Ray Kroc, a model of persevering and visionary entrepreneure

Ray Kroc is the person who propelled McDonald’s restaurant chain to the stars. He was not born rich. He has had several failures. He did not succeed at his 20th birthday, nor at his 30th birthday, nor even at his 40th birthday… He did not move into a « high value-added » sector (finance, telecom, etc.). But he became a billionaire after he turned 60 selling hamburgers, a lot of hamburgers. Ray Kroc is an inspiring and invigorating character for any entrepreneur looking for a model of perseverance. He’s a true self-made billionaire, by the force of his wrist. Discover or rediscover its history and be inspired!

Ray Kroc, a salesman above all

Ray Kroc is a salesman, a very good salesman. From a very young age, Ray has considered work as a pleasure. He does a lot of odd jobs : selling lemonade, selling lemonade, selling in a grocery store, selling in a pharmacy, door-to-door selling, he even started a small music shop with two of his friends.

Ray Kroc
Ray Kroc

He mastered very early on the sales techniques that would contribute to its dazzling success several decades later. Ray Kroc understood that in order to sell, it was necessary to match the customer’s need (expressed or underlying) with the advantages of his product, and that one should not talk too much :

I understood that my clients appreciated a direct approach. They would buy if I made my presentation and asked them to order without going too far around the issue.

Ray Kroc – Grinding it Out

His most consistent experience in the field of sales was as a sector manager for the Lily Tulip Cup company. For 17 years, Ray Kroc sold paper cups, climbing one by one up the ladder until he became a sales manager with a team of salespeople he recruited, trained and supervised himself. He knew how to develop his clients’ businesses, even when they remained stubborn without seeing the opportunities that Ray Kroc pointed out to them. He also had the art of discovering new markets:

I was always looking for new markets and I found some in very unusual places. Italian pastries, for example, could also sell their products in our paper cups.

Ray Kroc – Grinding it Out

Ray Kroc was a salesman who had no lack of imagination, and this will allow him to show serendipity on two occasions : when he launched the marketing of the « multimixer » and when he met the McDonald brothers…

A life punctuated by difficulties

Ray Kroc had to overcome many challenges. His first wife didn’t support him. When he told her that he was leaving his comfortable position as Area Manager at Lily Tulip Cup to start his own business Prince Castle Sales, she categorically refused to help him. But Ray Kroc is one of those who never dismantle, he sees the glass half full where most see the glass half empty.

Before his peak, Ray Kroc continued and even accumulated several jobs. Seller by day, club pianist by night. He wanted to lead a comfortable life and always wanted to keep his family safe from need.

At one point, I was sitting in the living room that we all shared in our common house, wandering around the old decrepit upright piano, and wondering what I was going to do next.

Ray Kroc – Grinding it Out

He also tried to launch a folding table concept. A resounding belly. But that didn’t mean he let himself be defeated.

Ray Kroc has always been able to bounce back. On several occasions, he was even able to get out of contracts that were to his disadvantage, such as the one signed with John Clark for the multimixer or the one signed with the McDonald brothers for the eponymous restaurants.

Ray Kroc’s perseverance did not stop when he started the McDonald’s adventure and not even when he became a millionaire and then a billionaire. He fought on all fronts : finding money to finance the growth of his franchises, standing up to Mac and Dick McDonald to impose his innovative visions, training restaurant teams, creating a hamburger university to guarantee quality in all his franchises, etc.

Ray Kroc was a visionary

Many asked Ray Kroc why he simply did not copy the concept invented by the McDonald brothers instead of paying them $2.7 million to buy their shares. Ray Kroc saw the name « McDonald’s » and its golden arches. He didn’t see the name « Kroc ». He had strong visions about what would work and what would not. He knew what he wanted.

Moreover, if we look more closely, he applied the concept of low cost long before we invented this name to describe today’s companies as Easyjet, Formula 1, Free, etc. Ray Kroc has sublimated the concept of low cost in the restaurant industry: a menu with a limited offer at the very least, preparation methods that favour productivity, the hiring of young people who are cheaper to pay, to arrive at a hamburger sold for 15 cents.

Towards the end of Ray Kroc’s life, McDonald’s executives were expecting a target of 5,000 restaurants, Ray Kroc was already seeing 10,000 restaurants!

Think big and you will become big

as he liked to say.

And the future, after his death, proved him right. In 2014 McDonald’s had 36,258 restaurants in 119 countries… Respect.

If you want to buy the excellent book « Grinding it out », here is the direct link:


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