What Funders Can Learn From Flipping Burgers

Posted by on Sep 21, 2017 in Articles, Blog | 0 comments

Unified hands

I recently watched “The Founder” (2016) on a cross-country flight – the story of how Ray Kroc transformed the McDonald brothers’ restaurant into a global business. Through the entire movie, I kept thinking this should be required viewing for business majors everywhere. But I realized that foundation and nonprofit leaders should also see this movie! Here are three lessons that stuck out for me.

(PS: We’ll leave the issues of buying your food through a window and Mr. Kroc’s business ethics for another time.)


  • If it doesn’t work the first time out, try and try again…and again.
    Richard and Maurice McDonald had an idea, or actually several. They went through numerous iterations using real-life experience and sales data to bring their vision into reality. Their endless persistence and unshakeable values led to nothing less than the fundamental reshaping of food service. There are moments to call it quits – and moments to transcend the demand for immediate results when the promise of a bigger payoff is on the horizon. Knowing the difference is leadership.
  • Remain open to the “a-ha.”
    Back in the day, drive-in restaurants were popular but stuck. As a traveling salesman, Ray Kroc had enough of bad service, poor food, and rundown establishments. You can almost hear an angelic choir burst into song in the scene where Kroc buys his first meal at the McDonald brothers’ restaurant. They figured out simple solutions to transform all those negatives into a successful customer experience. In that instant, Kroc’s thinking was changed forever.
  • Understand what you are really doing.
    Without sharing any further spoilers, we soon find Ray Kroc enlisting investors and opening lots of McDonald’s restaurants. But he’s not making any money. Until a future business partner comes along and informs Kroc that he’s not in the food service industry – he’s in real estate with all the land the restaurants sit on. Now Ray Kroc is clear about what the work is really about, and the rest is indeed history. How many foundations and nonprofits do you know that would benefit from this kind of clarity in their mission?

Find out more about how we help foundations, nonprofits and institutions translate their vision into action, https://strategyplusaction.com/what-we-do/, or contact Jeff Glebocki, jeff@strategyplusaction.com480.794.0871.