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Go into McDonald's today, and you see a complex, well-operated business system operated by ordinary people. That is impressive in and of itself. What is even more impressive is to understand the roots of how this business was established, which you can do by reading this entertaining and revealing book.
Unlike most people who write about themselves and their businesses, Ray Kroc was pretty candid about the problems he had, the people who gave him a hard time, the mistakes he made, and his personal life. That makes this book very valuable to those who want to understand what entrepreneurship is all about.
As an adjunct to reading this book, I suggest that you also visit the McDonald's museum near O'Hare airport in Ray Kroc's first store. There are notes there about all of the problems that he had to solve over the years, many of which are described in the book.
Ray Kroc did not invent the original McDonald's concept, but what he franchised and eventually bought from the McDonald brothers was not yet a real business system. For example, when he first tried to duplicate the french fries that were so famous in San Bernardino, California, his french fries turned to mush. It turned out that the storage methods used by the McDonald brothers aged and dehydrated the potatoes a bit so that they could fry up nicely. Kroc had to invest in finding a process for doing that outside of the near-desert climate of San Bernardino.
The McDonald's system that we see today is the creation of Kroc's attention to detail, appreciation for consumer value, ability to solve problems, taking calculated risks that he could not afford to lose, and attracting talented people into the system. The book gives you a great sense of what that was like. Anyone starting an e-business today will be going through many of the same trials and tribulations.
The book is filled with wonderful stories about McDonald's and the people of McDonald's.
I have a special fondness for the subject since I grew up about a mile from the first McDonald's in San Bernardino, and have been eating their hamburgers now for over 50 years. It is truly awe-inspiring to me to see what has been accomplished from such humble beginnings.
Clearly, this book is a stallbuster for you in business. Kroc was 52 when he became interested in McDonald's. He had no special skills in restaurants. (The closest he came was in selling Lily cups and milk shake machines to restaurants, lunch counters, and drive-ins.) He had relatively little money to invest compared to the size of the opportunity. He ran into many obstacles that could have broken most businesses. Yet he just put his head down, and kept moving forward on the most important things. You can learn a lot from his determination.
Good luck with using this example to create a new set of practices for business that exceed what anyone has ever accomplished before!
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on May 25, 2005
This is the autobiography of one of the great entrepreneurs of the 20C. If only for that, it is worth the read of anyone who is interested in understanding business or the fast-food industry. For all his earthy common sense and lack of formal education, the system that Kroc set up can only be described as a work of genius. Afterall, MCdonald's at the moment has surpassed Coca Cola as the most recognized brand in the world: it serves nearly 45 million people every day, commands unparalelled influence in every related industry, and often serves as the symbol of the US itself.

THe great strength of this book is that you get Kroc's view of what makes himself tick: he devoted himself relentlessly to a single business purpose within the capitalist system, was open to suggestions from talent that he cultivated regarding that purpose, and adapted it as he needed to thrive. It is a remarkable story of a man who re-made himself many times, and began what became the McDonald's corporation in his 50s! You simply have to respect what he accomplished at a time when most men would have given up.

The pillars of his business model are well known: 1) it is more an ecosystem of separate companies that grow together with long-term bonds of trust and the highest standards of professional conduct; 2) it pursues operational efficiency while refusing to compromise safety and cleanliness; 3) it is adept at finding innovations pioneered by both its suppliers and owner-operators and then disseminating them into the system; 4) it sticks to its core competency - hamburger and fries - and with few exceptions listens to consumers. That is about it, really, in an idealist version, but it explains why the company's many competitors failed to grow as big and fast.

During the process, furthermore, Kroc did not go for making a quick buck - by selling franchise rights for a killing or gouging his owner-operators by monopolising what supplies they had to buy from him - and focused instead on treating his suppliers and owner-operators fairly, reasoning that if they could thrive, so would he. No other fast-food chain did that.

Of course, as an autobio, Kroc focuses far more on the bright side of what he has done. He does not ask himself any hard questions and comes off, not surprisingly, as distrusting of the motives of his critics as well as the legitimate concerns of many intellectuals and political activists. While open-minded, we see, he was myopically focused on refining his business model and hence unaware of his impact on the wider society.

Moreover, except for some quotes and quirky details, the business issues are also covered better in McDonald's Behind the Arches, by John F. Love. But then, both are authorised versions of the McDonald's view. The reader will need to look elsewhere for more thoughtful critiques.

Recommended. The curious reader can get a lot from this book.
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VINE VOICEon July 9, 2006
Ray Kroc's success story is quite a record of persistence and achievement. He didn't invent the McDonald's chain (as many erroneously believe) but he knew a winner when he saw one and he negotaited to buy the business. He truly believed that McDonald's could be a huge, global operation if it was promoted right and run with an emphasis on quality, customer service, cleanliness, and value. These four attributes made the acronym "QSCV", and it was something that Ray Kroc preached to his people every single day.

Ray Kroc shows his confidence throughout the book, not just with business, but also in his personal life. He pursued his business dreams with unmatched vigor, and he was equally determined to reach his personal goals. His relentless courtship of Joni, his one true love, is one of the highlights of the book. It's fun listening to Kroc spill his heart out, telling the reader all sorts of details about his personal life. He was absolutely ga- ga over his beloved Joni, and he shows no embarrassment in admitting his feelings. Here was a man who had the world in his hands, a senior citizen who was head of a large corporation, and yet he was completely, hopelessly in love and willing to give it all up for his number one lady. He was having trouble sleeping, and couldn't concentrate on work anymore. He was like a starry- eyed teenager, always in a daydream- like state, fantasizing about the woman he loved. He was prepared to do virtually anything to capture her heart.

Kroc was an outspoken and egotistical man, and these personality traits pop up throughout the book. He blew his top several times, when things didn't go his way or when someone would make a negative comment about McDonald's, and he could often be quite profane and a little vile. This was true in his other business ventures as well like when his San Diego Padres baseball team (he was the owner) wasn't performing up to par. There was one episode, in 1974, when the Padres played miserably and Kroc let them know exactly how bad they were. It was the home opener, and at its conclusion, Kroc grabbed the public address microphone and harshly criticized the players for such a lousy performance. The media jumped all over the incident, but Kroc was undeterred. He gave no apologies, feeling that the team was letting down the fans and deserved to be chewed out.

One place where Kroc didn't let his ego get in the way with smart business was with the naming of the restaurant. He decided to keep the original name, McDonald's, rather than using his own name. This was a wise move, especially considering Ray's last name. Would you want to visit a restaurant that was named "Kroc's"? Just the name alone would make me lose my appetite and it was a wise business decision to keep the original name intact.

This book shows occasional dabs of humor and some good writing. Kroc and editor Robert Anderson both deserve credit for making the book more enjoyable to read with its easy- flowing style. It's not awash in humor, but there's enough to help keep the book interesting. One criticism that I have of this book, however, is the layout; specifically, the fact that the chapters have no titles, which is inexcusable. Titles are helpful for reference purposes, and they should have been included. If Ray Kroc didn't realize this, then the editor should have. Other than that, the book is well- written and partically error free from a grammatical standpoint.

Kroc tells his story with gusto and pride. You can tell that he's very happy with the McDonald's company and gleaming with satisfaction over the way his personal life and professional life have turned out. This book was written in 1977, and much has changed since then, both with McDonald's and with fast- food in general. There are far more choices in fast- food today, like submarine sandwiches, which had not yet achieved a substantial share of the market back when Ray Kroc wrote this book. It's hard to say how Kroc would have reacted to these modern- day changes in the marketplace, but I'm sure he would have welcomed the challenge.

Many people don't prefer McDonald's food, but the man behind the arches, Ray Kroc, is a person who deserves respect. His tenacity was unrelenting, his confidence was unmatched, and his drive to succeed was unstoppable. He took a small, roadside restaurant in California and transformed it into the world's largest fast- food chain. "Grinding it Out" is a testament to the difference that one man can make when he has guts and determination to be the best.
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on January 19, 2001
Ray Kroc was an itinerant piano player, a paper cup salesman, a multi-mixer super-salesman and, in his most incandescent incarnation, the visionary middle-aged genius behind the McDonald's megalith. This is his gilded story, offered with all the self-serving bombast you might expect from someone who reinvented himself and the world when most of us are beginning to resignedly look down the slow slope towards retirement. Someone once said that reading biographies is worthwhile only so long as the life in question glitters. A strange epitaph, perhaps, to give to someone who made a difference with armies of beef-slinging, coke-sloshing, fry-sizzling, hygiene-obsessed foot-soldiers. But that was Ray Kroc. And "Grinding it Out" is his improbable journey through this dream we call life. We have all been affected by his original reverie, long ago, when he clandestinely watched two brothers named McDonald serving burgers from their oddly shaped fast-food stand. A book to be enjoyed for those who say, "only in America", not with a sneer, but with a wistful smile.
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on May 26, 2014
5 star: Worth a read, 3 star : I'm on the fence, 1 star: I'd recommend a pass.

The Book:
Grinding It Out the Making of McDonald's is the autobiography of Ray Kroc, the man who pioneered the movement of McDonald's. We are taken to the beginning of his life where he was started out selling paper cups and working a part-time job as a pianist. The progression moves at a steady pace up to Ray's death, as we see his view and personal thoughts throughout.

The Core Theme:
'Grinding it out' is an excellent theme and title. As many other reviews have suggested, Ray describes not just the success, but the multiple failures that were along the way. Essentially, the ride was not easy and at many times a majority of people would have given up: A partnership which doesn't sign contracts, a divorce of 35 years of marriage, the age of 52 with diabetes and arthritis, the point of bankruptcy or even when the woman you want to marry rejects you after much consideration.

The Resonating Parts / Quotes:

"Luck is a dividend of sweat. The more you sweat, the luckier you get."

"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 by-product of achievement."

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

"But business is not like painting a picture. You can't put a final brush stroke on it on the wall and admire it"

"The key element in these individual success stories and of McDonald's itself, is not knack or education, it's determination"

What to EXPECT:
1. A personal and detailed account by Ray Kroc from selling paper cups, buying out the McDonald brothers to buying the San Diego Padres.
2. An inspirational story- McDonald's wasn't easy to pioneer, it took effort and a lot of time to pursue.
3. A story about risk and the willing to keep going to make McDonald's what it is today.
4. 52 years old, Diabetes, Arthritis & Divorced was when he started McDonald's - we have no excuse!

For The Reader:
Entrepreneurs/Business/Motivated orientated readers will enjoy this a lot. It's a very detailed account (down to his own personal life such as divorce & remarrying) with each of these events contributing to his life. For example, many times in the book he would be faced with 'walls' such his wife saying "You are thirty five years old, and you are going to start all over again as if you were twenty." but he was adamant on his path and at most times he would jump into improving McDonald's. Even at the point of bankruptcy, or finding money to buy the McDonald brothers out (which was a high price at that time) we are able to see what makes Ray Kroc and McDonald's an amazing story. It takes a lot of courage to pursue something we are so passionate about, and Grinding It Out: The Making of McDonald's is one of many stories which share that.

"I don't mean to be a daredevil, that's crazy . But you have to take risks, and in some cases guy must go for broke" - Ray Kroc

I highly recommend you give it a go!
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on November 11, 2011
I'll start by saying that I read this book at the same time I read the autobiography of Sam Walton, the founder of Wal-Mart. Ray Kroc and Sam Walton were business contemporaries, although obviously plying their trade in different industries. Walton was the Midwestern/Southern uber-WASP who attended church every Sunday, loved to quail hunt, actively participated in the local Chamber of Commerce, was an Eagle Scout, etc. You get the picture. On the other hand, Kroc (also a Midwesterner) was a high school dropout who once landed a gig playing piano in a bordello. Ray Kroc was married three times, swore with the best of them, drank with the boys, and generally led a colorful life. So if you buy Grinding It Out, be prepared to meet an extremely earthy character!

I just love this book because you get a real feel for who Ray Kroc was as a person. The book is breezy, chatty, a super easy read that is packed with fascinating anecdotes. The parts about Kroc's dealings with the McDonald brothers out of San Bernardino (via New Hampshire, of all places!) are just terrific.

To me, when a book is informative, fun and genuinely inspirational, you've got a winning combination -- and that is what you have in Grinding It Out.
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on March 5, 2008
A very good book, a definite read for anyone looking to learn more about start up business or true entrepreneurship.

Although, I think it's very important to look at the fact that things are much different now of days then when Ray Kroc started up Mcdonalds. It is very inspiring though to find out how old he was when he started this business. Though, it's nice to read of all these young kids starting up business, it's also nice to read about a man in his 50's finally doing a start up that he'd dream t of.
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on October 7, 2013
McDonald's needs no introduction. The seeds of this great franchisee were sown in the year 1940 when Dick and Mac McDonald opened McDonald's Bar-B-Q drive-in restaurant in San Bernardino, California. The 15 cent hamburger became staple in 1948 and the world famous french fries were introduced to the menu in the year 1949. But it was 1954 that changed the fortune of McDonald's when a 52 year old multimixer salesman by the name Ray Kroc visited the brothers to sell more multimixers. Ray Kroc was fascinated to see the terrific business the drive-in was generating and came to know from the McDonald's brothers about their national franchising plans. Ray Kroc soon signed an agreement which gave him the right to franchise the McDonald's operations everywhere else in the United States. Today, McDonald's has 34,000 restaurants and serves 6.9 crore people in 118 countries every single day and sells 75 hamburgers every second!! The book `Grinding it Out' is Ray Kroc's autobiography on how he went on to create this hamburger giant and he tells his story with pride and panache...

Ray Kroc's bazooka moment in life came when he was 52 years old when many have started planning for retirement homes, but as Joe Kennedy Sr. said "when the going gets tough, the tough gets going" and Ray Kroc started his marvelous journey creating one of the world's best corporations and certainly the granddaddy of the restaurant business. Kroc had a tough time initially in his career and started as a paper cups seller for $35/week and played part time piano to support his wife and daughter. But he was an opportunistic man & after selling paper cups for 17 years saw opportunity in the milk shake machine called Multimixers and he grabbed it. Luck, it was during one of his sales trip that he landed onto the San Bernardino McDonald's.

Kroc was smart and never changed the original name, but was a technocrat in his business and had a deep knowledge of even the moisture level of the potatoes!! Kroc got on board smart people to work with him and who stayed all throughout. Kroc trusted his people but made the two most important decisions about the menu and the real estate locations. One of the key reasons for Kroc's success was that he was flexible and changed as the time and market demanded (It wasn't until 1966 that the first in-dining McDonald's was opened). He remained glued to the McDonald's quick service staple food model and never ventured out of his core competencies. For e.g. McDonald's doesn't serve a pizza or a hotdog. Kroc like all great business creators believed in decentralized operations and a tight leash on costs.

Below are a few interesting things by Kroc from the book,

*"So, the risk of seeming simplistic, I emphasize the importance of details. You must perfect every fundamental of your business if you expect it to perform well."

*"It requires a certain kind of mind to see beauty in a hamburger bun."

*"My attitude was that competition can try to steal my plans and copy my style. But they can't read my mind; so I'll leave them a mile and a half behind".

*"It has always been my belief that authority should be placed at the lowest possible level. I wanted the man closest to the stores to be able to make decisions without seeking directives from headquarters".

*"After we find a promising location, I drive around it in a car, go into the corner saloon and into the neighborhood supermarket. I mingle with the people and observe their comings and goings. That tells me what I need to know about how a McDonald's store would do there".

Ray Kroc gave us a great place to mingle and in the process did teach us very valuable business and life lessons. Strongly recommended!!
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on August 5, 2010
Ray Kroc gives an engaging account of his life, including significant insight behind the founding of McDonalds. Kroc is willing to detail both his successes and his mistakes, which allows the reader to truly feel like an 'insider'. The book is filled with interesting snippets of advice based on these successes or failures that Kroc backs up with anecdotes. He's a great story teller, and he uses that talent to expound his life philosophy of working hard and getting things done at almost any cost (in his view determination is the most important quality for any successful person to possess).

Kroc seems like a man that in real life folks probably either love or hate - but i think most readers interested in business and even some just interested in good life stories will like this book. He's willing to be audacious and politically incorrect which is definitely entertaining.

The book's biggest flaw is that it leaves the reader (or me at least) wanting more insight behind the success and rapid growth of McDonalds in the late 50s and early 60s. It seems like Kroc is really struggling in the mid-late 50s financially with the business and then a few pages later it's the mid 60s and McDonalds is taking in hundreds of millions. This is one of the central reasons many pick up the book probably - so it is a major flaw. Also, Kroc touches enough on his personal life to make it interesting, but then restrains himself from making it a tell-all, which again leaves the reader wanting more. For example, he hardly mentions his relationship with his daughter or how her death affected his business life.

Overall, this is a worthwhile, inspiring read, filled with great anecdotes and some good advice. It's amazing what Kroc accomplished, starting McDonalds and risking all at the late age of 52 (late for the '50s - starting a company today at 52 is not such a big deal). As the back of the book states - Ray Kroc is someone you will never forget - but unfortunately we're stuck with only 210 pages. He took the other 100 or so with him to the grave.
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on February 3, 2008
There's a lot to say about McDonald's, or about any business. But this isn't a book about McDonald's, it's about the life of the man behind it. It's a quaint book. It doesn't tell you about the pathos of the man's life; he mentions his daughter I believe just once throughout the whole book. Instead, we're given a nostalgic rosey-colored view of what got this man up in the morning, the ideas that chewed at his mind, and his drive to achieve them.

Ray Kroc didn't even become interested in McDonalds until he was in his 50's. In fact, the autobiography is most interesting when discussing the series of events leading up to his making the acquaintance of the McDonald brothers, who had a small family-owned venue which was able to pop out hamburgers for a nickel a piece. Before this time, Kroc worked various odd jobs around the city, during prohibition he even played piano at an illeagal salon. He eventually settled in as a sales-rep, eagerly hopping from one product to another, from one costumer to the next. It might not be the ideal life, but Kroc's enthusiasm sure makes it seem that way. At one point he was truly excited about marketing some type of outdoor fold-in chair that his friend had made - he was positive that it was going to take the world by storm. And later he gets into marketing a product called a multi-mixer, which can make six milk shakes at once! This, he thought, will really bring in the dough.

In the meantime, he hauled from one business to another, trying out various ideas. Some days he would hardly sleep - in one passage in the book, he talks about his tricks for getting to sleep as quickly as possible after his head hit the mat. That way he wouldn't lose valuable time trying to fall asleep.

There are a lot of fun anecdotes in the first third of the book. But what brings the book to the next level is the description of how he stumbled upon the McDonald's brothers, and made their business (unfortunately, without them) one of the most successful businesses of the century. Kroc applies the same raw enthusiasm and smarts, but the scale of his business keeps exponentially increasing. In this section, the nature of the anecdotes changes - they're more like what you would expect, with meeting so-and-so who now has millions of dollars, and striking a deal with so-and-so who is now stinking rich. And then there are still the more humbling stories, which match up with the folding-chair experience above - like the creation of the HulaBurger, a fried pinapple with cheese and fixins in a bun. Kroc thought it was the best thing he had ever tasted, how could it ever fail?

McDonald's didn't change Ray Kroc, it's clear that the business came straight out of a person who knew what people wanted. Throughout the book, Kroc is solving problems, working his hardest, observing human nature. The ideals you see in a young piano-playing or door-peddling Ray are the same ideals that created the double arches. By connecting all of these dots, this autobiography depicts a very inspiring man, albeit from rose-tinted lenses, along with the values of remaining honest, genuine, and business-like.
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