Running for daylight with Boatmen’s

Note: This article was originally published in Boat’s Notes & Quotes, the monthly internal newsletter of Boatmen’s First National Bank of Kansas City. Each month, the newsletter featured a profile of a Boatmen’s customer.

Carlos Carson was Number 88 for the Kansas City Chiefs.

Today, he’s McDonald’s Number 444 – thanks to help from the Boatmen’s team.

By Rod Perlmutter, editor,  Boat’s Notes & Quotes, 1995

All-Pro Wide Receiver Carlos Carson was working so hard at one point in his life that he lost almost 20 pounds in a few weeks.

It wasn’t from chasing passes and running miles under the hot Missouri sun at the Kansas City Chief training camp.

It was 10 years later — from scraping burgers and cooking fries at his very own McDonald’s restaurant.

He was working 60-hour weeks, managing the franchise that he bought in 1993 at 10305 East 40 Highway in Independence.

“This is the first real job you’ve ever had,” his wife Wilma teased him.

But he begged to differ. During the previous decade, Carson had a real job — he just made it look easy.

He played wide receiver for the Chiefs from 1980 to 1989, including two seasons as an AFC All-Pro. Two of his accomplishments are still Chiefs team records: a single season record of 80 receptions for 1,351 yards in 1983, and a career record receiving average of 18.2 yeards.

But he couldn’t play football forever, and after he retired in 1990, Carson looked around for a way to fulfill his dream: to own his own business. That meant a lot of searching, hard work, and making the connection with the right bank. That’s how he became one of about 100 small business customers in the food service business that do business with Boatmen’s, including about a half-dozen McDonald’s franchises in the Kansas City metropolitan area.

He went looking for the right team

Carson knew of other Chiefs who went into business by buying burger franchises. For example, ex-teammate Dave Lindstrom owns a few Burger Kings, and Van Jakes, a defensive back from the 1980s, owns a McDonald’s in Atlanta.

Carson looked around for franchises to buy, considering McDonald’s in Richmond, MO. and Cleveland, OH. He passed on both, hoping to stay in Kansas City, where he’s lived since 1980, and possibly capitalize on his name recognition in the community.

He found the McDonald’s in Independence, Number 444 of the more than 10,000 McDonald’s nationwide. The restaurant seats 55, serves about 750 customers each day, and has annual gross revenues of more than $1 million.

While it is not the busiest of the more than 100 McDonald’s in the 100-mile area surrounding Kansas City, it does have a stable customer based from surrounding neighborhoods in Independence. And, it’s less than two miles from Arrowhead Stadium.

Then came the hard part. Carson had accounts at another bank, but that bank balked at his loan application. After all, he didn’t have any business experience, and his major in college was education, not business.

It wasn’t the first time Carson had heard that the odds were against him. Ten years ago, the Chief started their 1985 season by beating the lowly Saints in New Orleans. But the next game was only five days away — an unusual Thursday night game.

Worse, it was against the hated Los Angeles Raiders, who had beaten the Chief in the five previous match-ups.

Even worse, the game was televised nationally, and the Raiders had won more prime-time football games than any other team — an amazing 25-5-1 record. Any game with the Raiders meant another round with Lester Hayes, the Raiders cornerback who had spent six years trying to intimidate Carson and keep him from catching the ball. In his own words, Hayes called his relationship with Carson “a semishoving match.” And Hayes and the rest of the Raiders let it be known that they were not impressed by a victory against the Saints.

This was not an opinion shared by Carson and the Chiefs. That night, before 72,686 delirious Chiefs fans, and a national television audience of millions, Carson caught five passes for 118 yards, including one touchdown, helping the Chiefs stomp the Raiders, 36-20.

But that’s not all. As Kansas City Times Columnist Jonathan Rand reported, “Carlos Carson gave Lester Hayes such a going-over that Hayes ripped off his helmet and threw it on the ground in disgust when officials wouldn’t give him the offensive-interference call he wanted.” That gesture broke Hayes’ helmet, and he spent several plays on the sidelines while his team scrambled to find him a new one.

Those types of memories help Carson meet the challenges of business. “Football is both a one-on-one competition and a team concept,” Carson said. “The same with running a business. Here, all 46 people are a team, and, just like in football, if one person doesn’t do the job, you are not successful.”

Carson knew he needed to find the right team. He came to Boatmen’s, and his business relationship got off to a good start with Kathy Hunter. “I’ve never met a better person,” he said. “She always make time for my questions and bends over backward to help the business. Now, I’m proud to tell people I’m a Boatmen’s customer.”

To learn about the burger business, Carson had to go back to school. No, not another four years at Louisiana State University in Baton Rouge, where he was Second-Team All-Conference in the Southeastern Conference — this time, Carson spent 18 months at “Hamburger University,” the McDonald’s training program in Oakbrook, IL.

Burgers are easier, and harder, than football

In some ways, owning a McDonald’s is easier than playing football. For starters, Carson doesn’t wake up on Mondays anymore with sore legs. It’s easier to serve up quarter-pounders than being served up by a quarter-ton of defensive linemen. The worst pileup Carson has seen at McDonald’s was a dropped tray of french fries — as opposed to, say, six 250-pound guys in black jerseys on top of a wide receiver.

But in other ways, running a McDonald’s is tougher than running after passes thrown by Quarterback Bill Kenney.

“With a Bill Kenney pass, at least you can read the defense, and see what’s coming,” Carson said. “But with a McDonald’s, you never know what’s going to happen day to day. You’ve got to be prepared.”

“It’s like football, it’s all about paying your dues,” he continued. “At first, I wasn’t sure what to expect in the NFL. But after a while, I began to pick it up more and more. It’s the same in business. You learn to react quickly to the customers’ needs. That’s why I like Boatmen’s — it’s a bank that really responds to its customers.”

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