S. E. Williams
This Father’s Day, The Voice/Black Voice News is proud to highlight one of the region’s most successful and influential fathers—entrepreneur, community leader, and the founder and CEO of Webb Family Enterprises, Inc., Reggie R. Webb.
Webb’s story is one of faith, vision, commitment, hard work, and determination that resulted in the building of an entrepreneurial legacy for his family. At the same time, Webb has served as an uplifting and supportive role model not only for young African-Americans, but for all young people who aspire to build a better future for themselves, their families, and their community.
More than forty years ago, Webb was a young man with a big dream. Today, under his stewardship, Webb Family Enterprises owns 16 McDonalds restaurants that stretch from the Inland Empire to Los Angeles and provide employment for 1,100 Southern California residents. Since 1989, the company has employed approximately 30,000 individuals.
Before Webb was recruited by McDonalds, he worked with a group of peers at a Community Action Agency as part of the country’s War on Poverty. The War on Poverty was the informal name given to legislation introduced by then- U.S. President Lyndon Johnson to address America’s poverty rate, which at the time hovered just below 20 percent nationally. “In Southern California,” Webb explained, “We were all looking to go into some form of business.” Many were doing whatever they could to get their businesses off the ground, including selling products from the trunks of their cars.
The San Bernardino based “McDonalds was young and growing [in those days],” Webb shared. “It was listed on the New York Stock Exchange in 1968 and had licensed its first store to an African American by 1973.” It soon had quite a few African-American franchise owners, including four or five in Southern California. However, despite having a presence geographically, the company had “no relationship to the African- American community,” Webb noted.
“They needed me,” he stated with confidence, and added, “I needed them.” Webb understood the opportunity that existed with McDonalds and sensed the organization was likely to grow.
When Webb was later presented with an opportunity to interview with the company, it was his first time in an executive office building. “It was bright and friendly,” he explained. “I interviewed for 30 minutes with the Human Resources manager and he took me in to meet the Vice President.” According to Webb, the interview went so well that not only did he have lunch with them, he was also invited to dinner.
Webb credits his success that day to his upbringing. “The things you bring to the table are your values. Most of us are Christians and those values are strongly rooted in our upbringings.” His business acumen and Christian values provided the foundation for his successful navigation in the world of business.
“When you are in an alien environment,” Webb stressed, “You are not an alien to yourself. Conduct yourself according to your Christian values and you will not go wrong. Business is like basketball,” he added. “To be successful, you must understand the rules of the game and then work to score the most points based on your values.”
Whether it was the zeitgeist or synchronicity, the fate and future of the educated, confident and determined young Black man who presented himself so successfully was sealed during that interview forty years ago, to the great benefit of himself, his family, and his community.
Over the last forty years, Webb and his wife, Rene, not only built a successful business enterprise, they raised three accomplished children and found ways to give back to their community. Rene gave up her own career in finance to help her husband pursue his dream.
As pioneers in Black-owned franchises, the Webbs established the Webb Family Enterprises as a strong model for successful franchise ownership, not only for Black entrepreneurs but all franchise owners. The Webb children have now added their skills to an already successful business model. But first, Webb stressed, “They went off to college and earned degrees.” Eldest son Karim is the owner of four Buffalo Wild Wings across Greater Los Angeles; daughter Kiana, after earning her degree and gaining experience in the retail industry, now uses her business acumen serving as President of Webb Family Enterprises; and youngest son Kyle, who earned a degree in finance is now the company’s Chief Financial Officer.
“We never tried to decide what careers they should chose,” Webb responded when asked about his children. “We prepared them to be successful in whatever career path they chose. They attended Christian-based school all the way through high school.” He also stressed that he and his wife maintained consistency in the values their children were taught in school, at home, and in social organizations.
“You want them to be competitive in whatever they choose to do,” he explained. “When you have a family business, there is never a time when it is not a part of what you are doing; it is always a part of your routine.” Making his business a success became an integral part of his life, whether with friends or in meetings, his family is involved. The Webb children’s exposure to the family business laid a solid foundation for their futures.
Webb is a firm believer in the power of higher education. “In this day and age, the type of education that really allows you to succeed in careers that are changing so fast, is math.” According to Webb, a degree opens the door to more responsible leadership in an organization. “It gives you those kinds of skills and increased earning capacity.”
When speaking about his commitment to employees, Webb described McDonalds as, “America’s best first job. It provides the training and skills people can take with them no matter what they do in the future. The thing I love the most is that we give feedback all the time–the skills they learn, the knowledge they gain, teaches them how to be successful.” He further explained that the skills acquired not only benefit them at work, but also in life. Often, people just need to be given an opportunity, he stressed. “You see, people can do it, they only need to know how.”
This level of professional commitment Webb extends to his employees is reflected in his outreach to the community at-large. Whether educational or charitable outreach, working on issues related to community health or social justice, the Webbs demonstrate that they are a part of the communities they serve. This is a part of the legacy embraced and continued through their children.
“I’m for people—first, last, and always,” Webb stressed, “We follow the example of Jesus, he was always helping people. That is what we as a family try to do. We try to use our business in this way.”
Webb’s success in the fast food industry is a stellar example for Black franchise owners to follow. He is a part of the National Black McDonalds Owner’s Association that boasts more than 335 franchisees with 1,200 restaurants spread across the country. Combined, these franchises gross more than two billion dollars in sales each year.
Webb joined the National Black McDonalds Owner’s Association in 1985. When he served as chairman between 1994 and 1997, he was instrumental in helping African-Americans become franchise owners.
He has achieved great success and yet he has also faced great challenges. He defined his greatest challenge as, “Continuing to be optimistic in the face of intransigent, disparate treatment of African-Americans in America. I agree with LeBron James [basketball player, Cleveland Cavaliers]: You can have all the celebrity; all the money; all the things America awards, looks up to, and admires, and still have a vile name written on your property. It is difficult to accept. It is hard not to isolate.”
Despite that challenge, Webb offered strong words of encouragement to young African-Americans. “You really can do anything that you choose to do that is legal. If it’s legal, ethical and moral, and someone else in America is permitted to do it, you can do it too. You don’t have to ask permission. You have a right to do it and no one can impede you.”
This is a powerful message not only for today but for future generations. Not surprisingly, the Webbs are looking toward the future. In a previous interview, Webb told a reporter, “My wife and I have transitioned from being the leaders of our business to having our children be the leaders. I can see a day where their children are growing up to do what they are doing today,”
According to the U.S. Census Bureau, in 2014, the most recent year for which the information is available, there are more than 72 million fathers in America. This year, The Voice/Black Voice News proudly salutes the personal and professional achievements of father, franchisee, humanitarian and role model, Reggie Webb.