By Maureen N. Maratita
There cannot be a happier man in Micronesia than Joe C. Ayuyu.
On May 1, he became the president and owner of JCA Guam LLC, which does business as McDonald’s of Guam, adding that title to his longtime presidency of JCA Inc., which does business as McDonald’s of Saipan.
In an interview in May with the Marianas Business Journal, sister publication to Guam Business Magazine, he expressed his delight at the acquisition of six Guam locations.
“It’s been a long journey for me. My vision for a long time has been to buy all the restaurants in Guam, ever since I opened in Saipan.”
In 1993 Ayuyu secured the McDonald’s franchise in Saipan, where the chain now has two restaurants. He describes leading McDonald’s as his greatest business accomplishment. “I went from working for someone to actually owning and managing a business that I call my own.”
As to considering other fields, he says, “I can’t imagine working in another industry.”
Ayuyu considers a benefit “the opportunity to actually meet customers on a one-to-one basis, learning what they want out of your business (first hand),” he says.
The road to the franchise of McDonald’s was a deliberate one. Despite a career path, Ayuyu had an early sense of purpose.
“I wanted to become independent and become a businessman,” he says.
Born and raised on Saipan, his early school years gave indications of his talents. Ayuyu was 1969 president of the Marianas High School Junior Class, the 1970 recipient of an American Field Service International Scholarship, and was recognized in 1984 as one of the Outstanding Young Men of America. After attending high school in Lisbon in North Dakota, Ayuyu went on to earn a 1975 bachelor’s in economics from the University of Hawaii at Manoa.
His early appointments saw him devote time to the Northern Mariana Islands government, lastly at the Department of Commerce and Labor from 1976 to 1981, where he rose to acting director. Ayuyu then joined the private sector, serving as vice president and manager at the Bank of Guam, a career that took him to Guam, Chuuk and Majuro besides Saipan.
He followed his time at the Bank of Guam with the position of vice president and general manager of Hakubotan Saipan Enterprises Inc. until he acquired the McDonald’s of Saipan franchise.
In 2003 Ayuyu also took the step to become president and owner of RJ Guam LLC and RJ Corp. Saipan, now also owning and operating various residential and commercial properties both on Guam and Saipan.
Ayuyu’s business acumen has been tapped for community service in a variety of positions, and he has sat on a number of boards. He serves as chairman of the Bank of Saipan, a position he has held since 2006, is a past president of the Saipan Chamber of Commerce, was co-founder and first president of the Majuro Chamber of Commerce and treasurer and board director of the Chuuk Chamber of Commerce. In addition, Ayuyu has chaired the CNMI Tax Force, the CNMI Foreign Investment Board, and the Friends of the Beach Pathway. Vice chairmanships include the NMI Governor’s Council of Economic Advisors and the NMI Economic Development Loan Fund. Directorships include the Marianas Visitors Bureau, the CNMI Community Action Agency and the CNMI Fishing Authority.
His contributions have not gone unnoticed. Ayuyu is the Saipan Chamber of Commerce’s 1998 Business Person of the Year, was a nominee for Executive of the Year in 2012 and is a Mariana Islands Visitors Guide 1990 Businessperson of the Quarter Award Recipient.
The McDonald’s restaurants are not only family-friendly; in the Mariana Islands they are also family-run.
Ayuyu is co-franchisee in both locations with his wife, Marcia E. Ayuyu, whose title is owner and operator. Joe E. Ayuyu Jr., 25, is a manager of McDonald’s of Saipan, and daughter Natalie E. “Mable” Ayuyu, 27, is executive assistant. Ashley A.E. Ayuyu, 19, is human resources director at McDonald’s of Guam.
Other children are Nadia U. Ayuyu, 39, and Maria P.K.E. Ayuyu, 13.
Mable Ayuyu works closely with her father, but the relationship is clearly defined, she says.
“He doesn’t act like my father when we’re working together. He keeps the relationship very professional.”
The example of her parents working in the business and working together was a wonderful example, she says.
“They started the business when I was 3 and my brother was 1. I saw my parents’ lives revolved around the business. They seemed to have a lot of fun doing it.”
Those positive impressions encouraged her to look at McDonald’s as a career, Mable Ayuyu says. “I wanted to be part of the family business in one shape or form or another.”
Members of the business communities in the Marianas have shared with her how much they appreciate her father and his efforts, she says.
“Lately I’ve been attending a lot of events without father.” People take the opportunity to tell her stories about Ayuyu, she says, to include those of his early days in business. “It makes me appreciate what he’s done. It’s something really special.”
A genial individual, Ayuyu enjoys golf, but acknowledges that his main focus, particularly with the recent acquisition of McDonald’s of Guam, is business. Sometimes, he says, the family complains that “I work too much.”
Nevertheless, Ayuyu makes time for one of his favorite activities.
Matthew T. Gregory, attorney and former attorney general, and a golfing buddy, speaks highly of Ayuyu.
“I have known Joe Ayuyu since the late 1990s and had always admired him as a rare breed of individual who came from humble beginnings to build an impressive business empire. Since then, I’ve gotten to know Joe well and am privileged to call him my friend as well as a client. He is the best and certainly the future example and guide to other businesses in the CNMI. His humility and humor coupled with hard work are perhaps the winning combination for his success,” Gregory says.
“We often see businesses that attempt to get rich quick and are often flashes in the pan. What we need in the CNMI is good steady growth in business income and employment. Joe has always done this through wise investment and by providing value to his customers. His McDonald’s restaurants are the best run and have the friendliest staff of any McDonald’s I’ve ever encountered. His integrity is of the highest caliber, showing that integrity and success can go hand-in-hand.
“Above all, it is having Joe as a friend that I am most proud of. One can judge an individual by money, which can be an indication of success. However, what I think best describes Joe’s success is the character of his children and family. It truly is a tribute to a husband and wife that they have raised such impressive, humble, polite and successful children while achieving remarkable growth and success in the business world,” Gregory says.
McDonald’s has always been known for its wide community involvement in the islands, and Guam Business Magazine recognized McDonald’s of Saipan in its feature, “The most generous companies in the Marianas,” in the March-April 2016 issue.
“We’ve had a special relationship with the Guam Crime Stoppers organization, the NMI Chapter of the American Red Cross, the Rotary Club of Saipan, the CNMI Public School System, the Northern Marianas Trades Institute, Micronesia Islands Nature Alliance and more,” Ayuyu told the magazine.
If there is a particular area of its support that resonates with Ayuyu, it is, “Helping kids through the various programs that we support (especially the annual sports events); helping them to do different activities to keep them busy and always learning from each other to work together,” he says.
Joe C. Ayuyu: 2016 Executive of the Year
(From top to bottom): The Ayuyu family in Saipan; McDonald’s grand opening in Saipan in March 1993; and Joe C. Ayuyu training at McDonald’s early in his career with the franchise.