FLORENCE, S.C. (AP) — Nimi Rama started working at McDonald’s at age 14. His career at McDonald’s has taken him throughout the East Coast and made him a director of operations.

Rama said he was goal driven as a teen and that trait turned out to be a driving force for his success. As a young teenager, he would call McDonald’s asking for more hours to be able to afford the things he wanted.

“I would always call into work asking if they needed help because I needed money to buy a cellphone,” he said. “I was always goal driven. At first, it was a cellphone and then it became a car.”

Rama credited his drive to his parents who immigrated from Albania to the United States in 1976 and they instilled in him hard work.

“We came to this country to make something of ourselves and that fire was instilled in me to be somebody and to work hard. From my parents down to my mentors everyone was always pushing me and telling me to keep going because the sky’s the l

Rama said he was taught that a plan was made for him and all he had to do was follow it.

He was motivated by things until he got older and realized that his next goal was not a material item, but his goal was to grow in the McDonald’s franchise and allow that road to take him to new heights., he said.

Rama said he worked every position in the franchise.

He started off in his hometown of Jefferson, Wisconsin, as a crew member. “I worked as a trainer, crew chief and shift manager,” he said. Rama said McDonalds has afforded him opportunities to see the world, work in new markets, and be stretched as an individual.

He moved to Chicago shortly after mastering every position in his hometown and was elevated to salaried assistant manager for three years.

In Chicago, he set his eyes on becoming a general manager. “I saw the structure of McDonalds,” he said. “I saw the benefits and I saw that the sky was the limit. I began to realize that you can go in and become anything.”

Rama said McDonald’s offers a variety of different avenues for career opportunities that attracted him and kept him on his toes.

“There is marketing, training, operations, there are so many different levels to McDonald’s and that fascinated me,” he said.

Rama said the key component to getting where he is today was learning from the people around him. He said that is the reason he was able to be successful.

Eventually, Rama accomplished his dream of becoming a general manager when he was chosen for that job in Miami.

He managed the store for three years and was awarded the Ronald Award. The Ronald Award is a prestigious award awarded to the top 1% of owner/operators across the country who have made outstanding contributions to strengthening McDonald’s brand image and going above and beyond to serve their customers and local communities.

He had once again mastered the goal he set.

After receiving the award he was promoted to district manager and then moved to Jacksonville, Florida to start another journey.

After staying in Jacksonville for a while, Rama moved to Houston where he was responsible for supervising six stores. He said he got the call about Houston from his mentor who trained him because of the potential he saw in him.

“He put ketchup in my veins,” Rama joked. He said his mentor was a tough guy who trained him shoulder to shoulder and told him the good and the bad.

Rema said it was important to have somebody in your corner who will tell you how it is even when you don’t want to hear it.

“He taught me work ethic, how to understand business, leadership, and effective communication,” he said. Rama said communication was an important part because McDonald’s is a people business and no matter how good your burgers and fries are or how well you operate the store, if you are not kind to people your store will not grow.

Rama said as a store manager his focus has been to get people to want to work for him.

“I don’t want people to work for me because they have to,” he said. “I want them to work with me because they want to.”

He said he wants to make the environment that he works in to be positive where people are happy to come to work and are ready to grow. He said the people he works with are more than coworkers. He refers to them as ‘his people’.

Rama was on the move again after four years in Houston. He was recruited to move to Dallas as the operations manager. He also worked in St. Louis, went back to Chicago before stopping in Florence as the director of operations.

Rama said his experience working at McDonald’s allows him to connect with crew members because he can empathize with them.

“I can feel their pain,” he said. “I can understand what they’re going through and when we are in meetings I relate to what they are saying to me. I understand the struggle.”

Rama said to those who believe they are at a dead end job with nothing to look forward to, he is the example of not to quit.

“I am 35 years old and I am the director of operations of a $30 million company and I started off as a crew member. It can be done,” he said.

Rama said people have to overcome the tendency to only look at what is in front of them and never what is beyond them. Rama said he feels like he has a personal agenda to get people to see what is beyond their current circumstances.

“When young people come in with no direction, I tell them how I have stuck with the company through thick and thin. I let them see that there is a light at the end of the tunnel.”

Rama said no matter how dark it seems, there is always a light and you just have to be patient until it comes.

“There is a purpose here at McDonald’s and its to help your fellow neighbor and do what is right,” he said. “The burgers and fries are not the highlight at McDonald’s, but the people who keep it going.”