I borrowed that headline from a Bloomberg article on an ex-Barclays trader who is on trial for rigging the Euribor market.
Supposedly as a strategy to downplay his seniority and hence his guilt, he compared being a vice president at Barclays as “equivalent to the guy that serves you in McDonald’s.”
By making comments like, “As ridiculous as it sounds, a coffee boy at Barclays gets paid 400,000 pounds a year” he proved his wanker banker status, but he was also speaking some truth.
“Vice president is not what everyone thinks it is,” he stated. “It is junior.”
Of Course He’s Right
I once had to give testimony for a transaction that got messed up amongst the two founders.
Sitting in a windowless office of the opposing law firm, I remember being grilled for some 15 minutes on what being a vice president at Goldman Sachs actually means.
The lawyers couldn’t get it into their heads that while there is one Vice President of the United States, that, in fact, there are many, many vice presidents in investment banking.
And while vice president sounds like an elevated title, and indeed it is in the corporate world, everyone on Wall Street knows that, while the vice president title might not be “junior,” it’s often not senior.
Often with layers of bosses above you, it’s the go-between level, a bar that is reasonably low to reach, but one that can be extremely difficult to ascend.
Just Like McDonald’s…
At McDonald’s there are lots of burger flippers and customer service representatives but there are fewer managers, and even fewer owners.
And that’s not where the comparison ends…
Too many people on Wall Street take for granted the gift they have earned to create an incredible career, and can be dismissive of the opportunity they have in front of them.
Cynical types often feel like they are just a cog in the machine, but just like at McDonald’s, every team member is crucial to delivering an exceptional client experience.
It’s an insult to billions of hard working people who work for minimum wage to dismiss what they do as menial, when instead you can see that McDonald’s sets a high bar that every Wall Street VP can aspire to.
Here’s 11 ways.
1. McDonald’s Is Masterful At Process
If you’ve seen the movie The Founder, you will remember the scene on the tennis court where the team was designing the McDonald’s kitchen for optimal efficiency.
Everything that happens at McDonald’s is engineered with great purpose and deliberate execution, two things that are essential for every VP.
As I wrote about in my book, Doing What You Want on Wall Street, one of my Five Principles for winning on Wall Street is nailing process, and this is especially true for every VP.
Sandwiched in a role between the bosses and the resources, a VP, as the chief engineer of processes and efficiency, can drive massive advantage through optimizing every move.
2. And Speed
McDonald’s is all about efficiency because its business is all about speed.
It’s fast food and McDonald’s grades its teams according to how quickly they fill demand.
The same is true on Wall Street. There’s always far too much to do, you’ve gotta get it done quick time, and those who get better, faster, stronger, win more.
3. And, Even More Importantly, Quality
At McDonald’s speed is crucial, but there’s absolutely zero substitute for quality.
While it’s debatable what you consider to be high quality, at McDonald’s delivering the same, consistent quality product is a hallmark of the machine.
A Big Mac should taste the same in London or Singapore, and any VP striving for excellence is best served thinking the same way.
On Wall Street you might not have to wear a uniform, but you’re certainly expected to deliver a high-quality uniform product.
4. It’s On You
As I wrote about years ago, much of what I learned working the kitchen at KFC was powerful training for my career at Goldman Sachs.
Perhaps the most important reason is that nobody is standing around that kitchen helping you figure out how to get it all done.
As a Wall Street VP you are constantly bombarded with pressure from above, below, outside, and inside your firm, and it’s on you to find a way through.
5. Resource Constraints
At McDonald’s you have to get it done with the team you have on shift.
Nobody cares if your cook is slow or the fryer broke down, once the shift begins, you have the resources you’re allocated, and you’re expected to fill demand.
Wall Street too is about constantly managing resources. The VP job might be the hardest on Wall Street because you’ve got limitless pressure from above and limited resources beneath you.
As I wrote about here, when I was the staffer at Goldman Sachs it became clear to me that the best bankers figure out how to win with skill, not through burning resources.
6. Many Mouths To Feed
Even if you’re busy serving the counter at McDonald’s, when a car rolls up at Drive Thru, it becomes your priority.
In a fast environment where nobody expects to wait, it’s your job to balance the many competing demands on your time, and fulfill all of them!
What matters most as a VP is that you never drop the ball—those who win become masters at juggling many competing deadlines.
7. Selling Time
At McDonald’s most employees are paid by the hour, and only “win” by selling more time.
The opposite is true on Wall Street. You have an opportunity to massively leverage your time, yet many people still operate like they’re selling time by the hour.
Living bonus to bonus, thinking ahead to the reward for another year sold, they think too little about massively optimizing their time.
I built my System for Unleashing Your Time because of what I saw on Wall Street!
8. Massive Upside
Everyone can win big at McDonald’s. That’s the dream. You can go from flipping burgers, to managing the restaurant, to having 10 of your own!
The same is true on Wall Street. Haters discount what it takes to get the job and the decades of grueling work it takes to ascend the pyramid, yet they fully get the rewards…
Sadly, too many people on Wall Street have given up on having an exceptional career, and too few I meet still believe they can own the restaurant.
Yet, those with a vision can drive their career absolutely anywhere they want to go and create generational wealth along the way!
9. “Hustle” Is Not Enough
Hustle is a word I hear a lot from those who “sell” success, but I rarely hear in a serious professional environment.
You don’t win at McDonald’s because you hustle more in flipping burgers or running around cleaning the restaurant, but because you build the processes and skills to deliver an exceptional customer experience.
Too many Wall Streeters are focused on getting it done, when they would be far more successful if they focused on becoming exceptional at what they do.
10. Planning and Forward Thinking
It takes a ton of planning and forward thinking to operate a restaurant.
You must be good at projecting demand, ordering the produce and other materials, organizing labor into shifts, etc.
The same is true on Wall Street. Whereas many VPs screw their teams with constant fire drills, exceptional bankers are constantly thinking ahead to what needs to be done, and how to best do it.
11. Golden Arches
Perhaps the best thing about McDonald’s is that when you see the Golden Arches you know exactly what they mean.
The golden handcuffs of Wall Street are much the same!
Although it doesn’t often feel this way, sitting as a VP on Wall Street you are in the catbird seat.
If you can truly execute and win, you can take your career as far as you want to go!
The VP Masterclass
A reason I started the VP Masterclass is so I can serve the many VPs on Wall Street who feel stuck in their careers.
Like the many hard-working people at McDonald’s, far too many hard-charging Wall Streeters are getting far too little from their careers.
Organizations never teach us how to win. Particularly on Wall Street, it’s up or out, and far more good people are pushed out than up.
I feel for people who have massive dreams for their career and life that nobody has given them any guidance on achieving.
And the VP Masterclass is designed to, within 100 days, take 10 VPs and massively propel their careers.
We can only take 10 VPs into the summer class, and if you’re serious about driving your career wherever you want to go, sign up now!