THE STORY

Which startup in their right mind refuses to deliver to the Pentagon?

It was 1986 in Arlington, Virginia, when Jerry and Janie Murrell gave their eldest sons a choice: go to college or start a business. Education lost, and the Murrells opened a burger joint named after their five sons.

Murrell and the boys did it all, from cooking to cleaning the bathrooms. It wasn’t easy. Employees stole from the register, the brothers fought, and banks just laughed when they asked for loans.

So, Murrell did it his way: he asked 100 friends for loans under $30,000, repaying them punctually with high interest. In 1989 they opened a second restaurant, and later a handful more. As Five Guys expanded, Murrell was adamant about one thing: freshness.

No freezers: everything was cooked from scratch. No timers: good cooks know when food is done. Beef was 120-day grain-finished from family farms, buns baked fresh and fries hand-cut and shaken 15 times exactly. So when Five Guys got a request from the Pentagon to deliver burgers, Murrell said no, and hung a gigantic banner, “Absolutely No Delivery.”

Risky? Hell yeah. But it worked. They got great press and business went up! With an appetite for more, Five Guys franchised in 2003 and from 2006-2012 saw an unthinkable 792% growth. Now they have 1500 locations worldwide.

In 2009, Obama famously stopped by for a cheeseburger with cameramen and an order list. He took it to go.

The five sons and dad.

YOUR WAY OR NO WAY

When faced with rejection, pause and think: there’s likely another way to get there—your way. The conditions might be suboptimal, but you will get there. Your company won’t offer you a chance to learn something new? Do it yourself, on the side. Banks won’t lend you money? Look elsewhere. You didn’t get the dream job you wanted? Just create it.

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© Story by Tarek Issa.

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