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KFC founder got rejected 1009 times at age 65

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This will be a short post that I hope to inspire readers. Recently when I tried to order Kentucky Fried Chicken (KFC) online, I wondered how come the logo consists of a picture of an old man. Why not a picture of the founder in his prime? It was then I found out that the KFC founder, Colonel Sanders, got rejected 1009 times at age 65 before he found success.

Colonel Sanders was forced to start life all over again in his twilight years. But more amazing was that he got rejected 1009 times before his chicken recipe was accepted! That was a crazy number of failures and to be frank I don’t know how many folks in Singapore can manage to handle so many rejections.

Nonetheless, it was fortunate that Colonel Sanders persevered and went on to build a “finger licking good” global empire. His true life story is very inspiring and made me rethink about failures. On looking back, I feel that I should have remained sanguine in the face of some setbacks and managed certain situations with the spirit of Colonel Sanders.

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Like many people, I find it hard to remain positive when dealing with rejections or setbacks. It is definitely not a nice feeling when you are being criticized or having your idea being thumbed down. Maybe I had been too negative in those situations and did not see the opportunities to improve. Perhaps I had given up too easily and did not put up a good fight.

But through the KFC success story, there are a few enlightening learning points. Firstly, to achieve our dreams, we must have the conviction and the will to put in the effort and energy. Colonel Sanders did not let his age became a handicap for him nor did he give up so easily. In fact, prior to his chicken franchisee business, he had many failed business ventures. He also held several jobs as lawyer, insurance agent and salesman. To realize his dream, Colonel Sanders drove around the country selling the rights to his recipe for 5 cents per chicken.

Thus, always remember “no pain, no gain”. There is no short-cut to success and hard work is a must.

After suffering so many rejections, I am quite sure that Colonel Sanders would have many naysayers telling him to quit. But instead of giving up so easily, he managed to go on and found KFC. So another key point is not to let others influence you and have the conviction to believe in yourself. Many of us tend to underestimate our abilities and eventually shortchange our dreams.  When Colonel Sanders sold his business for $2 million, he did not realize that the KFC chain would eventually grew so rapidly.

Always remember that it is only a matter of how far you want to go on pursuing your goals in life. 

Entrepreneurship is not for the faint-heart and sometimes you need to take risk. Looking back, Colonel Sanders was a serial entrepreneur with many failed business ventures and sales career. These failures had provided him learning opportunities on how to build a successful business. For him, the risk is low because he had nothing to lose and everything to gain.

For the man in the street, being an entrepreneur may not be a good choice because it is very rare for someone to be successful in his first business venture. Very often, it takes a few flops for one to formulate his own secret recipe for business success. This is especially so if you do not possess any prior experience in starting a business. Thus, it is important for aspiring entrepreneur to assess the risks involved. Do you have mitigating measures or back-up plan if you business idea did not take off?

Assess the risks and have backup plans

Besides coming up with a secret recipe for cooking chicken, Colonel Sanders devised an innovative way of cooking the chicken using pressure cooker. He also thought of a unique business model. Instead of selling chicken directly to customers, he adopted a business-to-business approach. He would sell his recipe to restaurant owners and would receive 5 cents per chicken in return.

That was in 1950s and in those days, the concept of franchisee was still very new. So Colonel Sanders was way ahead of his time when he conceived this business model. If we think carefully, this business model is very simple, innovative and yet effective.

Keep your business model simple but innovative

In Singapore, many of us complain about old folks having to work for money in their twilight years. Some even pointed out such social trend should not happen in a First World country like Singapore. However, KFC founder true life story should serve as an inspiration that it is possible to find career success even in old age. The key thing is to keep an open mind and remind ourselves that we are never too old to learn and grow.

If you have been retrenched and have been looking job for a long time, do not despair and never give up hope. Be positive and be prepared to take on a second career that pays lesser and less prestige. Colonel Sanders had been rejected thousand of times before having his recipe accepted. I am sure we can learn from his resilient spirit. In time to come, you would find that pot of gold at the end of the rainbow. Enjoy the ride.

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Updated: March 19, 2017 — 4:00 pm

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