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  • Aaron Zaslofsky

Debbie Roberts, it’s time.

I’m done. Done keeping these thoughts in my head and away from everyone else.

Debbie Roberts, you saw something in me that I didn’t even see in myself.

You showed me what it looks like to love what you do. And to be damn good at it too.

You taught me to have confidence in my point-of-view. You listened when I didn’t follow accepted wisdom and came to you with unconventional approaches.

You let me take a shot at it first. You didn’t dictate or tell me you knew better – even when you actually did. You were willing to say, “your opinion is my opinion.”

You not only accepted “no” for an answer, but you expected it from your team.

You trusted me with relationships that meant a lot to you personally. With the elected chair of the franchisee leadership body. With the franchisee/franchisor relationship that differentiates McDonald’s from all other franchisors. Me. You trusted me with relationships that would, in part, determine whether we met our goals.

You showed me that healthy working relationships are based on reciprocal influence. You pushed me to accept the influence of others. I really needed that push. You saw that.

You did so much to put purposeful parameters around my role. When some were swallowed up by tactical execution, you pushed me to a higher level of strategy and creativity. You even added “strategy” to my title. You saw latent ability and encouraged me to express my mind and believe that I had something to say that others needed to hear. And to sometimes just shut up and listen.

You never let me hit a homerun in an empty ballpark. When I received an award – which you had a hand in nominating me for – you jumped on a plane to see me receive it in front of my peers. You took a flight for five minutes of me. Five minutes! I’ve shared this story with so many as the epitome of what it means to feel cared for, encouraged, and cheered on in the working world.

You kept the smallest promises – those that others leave by the wayside.

You gave me time. Your time. And you allowed me the freedom to create, experiment, and just plain mess things up. We should all be so lucky.

I don’t believe in ghosts, but when I’m training, I swear I can feel your presence. Training and professional development are new to my business. I pushed myself to meet an unmet need in the market. You taught me that I not only could create, but should create. You make me a better entrepreneur.

You shared of yourself personally and showed you truly cared about me as a person. My wife, Anne, thinks the world of you for what you did to nurture my career.

When I talk to our children – Nora, Julia and George – about work ethic, earning trust, and being an admired leader, I speak of you. Georgie isn’t yet old enough to understand, but our girls know how much your faith and trust mean to me. You were, and are, a role model as a deeply thoughtful human being.

I take your belief in me into every working relationship. Our relationship makes me a better entrepreneur. I love what I’m able to do because of the example you set.

Debbie, you saw something in me. You believed in me.

I’m done. Done keeping these thoughts in my head and away from everyone else.


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