Aaron Reed – Indianapolis – US
My name is Aaron Reed, I am currently a General Manager at one of the most rewarding companies in the world. McDonald’s. I have been with the company for 12 years in various positions.
Key skills that I learned are tolerance, patience, and respect for others and their view points. This is a huge company, with many cultural, ethnic, and social backgrounds. that’s what I love about it, I get to meet all sorts of cool people every day and try to impact them in a positive way.
I have never had a bad day with McDonald’s, unlike many of my friends, I hear them talk poorly of their employers. McDonald’s does it right, every day, with their employees and their guests. McDonald’s has done more for me than I can ever repay.
I was born into a wealthy family in an affluent suburb outside of Detroit. I had every opportunity and luxury that a teenager could want, except for a network of family and friends that would hold me accountable for my actions. I was your typical poor little rich kid. I turned my nose down to those who chose the quick service food industry as if I was better than them. By the end of the story, I will have become one of “those” people that I dismissed, and be a better person for it.
When I say that we were wealthy growing up, it was only because I would later learn that my father was involved in business miss-dealings that eventually would catch up with him. He was sentenced to several years in a minimum security prison.
My mother, whom had never worked an honest wage in her life, was forced to work to support her three sons.
She went to work as a secretary for a real estate company. Although she was tired at the end of the day, she seemed more satisfied with earning an honest day’s wage.
While in my junior year of high school, my mother passed from an unexpected aneurism. That was a painful blow, who would I look to now? My two older brothers were on their own, my father was in his last year of a 4 year sentence, this was a low-time in my life. During this time, I discovered alcohol.
Alcohol would be a daily remedy for me for the next 13 years.
While in high school I was on the rowing team that traveled frequently to compete in regattas. On one of those trips back, the van carrying students and coaches would be in horrific accident that would claim the life of one of my coaches and seriously injure myself. I had no idea of litigation, the next thing I knew, I had offers from lawyers and the school to settle. It did not seem right to me to take such a large sum of money from a school that did nothing but support and care for me, but I was wrapped up in myself at the time and welcomed the idea of a large fund to support my alcoholism.
This is when everything went south for me. Imagine, an 18 year old kid already in full blown alcoholism, a checkbook that could choke a horse, and no parental guidance, that’s a recipe for disaster.
For the following 12 years I would slip deeper and deeper into alcoholism. I had no regard for the people I would hurt and the relationships I would destroy. I ran with the most sordid sort of people and lived in some pretty dingy places. When you’re wrapped up in your own addictions, everyone near to you can see you’re slipping away, but to me, it was the only normal life I knew. Arrests for public intoxication and driving while intoxicated were not uncommon for me.
During the last couple years of my drinking, I was bloated, bearded, and dirty. At that point I had been unemployable for a long time, but I didn’t care, a job would only distract me from drinking.
One Day at a Time long before I got sober, if you asked friends or relatives how I was doing, they would have told you I’d be dead in a year.
One day, don’t know how it happened, later learned my family had arranged for me to get to Indianapolis on a Grey Hound bus, but I got directly off the bus and into an inpatient treatment center for alcoholism. That was November 25, 2001. I have been sober ever since. It was not easy at first.
To this day, I MUST continue to work with others who suffer with alcoholism to keep my own sobriety. Right out of rehab I moved into a halfway house for men where I would reside for several years.
Mentors in the House told me to get a job, so that’s what I did.
My options were not great, by this time my resume was less than to be desired. What could I say? All I did for the majority of my adult life was hustle and con people. Only one place was brave enough to call me in for an interview, McDonald’s
I must have looked good, because apparently he thought I was over qualified and said, “you know, we only have crew positions available?” I didn’t care, I needed a job and without hesitation, I took it. I never thought it would lead me to where I am today. It was a humbling experience, here I was from a well to do background, doing, for what I considered for so long, as menial work. The halfway house was downtown Indianapolis, so I had to ride the bus every day to work. I knew, in order for me to stay sober, I needed to work, too much alone time may put me at risk for relapse and knew in my heart of hearts, that if I went out again, I wouldn’t make it back.
For a guy that used to live the way I did, NO job was beneath me. I was lucky to have that job and work every day trying to earn that job. As far as my sobriety, weeks turned into months, then years, all this time working my way through the ranks of management.
The McDonald’s family has not only allowed me to grow as a professional, but personally as well. I met my wife through McDonald’s. It has allowed this once homeless man, to have a home, this once unemployable man, to be employable, this once unexpected man, to have respect in the community. The most remarkable thing this new life has given me, is the respect and love of my family. I have three sons of my own and a loving wife, whom none of them have had the opportunity to know me as the person I was. I have a thriving relationship with my father now, whom lives in Las Vegas, and through McDonald’s, I am able to see and spend time with him during conventions as in other opportunities.
Recently I was invited to a meeting where the keynote speaker was Charlie Strong, he spoke candidly of his beginnings with McDonalds and how with a combination of determination and destiny, how he ended up in this company.
It is the life altering experiences that shape us into the leadership roles that have such a profound impact on the guest and employees that we come into contact with.