Martin Pazzani, CEO of Continu Wellness and Unbound Spirits

In our regular series, people with important jobs remember where it all started


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

My name is Martin Pazzani. I’m the CEO and founder of multiple companies, including wellness company Continu, luxury Bourbon and Irish Whisky makers Unbound Sprits, as well as an author and speaker.

What was your first McJob?

Working at McDonald’s during sophomore year in high school, in a little town called Naugatuck in Connecticut. There were no fast food outlets in town yet, so the arrival of a McDonald’s in 1972 was a big deal. We watched them build the McDonald’s right across the street from the high school. When the “now hiring” ads popped up, there was a line of people, a mile long, to get a job. Fortunately they picked me as part of the first crew.

How much did you get paid and what did you spend your fist paycheque on?

I was paid a $1.85 an hour, so I actually saved my first cheque because I was so thrilled, and still have it in a frame!

How long did you work there for?

20 hours a week for two years during high school. Then I went away to college, came back, and worked for another two summers.

What did you have to do?

My first job was bun man. I toasted the buns, then became top grill man and eventually crew chief, which is like a kid who serves as the assistant manager but they don’t have to pay you extra! I remember going from $1.85 an hour to a $1.90 an hour and thinking: “Wow, I’m moving on up, an extra nickel!”

What was it like working there?

The culture was very young, so it was a bunch of go-getter kids running around like crazy at 90-miles-an-hour, with a couple of really good managers who kept us on our toes and motivated.

Are you in contact with anyone you worked with?

One or two, via LinkedIn. It was 45 years ago, so most people have moved far from home! But then about six years ago, the guys who run the franchise here in Connecticut celebrated their 50th year in business. They started in their early 30s and were now in their 80s. I noticed it in the newspaper and I wrote them a letter mentioning how often I relied on that experience as I moved up the corporate ladder. Not only were they happy to hear from me but they copied my letter and put it in all 30 of their stores, as an example to their employees about where you could go starting out minimum wage at McDonald’s. I was really honoured. It was such a lovely experience and so great to reconnect.

What skills did you learn that you might use today?

For my Master’s degree, I wrote a thesis on the operational expertise at McDonald’s. Later on, when I was an international corporate strategist, I very much relied on the McDonald’s guidebook on how to run multiple location operations. I thought the [2016] movie The Founder was a fairly accurate depiction of how McDonald’s grew, so I’ve used it in my professional world numerous times.

Why is alumni important?

I guess you share a common background. When we do cross paths in various occupations, you know that they understand things a certain way. There was a certain discipline and energy that came with McDonald’s that stayed with me and helped me through my whole career.

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

I could do it in my sleep. I could stand in front of the grill and flip a dozen burgers in two seconds and get them on the buns three at a time with my eyes closed. McDonald’s back then was very manual. Now it’s a completely different operation. We actually fried burgers, toasted buns, and mixed up the shakes. Nothing was pre-packaged. It was was a rocking and a rolling fast-paced environment.

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

It was a great time, so I would just say: enjoy the moment because it is really still very memorable to me.



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