Today just about everyone knows Colonel Sanders. Or has tried his secret recipe of seven herbs and spices. We recognize his image in red and white on restaurant signs around the world. His is one of the most successful food chains in the world.
But at age 65, by almost every measure, Harlan Sanders was a failure. As a young man he tried his hand at several professions including tire salesman, railroad fireman, farm hand, insurance salesman, steamboat pilot, and country lawyer. He failed at all of them. His first wife left him when he was fired for insubordination. At the time, his brother-in-law called him a “no good fellow… who can’t hold a job.” He then opened a service station where he made food for local customers. For a time he enjoyed some minor success with a 142-seat restaurant, where he created his recipe for fried chicken. But even that store failed when a new interstate took most of his customers elsewhere.
Undeterred, Colonel Sanders was determined to succeed. At an age when most men retire, he took $105 from his first social security check and began visiting potential franchisers, pitching them on his secret recipe. He slept in his car. He shaved in service station bathrooms. He was turned down more than 1000 times. But this approach finally proved successful and the Kentucky Fried Chicken corporation grew to more than 300 franchisees. Less than ten years after starting his new company, Colonel Sanders sold it for $2 million (roughly $15 million today).
Colonel Sander’s entrepreneurial journey is similar to many small business owners who struggle with idea after idea, before finally landing on the one that succeeds. The key, at least in the Colonel’s case, is to never give up, work hard, and to always believe that success is just around the corner. Here are a few other things that Colonel Sanders said that we find inspirational:
“I made a resolve then that I was going to amount to something if I could. And no hours, nor amount of labor, nor amount of money would deter me from giving the best that there was in me. And I have done that ever since, and I win by it.”
“You got to like your work. You have got to like what you are doing, you have got to be doing something worthwhile so you can like it—because it is worthwhile, that it makes a difference, don’t you see?”
“Don’t be against things so much as for things.”
“The easy way is efficacious and speedy, the hard way arduous and long. But, as the clock ticks, the easy way becomes harder and the hard way becomes easier. And as the calendar records the years, it becomes increasingly evident that the easy way rests hazardously upon shifting sands, whereas the hard way builds solidly a foundation of confidence that cannot be swept away.”
“Hard work beats all the tonics and vitamins in the world.”
“Wealth, like happiness, is never attained when sought after directly. It comes as a by-product of providing a useful service.”
—Colonel Harlan Sanders, Founder of Kentucky Fried Chicken