By 2015, the board had run out of patience and brought in a new CEO, Steve Easterbrook. At the same time, Ozan was elevated from the role of Senior Vice President – Corporate Controller to that of CFO. He now oversees accounting, internal audit and controls, treasury, tax, global business services, investor relations, global franchising, and workplace solutions.
“Nobody’s ever really ready for this job,” says Ozan, “but if you wait until you’re ready, you’ll never do it.” His immediate predecessor and former boss, who was still with the company through much of 2016, assisted with the transition and served as a shadow coach and mentor as Easterbrook, Ozan and the senior management team formulated their plan.
As they began guiding the turnaround three years ago, the leadership team focused on three pillars: return McDonald’s to operating growth, strengthen financial discipline and build brand excitement. Ozan formed and led several cross-functional teams to evaluate all financial aspects of the company with a “clean sheet of paper” approach and to challenge all legacy thinking – organizational structure and general and administrative costs, capital structure, real estate ownership and franchise ownership.
The 60-year-old company needed to operate with a faster pace and a greater sense of urgency, so the leadership team took out multiple layers of middle management to streamline and quicken the pace of decision-making and execution. They also grouped markets with similar characteristics into four operating segments, so that leaders facing a similar competitive landscape can more readily work through common challenges and rapidly spread the best ideas from one market to another.
This new structure also brought big changes to the McDonald’s corporate headquarters. It became a leaner but stronger organization focused on supporting the markets that are closest to the company’s customers.
The past three years have been an immersion in the challenge of realigning the organization to support the company’s new direction, and modeling culture change in the process. The company’s re-engineered functions, says Ozan, have reduced costs and created breathing room for mission-critical operational changes. For the 1,000 people who report to him from across the globe, that includes expanded time, energy and attention to cultivate careers that drive innovation.
A flexible model
Ozan says he has come to appreciate the strategic genius of McDonald’s first generation of leaders. In the 1960s, as the company was growing rapidly, they selected thousands of locations on the basis of anticipated population growth and the habits of American commuters and travelers.
Still, taking nothing for granted, in 2015 Ozan led a deep dive into the current rationale for owning its locations. The team concluded that the real estate in the US and its other long-established countries was too precious an advantage to relinquish.
Franchisees, or “owner/operators,” as they are referred to at the company, are at the heart of the McDonald’s business model, so in November 2015, the leadership team announced a goal to refranchise 4,000 restaurants by the end of 2018. This involved two approaches: expanding the number of restaurants in the hands of conventional franchisees in the company’s largest and most mature markets, and franchising some entire markets to developmental licensees (DLs). Last year, McDonald’s completed its largest refranchising transaction ever by selling its business in China, enabling the company to achieve its target a year ahead of schedule.
Today, with more than 90% of McDonald’s restaurants operated by franchisees, the company enjoys a more reliable and predictable stream of revenue and cash flow. For conventional franchisees, McDonald’s owns the real estate and the franchisees pay both rent and royalties based on a percentage of sales. For DLs, the franchisee is responsible for all capital investments, including the real estate, and McDonald’s just receives a royalty based on a percentage of sales. “It’s an asset-light, low-cost model that we manage and influence through relationships,” Ozan explains.
The new leadership also made early, bold moves that showed a commitment to focusing on customers.
All-day breakfast in the US was a win waiting to happen. “It was the number one customer request for years: ‘Can you have breakfast available all day?’,” Ozan says. “But we didn’t do it, for fear of complicating restaurant efficiency. Breakfast ended at 10.30 a.m.”
Historically, McDonald’s would have tested a new idea for years before introducing it, but in this case the company went from initial testing to full rollout in a few months. “This was one of the first tangible signs that we were going to be a more agile and nimble organization,” Ozan says.
Same-store sales rose by 5% globally in the last quarter of 2015, with analysts attributing much of the gain to the new all-day breakfast. That validated the leadership’s perspective. Now they are on a mission to rid “risk” of its reputation as a dirty word among McDonald’s staff. Their goals: “fast failure,” experimentation and innovation, and evolving the company culture to operate more quickly.
A year ago, McDonald’s transitioned from its turnaround plan to a strategic growth plan. The foundation of the plan is a commitment to “Running Great Restaurants,” serving great-tasting, hot food, fast, with friendly service and hospitality. The company also acknowledged the rising expectations of consumers for convenience, value and fun.
The team moved quickly, introducing Mobile Order & Pay to 20,000 restaurants in less than 10 months. Customers can now order ahead on the McDonald’s app and then have their order brought to them in their car when they arrive. Those ordering inside, either at the front counter or at new self-order kiosks, can now have their food brought to them at their table. And if a customer doesn’t want to leave their couch, they can now get McDonald’s delivered from over 10,000 locations around the globe.
Just as the McDonald’s culture is shifting to embrace calculated risks to advance its business, Ozan has adopted a similar philosophy for directing his career.
He draws on his own experiences as a young accountant with EY. A Midwesterner born and bred, his first career aspiration was to make it in Chicago. After a few years edging up the career stepladder, he was offered a short-term assignment in London.
Most twenty-something professionals would have jumped at the chance, but Ozan hesitated. His international travel experience was limited to Canada, and he wasn’t sure how he’d navigate the challenge of learning new tasks with new colleagues in a new culture. “The idea of it scared me,” he admits.