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Extraordinary Comeback : Colonel Harland Sanders

WHEN INTERSTATE 75 APPEARED AND BYPASSED HIS Corbin, Kentucky, restaurant, Colonel Sanders knew it was all over. He auctioned off his equipment, paid his bills, and retired penniless at sixty-five. He got his first Social Security check for $105, too small to live on even in 1955!

This was a crushing blow to his ego and his pocketbook; in times past, the Colonel had been a successful, celebrated restaurateur.

When his father, who was a coal miner, passed away, Sanders took up cooking at age six to help his mother and feed his siblings. It was his mother who taught him to cook fried chicken. In 1929, at thirty-nine, he opened a gas station and small restaurant in Corbin. His cooking grew so popular that he decided to open Sanders Café. In 1935, Governor Ruby Laffoon made Sanders, forty-five, a Kentucky Colonel because of his cooking prowess. By 1939, with the invention of the pressure cooker, he had discovered a method for cooking his signature fried chicken even faster, seasoned with his “secret blend of eleven herbs and spices.” The same year his establishment was listed in Duncan Hines’s Adventures in Good Eating.

So the proud man with the history of hardship, hard work, and success went back to work at age sixty-five to franchise his popular fried chicken recipe. He prayed to God for help, assuring him that if things worked out he would get his share. Not a fancy prayer, he recalled, just an honest one.

Sanders drove from restaurant to restaurant, cooking batches of chicken for restaurant owners and their employees. If they liked it, he shook hands on a deal of a nickel payment to him for each chicken the restaurant sold.

It was a tough life for Sanders. Sometimes a prospect would invite Sanders for a meal, and he was glad to get the food. Other times, he’d say good-night to his host, fumble around in his car until the host was gone, and then settle into the backseat for a night’s sleep.

By 1957, after the first two years, Sanders had sold just five franchises. With such a tepid response, most people would have quit, but Sanders, in his trademark white suit, pushed on. By 1960, he had sold two hundred franchises, and six hundred by 1963. He served each franchisee personally. At home, he would mix the spices, pack them in cellophane bags, and his wife, Claudia, would ship them to franchisees. In some ways, it was like a home business, but the concept was right, and it was growing.

In 1964, the seventy-four-year-old Colonel sold the company to an investor group for $2 million and a lifetime yearly salary of $40,000. Kentucky Fried Chicken was listed on the New York Stock Exchange on January 16, 1969. Until he passed away at age ninety, Colonel Sanders traveled 250,000 miles a year visiting the KFC empire he founded. He said that hard work and a positive attitude beat all the tonics and vitamins in the world. The Colonel’s secret recipe is kept locked in a safe in Louisville, Kentucky, according to company officials. Sanders today remains one of the most recognizable figures in the world.

Sumber : Sarkett, John A. 2007. Extraordinary Comeback : 201 inspiring stories of courage, triumph and success. Naperville, Illinois : Sourcebook, Inc.

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