Greatest Hiring Managers: Ray Croc


Ray Croc was the man who brought the McDonalds franchise from the McDonalds brothers in the 1950’s and who established McDonalds globally.

Just to be clear, the purpose of these posts is not to endorse McDonalds or even Ray Croc’s achievements overall! Instead it’s to illustrate that nearly all leaders who are successful are due to their ability to build world class teams – and to examine how leaders over time have done this.

As is so often in history, Croc’s success came “later” in life – he was well into his 50’s before he first visited the McDonald’s brothers busy San Bernardino store as a milkshake mixer salesman. Seeing the potential of the fast food restaurant he persuaded them to sell and grew McDonald’s (at one point) to the most well known company in the world.

Here’s some of the things Croc did to build great teams:



1) He was an inspired story teller

Croc’s career prior to McDonald’s was all over the place. A jazz musician, paper-cup salesman, pianist, selling real estate and even running a radio station . But the one quality he oozed was enthusiasm and the ability to motivate others.

As a child his parents nicknamed him “Danny Dreamer” since he was often lost in thought. Those who knew him often mentioned his unique ability to tell stories that inspired others.

This ability actually convinced the McDonald’s brothers to partner with him initially and franchise the McDonald’s business for growth. It also allowed him to get franchisors to invest in the early years when the business was loaded with debt.

This ability to hire forward thinkers was essential to McDonald’s dominating the fast food industry so quickly during the 60’s and 70s.



2) He built an efficient hiring system

A common criticism of Croc was that he was often over-controlling – he was obsessed with perfection. Anything from recipes to cleanliness (he is often credited with the phrase “if you’ve got time to lean, you’ve got time to clean”).

However undoubtably this eye for detail worked amazingly for hiring. He built a detailed and structured hiring process and used the same process for all his hires.

From part-timers, to executives, to even new franchisees, he applied his “fast food” approach to hiring – screen people consistently and quickly. He was one of the first people to take people on paid trial so he could observe them working and also insistent that even senior executives work in an actual restaurant before they are hired. Something that still exists today.



3) He left the creating to others

Ray Croc was like the Don King of the 20th Century business world. The ultimate promoter. He considered his strengths to be sales, customer service and operational efficiency – virtually none of McDonald’s iconic images are due to him.

For a start the business was not formed by him – he just saw the potential to sell the McDonald’s brothers brand. Nearly all the new products (such as McNuggets) was the work of Fred Turner, one of his early franchisees and eventually his right hand man. Even Ronald McDonald was the creation of one of his restaurant staff.

Unlike many business leaders, Croc recognized his capabilities and hired others to drive innovation and to some extent even strategy.



4) He had a balanced view on formal education

One of Croc’s quotes was: “While formal schooling is an important advantage, it is not a guarantee for success nor is its absence a fatal handicap”.

Part of McDonald’s success was it’s balanced view on hiring – they didn’t insist senior executives had degrees like most corporate companies and they had a clear career path through the company from day one. To this day 95% of management jobs are filled by existing workers that have worked their way through the company.

Croc was one of the pioneers of “internal qualifications” and created the famousHamburger University that allowed workers to gain qualifications and work their way up the corporate ladder. During a time when post school education was predominantly for the few, this was a key component of attracting ambitious young people.




Ray Croc recieved much criticism whilst alive – for example underpaying staff (and criticism rightfully so). However at the same time, there is no way McDonald’s would have had the global success it had without hiring great people. And hiring great people requires a great hiring process.

His approach to hiring was like his business – consistent.

How consistent is your hiring?

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