8 Things McDonald's Can Teach You About Business Success


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When Ray Kroc became a franchise agent for Richard and Maurice McDonald in 1955, I doubt anyone would have expected the company to become a burger behemoth that has more than 35,000 stores in 119 different countries. In fact, one could argue that McDonald’s has created one of the greatest business models to follow.

Related: 6 Great Business Models to Consider for a Startup

These eight things have lead to the McDonald’s company’s global dominance and bear repeating here:

1. Maintain consistency.

No matter where you are in the world, you can be certain that when you walk into a McDonald’s you’re going to have a familiar experience in terms of the menu, food wrapping and design of the building. In 1961 Ray Kroc launched the Hamburger University as a training school that emphasizes “consistent restaurant operations procedures, service, quality and cleanliness.” Today, franchisees attend the program to learn and implement Ray Kroc’s vision.

Research has proven that these types of programs not only enforce consistency, but can also increase productivity.

2. Establish a brand presence.

McDonald’s has done an excellent job at establishing a brand presence. But beyond the “Golden Arches” and “I’m Lovin’ It” slogan, McDonald’s has created an emotional experience that takes us back to our childhood. Even though we realize that there are better products out there, most of us have a bond with McDonald’s that is almost unbreakable — which is why you hear so many people proclaim their love for McDonald’s fries. The fries have a look and taste that you will find exactly the same no matter where you are in the world. You can count on it.

A strong brand presence helps your business build credibility and memories with your customers that will convert them into lifelong advocates. If you’re struggling with your brand, here are a few tips to brand your company better.

3. Take risks.

Even though McDonald’s practices consistency, the company isn’t afraid to take risks and tinker with their menu. The original menu only included a hamburger, cheeseburger, fries, shake and beverages. Over the years, the chain has added breakfast items, the Happy Meal, McNuggets, (and ‘Mc’ everything else. Does this remind you of the ‘i’ we see everywhere on multiple iTems?) Filet-O-Fish, salads and the McRibs.

While there have been failures like the McLobster and McPizza, without taking those risks, McDonald’s probably would not have grown into the global juggernaut that we know of today.

4. Adapt to customer’s changing tastes.

The reason that McDonald’s is willingly to take risks is that the company realizes that it’s vital to adapt to the needs and wants of customers. For example, the company scrapped the Super Size option and began offering healthier options as more people have become more health conscience. Additionally, the company also offers regional items based on local favorites.

However, the greatest adaptation was back in 1975. A McDonald’s located near a military base in Arizona offered the first drive-thru to serve soldiers who were not allowed to leave their vehicles while wearing fatigues.

Related: The 7 Elements of a Strong Business Model

5. Perfect the art of the cross-sell.

Cross-selling is when you take the product you’re going to buy and co-promote other products with it. Sound familiar? It should. McDonald’s has arguably the most famous cross-sell of all-time, “Would you like fries with that?”

This is great way to increase sales, but make sure that you don’t overwhelm the customer. Wait for them to order first, gain more information about the sale and realize why it adds value to the final purchase. Another effective example of this is Amazon’s “Frequently Bought Together” feature. And how about the effective cross-sell of, “Those who searched for this, (item, book, shirt, shoe, baby item), also searched for these six other items.”

6. Learn how to work with people.

Employee’s at McDonald’s have to not only work with the public but also know how to work with colleagues. While congenial working and speaking with one another situations are valuable for essentially every business out there, many former McDonald’s employees will inform you that this careful treatment of each other attributed to their success.

Ohio Congresswoman Marcia Fudge discovered that her time at McDonald’s gave her the ability to “size up people’s concerns, guide them through the process, apologize if something went wrong — and hold your ground if someone’s stopped being reasonable.”

McDonald’s also gives leaders the opportunity to help their team member succeed. While as a McDonald’s manager Andrew Card, chief of staff for President George W. Bush, stated that “My job was determining how I could help each kid succeed.” If an employee wasn’t happy or skilled on the grill, the manager could move to cash register in order to tap into their strengths and preferences.

7. Spot and grow talent.

Did you know that 40 percent of McDonald’s executives actually began as hourly employees? That’s because the company knows how to spot talent and tap into the “hidden talents” of employees. McDonald’s then rewards these employees by allowing them to work their way-up. It not only reduces turnover, but also builds a company that is full of employees who know the business inside and out and are extremely loyal. More importantly, however, this creates a company that is committed to one shared vision.

8. Realize the importance of philanthropy.

McDonald’s is also known for giving back to the community through the Ronald McDonald House Charities, college scholarships, fundraisers and mentorship programs. McDonald’s, like so many other philanthropic businesses, have realized that giving back is just good for business. By sharing the same values with customers, businesses can create loyal advocates and increase their revenue.

Related: 4 Ways to Make a Business-Model Shift Seamless

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