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Phoenix Forward magazine

For MBA student Kelley Hicks, working in fast food is about a lot more than flipping hamburgers

Kelley Hicks

After 25 years in the food-service industry, Kelley Hicks has learned to accept one persistent aspect of her personality. “I’m a total control freak,” she admits, laughing. But as a student in the MBA program at University of Phoenix, Hicks notes that “getting my MBA is helping me learn to delegate some of my responsibilities, and that’s a good thing.”

Her current job as a consultant to a Dairy Queen® franchise in Carson City, Nevada, where she’s helping the owners set up operations and financial systems, is just the latest stop in what has been an impressive career.

After high school, the Hawthorne, Nevada, native landed her first job at a McDonald’s® restaurant doing entry-level food prep for a year. When she moved to Hawaii, where her then-husband was stationed in the military, she worked at McDonald’s for a second time, as a crew trainer.

“The key to getting a promotion in fast food is not just learning your own job,” offers Hicks, who earned her  bachelor’s in business with a concentration in accounting from the University in 2012, “but knowing your responsibilities so completely that you can train someone else to do it just as well.”

When Hicks returned to Nevada after two years in Hawaii, she leveraged her fast-food experience to gain a position as first assistant general manager at a new McDonald’s. She credits her rise in the chain to learning all of the restaurant’s jobs and operations.

Getting my MBA is helping me learn to delegate some of my responsibilities, and that’s a good thing.

After 10 months, Hicks became general manager, a position she held for two years before being promoted to management troubleshooter for McDonald’s Corp. in the western Washington state region.

It wasn’t until Hicks returned to Nevada in 2009 to manage a Five Guys Burgers and Fries® franchise in Carson City, after stints as general manager for a Fatburger™ store, that she decided to go for her accounting degree.

“It started out as a personal goal but wound up really having a huge impact on my daily job,” Hicks says. “Studying accounting … helped me understand where all the numbers came from on my financial statements.”

Hicks also applied what she’d been learning in her MBA courses to her Five Guys job. In her first course, she learned how to assess employees’ personalities. This skill came in handy when she was having trouble with a subordinate.

“After applying the [theory], I could determine what made my co-worker tick,” Hicks says, “and that made me realize that we were both shooting toward the same goal but going about it differently.” It then became easier for her to manage the employee.

As a boss, Hicks seeks ways to help employees move up the ladder like she did, and her advice is based on her years of experience. “Be flexible with your schedule when you’re starting out,” she offers, and have confidence in what you’re selling.

She also believes it’s important to take pride in your work. “Don’t expect to move up if you’re embarrassed about what you’re doing,” she adds, “because if that’s the case, you’re not going to cut it.”


Dairy Queen is a registered trademark of American Dairy Queen Corp.
McDonald’s is a registered trademark of McDonald’s Corp.
Five Guys Burgers and Fries is a registered trademark of Five Guys Holdings Inc.
Fatburger is a trademark of Fog Cutter Capital Group Inc.

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