Not a Lexis Advance subscriber? Try it out for free.


From Debt to Success: Colonel Sanders

How does someone successfully get out of debt? What propels certain people to climb up from financial troubles to wealth and success?

In the book, The Road Out of Debt: Bankruptcy and Other Solutions to Your Financial Problems, we provide a how-to guide and a road map on how to get out of debt, with and without bankruptcy. For inspiration to carry you through on your road out of debt, I want to highlight those people who have come from nothing or big debts to reach great success.
From Debt to Success will highlight some of the more celebrated success stories of these impressive people.

Harland David Sanders (1890-1980), better known as Colonel Sanders, was the founder of Kentucky Fried Chicken (KFC). He's still the face of KFC with his white suit and black string tie.

Colonel Sanders led a turbulent life but kept at it until he found success selling his chicken cooked with his world famous recipe.

His father died when he was five. His mother taught him how to do the cooking as he was the oldest child and his mother had to work to support the family. When he was 12 his mother remarried. His new stepfather beat him. He then dropped out of school and ran away from home.

He worked where he could find. At 16 he lied about his age and joined the army, which sent him to Cuba.

After the army, he was a failure who got fired from a dozen jobs. In the 1910s and early 1920s he was a lawyer in Little Rock, Arkansas, but lost his right to practice law when he came to blows with his client in the courtroom. He even sold insurance for a while.

In 1930, at age 40, he opened a service station on Route 25 in Corbin, Kentucky. Colonel Sanders cooked chicken dishes and other meals for people who stopped at his service station. Since he did not have a restaurant, he served customers in his living quarters at the service station. His local popularity grew, and Sanders moved to a motel and restaurant that seated 142 people where he worked as the chef. Throughout the 1930s he perfected his fried chicken, finding ways to make it taste better and cook faster. By 1935, the governor made him an honorary colonel. By 1940 he could cook his chicken in six minutes and made it with a secret recipe of 11 herbs and spices.

In the 1950s the government built I-75 which by-passed his restaurant a few miles to the west. The restaurant failed. Colonel Sanders sold his restaurant at auction and was just barely able to pay off his debts and taxes. He found himself broke at the age of 65.

Down to his month $105 social security check as his sole source of income, he drove around in a Cadillac with his face painted on the side before anybody knew who he was, pleading with the owners of run-down diners to use his recipe and give him a nickel commission on each chicken. He slept in the back of the car and made handshake deals.
If the restaurant owners liked his chicken, he would show them how to make it and send them packs of his secret recipe. In return, they agreed to give him five cents for every chicken sold and go by the name of Kentucky Fried Chicken.

In a few years Sanders was making $1000 a day. In 1964 he sold the business for $2 million (over $13 million in today's money). Success may not come easy, but if you stick to it, you may find success in the end as Colonel Sanders did.

Read more articles about consumer debt by Ted Connolly, co-author of The Road Out of Debt