Wednesday, June 12, 2024

Dave Thomas: Tribute to a Small Business Gone Big

Recently we lost one of the most important businessmen in the world. Dave Thomas, the founder of Wendy’s fast food chain, died of liver cancer at the age of 69. He has left us with an amazing legacy of making it from nothing, of succeeding in the face of terrible odds, of finding amazing success without possessing any of the usually associated advantages. Dave Thomas was a completely self made man, and it is from him that I have taken my philosophy of doing business.

Dave started out as a fry cook in a diner, and worked his way up to management. He bought a group of failing restaurants, completely turned them around and then sold them back to their original owner for a huge profit. He started and maintained one of the most successful fast food businesses in the world, and never once showed a disdain for getting his hands dirty. Dave was an everyman who showed us as Americans that anyone can do it.

I have been running my own businesses now for about 20 years, and Dave’s advice and ideas have always rung true to me. My very first business was a janitorial service, and I did all the work myself, from vacuuming and washing windows, to scrubbing toilets and taking out the trash. Too often these days, people who want to start up a home business simply buy a computer and a desk and sit back waiting for the orders to come in. Dave believed that to make it in business you’ve got to hustle. When you’re just getting started you’ve got to do everything you can dream up to promote yourself and your product or service. Quite often this means getting your hands dirty, and working yourself to the bone.

Another pitfall of the home business world is lack of patience. Too many people expect success overnight, and throw in the towel when, if they’d just stuck it out, they could have really made it big. Anything that is truly worth while takes hard work and patience. A great home business can take up to a year to really get going. The first Wendy’s store turned a profit almost immediately, true, but it was a tiny profit, and it actually took Dave Thomas years to build Wendy’s into the empire it is today. My own first home business took months to get off the ground, but I saw it building little by little and I held on.

I guess if I had to sum up what Dave was all about, I’d say that he was an advocate of old fashioned business values, of hard work and humility, and of not cutting corners. He was also an advocate of the inherent truth in the American Dream. He believed that anyone could succeed against any odds, and he proved it himself. For what he had to offer I am truly grateful.

Thanks Dave.

Alvin Apple helps everyday people start businesses they will enjoy. Then he teaches them how to succeed. Read all his helpful strategies at Reach Alvin at 801-253-4535 or

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