She Owns 7 McDonald’s Restaurants in Atlanta and She Just Made Business History

Vicki Chancellor never expected she would become an entrepreneur, let alone that she would own seven McDonald’s restaurants in Atlanta and make history as the first person of color to hold the position of Chair-Elect of the McDonald’s Operator’s National Advertising (OPNAD) Fund. OPNAD is a voluntary U.S. cooperative of McDonald’s Owner/Operators and the company in which owner/operators give a percentage of their sales to pay for all of the media that you see on TV, radio or social media.

With her husband, Chancellor employs nearly 500 people. Her sharp business sense and relentless commitment to improving the communities she serves, has enabled her to help send some of her crew members to college through McDonald’s Archways to Opportunities program. From rising to executive ranks as a woman of color and recovering from rejection to networking and reaching back, below Chancellor shares critical lessons learned from over a decade in business.

(Photo: Craig Butts)

Black Enterprise: Tell us about your journey to becoming the first person of color to hold the OPNAD chairperson position.

Vicki Chancellor: Because the owners/operators fund this program, they choose the OPNAD chairperson. We, as the operators are the funding arm, and McDonald’s is the creative arm. We partner together to be able to bring news to our consumers about McDonald’s.

For 50 years the elect chair has always been a Caucasian male—with the exception of 19 years ago, they had a Caucasian woman. So I’m the first person of color to hold that position, but I ran for this position four years ago and lost the election.

What are the top two reasons why you believe you lost the election?

I figured out how I could put myself in a better position to win by listening and watching the guy that won and analyzing what he did better than what I did.

First, he was always talking about the great things that he’s done and I didn’t talk about my background enough. I didn’t talk about the fact that I had an M.B.A., and I ran marketing for a Fortune 200 company. Not talking about yourself and your background is a common theme for women because we are afraid to tout our own success.

Secondly, I didn’t build bridges in terms of getting out there and making a connection with people prior to running the campaign. He was involved with OPNAD for three years. Prior to running, he spent his entire time building his connections because he knew he wanted to become an OPNAD chair. I didn’t do that because I thought my work would stand for itself—now I know that wasn’t true. So, I started to network and put myself in a better position to win.

What advice can you share regarding networking and finding a support system?

  • Build connections and bridges. Find an affinity group for women that you can go to and talk about your challenges as well as successes. As women, a lot of times we fail to do this but for black women especially, you’ve got to cross over and meet people of different backgrounds, and you’ve got to engage Caucasian men and women because most CEOs are Caucasian men. I’ve found that when you can talk to them 1:1, and get to know them personally, people have a tendency to help you when they know you as a person versus somebody that they see across the room. Yes, you have to be careful getting to know someone on a personal level but if they have kids, ask them about them. If they love to travel, ask them about it. People interact with you when they believe you have a genuine interest in them.
  • Ask the hard questions and don’t be afraid to hear the bad things. That’s another thing; we, as women, don’t like hearing the bad things about our performance. If it’s something bad, we go into our shell. But we’ve got to learn to take the good things and take one or two things we need to improve on and put effort toward it. So ask questions like, “tell me things that you think I do well. Tell me what you think I need to improve upon to prepare me for the job I ‘m looking for.”
  • Reach back and find someone that you can help. You can look at a younger African American woman who may be afraid to approach you. Every year, I find two to three young black females I want to help and support them any way that I can.

Many of us face rejection and give up. What quality or characteristic drives you to say, “I’m going to try this again?”

I look at everything and say something may be denied, but it may not have been my time. Delay is not denial and I don’t take things personally. I believe as women we take rejection very personally. If you think about men, they get back up and face rejection—they may say “I want to fight and keep going.” Whereas women automatically say, “Well, I guess I wasn’t good enough and I’m not going to try that again.” You are not going to win everything at a particular time but figure out what you need to change to get to where you need to go.