Book Summary: Grinding It Out: The Making of McDonald’s by Ray Kroc.

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“As long as you’re green you’re growing, as soon as you’re ripe you start to rot.”

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Ray Kroc was a quintessential salesman with a bias for action before turning McDonald’s into a household name; Ray worked various jobs selling paper cups, as a real estate agent, sometimes playing the piano in bands, milkshake mixer salesman, among other gigs. The 2016 movie, “The Founder,” starring Michael Keaton as Ray Kroc, portrays the story of his creation of the McDonald’s fast-food restaurant chain. 

The title “Grinding it out” brings to mind the long apprenticeship of over thirty years during which Ray Kroc worked for others as a salesman and sales manager and later in his own small business. For the great opportunity of his life did not come until 1954 when he was fifty-two, an age when some executives are beginning to contemplate the greener pastures of retirement.

There is a tide in the affairs of men, Which, taken at the flood, leads on to fortune; Omitted, all the voyage of their life Is bound in shallows and in miseries. On such a full sea are we now afloat, And we must take the current when it serves, Or lose our ventures. —Shakespeare, Julius Caesar

After World War II, Kroc found employment as a milkshake mixer salesman for the foodservice equipment manufacturer Prince Castle. When Prince Castle Multi-Mixer sales plummeted because of competition from lower-priced Hamilton Beach products, Kroc was impressed by Richard and Maurice McDonald who had purchased eight of his Multi-Mixers for their San Bernardino, California restaurant, and visited them in 1954.

By the time of Kroc’s death, the chain had 7,500 outlets in the United States and 31 other countries and territories. The total system-wide sales of its restaurants were more than $8 billion in 1983, and his personal fortune amounted to some $600 million.

McDonald’s is the world’s largest restaurant chain by revenue, serving over 69 million customers daily in over 100 countries across 37,855 outlets as of 2018. McDonald’s is the world’s second-largest private employer with 1.7 million employees (behind Walmart with 2.3 million employees). The $100 billion in sales generated by McDonald’s company-owned and franchise restaurants in 2019 accounts for almost 4% of the estimated $2.5 trillion global restaurant industry.

Here are my favourite takeaways from reading, Grinding It Out: The Making of McDonald’s by Ray Kroc:

Everyman makes his own happiness and is responsible for his own  problems.

The Dreamer

I was never much of a reader when I was a boy. Books bored me. I liked action. But I spent a lot of time thinking about things. I“d imagine all kinds of situations and how I would handle them.

“What are you doing Raymond?” my mother would ask. “Nothing. Just thinking.”

“Daydreaming you mean,” she’d say. “Danny Dreamer is at it again.”

“They called me Danny Dreamer a lot, even later when I was in high school and would come home all excited about some scheme I’d thought up. I never considered my dreams wasted energy; they were invariably linked to some form of action.”

“There is an old saying that all work and no play makes Jack a dull boy. I never believed it because, for me, work was play. I got as much pleasure out of it as I did from playing baseball.”

Risk Taking

“There’s almost nothing you can’t accomplish if you set your mind to it.”

Ray said to a group of graduate students at Dartmouth College in March 1976. They had asked him to address them on the art of entrepreneurship—how to pioneer a business venture. “You’re not going to get it free,” I said, “and you have to take risks. I don’t mean to be a daredevil, that’s crazy. But you have to take risks, and in some cases, you must go for broke. If you believe in something, you’ve got to be in it to the ends of your toes. Taking reasonable risks is part of the challenge. It’s the fun.”

Deadling with Problems

  • I learned then how to keep problems from crushing me. I refused to worry about more than one thing at a time, and I would not let useless fretting about a problem, no matter how important, keep me from sleeping. This is easier said than done. I did it through my own brand of self-hypnosis. I may have read a book on the subject, I don’t remember, but in any case, I worked out a system that allowed me to turn off nervous tension and shut out nagging questions when I went to bed. I knew that if I didn’t, I wouldn’t be bright and fresh and able to deal with customers in the morning.
  • I would think of my mind as being a blackboard full of messages, most of them urgent, and I practiced imagining a hand with an eraser wiping that blackboard clean. I made my mind completely blank. If a thought began to appear, zap! I’d wipe it out before it could form. Then I would relax my body, beginning at the back of my neck and continuing on down, shoulders, arms, torso, legs, to the tips of my toes. By this time, I would be asleep. I learned to do this procedure rather rapidly.

“A salesman without a product is like a violinist without a bow.”

On Sticking with the MacDonald Name

  • “I’ve often been asked why I didn’t simply copy the McDonald brothers’ plan. They showed me the whole thing and it would have been an easy matter, seemingly, to pattern a restaurant after theirs. Truthfully, the idea never crossed my mind. I saw it through the eyes of a salesman. Here was a complete package, and I could get out and talk up a storm about it. Remember, I was thinking more about prospective Multimixer sales than hamburgers at that point. Besides, the brothers did have some equipment that couldn’t be readily copied. They had a specially fabricated aluminum griddle for one thing, and the set-up of all the rest of the equipment was in a very precise, step-saving pattern.
  • Then there was the name. I had a strong intuitive sense that the name McDonald’s was exactly right. I couldn’t have taken the name. But for the rest of it, I guess the real answer is that I was so naive or so honest that it never occurred to me that I could take their idea and copy it and not pay them a red cent.”

I had a strong intuitive sense that the name McDonald’s was exactly right.

Overnight Success

  • People have marveled at the fact that I didn’t start McDonald’s until I was fifty-two years old, and then I became a success overnight. But I was just like a lot of show business personalities who work away quietly at their craft for years, and then, suddenly, they get the right break and make it big. I was an overnight success all right, but thirty years is a long, long night.
  • There is a certain kind of mind that conceives new ideas as complete systems with all of their parts functioning. I don’t think in that “grand design” pattern. I work from the part to the whole, and I don’t move on to the large scale ideas until I have perfected the small details.
  • To me, this is a much more flexible approach. For example, when I was starting McDonald’s, my original purpose was to sell more Multimixers. If I had fixed that in my mind as a master plan and worked unswervingly toward that end, my system would have been a far different and much smaller-scale creation

I was just like a lot of show business personalities who work away quietly at their craft for years, and then, suddenly, they get the right break and make it big. I was an overnight success all right, but thirty years is a long, long night.


  • In our business, there are two kinds of attitudes toward advertising and public relations. One is the outlook of the begrudger who treats every cent paid for ad programs or publicity campaigns as if they were strictly expenditures.
  • My own viewpoint is that of the promoter; I never hesitate to spend money in this area, because I can see it coming back to me with interest. Of course, it comes back in different forms, and that may be the reason a begrudger can’t appreciate it. He has a narrow vision that allows him to see income only in terms of cash in his register. Income for me can appear in other ways; one of the nicest of them is a satisfied smile on the face of a customer.
  • That’s worth a lot, because it means that he’s coming back, and he’ll probably bring a friend. A child who loves our TV commercials and brings her grandparents to a McDonald’s gives us two more customers. This is a direct benefit generated by advertising dollars. But the begrudger has a hard time appreciating this—he wants to have his cake and eat it too.

The Begrudger

  • There is another characteristic of the begrudger that I have seen appear from time to time. It is a negative outlook that’s easy to see in attitudes toward competition. The begrudger regards competition with envy. He wants to learn their secrets and, if possible, undermine them. He’ll often go out of his way to give the competition a bad name.

My way of fighting the competition is the positive approach. Stress your own strengths, emphasize quality, service, cleanliness, and value, and the competition will wear itself out trying to keep up. I’ve seen it happen many times.

Success Disease

  • Business is not like painting a picture. You can’t put a final brush stroke on it and then hang it on the wall and admire it. 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. In many corporations when the top guy moves up it’s to a figurehead role. He becomes chairman of the bored. Not me.

“Nothing recedes like success.”

Ray Kroc’s View on Education

  • One thing I flatly refuse to give money to is the support of any college. I’ve been wooed by some of the finest universities in the land, but I tell them they will not get a cent from me unless they put in a trade school. Our colleges are crowded with young people who are learning a lot about liberal arts and little about earning a living. There are too many baccalaureates and too few butchers. Educators get long faces when I talk like this and accuse me of being anti-intellectual. That’s not quit“e right. I’m anti-phony-intellectual, and that’s what too many of them are.
  • Many young people emerge from college unprepared to hold down a steady job or to ”cook or do housework, and it makes them depressed. No wonder! They should train for a career, learn how to support themselves and how to enjoy work first. Then if they have a thirst for advanced learning, they can go to night school.

Press On: Nothing in the 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 almost a proverb. Education will not; the world is full of educated derelicts. Persistence and determination alone are omnipotent

The Pursuit of Happiness

  • Too many young Americans these days don’t get a chance to learn how to enjoy work. Much of this country’s social and political philosophy seems aimed at removing the risks from life one by one. As I told a group of business students in one of the talks I gave at Dartmouth, it is impossible to grant someone happiness. The best you can do, as the Declaration of Independence put it, is to give him the freedom to pursue happiness.

Happiness is not a tangible thing, it’s a byproduct of achievement.

  • Achievement must be made against the possibility of failure, against the risk of defeat. It is no achievement to walk a tightrope laid flat on the floor. Where there is no risk, there can be no pride in achievement and, consequently, no happiness.
  • The only way we can advance is by going forward, individually and collectively, in the spirit of the pioneer. We must take the risks involved in our free enterprise system. This is the only way in the world to economic freedom. There is no other way.

Where there is no risk, there can be no pride in achievement and, consequently, no happiness.

All the best in your quest to get better. Don’t Settle: Live with Passion.

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