In addition to telling the story of how Ray Kroc, at 53 years old, went from being an unsuccessful milkshake mixer salesman to growing the McDonald’s footprint to a nation and worldwide phenomenon, Robert Siegel's and John Hancock's movie, The Founder, shares 8 lessons in networking for career success.
Without providing a complete summary of the story, here is a quick recap along with the valuable networking secrets that helped yield Ray Kroc towards building the McDonald’s empire.
Lesson 1: Identify successful people and reach out to learn from them.
During his multiple unsuccessful sales trips, Ray calls his bookkeeper June to get the latest updates, when June lets him know that a client out in San Bernardino, California has placed an order of six milkshake mixers. The order was out of the ordinary when Ray had a hard time trying to sell just one milkshake mixer. This sparks Ray’s curiosity and the action of taking out a map, making a route, and driving halfway across the country from Missouri to California to visit this out of the ordinary customer, which just so happens to be the McDonald brothers.
Lesson 2: You will have to go out of your way to expand your valuable contacts.
When Ray finally reaches his destination and visits the McDonald brothers at their restaurant, Ray is so impressed with the McDonald brothers’ streamlined operations that Ray invites them to dinner and tells them he wants to hear their story.
Lesson 3: Get people to talk about themselves to develop and nourish relationships.
At this point, Ray begins developing a relationship with the McDonald brothers and he asks them to franchise the restaurant, only to get a very clear rejection. This is not enough to stop Ray, who after preparing a more convincing pitch visits the brothers again making a more aggressive proposal to allow Ray to open a McDonald's restaurant, and eventually, the brothers agree.
Lesson 4: Be persistent with the opportunities you can develop with each contact.
Now that Ray convinced the McDonald brothers to let him open a franchise facility, Ray needs capital and visits multiple banks to ask for financing, only to be rejected by the first few he visits because the bankers already know Ray from previous unsuccessful business attempts.
Lesson 5: Take care of your reputation to the detail.
After having to mortgage his house, Ray is finally able to find financing and he successfully opens up his first Mcdonald's franchise, and with many more to follow. Ray was now in the business of recruiting other franchisees to continue opening more restaurants, and he begins playing golf to recruit contacts from the country club.
Lesson 6: Go to the places your contacts visit and participate in activities they engage in.
After a few commitment challenges with the franchisees he played golf with, and continuing his quest to recruit qualified franchisees to open up even more restaurants, Ray discovers that his ideal target are married middle class couples. To allow him to meet the most quality prospects, instead of continuing to play golf at the country club, Ray begins going to family parties, religious congregations, and community bingo nights.
Lesson 7: Constantly evaluate who your target contacts are and the best way to reach out to them.
In the story, Ray has now been successful in opening up numerous franchises in multiple states, however he realizes his business is in deep financial trouble and high in debt. He visits the bank to ask for help, and the bank rejects him. However to Ray’s luck, Mr. Harry Sonneborn was overhearing Ray’s troubles. Harry was an experienced finance professional and after reviewing Ray’s accounting books and Ray sharing operational challenges, Harry tells Ray the famous words, “You’re not in the burger business. You’re in the real estate business”. After this revelation, Ray is able to completely turn around how he manages his franchises, and is able to not just recover financially, but create an empire of fast food restaurants.
Lesson 8: There is no better way to manage your networking than to find ways to bring value to your contacts.
The story of Ray Kroc in The Founder has many networking lessons for career success, and to wrap up the story, here is a key networking goal pulled from Ray’s experience.
In the middle of the storyline, Ray gets an invitation to go to a famous restaurant in Minnesota. The dinner is actually a set up for Ray to meet the restaurant owner who is interested in opening up a McDonald’s restaurant himself. After returning home, Ray tells his wife, “I am not chasing them anymore, they are chasing me”.
Even though there may be a lot of work for you to manage your contacts and build meaningful relationships, work towards the point in your career when people are chasing you.
Additionally, even if The Founder may not portray a real representation of the history behind McDonald’s, the story still presents valuable networking success lessons for your career.
Take control of your networking towards career success, and remember, your future career depends on your actions today.