Robert Rosenberg now retired, had served as CEO of the Massachusetts-based company Dunkin’ Donuts for 35 years. He took sales of the company from $10 million to $2.6 billion. In his new book, “Around the Corner to Around the World: A Dozen Lessons I Learned Running Dunkin’ Donuts,” he writes that these years weren’t all sweet.
Dunkin’ Donuts — recently rebranded as Dunkin’ — was a scrappy little company started by Rosenberg’s father, William Rosenberg, in 1950. When Rosenberg became CEO in 1963, Dunkin’ was owned by Universal Food Systems, a company with a small portfolio that later folded and changed its name to Dunkin’ Donuts.
While Dunkin’ food trucks served donuts and sandwiches at construction sites, Rosenberg attended Harvard Business School. Within a week of graduation, his father asked him to take over the company. Rosenberg says he grew up working in the store and expected to go into the business but never anticipated that his father would make this “breathtaking request” so soon after graduation.
The first years of the company were its “halcyon days,” he writes. The company went public in 1968 when it was worth over $100 million. In the book, triumph is punctuated by moments of sheer terror. When a group of franchisees sued the company alleging violations of the Sherman Antitrust Act, Rosenberg says it served as a personal “turning point.” The company’s strategy of streamlining the business worked well for the first five years, he says, but then Rosenberg lost his way. Franchisees suffered losses as the company veered away from them to focus on bigger problems, he says.
Dunkin’ now has 12,000 franchises across the globe and is worth close to $6 billion, he says. When Rosenberg looks back on the story that starts with his father’s hard work, he gets a “warm, wonderful feeling” of “tremendous gratitude for all the people that helped build this wonderful business.”