Are you a founder?

On a recent flight from the west coast, I watched a biography, The Founder, about Ray Kroc, the founder of McDonald’s.

Kroc was a middle-aged, struggling blender salesman with a history of entrepreneurial failures. He came across the McDonald brothers after they order some blenders. The McDonalds were running a small, popular hamburger stand in San Bernardino, California. They innovated by eschewing the trendy, restaurant-style  burger joint and instead invented the no-frills, fast-food approach. The McDonald brothers were happy micromanaging their small operation, and were wary of franchising and losing quality control.

Kroc, convinced they were sitting on a gold mine, persuaded them to give him a chance to sell some franchises. After a few years of fast, aggressive growth,  Kroc bought out the McDonald brothers.  Kroc died a billionaire in 1984.

It’s a fascinating story that sheds light on what it takes to start a business, to run a business, and to grow a business.  The McDonald brothers were great at starting and running their hamburger stand. However, when it came to growing, they didn’t have the personality, the drive, nor the tools. Kroc was the opposite – an aggressive, extroverted man willing to do whatever it takes to sell an idea. Was he a founder? I guess it depends on our definition. He was a certain kind of founder.

The Founder got me thinking about the businesses I’ve founded, ran, and grown, as well as those of my clients and friends. Are you a founder? What kind are you?