don’t have kids yet, and eventually I plan on having children, so I want to be flexible and be able to take care of them, but I also want to have something to pass on to them as well,” says Morgan.

He applauds the mission of the “Next Generation Conference” that encourages existing owners to pass down the franchise within the family.

Held for the first time in Houston, this year’s conference brought McDonalds operators together from across the country to the Westin Hotel near Memorial City Mall. Launched approximately 10 years ago, and held every four years, previous conferences have been held in Indianapolis and Florida, according to Morgan.

“It is a beautiful thing and you have to feel honored to be able to be in a group like this and for parents who love their children and who think enough to pass the torch onto their kids, this is an opportunity that is not really normal, I was 27 year olds when I was approved for my first franchise, and how many 27 year olds can say they own a 2.5 million dollar business,” says Morgan. Morgan does not take the opportunities that have been afforded him lightly.

“I think that in the black community it is important for us to build wealth. So with the foundation that our parents have laid, we don’t have to start from scratch, we have a cake that is already made, and they have taken their pieces out and hopefully we can add more pieces to that cake to pass on, so our kids won’t have to start where we started,” says Morgan.

The McDonald’s franchise model has opened a door of opportunity for his family—a door he hopes many others will walkthrough.

“I would encourage franchises for anybody, because it is something that you can pass onto your kids. How many times can you pass on millions of dollars to your kids,” says Morgan.

Morgan desires for more African Americans to take advantage of opportunities that will leave a lasting legacy of wealthfor their families.

“I think in our community a lot of times we have rich people, but we don’t have wealthy families. When one person in your family is rich, that is one thing, but when everybody in your family is rich that is wealth and when you have generations of rich people that is true wealth, and I think that is something that we miss in the black community,” says Morgan.

Morgan credits his success to his faith in Jesus and a supportive family.

“When you hear people tell you what you can’t do and that God isn’t real, and you see so much unbelief in this new generation, you can’t tell me that things can’t happen when I have experienced them. I know where my blessings come from.

“It has happened in my life, it has happened for non-Second Generation people, it works,” says Morgan.

He and his wife have yet to have children, but would like to see the legacy given to them by their parents passed on to their children.

“I don’t want to force my child in a particular direction, but as a father, I would want them to get into the business, because it is a great business. And with both me and my wife being “Second Gens” and seeing how it works, it would be easier to help our children, because we have seen the struggle from our parents, they built something from the ground up and gave their blood, sweat and tears to see it succeed,” says Morgan.

Despite the seven day a week, 24-hour-aday commitment that restaurant ownership brings, at the end of the day, Morgan would not do it any other way.

“McDonald’s has afforded me a beautiful life, so I have no regrets.”

 Second Generation Success