He was 53 years of age. An age that most people would consider too old to get into business and become a billionaire. He was not well educated either. Born in Chicago, Illinois, 1902, the only lessons he could stomach growing up were his piano lessons. He had a general distaste for any other form of education. Going to school was like tolerating a rotten smell. Instead of finishing high school, therefore, at age 15, he opted to lie about his age and enlist in the military services. For the next few years, he participated in World War 1 as a Red Cross Ambulance driver right up until the war ended in 1919.
After the war, he had no idea about the direction he should take in life. He lacked any inspiration or ambition for a particular outcome. So he did what most would do in his position. He explored different career options. At first, he worked as a pianist and a musical director. He tried selling real estate after that. Then went on to sell paper cups, and finally ended up selling milkshake machines. Now at age 53, he was tired of being just a salesman. He was hungry for something far greater than the mediocre career over the last few decades could bring. And somehow, he knew that going into business with the brothers, Dick and Mac, would deliver this greatness.
He was hardly prepared either. A seasoned entrepreneur has a greater chance of success due to their business experience. Someone with war wounds, battle-hardened tactics, and a storehouse of competitive strategies knows how to engage on the battlefield of business. Previous missteps and emotional scars will forever remind the wise entrepreneur to avoid the same mistakes. The tycoon’s wisdom and savvy give guidance, ensuring that his next venture will become a bigger success than his last. None of this applied to the dark-haired, middle-aged gentleman born to parents of Czech origin. He wasn’t going to let that stop him, however.
As a child, Ray opened up a lemonade stand and worked at a soda fountain. Some would consider this counting towards his entrepreneurial education. But this sort of entrepreneurship was hardly the sort of preparation he needed for what would come next. A lot of kids in the Chicago area were also doing the same. Now three decades later, feeling like he had spent most of his life not entirely living up to his full potential, child’s play was no longer an option. Prepared or not, he was willing to risk it all for what he believed was a magical opportunity. He worked hard and let nothing get in his way.
In 1961, after six years of being in business with the brothers, Ray Kroc purchased the company outright. Over the following years, under his ownership, he would transform McDonald’s into the world’s largest restaurant franchise. The model that he engineered proved extremely profitable. He upheld strict guidelines regarding food preparation, portion sizes, cooking methods, and packaging. The guidelines ensured that McDonald’s food would look and taste the same across every operating franchise.
When Ray Kroc died on January 14, 1984, McDonald’s had 7,500 restaurants across nearly three dozen countries and was worth $8 billion. Today McDonald’s is one of the most well-known brands in history. The iconic golden arches can be seen adorning 34,000 restaurants in 118 countries and territories worldwide, serving more than 69 million people every day worldwide.
What Ray Kroc knew was that McDonald’s was more than just an operational success. He understood something that wasn’t apparent to the McDonald brothers at the time. He saw a distinguishing mark that would set the franchise apart from any other hamburger restaurant in the world. Ray Kroc didn’t just purchase a fast food system from the brothers; he purchased an extraordinary profit-generating machine. A machine that will undoubtedly continue to create value for its shareholders long into the future.
In ‘The Founder,’ the story about Ray Kroc and how he came to own McDonald’s, there is a crucial scene at the end of the movie. The scene takes place shortly after Ray has forced Dick and Mac to sell him the franchise. It is there to emphasize Ray’s talent for seeing the potential greatness of McDonald’s. A talent which the brothers lacked. It portrays his ability to see the world for how it could be rather than how it is. It shows him with prophetic like powers that the greatest entrepreneurs seem to hold.
In this integral scene, Ray is standing outside one of the McDonalds restaurants talking to Dick and Mac. It is early afternoon. A massive queue is standing outside the restaurant waiting to order. Ray turns to the brothers and asks, “Do you know what makes McDonald’s so special?” The brothers shake their heads in a gesture that indicates no. As a viewer, you are half expecting Ray to begin talking about the elaborate fast food operations that have them preparing a burger in just a few minutes. Or perhaps the carefully selected menu that people know and enjoy. Instead, Ray points to the iconic McDonald’s symbol perched outside the restaurant and glistening in the sunlight. “It’s the Golden Arches,” he says.
The brothers are left stunned and confused as Ray turns away and walks off. What exactly did Ray mean by the statement, “It’s the Golden Arches?” Rather than mention any core operations of McDonald’s or its products, Ray pointed to the very symbol of McDonald’s itself. Ray focused their attention on the brand. He highlighted the mark that represented all of it without having to distinguish each individual component.
What Ray could see that the brothers failed to was that the intricate parts of the McDonalds operation could change. Products could be swapped in or out. Prices could go up or down. Burgers could be produced faster, or recipes could be tweaked. The employees working in the restaurant would come, and they would go. What would remain consistent through all of this, however, was the representation in the customer’s mind. The emotion an individual would feel when they saw the sign, whether for the 10th time or for the 100th time, would remain constant. The McDonald’s brand; the name, the red and yellow colors, and the M-shaped Golden Arches symbol left an indelible mark on the heart of every visitor to the restaurant. It was a distinguishable feature that would forever draw customers in. It gave a guarantee that whatever craving they had when they visited a McDonald’s restaurant would shortly be satisfied. What Ray could see that the brothers could not was a hugely valuable brand.
Ray Kroc’s story and my many years of experience in business inspired me to write this book. I wrote it as a way to help budding entrepreneurs with their business. After running my Digital Consultancy for many years, I have helped numerous Startups create and launch their software products. I could see common patterns between those that were successful and those that failed. To better serve my clients, I had to compliment my tech product development skills with marketing and branding. I, therefore, started to read various books on the subject. I consumed countless articles and studied many companies. I kept a close eye on what the successful Startups were doing and compared their stories with well-known companies and brands. This book is a culmination of years of research and study. It is a guide to help prevent inexperienced entrepreneurs from going into business with less than adequate knowledge of how to brand their company or their products.
To-date I have not found a resource that covers all the key points about branding and the necessary practical steps to take to create a successful one. This book fills that gap. Possessing the same insight as Ray Kroc to spot a great brand would set anyone apart and give them an edge. Knowing what makes a valuable brand provides the opportunity to create and grow a successful business. It levels the playing field between a small startup and some of the well-known brands we know today. This book offers the reader the same valuable insight that is producing extraordinary gains for large companies. Armed with this knowledge, they can create something special that leaves a lasting mark on this world.
I worked in McDonald’s many years ago. It was at a time when I had reached working age in the United Kingdom. Unfortunately, as a 16-year-old with very little skillsets to offer the marketplace, employers were not beating down my door and bending over backward to employ me. To make matters worse, I lived in a small town where job opportunities were scarce. I had filled in no less than 30 application forms applying for various jobs. Employment ranging from retail to factory work. Not one of my applications were successful. Craving independence, the latest Nike Air Max, Calvin Klein jeans, Dr. Dre album, and my first ever car, I turned to the one place that never turns away a teenager willing to get stuck in.
McDonald’s became my second home for the next couple of years before leaving my small town in search of bigger adventures. In that period of preparing food, serving customers, collecting payments, and even wiping down tables and cleaning toilets, I learned many valuable lessons. For this experience, I will forever be indebted to Ray Kroc. Not only did he indirectly teach me some of the most important lessons a teenage boy needs, but he also gave me the freedom and self-reliance I needed to become a young man. With my initial pay cheques, I was able to fuel my passion for computers by buying the necessary parts to assemble them. Later, I was able to purchase the clothes I wanted. I could afford to go out and socialize with friends. With all of this newfound independence, I became much happier as a result.
My hope for entrepreneurs everywhere is to impact lives, in much the same way Ray Kroc impacted mine. I believe the ability to create a legacy that touches hearts and changes people’s existence for the better is within everyone. We just need the correct tools and the motivation to succeed. Here is one of those tools. I have done my part in sharing it. It’s now time to do your part in putting it into action.
What I cover in this book allows the reader to fully understand what makes a particular brand great. It does so by answering some of the most common questions around branding.
* Why is a brand so important to a company?
* Why do some brands outperform others?
* What are the particular features of a brand that make it great?
* What is the effect of a brand on an individual’s purchasing habits?
I give examples to show the techniques big brands use to persuade and influence. I cover human behavior and how brands tap into that. And I expose the forces at play behind successful advertising.
After explaining essential concepts, I then detail what is vital for an early-stage entrepreneur to know—how can an individual create a brand with the same powerful effect as some of the most well-known brands? For those in a hurry, they can skip to the final chapter. It gives the practical steps to take to create a valuable brand with little expense. With that being said, however, I would advise the reader to read through the entire book to fully appreciate why those action steps are necessary.