Gathering the will to keep going after many successive setbacks is not easy. But Colonel Sanders, KFC founder, managed to do that. After struggling for most of his life, Sanders remained resilient and ended up building a global empire.
A difficult early life
Sanders was born in 1890, on a farm in Henryville, Indiana. His father died when he was six, forcing his mother to take up several jobs.
While his mother was away, Sanders took care of the home and his siblings. It was at this early age that he developed an interest in cooking.
In 1906, Sanders enlisted in the United States Army. After serving for a year, he received an honorary discharge and moved to his uncle’s Alabama home. His uncle, who worked for the Southern Railway, got him a job as a blacksmith’s helper. But Sanders got sick and got fired for insubordination.
A string of misfortunes
Sanders found manual work with the Norfolk Railway. He labored in the days and spent his nights studying law at La Salle Extension University. Three years later, he began practicing.
Sanders’ legal career ended abruptly after a courtroom brawl with a client cost him his reputation. Distraught, he moved back to his mother’s home in Henryville.
Shortly after, Sanders and his mother moved to Jeffersonville. He got a job selling life insurance and even saved enough money to start a ferry service company on the Ohio River.
Only one year later, bridge construction on the river began. Facing bankruptcy, Sanders sold his company for $22,000.
Sanders poured all the money from his ferry company sale into a new venture: an acetylene lighting company. The spread of electricity and the light bulb drove him out of business, again.
Bruised by his losses, Sanders found work as a tire salesman for Michelin in Kentucky. Even this job ended abruptly when Michelin ended its New Jersey manufacturing operations.
Sanders’ bad luck seemed over when the general manager of Standard Oil for Kentucky offered him a job running a service station. But, the service station closed down due to the Great Depression.
The Colonel’s first restaurant
Sanders had lost a lot, but he did not concede. Using his experience of managing a service station, he got a job running a franchised station of the Shell Oil Company.
While at the station, Sanders retrieved his long-lost passion for cooking. He started preparing and selling chicken in the backroom. Thanks to his secret recipe, his chicken became so popular. Then Kentucky governor Ruby Laffoon gave him the title of Colonel.
With his restaurant, Colonel Sanders had tasted success. As he would soon find out, life was not done being cruel to him. A highway junction that was in front of his establishment was moved, significantly reducing traffic.
This development spelled doom for Sanders’ business. He thought long and hard and eventually decided to auction off the restaurant.
A drastic move that worked
Sanders knew his greatest asset was his chicken recipe. So, while he no longer had a restaurant, he was not helpless. He realized he could enter into franchise arrangements with willing restaurants and make money for every meal they sold.
At 66 years old, Sanders went out searching for restaurants to buy into his franchising idea. This approach was understandably slow and expensive. To cut costs, he often slept in his car.
Colonel Sanders sold his restaurant and embarked on his travels in 1956. By 1964, he had partnered with over 600 outlets and formed the Kentucky Fried Chicken (Finger Lickin Good KFC) franchise.
Eventually, the company became too big for Sanders to manage. He sold it to millionaire Jack Massey for a decent $2 million.
The takeaway is this
So, are you feeling overwhelmed by life’s challenges? Have you tried and failed time after time to achieve your big financial break?
At the age of 66, when many would be returning home to retire, he set out to build one of the largest food franchises in the world. Let the great Colonel’s story inspire you to keep pushing.