Thirteen years after the first Dunkin’ restaurant was founded by his father in Quincy, Mass. in 1950, Bob Rosenberg took over as CEO of the company. In his remarkable 35-year run at the helm, he turned Dunkin’ into one of the most recognizable brands in the world. Through his tenure, Bob learned valuable lessons on running and scaling a family business into a global success.
In his new book, Around the Corner to Around the World, Rosenberg shares his inside perspective on the key moments in the Dunkin’ story to help business leaders and managers guide their own success stories. Ahead of the book’s release, we sat down with Bob and asked him several questions. Read more below.
Q: How did you accomplish every entrepreneur’s dream of growing a small regional business into a global multi-billion-dollar brand?
A: First, it must start at the top. Leaders must be aspirational. Secondly, you should believe the product or service you offer provides a real benefit and is better than what exists. Then in our case, to make our dream a reality, we had an intense focus on the three P’s: Planning, People and Products.
Our planning intended to define reality; to see the world as it is as opposed to how we may have wished it to be. As for people, we matched the person to the assignment and sought to hire and retain the brightest people we could find. And we were obsessive about ensuring our products were the best.
Q: What can Dunkin’s decision to focus on serving America’s best cup of coffee teach about the importance of focus for running any business?
A: I find it difficult to see any business thriving unless it has at its core a sustainable competitive advantage. Because the customer and the competition are constantly changing, very few competitive advantages last forever. In our case, our business had to deliver world-class convenience and value to prosper. Value is a lot more than price. It is a complex set of attributes that incorporate product quality, advertising, packaging, and other important ingredients that drive consumer behavior. We constantly scanned our competition and made it our business to focus on those qualities which enabled us to retain a competitive advantage. Product quality was high on our list of attributes we had to maintain to lead the world.
Q: What are the four primary functions of being a CEO and what experiences did you have at Dunkin’ that led you to decide on these and share them?
A: My schooling, reading, and observation over a business lifetime led me to focus on what I believed were the few critical activities that yield the greatest results in a business. If a company’s strategy and organization are not spot on, there is little other activity that can make for success. The ability to execute relies on communication to align all constituencies behind the strategy.
Q: What takeaway would you most want readers to learn and apply tomorrow from your experience leading Dunkin’?
A: My hope is there is more than one takeaway from my story. Thirty-five years is a long run. A lot of time for me to make many mistakes, and hopefully learn a bit. The business community is remarkably diverse. Some people are just starting out, others are growing through adolescence, others still, are dealing with issues attendant to public ownership.
For the entrepreneur, I would hope the notion of apprenticeship and benefits of perseverance would be of value. To those who are in family businesses, I would hope the issues unique to that world would help. Others still are growing through adolescence, and the granular steps of our planning process should be useful. For the larger company, issues relating to how we organized our Board might add value. My formula for franchise success may also be useful to those purchasing or growing a franchise business. To all, my take on how to build trust and set mood may be of benefit.
Q: And most importantly, what’s your go-to Dunkin’ order?
A: My go-to order is an Iced Coffee and a Jelly Stick. You can’t beat that combination!
Around the Corner to Around the World, will be released on October 13 and is available now for presale through a number of retailers. A list of participating retailers can be found here alongside a free leadership resource guide. Be sure to grab your copy to learn more of Rosenberg’s key lessons.
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