Daniel Schwartz took over Burger King when he was just 32 years old, making him one of the youngest fast-food CEOs in history.
Four years later, Schwartz is now earning more than $US6 million in annual compensation and running the third-largest fast-food company in the world, Restaurant Brands International, which is valued at $US27 billion and owns Burger King, Popeyes, and Tim Hortons.
Before Burger King, Schwartz had no restaurant experience. He had spent his entire career since college working in finance.
So how did he rise top the top so quickly?
Schwartz credits his success in part to two pieces of advice he received over the course of his career.
One piece of advice came a couple years after he graduated from Cornell University, when he was working in mergers and acquisitions at Credit Suisse.
“Someone said to me, ‘You have to work really, really hard to put yourself in a position to get lucky,'” Schwartz recalled in an interview with Business Insider.
This advice came at a time in Schwartz’s career when he was working particularly gruelling hours. And not long after that, he got lucky.
In 2005, when he was 24, Schwartz was hired by 3G Capital, a Brazilian investment firm that has made a reputation for itself by building the massive beer conglomerate Anheuser-Busch InBev. It is also the preferred investment partner of billionaire Warren Buffett.
Schwartz rose quickly through the ranks at 3G. After a few years, he was promoted to partner and, not long after that, when 3G was looking to buy a company in the US, he was tasked with finding acquisitions.
Schwartz pitched Burger King, which 3G ended up acquiring in 2010, and he was appointed chief financial officer of the burger chain. Two years later, he was promoted to CEO.
Schwartz now dishes out that advice about hard work and luck to his own colleagues.
“I tell this to people all the time at work,” he said.
Schwartz also credits his success to a piece of advice that came from Alex Behring, the co-founder and managing partner of 3G Capital, who is also the executive chairman of Restaurant Brands International.
When Schwartz started working at Burger King, he recalls Behring telling him, “When you transition from working in finance to working at one of our [portfolio] companies, you can’t just manage the business — you need to manage the people, and let the people manage the business.”
Schwartz said that in finance and private equity, where he had spent his entire career until that point, “you can manage everything directly — you can manage it all yourself.”
But at a big company like Burger King with operations all around the world, that’s impossible.
So Schwartz followed Behring’s advice and says he made it a goal to find Burger King’s hardest workers, and quickly promote them to leadership positions. He has since done the same thing at Tim Hortons and Restaurant Brands International, and will soon execute a similar strategy at newly acquired Popeyes, he says.
To identify his best workers, Schwartz says he looks for people who are hardworking, hungry, and humble.
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