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The Story of Ray Kroc

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Dear Reader, Do you sometimes feel that you are too old to make a change and that the time for a great endeavor has passed? If so, please think again. This is the story of Ray Kroc, the man who made McDonald’s Corporation a global success. Kroc started working for McDonald’s when he was 53 years old. He took the bold step of buying the company when he was 59 years old and only became wealthy for the first time in his life when he was in his mid-sixties. 

Kroc was born in 1902 to first-generation immigrants to the United States. He saw first-hand how poverty can come to any family when his father lost all the family money in the 1929 Wall Street market crash.

During World War I, Kroc lied about how old he was and became a Red Cross ambulance driver. He was only 15 years old. When he was 20 years old, he married his first wife with whom he had a daughter (his only child). Needing to look after his young family he worked for a range of companies; selling paper cups, as a real estate agent, and playing the piano in bands.  In 1938 Kroc also started selling “multimixer machines”. These were milkshake mixers that could blend a number of milkshakes at the same time and were sold to restaurants. Kroc traveled extensively around the United States selling these mixers. This experience allowed him to see how over 1,000 restaurants operated and what really went on inside the restaurant kitchens where the mixers were installed.

In 1954 Kroc met the two McDonald brothers, Richard and Maurice. The McDonald brothers had invented the concept of “fast food” where customers could drive to their restaurant, order hamburgers that were quickly made, and delivered to the customers’ cars. Kroc found the business so interesting that he joined McDonald’s to help the brothers manage the business. In 1955 Kroc helped set up the first McDonald’s franchise. However, the McDonald brothers were conservative and did not want to increase the business to more than a few outlets.

In 1961, with the help of a young colleague, Harry Sonneborn (who later became McDonald’s CEO) Kroc raised US 2.7 million to buy out the McDonald brothers. Kroc was then 59 years old!

Kroc later said that “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.” Once Kroc was the owner he rapidly grew the business. Kroc based McDonald’s growth strategy on the uniformity of franchise premises and service, highly sanitized and clean kitchens, and a policy of “no waste”. His management was later called the “Kroc-style”. 

Kroc also placed great emphasis on hiring the best people possible. He said, “You’re only as good as the people your hire.” 

By the time Kroc died of a heart attack in 1984 McDonald’s had expanded to more than 7,500 outlets in over 30 countries. Kroc also became a multi-millionaire and used a large portion of his wealth to set up the Kroc Foundation. The Foundation provided funds for medical and educational causes.

Kroc was known to work extremely hard and his biography is titled “Grinding it Out”, which means persistent hard work. Kroc’s advice to people of all ages is, “Luck is a dividend of sweat. The more you sweat, the luckier you get.”

© Kaikhushru Taraporevala

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