Harland Sanders was born September 9, 1890 near Henryville, Indiana. His father Wilbur David was a mild and affectionate man who tried to make a living as a farmer on the 80 acres of land that he owned, but after a fall he broke his leg and had to give up his profession. He worked as a butcher in Henryville for the next two years. One summer afternoon in 1895, he came home with a fever and died later that day.
Sanders’ mother obtained work in a tomato-canning factory. Young Harland had to take care of his three-year-old brother and baby sister and the young Harland was required to look after and cook for his siblings.He picked up the art of cooking very quickly and mastered many dishes by the age of 7.
Sanders dropped out of school when he was 13. He went to live and work on a nearby farm for $2 a month. He then took a job painting horse carriages in Indianapolis. When he was 14 he moved to southern Indiana to work as a farmhand for two years. In 1906, with his mother’s approval, he left home to live with his uncle in New Albany, Indiana. His uncle worked for the street car company and got Sanders a job as a conductor.
Sanders married Josephine King in 1909 and started a family, but after his boss fired him for insubordination while he was on a trip, Josephine stopped writing him letters. He then learned that Josephine had left him, given away all their furniture and household goods, and taken the children back to her parents’ home. Josephine’s brother wrote Sanders a letter saying, “She had no business marrying a no-good fellow like you who can’t hold a job.”
In 1909 Sanders found work with the Norfolk and Western Railway. He then found work as a fireman on the Illinois Central Railroad, and he and his family moved to Jackson, Tennessee. Meanwhile, Sanders studied law by correspondence at night through the La Salle Extension University. Sanders lost his job at Illinois after brawling with a work colleague. After a while, Sanders began to practice law in Little Rock for three years, and he earned enough fees for his family to move with him. His legal career ended after he got engaged in a courtroom brawl with his own client.
After that, Sanders moved back with his mother in Henryville, and went to work as a labourer on the Pennsylvania Railroad. In 1916, the family moved to Jeffersonville, where Sanders got a job selling life insurance for the Prudential Life Insurance Company. Sanders was eventually fired for insubordination. He moved to Louisville and got a salesman job with Mutual Benefit Life of New Jersey.
In 1920, Sanders established a ferry boat company, which operated a river boat between Jeffersonville and Louisville. The ferry was an instant success. He then got a job as secretary at the Columbus, Indiana Chamber of Commerce. He admitted to not being very good at the job, and resigned after less than a year. Sanders cashed in his ferry boat company shares for $ 22,000 and used the money to establish a company manufacturing acetylene lamps. The venture failed after Delco introduced an electric lamp that they sold on credit.
Sanders moved to Winchester, Kentucky, to work as a salesman for the Michelin Tyre Company. In 1924, Michelin closed their tyre factory, and Sanders lost his job. In 1924, by chance, he met the state manager for Standard Oil, who asked him to run a service station in Nicholasville. In 1930, the station closed as a result of the Great Depression.
In 1930, the Shell Oil Company offered Sanders a service station in Corbin,Kentucky rent free, whereby he paid them a percentage of sales. Sanders began to cook chicken dishes and other meals such as country ham and steaks for customers. Since he did not have a restaurant, he served customers in his adjacent living quarters. He was commissioned as a Kentucky Colonel in 1935 by Kentucky governor Ruby Laffoon.
In July 1939 Sanders acquired a motel in Asheville, North Carolina. His Corbin restaurant and motel was destroyed in a fire in November 1939, and Sanders had it rebuilt as a motel with a 142 seat restaurant.
During his search to make the perfect chicken, he was approached by a pressure cooker salesman who convinced Sanders to invest in this product to quicken his cooking process. He ended up investing in 12 pressure cookers. Somewhere around this time, Sanders also ended up reaching his trademark 11 herbs and spices. By July 1940, Sanders had finalized his “Secret Recipe” for frying chicken in a pressure fryer that cooked the chicken faster than pan frying.
As World War II broke out, gas was rationed, and as the tourists dried up, Sanders was forced to close his Asheville motel. He went to work as a restaurant supervisor in Seattle until the latter part of 1942. He later ran cafeterias for the government at an Ordinance Works in Tennessee, followed by a job as an assistant manager at a cafeteria in Oak Ridge, Tennessee.
During 1950, Sanders had to shut down his restaurant business because a new highway was being built where his restaurant was located. Colonel Sanders decided to retire and lived off of $105 in the form of social security checks. Not wanting to accept this as his fate, he decided to franchise his chicken at the age of 65.
At an age when he should have been enjoying the relaxed life style of a retired person, he could not live his life without a goal. He was neither a Harvard graduate nor came from a very rich family.He knew how to fry chicken that was juicy inside and crisp outside. He took the recipe and approached many restaurants. Several hoteliers turned him away, without even reading his recipe! But he did not lose heart. He did not give up his efforts. He went to many cities and gave his recipe to other hoteliers. Aged he was, he climbed the steps of many restaurants. Total number of restaurants he approached was 1,006! He was the personification of perseverance.
For two long years, he continued his relentless efforts and finally one hotelier evinced some interest in his recipe. The rest is history.
In 1952, Harland had a chance meeting with a Peter Harman, who owned Harman’s Cafe in Salt Lake City, Utah, another popular, and famous eating place. And Peter was a skilled business man. As a result of this meeting, a business relationship was established, and Peter convinced Harland to cash in his social security cheques to start a franchise for chickens coated in Harland’s recipe. In the first year of selling the product, restaurant sales more than tripled, with 75% of the increase coming from sales of fried chicken.
By 1964, Colonel Sanders had more than 600 franchised outlets for his chicken in the United States and Canada. That year, he sold his interest in the U.S. company for $2 million to a group of investors.
Now, the Kentucky Fried Chicken business he started has grown to be one of the largest retail food service systems in the world. Colonel Sanders, a quick service restaurant pioneer, has become a symbol of entrepreneurial spirit.
It’s amazing how the man started at the age of 65, when most retire, and built a global empire out of fried chicken. Age is no barrier to success, and so is capital. What is needed is an idea put into action, followed with proper planning and persistency.
The story of Colonel Harland Sanders is inspirational because it’s an example of how perseverance, dedication, and ambition along with hard work can create success regardless of age.
Quotes Of Sanders
“I just say the moral out of my life is don’t quit at age 65, may be your boat hasn’t come in yet. Mine hadn’t.
Attitude is more important than mere dry facts. Colonel Sanders has an attitude of ‘I Can’ rather ‘I can’t’.
“I’ve only had two rules: Do all you can and do it the best you can. It’s the only way you ever get that feeling of accomplishing something.”
“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.”
“I never limited myself to serving gas. I also repaired flat tyres that customers left at the station. The service station was open until 9 o’clock, then when I closed I repaired the inner tubes. Sometimes I didn’t finish working until 1 or 2 o’clock in the morning. Then I opened again at 5 a.m. Most gas stations didn’t open until 7, and I sold more gas between 5 and 7 in the morning than the other stations sold all day.”
“Have ambition to work, willingness to work and integrity in what you do.”
“People will rust out quicker than they’ll ever wear out, and I’ll be darned if I’ll ever rust out.”
1. Failure is temporary
For much of his long life, Harland Sanders was a failure. He was fired from most of the jobs he held in his 20s and 30s. He didn’t even start his first business until he was 39, an age that’s considered over-the-hill for many tech founders. His first restaurant, started out of the back of a gas station, eventually failed and left him broke at 65.
Even with no money, the Colonel knew what to do in the face of failure: to press on. He raised some seed funding — his social security check — and drove around Kentucky, sleeping in his car, franchising his chicken recipe. Less than ten years later, at the age of 74, he sold the company for 2 million dollars.
2. Create a personal brand
Steve Jobs had his black turtleneck. Mark Zuckerberg has his hoodie. Colonel Sanders bested them both with his white suit.Sanders knew the importance of his personal brand which he started developing in 1950. He personified his company’s brand in his own persona, as the friendly, down home Southern gentleman who was “mighty proud” for you to try his “finger lickin’ good” fried chicken. In the last 20 years of his life, he was never seen in public without his trademark white suit and black western tie. When he died in 1980, he was buried in the suit.
When you get up in the morning, remember that what you choose to wear says a lot about who you are and what type of company you want to create. The Colonel knew this better than anyone.
3. Become an icon
Today, a majority of Americans 18 to 25 don’t know Colonel Sanders was a real person. Some didn’t even know his name when shown the logo of the company now known as “KFC.” But Harland Sanders wasn’t a made-up icon, he was a real person. He was an actual Kentucky colonel. He spent his life failing, trying again, and failing again, to finally succeed when most of us would have given up long before. He built a personal brand that lives to this day. Even in the high tech world of tech start ups, there’s a lot to admire about the Colonel.
View this video to know more about his inspiring life.