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Lesson #1: Take Your Business Seriously
Despite not having found the fast-food industry until he was in his 50s, it soon became his entire life. From the moment Kroc first set his sights on the McDonald brother’s restaurant, he devoted almost every waking moment to realizing the potential that he saw in it. For Kroc, this wasn’t just another restaurant; he wanted his chain to be the biggest and the best in the country, and then the world. From the large scale marketing campaigns right down to the size and weight of his hamburger patties, Kroc ran his operation like the big business he knew it could one day be.
“I didn’t invent the hamburger,” said Kroc. “I just took it more seriously than anyone else...We take the hamburger business more seriously than anyone else.” Time Magazine dubbed Kroc one of the world’s most influential builders and titans of industry because he did just that – he built a small business into a billion dollar enterprise and, he did it by focusing on the details and caring more about his business than anyone else.
For Kroc, McDonald’s wasn’t just about serving hamburgers as quickly as possible; for him, it was an art. “It requires a certain kind of mind to see beauty in a hamburger bun,” he said. “Yet, is it any more unusual to find grace in the texture and softly curved silhouette of a bun than to reflect lovingly on the hackles of a favourite fishing fly? Or the arrangement of textures and colours in a butterfly's wing?” Not if you’re Ray Kroc; “Not if you're a McDonald's man. Not if you view the bun as an essential material in the art of serving a great many meals fast.”
Kroc was a perfectionist; he wanted McDonald’s to be the best it possibly could be. “Perfection is very difficult to achieve, and perfection was what I wanted in McDonald's,” he said. “Everything else was secondary for me.” That is why, instead of simply selling the franchise rights to his milk-shake formula and hamburger recipe, Kroc branded a service. From the layout of the store, to the cleanliness of the parking lot, to the number of pickle slices on a patty, Kroc ensured that a McDonald’s in Delaware would provide the exact same quality service as one in Nevada.
McDonald’s might portray an image of clowns and happy-go-lucky children, but behind the marketing, Kroc was an astute and shrewd entrepreneur who was all business. After the McDonald brothers refused to sell Kroc their very first store – the Big M – Kroc opened up a McDonald’s right across the street and drove them out of business. “If any of my competitors were drowning, I'd stick a hose in their mouth and turn on the water,” he said. “It is ridiculous to call this an industry. This is not. This is rat eat rat, dog eat dog. I'll kill 'em, and I'm going to kill 'em before they kill me. You're talking about the American way – of survival of the fittest.”
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