He became a millionaire by pimping out his Colorado Springs-based McDonald's restaurants with a centralized drive-thru call center and other quick-serve gadgetry ("Mr. Big," November 3, 2005). Then he bid the Golden Arches adieu to design a high-tech charity that provides the working poor with an alternative to the rapacious payday-loan industry ("McDogooder," August 24). So what's next on super-sized entrepreneur Steve Bigari's to-do list? Take on the publishing world.
That's the idea behind The Box You Got, Bigari's self-published book that came out on November 15. Bigari calls the 175 ghostwritten pages a recipe book to his success, though he warns that readers shouldn't expect the secret ingredients to Big Macs and Chicken McNuggets. "I'm just a goofy guy with a big head. And I mean it in that I have a fat head!" Bigari says with his usual bubbly enthusiasm. "This was a way to take the stories of my life and inspire people to be better leaders. It's about rekindling your personal pilot light."
Through one self-deprecating parable after another -- how he ended up working for Stayfree Maxi-Pads, how he used a packet of flying barbecue sauce to inspire his drive-thru crews, how he failed miserably in the creation of his Dinky Donut machine -- Bigari's autobiography aims to illustrate what he calls his "Bigg Ideas." Examples include "Life is not a frat," "Ready, fire, aim!" "You can't put perfume on a pig," and -- most important -- it's not about thinking outside the Happy Meal box, "It's what you do with the box you got!"
Of course, Bigari being Bigari, the book's publication and marketing is anything but run-of-the-mill. While regular copies can be purchased on the website www.theboxyougot.com, he's also giving away 1,000 "Infectious Editions" of the book, with the stipulation that each reader must register his copy on the website and then pass it on to someone else. "The mission is to transform the lives of 7,000 people by 7/7/07," Bigari explains. "What do publishers really do? They make a book and sell a book. If you virally promote a book, you can take all that money and use it to help people."
And if some people have the audacity to stick their Infectious Editions on their bookshelves? That's why Bigari's tracking each copy online: "We'll hunt them down and tell them if they don't like it, give it to someone else."
Bigari says that the ulterior motive behind The Box You Got is to inspire readers to take a leadership role in solving the problem of what he calls "the invisible people in America," the country's 39 million working poor. Proceeds from the book will go to Bigari's nonprofit, America's Family Inc., and on his nationwide book tour, he'll occasionally show up as the cleaning staff. "I'll be working the room!" he exclaims gleefully.
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Between promoting his book and scaling America's Family beyond Colorado Springs, Bigari says he won't be wasting his time watching Fast Food Nation, the movie adaptation of Eric Schlosser's scathing exposé of the fast-food industry -- an exposé that mentioned Bigari and some of his stranger McDonald's inventions. "Big companies can be used for tremendous good or tremendous bad," says Bigari. "Eric chooses to focus on the negative side of the fast-food industry and sensationalize a few key aspects of it."
Instead of blowing their wad on a movie ticket and a super-sized popcorn, Bigari would prefer that those wanting an inside look at the quick-service biz pick up a copy of his corporate cookbook. Heck, he whispers, if they go online right now, they can get their own copy for the low, low price of $14.95 -- five dollars off the cover price! -- just by entering the promo code "Biggideas." But remember to type two "g's," he warns. After all, "There are big ideas, there are bigg ideas, and some ideas are so big they cannot be contained by two g's! There are some ideas that are three or four g's!"