Based in Orlando, Florida, our latest Good Company empowers its team through a focus on servant leadership, fostering a strong sense of devotion and loyalty throughout its workforce.
Marimar Velez grew up in the McDonald’s ecosystem. After owning and operating 13 franchise locations in Puerto Rico, Marimar’s father moved his family to Florida, where it was necessary to rebuild his franchise business from the ground up. Along the way it became evident to Marimar that the McDonald’s way may also hold the keys to fulfilling her own career path.
“I have ketchup in my blood; I’ll say that,” said Velez. “I grew up in the business. I don’t know anything but McDonald’s. It’s just where I find comfort. It’s my childhood. It’s my family. It’s given me everything I have, long term, but then also the ability to see and effect change to people’s lives I think is what kept me around for this long.”
Today, Velez is president of Fide Foods, LLC, owning and operating three McDonald’s locations throughout the Orlando area. As much of her success as she owes to her own sweat equity, Velez is also quick to credit her father’s influence.
“His style has always been, he runs it as a family unit,” she said. “Every employee is a family member, and I think that’s something I truly admire because it’s made me more understanding of just what people are feeling outside of the four walls. I always really admired how he knows everyone’s names, dogs, children — and I think that it’s made me be more understanding and thoughtful with my employees.”
One such employee is Director of Operations Ivonne Irizarry, whose 26-year career in McDonald’s has spanned every rung on the ladder, beginning at entry-level team member. Ivonne credits her success in large part to the genuine sense of family Fide Foods promotes.
“I definitely work well with being part of a family and not just being a number,” Irizarry said. “That makes a big difference in your life every day. On your drive to work, you actually want to go to work. You want to do better. If you had 120 seconds service time yesterday, you want to do 110 today because, for one, you’re acknowledged, you’re appreciated, and that’s important.”
Without people, there is no business. If you take care of your people, the people will take care of your business.
Ivonne Irizarry, director of operations, Fide Foods
Appreciating her employees, Velez said, was just the first step in building relationships in which both the leader and her team members mutually celebrate one another’s respective successes.
“She’s not a boss,” said Irizarry. “There’s a well-written line of what a boss is and what a leader is, and she’s definitely the leader of this company.”
Velez said her leadership style has evolved.
“Understanding everyone as a family has really helped me overall, allowing people to do their thing. Micromanaging is really not something that I find beneficial,” Velez said.
Irizarry noted that once Velez supplies her team with the tools they need, she lets her employees do their jobs.
“She definitely trusts, she verifies and she follows up,” Irizarry said.
Another key component to her leadership style is a fundamental understanding of human frailty, that not every team member will operate at the peak of their abilities 100 percent of the time.
“Patience is so key,” said Velez. “There are times when people will make a decision that has repercussions on you, and it is what it is. That’s the card we were dealt today, and hopefully tomorrow’s card is a little bit better.”
“People have good days and they have bad days, so one thing that we do is stick with our people is when they have situations going on in their life or anything like that, we definitely understand, because we have to care about our people,” Irizarry added. “That’s the foundation of our business.”
The fruits of this attitude amount to nothing less than an atmosphere of trust and respect that permeates throughout the company.
“In our restaurants we have this thing called the First Week, where we ultra-celebrate what your first day is,” Velez said. “Unfortunately, we’ve given ourselves a bad rap by just going with the motions, telling new hires, ‘We’ll be right with you,’ and then we just walk away. Two months later they quit. And we’re like, ‘Why?’ Because you never paid attention. You never asked how they were doing. You never gave them feedback. We’re in a world where pats on the back are needed, so if someone had a good day on their first day and they truly enjoyed working for McDonald’s, they will be advocates of the brand till they die.”
It’s that approach that is the most crucial of all.
“Without people, there is no business,” Irizarry added. “If you take care of your people, the people will take care of your business, and Marimar definitely knows that.”