June 16th, 2019
How do you earn the respect of seasoned executives when stepping into a family-owned company? And how do you separate work and family when working side-by-side with siblings?
John Patrick Lopez always knew he wanted to pursue a career in the McDonald’s system and thought he would be a franchisee like his parents and sisters before him. Instead, JP utilized opportunities that led him to become a significant part of an award-winning supplier for the entire system.
Listen in as John Patrick describes the value of gaining experience outside a family business, how starting at the bottom and working every job on the way up contributes to a successful executive position, and how to maintain a healthy relationship with your brother while sharing leadership roles in the same company.
John Patrick Lopez is the Chief Operating Officer of Lopez Foods, promoted in 2016 after serving various positions of responsibility in multiple facilities. Having grown up working for his parents in their McDonald’s restaurants, John Patrick has worked in essentially every business area within the McDonald’s corporate enterprise, including logistics at Martin-Brower Company before moving to OKC to work at Lopez Foods.
John Patrick serves as Chairman for multiple committees, including Opening Doors, Finding Hope Capital Campaign benefitting Ronald McDonald House Charities of OKC, as well as the FBI Citizens Academy. John Patrick and his wife, Jeannie, live in Edmond, OK, with their two sons.
“It was always Plan A.”
Staying and succeeding in family business management is what it’s all about for John Patrick Lopez
by Jeff Holler
John Patrick Lopez goes by the initials J.P., but that doesn’t keep him from being irrevocably linked to his entrepreneur-laden family, including father, John C. Lopez, director of Suenos Hospitality and chairman of Lopez Foods, Inc., the 180,000-square-foot processing plant in Oklahoma City, Oklahoma, where J.P. now serves as chief operating officer. Business development characterized by productivity, purpose, and strategic leadership is a family affair at Lopez Foods that J.P. shares with his brother, Dave, and the rest of the executive team.
He’d have it no other way.
“When my parents bought the company, both my brother and I were in college. I had just finished my freshman year at the University of Southern California, and my brother was going to be an incoming freshman,” J.P. said. “I started working with Lopez Foods as a potential career opportunity when my brother and I would come home during the summer and work at the plant.” Lopez Foods is a manufacturer of meat products for McDonald’s. “Our parents had been in McDonald’s our entire lives, and it was a successful company and a successful business model. We felt that was the path we were going to be going down.”
“We have three older sisters, and they all pursued the next generation franchisee program that McDonald’s has in place,” he added. “This food processing facility was still within the McDonald’s system, but it was new and different. It was an opportunity to get involved in a new aspect of the McDonald’s system. It was interesting.”
From there, J.P. never looked back and feels it is a privilege to have been successful in the family business. “The thing that really helped me prepare for this was our family values. Everything that my parents instilled in us from a very young age – from work ethic and values, such as giving back to the community, and loving family above all else and always being there to support family – those basic pillars of strong family ethics and values helped us to work together as a family.”
In my next podcast, J.P. shares the unique challenges that come with working side by side with his brother, Dave, and with his dad and his executive team until his father retired as CEO. He also talks about working every position in every key department, provides great insight for those working in second, third, or fourth generation business situations about the value of earning respect and proper succession planning, and gives his take on the significance of strong communication.
J.P. and his family are particularly passionate about legacy. “The Ronald McDonald House community charity has always been something that we have been a part of and supported over the years,” J.P. said. “The work they were doing to keep families of sick children nearby while they were receiving treatment at the hospital and taking that burden off of them has been instilled into us from a very early age. We have been able to help Ronald McDonald Houses all over the country. It has been a wonderful way to give back in particular to the Ronald McDonald Houses of Oklahoma City, and more recently, Tulsa.”
Another program J.P. has come to appreciate is agriculture. “I came as an ex-surfer brat from California to the Midwest. I would walk into a grocery store and buy my food. I didn’t know where it came from or even care. Like all consumers, we have no idea what it takes to get any of those products to the retail level,” J.P. said. “Agriculture is suffering today. It is harder and harder for people to grow crops and raise animals and do so responsibly. The cost is so high with land becoming harder to acquire and to keep within the family.”
“I have partnered with Oklahoma State University to help bring that next generation of agriculture students and agriculture career folks into our company to help them see there are different sides of agriculture, so they can stay in Oklahoma and still be involved in agriculture with programs like Future Farmers of America,” he said.
When it comes to what is bigger than business for John Patrick Lopez, it’s all about motivation. “Sometimes when it is a family business, there are a lot of people rooting against you that will tell you they didn’t think you would take it seriously. My motivation has been trying to prove all those people wrong. My motivation is that there was never a Plan B. It was always Plan A. We were always going to get into this, do it right, and make things successful for everybody.”