Ian Walker, co-founder of LaundryRepublic

In our regular series, industry big wheels remember their first outings


Hi, Ian! Who are you and what do you do?

I’m Ian Walker, and I’m co-founder of LaundryRepublic, a sustainable dry cleaning firm in London that saves Londoners time by providing an incredibly convenient and eco-friendly dry cleaning and laundry service.

What was your #MyFirstMcJob?

Working in McDonald’s in Guildford, during my A Levels.

What did you have to do?

In my training video, they used the word “sanitise” about 100 times. So I had to constantly clean the floor, clean the tables, clean the front of house areas, service areas and toilets and take the bins out. I also served customers on the tills.

What were the perks of the job?

I got one free meal per shift. The biggest perk was expanding my horizons by meeting loads of really interesting people, because McDonald’s employed everyone from 17-year-old schoolboys to people studying for satellite space engineering degrees.

How long did you work there for?

Several months full time and then some part time shifts after that.

What was the worst thing that happened?

There were a group of guys a bit younger than me, that David Cameron would have called “hoodies,” who were acting tough and big to each other. One of them got annoyed that his food was taking too long. He lent over my till, hawked up load of phlegm, and spat it onto my keypad. I’d been taught McD’s 10 Customer Commandments: don’t be rude to a customer, don’t make fun of a customer etc. So I had to keep my cool, take out the sanitiser spray, wipe down my till, and carry on serving him.

What did you spend your first paycheque on?

Probably something like a stereo system to play Panthera. Cringe.

What skills did you learn that you still use today?

I learned what the satisfaction of hard work done well feels like. I learned customer service, sometimes in the face of adversity. And I learned never to be too proud to do any type of work.

Are you in contact with any of your old colleagues?

No, unfortunately. It was pretty high turnover, and it was a long time ago. I left for my gap year in India (of course), and then off to university.

Why are alumni important?

Alumni can be a wealth of knowledge and connections, either for new business or finding people jobs after they leave your company. You never really know exactly what the benefit will be from an alumnus, so it can only be a good thing if you maintain positive relationships with people that have moved on.

What would happen if you went back and did another shift in McDonald’s?

I hope I would do the job well again! I’ve actually carried over a lot of the attitude I learned in McDonald’s to what I do now.

If you could go back in time, what one bit of advice would you give yourself?

I would say: don’t be too proud to ask for help. When that guy spat on my keyboard, or the time I ended up clearing up needles and methadone from the toilets, instead of trying to just get on with it, I should have said: “Hold on a minute, this is a bit uncomfortable”, and ask somebody more senior for help. And I’m sure I would have received it — McD’s was really good like that.




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