If you haven’t yet seen The Founder, it’s a film I strongly recommend. It’s a great movie about the founder of the McDonald’s corporation, Ray Kroc. The film follows his story from his initial meetings with the McDonald brothers, Richard and Maurice. The movie depicts his journey into a partnership with the brothers, the franchising of their existing McDonald’s restaurant, and finally, how Kroc strong-arms the brothers out of the company.
Why am I writing about the Founder? It’s obvious, isn’t it? Kroc & the McDonald brothers’ approach established and grew a company which made US$24.622 BILLION in 2016! SPOILER ALERT!
Slow down, though! This blog post won’t help your tour company make $24 billion dollars in a year. With that said, there are very valuable business lessons that every company can learn from the movie and the story of McDonald’s.
In this post, I’ll demonstrate what these lessons are and how tour operators can apply them to grow their own businesses.
Focus On Your Core Product
When Ray Kroc first meets the McDonald’s brothers he takes them to dinner in order to learn more about their restaurant system which blows him away. They explain that originally they had a large menu with multiple products but they noticed that the majority (87%) of the products they sold were hamburgers, fries, and soft drinks. This insight prompted them to focus on their most popular meals and channel their energies into improving every aspect of the service and product. If you’re currently not getting the results that you want from your core product, focus on ways you can improve your offerings. Actively seek out feedback from the market and look at ways you can streamline the commodity. It could be something as simple as including lunch in your tour or providing maps along with your core rental product. Improve what you have before endlessly diversifying in order to catch a wider market.
If the quality of your product is inconsistent, your reputation will suffer. A memorable scene sees Kroc storming across a golf course, burger in hand, to confront franchise owners over the contents of their burgers, which deviate from the McDonald’s recipe. McDonald’s would never have grown to the level they’re at if there wasn’t a guarantee that you could enter the chain in any country in the world, and have a consistently delicious and familiar burger. In today’s aggressive social media age, it is even more important for all companies to maintain high and consistent levels of quality in every aspect of the business. Tour operators, make sure all of your guides perform to the best of their ability and ensure all of your bikes, vehicles, or boats are comfortable and functioning perfectly.
Surround yourself with the right people
A strong theme in this film was the importance of recruitment, the right (or wrong) person can make or break your business. One example that stands out was being introduced to Fred Turner (future McDonald’s Corporation Chairman) as a grill operator in an early scene. In addition, many of the ideas that Kroc implemented such as using Instamix to make milkshakes and establishing McDonald’s Corporation as a real estate company didn’t come from the man himself, but from the people around him. I speak to tour operators all the time who seem to do everything themselves: managing their website; answering telephone enquiries; running their tours; taking bookings etc. Surrounding yourself with people you can trust and delegating jobs allows you to focus on the aspects of your business that drive the most revenue and therefore affect real growth. Though it may seem like a daunting thought in the beginning, letting go of your baby, if you have the right people standing beside you, your opportunity for success grows immensely. With quality people circling you, you will be able to generate better and stronger ideas from all the input you’re receiving as well as ways to fine-tune your process, helping you focus on your core product.
How Can I Do It Better?
The brothers were running a successful restaurant but wanted to improve customer experience and speed ‘from 30 minutes to 30 seconds’. They had the growth mindset needed to tear up the playbook and redesign their restaurant from scratch, ensuring each square foot was fully optimized. In addition to pioneering the ‘Speedee System’, they completely changed the image of their restaurant, making the brand family friendly. The sooner you realize that our world moves at an alarming pace when it comes to advancement in product/service advancement and revision, the sooner you will be able to provide your clients with the tour of their dreams. I love speaking to tour operators who reach out to us at TourismTiger because they’re doing well and making their business a success but they want an even better website, they want an even better booking process, they want to improve their tour offering or product. These are the operators we want to work with and are ultimately successful in the tour industry.
Don’t be afraid of failing twice
When Kroc pitches the idea to the brothers to franchise their business, he’s met by resistance from the proprietors. They had built two additional restaurants in Sacramento and Phoenix but had written them off as a failure since their high standards hadn’t been maintained by the respective operational managers. We also saw them nearly give up their revolutionary restaurant concept since customers primarily didn’t understand that they were required to place their orders at the window (leaving their cars). If Kroc hadn’t given them the extra nudge that they needed, then we can be sure that neither McDonald’s, Burger King, KFC or the dozens of other quintessential fast food restaurants would have grown into multi-billion dollar franchises. From failure comes lessons and growth, and it really should be viewed with a more positive connotation. There are many lessons to be learnt from an unsuccessful first attempt, try not to let the fact that you failed get in the way of your learning experience.
Finding Solutions Not Problems
Going back to Kroc’s initial meeting with the brothers, we hear about the issues they had relocating their restaurant from Monrovia to San Bernardino. Initially, they tried finding suitable premises in San Bernardino but soon realized that they couldn’t afford to buy or build a new premise in the city. Leading to the ingenious idea to put their existing restaurant on the back of a truck and drive it 40 miles to a site in San Bernardino. At this point they hit yet another block in the road (pun intended), the restaurant was too large to pass under a bridge on the way. Undeterred, they had the restaurant cut in half and reconstructed at its final destination. It’s very easy to focus on the reasons why something can’t be done but look past the problem to find the solution and you’ll be successful. Having a motto of ‘We Have No Problems, Only Solutions’ can really help change your mind frame and turn water into wine!
So there you have my 6 take-aways from the movie The Founder, every time I rewatch it I find more examples and more inspiration. Please comment below with your own thoughts on the movie and any pearls of wisdom that you took away yourself.
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