Grinding It Out: Ray Kroc

Here’s what I learnt from Ray Kroc – the man who took McDonald’s from a small franchise to one of the largest companies in the world.

I recently watched ‘The Founder‘ – the film about Ray Kroc and the history of McDonald’s. After watching the film, I immediately read the book ‘Grinding it Out‘, the Ray Kroc autobiography to learn more about the man.

No matter what you think of McDonald’s as a company, it’s an inspiring story about a man who was relentless and never gave up on making a success of himself. Here’s 7 things I learnt…

1. Persistence, Persistence, Persistence.

Ray Kroc didn’t start working with McDonald’s until late in life. It wasn’t until he reached the age of 52 that he opened his first McDonald’s restaurant.

He never gave up on reaching his dreams. When most people would be winding down and starting to get ready for retirement, Ray was only just getting started.

Success can come at any age, but you have to keep trying. Never give up. Never give in. Keep on pushing. There’s a great quote used, in the book and film that sums up Ray Kroc:

Press on. Nothing in this world can take the place of persistence, Talent will not: nothing is more common than unsuccessful men with talent. Genius will not; unrewarded genius is practically a clique. Education won’t: the world is full of educated fools. Persistence and determination alone are all powerful”

Calvin Coolidge

2. There’s No Substitute for Hard Work

Ray Kroc had an insane work ethic. When he was younger he had a busy work schedule that would put most people to shame.

He worked 9-5, out on the road selling paper cups, then he would come home and have dinner with his wife for an hour. From 6-8pm he’d go to the local radio station and play the piano for a live radio show.

He then had 2 hours free time, and then played on the radio again from 10pm-2am. Then he’d go home to sleep and prepare for the next day. By 9am, he’d be up and out of the door ready to start selling again. He did these 17 hour days, 6 days a week. You can’t just ‘hack’ your way to success, you have to put in the hard work time and time again.

3. Keep It Simple

The McDonald’s brothers started their restaurant selling all sorts of food. They soon realised that 80% of their business was from only 3 things on the menu: burgers, chips and soda.

They decided to get rid of everything apart from those 3 items. Others were trying to do everything, whereas McDonald’s focussed on just a few things, and focussed on doing those things really, really well.

4. Success Takes Time

“I was an overnight success alright, but 30 years is a long, long night”.

Ray Kroc

Ray Kroc was seen as an overnight success; a 52 year old who came out of nowhere and built one of the largest business empires. But for 30 years he worked and worked and worked. He never gave up on his dream of becoming successful.

Most people underestimate what they can achieve in 5, 10, or 30 years. Stick at something and take a long term view. See how far you can go and how much you can achieve if you stick at it for a while. You need to have patience.

5. Green and Growing

Photo by Artem Beliaikin on

Ray Kroc looked at people as bananas. You’re either ‘green and growing‘ or ‘ripe and rotting‘.

All his life he was determined to be green and growing. The moment you stop, the moment you get comfortable and begin to wind down, is the moment you become ripe and you start to rot.

Always keep learning and growing, no matter how old you are. It’s never too late.

6. Don’t Hesitate, Take Action

Ray Kroc heard about a small restaurant that ordered 8 of his milkshake multi-mixers. It was such a huge order that he thought it must have been a mistake, but it wasn’t. When he heard about the success of this restaurant he had to go see it for himself, so travelled cross-country to see it.

He spoke to the McDonald’s brothers and was so impressed, that the very next day he went back and offered to go into business with them, by setting up franchises. He didn’t hang around, he saw a good opportunity and he seized it.

The two most important requirements for major success are: first, being in the right place at the right time, and second, doing something about it“.

Ray Kroc

7. Grind It Out

Ray Kroc was faced with challenge after challenge after challenge, but he pushed on and on and on. He never gave up hope.

He didn’t take a salary for the first few years at McDonalds and it took many years before he started earning good money. Most people would give up if they weren’t making money straight away. But success requires you to Grind It Out until you get there, no matter how long it takes.

“Luck is a dividend of sweat. The more you sweat, the luckier you get.”

Ray Kroc

Maybe you don’t want to create the next McDonald’s, but the story of Ray Kroc and the persistence and determination he showed can be applied to anything; business, art, sports or science.

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#zerotohero #success #business

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