Dedication and discipline are the keys to success in the professional world, McDonald’s CEO and Vice Chairman James Skinner said to students in a lecture in the Leavey Program Room yesterday afternoon.

“You must be all the way in, or all the way out,” he said.

Skinner, whose first job was in a local McDonald’s restaurant in Davenport, Iowa while he was in high school, entered into his current role on McDonald’s executive team in 2004.

In his speech, which was sponsored by the Lecture Fund, Skinner implored students to be passionate about whatever they do in their professional careers, outlining the principles he finds most important in business and personal life.

With a background in military, Skinner said that focus and discipline play a huge part in success.

Skinner noted that he is one of the 20 out of 50 McDonald’s executives who got his start at local McDonald’s chains. One thousand two hundred McDonald’s owners and operators got their start in McDonald’s restaurants, according to the company’s Web site.

“McDonald’s is one of the few companies that still gives this opportunity to hard workers,” he said.

Skinner also explained the importance of trust in business management, criticizing other companies’ disregard for business ethics.

“It’s important for the customer to know what we stand for,” Skinner said. “Other companies have not behaved well.”

He highlighted the dual nature of giving back to the community and growing business profitably, as Skinner said McDonald’s has a responsibility to both its stockholders and its communities.

“We have to pursue continuous improvement,” he said. “It is arrogant to think you can’t do better than you did today.”

Skinner referenced March 2003 as a time when McDonald’s stock was at an all time low. It had slid 60 percent in three years, according to a report in Business Week magazine. “The focus had splintered,” Skinner said, adding that McDonald’s did not listen to its customers and paid the price.

Skinner said when he became CEO, many expected him to put his stamp on the company and instigate change in the business. However, Skinner said this is not always the case.

“Change in leadership does not mean change in strategy,” he said.

Instead, Skinner stressed the need to continue to uphold three goals: sustaining profitable growth, effectively managing talent and leadership and providing customers with choices.

“We must continue to listen to see how to get better,” Skinner said, noting that the best learning comes from listening, both from McDonald’s customers and its employees.

He then explained one of the values he believes in most: passion.

He said the company needs to have passion about the restaurant at the front counter with the customer and also about the world around it, mentioning the Ronald McDonald House Charities as a way that McDonald’s strives to give back to the community.

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