114th Edition – April 11, 2021
Today a student choosing a college will look for three essential ingredients: An outstanding facility, a good library, and a McDonald’s nearby.The words inscribed on Ray Kroc’s honorary doctorate’s degree issued by Dartmouth College in 1977
I read Ray Kroc’s, Grinding it Out in 2002, but I finally got around to watching Micheal “Don’t Call Me Bruce Wayne” Keaton play the burger baron in the biz biopic, The Founder. I did not remember Kroc’s love-hate relationship with the McDonald brothers. If you watched the movie, what did you think of him not holding his end of the bargain on a handshake deal?
The movie pushed me to pull out my old paperback version of Kroc’s story along with a microscope to examine the tiny print – yeah, old age is vastly over-rated. I relearned a few things about Bruce Wayne — oops, I mean the legendary entrepreneur.
Inflexible Perseverance (page 13)
“I was a battle-scarred veteran of the business wars, but I was still eager to go into action. I was 52 years old. I had diabetes and incipient arthritis. I had lost my gall bladder and most of my thyroid in earlier campaigns. But I was convinced my best was ahead of me.”
I have worked with many CEO founders over the past 20 years. All of them have a story. Nothing was easy in the early going. When you have a chance, pull a founder you work for – now or in the past – and ask them about those early years.
Risk (page 59)
In 1976, Kroc told a group of Dartmouth graduate students, “You have to take risks. I don’t mean to be a daredevil, that’s crazy. But you have to take risk, and in some cases, you must go for broke. If you believe in something, you’ve got to be in it to the ends of your toes. Taking reasonable risks is part of the challenge. It’s the fun.”
Leave it to an entrepreneur to call going for broke, “… fun.” I’ve lost track of how much I’ve encountered that attitude over the years. But I appreciate them because they are the ones who write us checks, sometimes very big ones.
The Treasure (page 124)
I was open for business in 2001 with my first consulting practice. As a very young business professional, I learned something quickly about every entrepreneur I served. Each person has a treasure, and to uncover it is so obvious in the first 5-10 minutes while meeting with a CEO-Founder.
Ray Kroc did not hide what his treasure was.
“I speak of faith in McDonald’s as if it were a religion. And, without meaning any offense to the Holy Trinity, the Koran, or the Torah, that’s exactly the way I think of it. I’ve often said that I believe in God, family, and McDonald’s–and in the office, that order is reversed. If you are funning a hundred-yard dash, you aren’t thinking about God while running. Not if you hope to win. Your mind is on the race. My race is McDonald’s.”
If you could have spent 10 minutes with Ray Kroc after he wrote that, what would you say to him or ask him and why?
Handshake Deals (page 85)
The Founder includes a scene near the end of the movie with Kroc and the McDonald brothers signing the paperwork of the buyout which will make them both millionaires. A one percent royalty on all profits was removed from the purchase agreement because investors would not allow that language. Kroc essentially said, “Trust me,” in a handshake deal. You’ll get your royalties, he said. But they never did.
Did Kroc have a prior philosophy on doing business with just a handshake?
“I always take a man at his word unless he’s given me a reason not to, and I’ve worked out many a satisfactory deal on the strength of a handshake. On the other hand, I’ve been taken to the cleaners often enough to make me a certified cynic.”
After the 1966 McDonald’s stock split, Kroc wrote, “… it was our strict adherence to moral principles in business that made us so strong.” (page 151)
Would you have struck a deal with Ray Kroc on just a handshake?
Help Wanted (page 207)
We need a writer to tell Harry Sonneborn’s story. He’s the guy who told Ray Kroc, “You’re in the real estate business.”
The guy was a financial genius. So much so that he was the first president and CEO of McDonald’s until they split after a major disagreement. The Founder gave us the impression that the two had never spoken again. In the book, Sonneborn told Kroc that he was his best friend at his 75th birthday party.
While the book might be short, I’d enjoy reading his story. How about it? Ready for a cool research and writing project?
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