Owner of 12 McDonald’s franchises in Wisconsin, Robert Pyles is on an agenda to help make his community better through initiatives that will improve the lives of the people around him.
Even more inspiring is the fact that Pyles is doing all these in everlasting honour of his oldest brother who died at the age of 18, urging him to take up responsibilities very early in life.
One of nine children raised by a single mother in a small town outside of Anniston, Alabama, Robert Pyles is living a miraculous life since he never imagined beyond the fact that he always knew service was his calling that could ever be this influential and powerful, ranking among one of the largest African-American employers in America.
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Upon the death of his older brother, he felt the burden of responsibility on his shoulders, pushing him to seek genuine avenues of making money to support the family.
By 18, his mother became his dependent. After high school, he went into the Air Force serving for 15 years and living in Korea, North Dakota, and Cheyenne, Wyoming. It was in Wyoming that he started working at McDonald’s part-time at night and on weekends to make some extra cash.
He told Black Enterprise that he knew from that very first time he walked through the doors of McDonald’s that it was the place he was supposed to be. He loved his job and he loved serving customers.
In two and a half years he completed the McDonald’s ownership training program. Don Thompson, the former CEO of McDonald’s Corp., then Director of Operations at McDonals’s, became his mentor. Thompson suggested that he check out some McDonald’s locations in Milwaukee because it was ripe for growth.
Trusting Thompson, Pyles packed up his wife and three children and seized the opportunity.
On Feb. 14, 1998, Pyles opened his first McDonald’s.
“With my first location that I acquired, I worked tirelessly to turn around performance,” he says. “A year or so later, I took over a second one. From there, we went from three to nine between September and June.”
With approximately 45 employees in each location, he employs 600 people from the community.
However, Pyles says that all growth isn’t good growth. “You must be prepared for growth and pay close attention to profitability. You can have less stores and be more profitable. My goal wasn’t necessarily to keep adding stores. I wanted to create a training center environment to let people see that an African American operator can operate at a certain level.”
Pyles hasn’t just stopped at just providing jobs to the community. One day, he realized that his employees were struggling to find affordable housing near work so he went into a partnership with a friend who had a construction business, and started what is known as Magnolia Realty.
Together, they began purchasing foreclosed properties around his McDonald’s stores, fixing them up, and selling them to employees at a fair price.
Pyles has built a legacy in his community and for his family.
In addition to being a business owner, Pyles is a minister at Abundant Faith Church of Integrity. “I think it’s really important to be both visible and accessible in the community. It’s not enough for me alone to be successful. My goal is to help others get approved for McDonald’s ownership. I started with my wife because there’s no inherited ownership in the event that an owner passes away. Now I’m working on getting others approved.”
He sees his businesses as “a light on the corner” in the inner city.