Donald Bailey was number 114 on the promotion list of several hundred officers who wanted to be sergeant at the Los Angeles Police Department. After 14 years on the force, he figured he was about due.
But it didn't happen. "I was number 114, and they stopped at 98," he recalls. "I didn't get it."
The event caused mid-life introspection. Bailey re-evaluated his goals, and three years later he opened a McDonald's franchise.
Bailey, who had worked in the warrants section, said he began to realize the promotion may not have been a goal he really wanted. "For years, promotion sounded great. Then I asked myself, 'Do I really want to be promoted and sit there behind the desk? Is that what I'm working toward?' "
The restaurant became his new goal. He spent the next two years working 90 hours a week. By day, he served arrest warrants and took prisoners to jail. At night and on weekends, he wore a McDonald's uniform, flipped hamburgers and learned how things worked.
In July, 1986, Bailey left the department after 17 years, just three years before he could retire. He and his wife, Andrea, opened their McDonald's at what is now the Wells Fargo Center on Bunker Hill in downtown Los Angeles.