What McDonald's can teach us about business

The other night, my boyfriend and I sat down to watch The Founder, which is a Hollywood version of the history of McDonald's. 

It's a fascinating story of how milkshake machine salesman Ray Kroc (played by Michael Keaton) joined the McDonald brothers in business in 1954 and quickly changed it from what it was - a small yet successful operation at the time - to what we know it as today - the biggest restaurant in the world. 

The entire story captivated my attention start-to-finish; it's definitely an interesting movie to add to your list! 

As with most entrepreneurial movies, there were a few core lessons that REALLY stood out to me. Because we're heading into the final weeks of 2017, which is a time of reflection and head into planning mode for the coming year, I thought that the timing of these key takeaways were super relevant!  

So here we go!

Lesson 1: Focus on what you're good at. 
I debated calling this one "Less is more"; reason being that in 1948 (8 years after opening), the McDonald brothers realized that the majority of their profits were from only three menu items: burgers, fries, and soft drinks. So they removed all other items from their menu and focused on only selling those. 

This gave them the opportunity to focus on a specific audience, perfect the speed and quality of the production of those items and truly become masters at their craft. Their business TOOK OFF. 

--> What we can learn from this: Reflect back on the year and determine what really worked for you. As you begin to plan for 2018, focus on those core things rather than trying new and untested things (or things that didn't work). 

Lesson 2: Don't be afraid of slowing down and making a change. 
Not only did they revamp their menu in 1948, the McDonald brothers actually shut their restaurant down for several months to make a complete modification to both their menu and kitchen. That absolutely HAD to have been super scary to have no money coming in and potentially driving customers to competitors. However, when they reopened with their new and improved menu and system, they proved that it was absolutely the right decision. 

--> What we can learn from this: Sometimes if you're feeling that something isn't right, the best thing you can do is to get quiet. That may mean slowing down a little bit so you can create space to reflect and make necessary changes. 

I've learned (the hard way) that continuing to fight against things that don't feel right only drain you of your energy and can lead to burnout or more. If you're feeling this way, get clear on what isn't working and perhaps take a break. That doesn't mean you don't have to shut your business down...just create space to allow clarity to come to you. 

Lesson 3: Just keep going...success is yours for the taking. 
Ray Kroc did not hook up with McDonald's until he was 52 after trying all sorts of different ventures. He was often teased as an overnight success and was often quoted responding, "I was an overnight success alright, but 30 years is a long, long night."

--> What we can learn from this: Keep getting up and moving forward...there will likely be failures along the way. That's normal but success will only come if you get up after you fall and keep going.  

Your success is waiting for you, but you have to keep moving toward it (even if you don't know what it is). Persistence is what led Ray to his success and it is the exact thing that will drive you to yours. As you plan for 2018, think about what worked and what didn't work. Think about what you are passionate about and what you REALLY want to be doing. If you aren't doing those things, start taking action toward them. 

Lesson 4: Success can happen fast if you want it to.
As you read earlier, the McDonald's system came to fruition in 1948, and at the time it was the only restaurant. Well, check out this timeline: 

  • 1953: The 2nd restaurant opened
  • 1954: Ray joined the McDonald brothers
  • 1955: The 9th restaurant opened 
  • 1959: The 100th restaurant opened 

Talk about ambition and persistence. That's a whole lot of growth in a very short amount of time. 

--> What we can learn from this: One thing I learned from one of my former mentors, is that success is 100% a choice...no matter your circumstance. My guess is that Ray made the decision that he was HUNGRY for the expansion and success that eventually happened. 

The same goes for you - if you want 2018 to be your biggest year ever, then you have to decide to make it happen. And then just totally go for it!   

Lesson 5: There are opportunities all around us...just pay attention.
Ray happened upon the McDonald's restaurant through his milkshake machine sales. The brothers had purchased eight machines from him, which was unheard of at the time. This fascinated Ray, so he decided to pay the restaurant a visit. And immediately he didn't just see another customer, but rather a much, much bigger opportunity. 

--> What we can learn from this: When looking at anything, put different lenses on. Think about it from different angles and with different attitudes. Look for problems that could be turned into opportunities. Listen. Hear what people are saying online about what they need and think about ways you can solve their problems. 

Could you imagine if Ray had only looked at McDonald's as a customer? Do you think we'd see golden arches in 120 countries around the world? 

Maybe, maybe not. 

We'll never know. But what I do know is that opportunity and success is just as accessible to you...

Let's make 2018 the best year ever! 

xx, Kim

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