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Millennials try Burger King turnaround

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When Daniel Schwartz became Burger King’s CEO in 2013, he knew the culture needed to change. The company couldn’t keep indulging in wasteful spending.

Schwartz, 33, is one of the youngest chief executives of a major global enterprise. A former Wall Street analyst, he brought a cost-cutting mindset to Burger King.

He encouraged the chain’s 2,425 corporate employees to treat every dollar of the company’s money as their own. To make the change resonate with everyone, he announced highly visible cuts that impacted senior executives.

He sold the corporate jet and stripped away the plush offices that the top brass enjoyed. What was once called “Mahog­­any Row” became a no-frills, open-plan office space.

Every year, one of Burger King’s foreign divisions hosted a $1 million party at a fancy Italian chateau. Schwartz stopped funding the bash.

Employees could see from Schwartz’s drastic moves that organizational penny-pinching would affect everyone—not just underlings. As a result, they embraced the change with enthusiasm.

To prune their cell phone expenses, they began using Skype to connect with colleagues abroad. And they reduced their use of overnight delivery services by scanning documents and emailing them to recipients. They even shared big communal printers rather than insisting on having their own.

Given Burger King’s rocky history—21 CEOs have run it since its 1954 founding—Schwartz signaled change in other ways. To stabilize the firm, he recruited a young leadership team with a long-term vision. His chief financial officer is 28 and his head of investor relations is 29.

— Adapted from “Burger King Is Run by Chil­­dren,” Devin Leonard, www.businessweek.com.

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