We recently watched the movie The Founder about Ray Kroc, The McDonald brothers, and the history of McDonald's. The movie stars Michael Keaton as Ray Kroc, and Nick Offerman and John Carroll Lynch as McDonald's founders Richard and Maurice McDonald. The movie tells the story of a determined salesman that comes across a genius idea, then proceeds to take over the company using unethical measures. There are however some great business take aways from both sides of the story.
At the beginning of the movie we see Ray Kroc as a traveling salesman getting told no over and over again as he tries to sell his product, a milkshake maker that makes 5 milkshakes at one time. Throughout his travels he sees drive-in restaurants that are inefficient and offer poor service. Time and time again he gets told no. Each night in his motel room he listens to a motivational sales record to keep his determination strong. Well past middle age, he struggles to sell his product and keep his company afloat. Only through a positive outlook and persistence does he succeed. Later in the story, he becomes unethical in his business dealings, but at the beginning the lesson is to never give up. The McDonald brothers also show persistence, having failed at owning a movie theater, a drive in restaurant, and a bad location. They say that they are an overnight success 30 years in the making. Key take away: Never Give Up.
2. Efficient Systems
Ray meets the McDonald brothers in California who have developed a precise system of food delivery that focuses on just 4 key food items, and cooking methods that measure cook times and process down to the second. They are able to deliver a meal in 30 seconds at a time that their competition is delivering meals in 30 minutes. They also scrap car hops, plates, and cutlery in exchange for a walk up window and disposable hamburger wrappers. Their system is so efficient that their costs are lower and their delivery is faster. Key take away: Refine your systems and processes to the minute detail.
Ray sees a brilliant idea that is not being marketed the way that it should be. The McDonald brothers had failure in franchising in the past, and have decided to keep their organization small so that they can control it. Ray sees an opportunity to not only market the restaurant as a convenient meal option, but as a place for families. He latches on to the idea that the "Golden Arches" should be as ubiquitous as church steeples and American flags. He sells the idea of McDonald's as an All American idea rather than a just burger place. Key take away: People buy your idea first before they buy your product.
4. The Wrong Business
After Ray franchises 16 McDonald's in 9 states, he still struggles with his cash flow because he underestimated his costs and the costs of his franchisees. He meets a man that reviews his ledger and is told he is in the wrong business. He thinks he is in the restaurant business, but he really is in the real estate business. He proceeds to take over the location selection of each McDonald's, and buys the property of each restaurant, forcing his franchisees to lease from him. Not only does this increase his bottom line, but gives him assets he can use to expand his business. It also gives him more control over his franchisees and what food they offer. Key take away: Realize what makes your business money, and focus on that.
5. Be Ethical
Ray becomes increasingly hostile and unethical to the McDonald brothers throughout the film, eventually putting one of the brothers in the hospital due to stress. He buys them out and cuts them out of ongoing residuals. He succeeds in business but at a cost. He divorces his wife, steals the wife of one of his franchisees, creates enemies out of former partners, and cheapens his product quality to increase profit. He becomes a billionaire, but at the end of the movie he has a hard time looking himself in the mirror. Key take away: Always do business the right way, even if it takes longer. Your conscience should never be for sale.
We hope you enjoy this take on a pretty great movie. If your company would like to look at ways to sell your idea, then sell your product, let AMS help you tell your story.