Grinding It Out by Ray Kroc

So why have you not realised your potential yet? Is it because your health is not very good? Or you are sleepy in the mornings? Or too short to make it far? Or maybe your parents humiliated you when you were young and this left you to be an underachiever to the rest of your life?

Whatever your excuse is, at the age of 52, Ray Kroc had better ones: not only was he way older than you, dear reader, are now, but he also had diabetes. And incipient arthritis. He had lost his gall bladder and most of his thyroid gland. His personal life was a mess.

But Ray still managed to create McDonalds. And become a business legend. Irrepressible enthusiast, perceptive people-watcher and a born storyteller, he tells his story (and thus the story of McDonalds) in his autobiography, Grinding It Out: The Making Of McDonald’s. A fascinating book. Here are my notes:

  • I have always believed that each man makes his own happiness and is responsible for his own problems. A man must take advantage of any opportunity that comes along, and I have always done that, too.
  • When I flew back to Chicago that fateful day in 1954, I had a freshly signed contract with the McDonalds brothers in my briefcase. I was 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 gland in my earlier campaigns. But I was convinced that the best was ahead of me. I was still green and growing, and I was flying along at an altitude slightly higher than the plane. It was bright and sunny up there above the clouds. As long as you’re green, you are growing, as soon as you’re ripe, you start to rot.
  • Work is the meat in the hamburger of life.
  • I had spent the previous summer and lunch hours during the school year working in my uncle’s drug store soda fountain in Oak Park. That was where I learned that you could influence people with a smile and enthusiasm and sell them a sundae when what they’d come for was a cup of coffee.
  • I was always on the lookout for new markets, and I found them in some strange places.
  • There’s almost nothing you can’t accomplish if you set your mind to it.
  • I didn’t bother setting sales goals for Multimixer. I didn’t need any artificial incentives to keep me working at top speed.
  • She had a presence that conveyed integrity and a restless native ability to deal with problems. This was enveloped in a warm, compassionate personality, a rare combination of traits. The fact that she had no bookkeeping experience bothered me not at all. I knew she would master the technical routines quickly.
  • Perfection is very difficult to achieve and perfection is what I wanted in McDonald’s. Everything else was secondary for me.
  • We were breaking new ground, and we had to make a lot of fundamental decisions that we could like with for years to come. This is the most joyous kind of executive experience. It’s thrilling to see your creation grow.
  • I believe that if you hire a man to do a job, you ought to get out of the way and let him do it. If you doubt his ability you shouldn’t have hired him in the first place.
  • Business will expand to tax the facilities provided. In other words, if you have a few extra feet of griddle and an extra fry station, or if you install one more cash register than existing business requires, you’ll be challenged to put them to use.
  • The reason I hated the MiniMac idea was that it was thinking small. I believe that if you think small, you’ll stay small.
  • We have a slogan posted on the walls around McDonald’s headquarters that says, “Nothing recedes like success. Don’t let it happen to us or you.” I wasn’t about to let it happen to me. In many corporations when the top guy moves up, it’s to a figurehead role. He becomes “chairman of the bored”. Not me.
  • It has always been my belief that authority should be placed at the lowest possible level. I wanted the man closest to the stores to be able to make decisions without seeking directives from headquarters. I maintained that authority should go with a job. Some wrong decisions may be made as a result, but that’s the only way you can encourage strong people to grow in an organisation. Sit on them and they will be stifled. The best ones go elsewhere.
  • My decision finally was to bring Luigi into the corporation. All that education had given him a complete set of additional things to worry about beyond the normal problems of business, but he seemed to handle them well.
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3 thoughts on “Grinding It Out by Ray Kroc

  1. did the book also mention the meeting with some Universities students where Kroc asked: “do you know what business i’m in?”
    everybody laughed and answered: ” of course, you are in burger business!”
    Kroc laughed and said: “no, i’m in ….. business”

    fill the line……

    • Real estate.

      I’ve also heard this statement, but it was not mentioned in the book and after reading the book, I’m not 100% sure Ray actually said that.

      The thing is, yes, McDonalds makes most of it’s money from franchising, mostly from rents paid by francisees, but in order to make this possible, the value proposal to those francisees must be good. Thus it is vital for McDonalds to offer the best fast food there is and constantly develop their food business.

      Thus to say that McDonalds is in real estate business (as opposed to food business) is pretty much the same as to say that commercial TV-stations are in advertising business (as opposed to entertainment business).

  2. Interesting conversation to follow here. I have been deep into studying Ray Kroc lately. Ray always some himself as being in the customer service business. He always focused on his customers and figured that the rest of it would take care of itself.

    Thank you for posting.

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