When Shamong’s Ryan Derrickson was 15, he did what most teenagers do: He picked up working papers from his high school and found a part-time job.
Jobs can be found at the local pizzeria, where employees answer phones and take orders; scooping water ice; or mowing the neighbor’s lawn. Derrickson’s first employer is the world’s second-largest restaurant chain: McDonald’s.
Eighteen years after shaking a manager’s hand and asking when he could start, Derrickson finds himself in the same Medford McDonald’s as its general manager.
Eighteen years is a long time at the same job, but Derrickson knew early on there was something special in those Golden Arches.
“I was transitioning – I became a shift manager as a senior in high school,” he explained. “That showed me this company invested in their people, and even such a young person like myself. I was still in high school and they trusted me to run the restaurant.
“From there on out, they showed they love their people.”
Derrickson’s hard work paid off as he moved up the McDonald’s ladder. It was justified when Michelle Clark, owner and operator of the McDonald’s where Derrickson works, nominated him last year for the company’s Global Ray Kroc Award, named for the chain’s founder.
“Every two years, McDonald’s chooses the top 1 percent of restaurant managers in the world,” Clark noted. “It’s a very prestigious award.
“He has ketchup in his veins,” she added of Derrickson. “Starting out as a crew kid at 15, you don’t generally work a lot of hours, but out of high school he started in the management program and slowly worked his way up.”
Clark kept the nomination private, so Derrickson was in the dark. When news came that he was one of about 100 managers worldwide to receive the award, Clark threw her manager a surprise party that included representatives from McDonald’s corporate office.
“Right after our lunch rush, it was around 2 o’clock and my supervisor comes running around the front counter,” Derrickson recalled.
He followed the supervisor around the counter to the side lobby and the celebration of a lifetime.
“My jaw dropped. I was speechless,” Derrickson recalled. “I was shocked. As a general manager, this award is something you dream about getting.
“It’s always been a goal of mine to win this award.”
While Clark is the current owner and operator, she had one more surprise up her sleeve – the previous owners, the very ones who hired Derrickson 18 years ago, were in attendance at the party.
“It was very special,” he said. “I was so humbled. I’m not the emotional type, but my eyes definitely watered.”
Now, Derrickson stands atop the McDonald’s mountain with an award that has the name of the chain’s founder on it. In two years, when another round of Kroc award winners is named, Derrickson wants to be among them.
“I want to win it a second time,” he said. “I want to continue to grow the business and continue to make all the customers happy. If I continue to do that better and better every year I could win again in the future.”
One of the ways Derrickson improves business is by putting employees first and creating a “McFamily” atmosphere. Want proof? Clark, who owns eight McDonald’s restaurants, described how he utilizes the Archways to Opportunity program for students pursuing any form of higher education, be it a trade school, community college or four-year institution. That’s more than any of Clark’s other locations.
According to the owner, Derrickson’s store has awarded more than $35,000 in tuition: Her other seven locations combine for roughly $125,000, an average of $17,800 each.
“He makes it a great place to work,” Clark said of Derrickson.
“Here in McDonald’s, this is my second family,” her manager added. “I want to create that environment where you want to go to work and hang out with your McFamily. That’s the kind of environment I create.”
Though the pandemic robbed him of an all-expense-paid trip to Orlando for the annual McDonald’s convention, the moment was not lost on Derrickson. His sights are set on the future; he’s ready to take on any challenge it holds and defend his title as a Global Ray Kroc Award winner.
“Winning is one of the highest honors for a general manager,” Derrickson said. “It was one of my career goals to achieve this. It’s a result of the hard work and dedication, the passion of serving all guests and the community of Medford. I grew up in Shamong, the next town over.
“I’m from this area; it’s extra special because of my passion for the area and taking care of my employees.”