4 Business Lessons I Learned from the Movie; The Founder


The weekend came. I had scaled most of my goals for the week.

I had…

…gulped down two good books.
…added more layers of words to my manuscript.
…read-up and practiced one soft skill for the week.
…made one new (valuable) relationship.
…burned countless hours working at a few milestones I’d planned to reach.
…made several calls and sent out pitches for a few opportunities I was pursuing.

Long story short, the week ended with a blast. And when I glanced back, like I usually do, 87% of my goals for that week had been met.

The rest will feature in the new week!

“I can’t comman kii myself”😂

But in the interim, I needed an escape.

Since 80% was my pass mark, it meant I could see one movie over the weekend. Just to cool off the steam, as planned.

Then I went to my catalogue. Hehehe!

I spotted this movie that had been sitting like the lame beggar at the beautiful gate.

I could literally hear it calling out to me, “watch me! watch me!”

The release date was 2016.

“Old movie!” I sighed.

But the title sounded inviting. ‘The Founder’.

And so for the umpteenth time, my curiosity got the best of me.

When I clicked “play”, I noticed no words were displayed at the bottom of the screen.


“What’s a movie without a subtitle?” I whispered.

“How then do I get to learn new words and phrases for my art?”

I quickly went online, downloaded a subtitle and settled in.

Two hours later. I was reading everything I could find on this “guy” called Ray Kroc.

I read up on the McDonald brothers. How they started. Where they excelled. And the strokes of choices that eventually led to the loss of their much-cherished name and business.

Pretty sad story!

For some reason, the guy who later owned and expanded the MacDonald’s franchise was not even a MacDonald.

That’s a lesson for another day.

Maybe you have seen the movie, maybe not.

Either way, I’d love to share with you 4 profound lessons I learned from this unassuming film.

Not only about business but also about life.


#1 Never Lose Your Curiosity

Back in the 1950s, Ray Kroc sold milkshake machines to restaurants for a living.

That meant he had to drive around with heavy metal objects in his boot.

But trust me, after burning much fuel and giving a ton of elevator pitches, his conversion rate was next to zero.

Then came the call one afternoon.

A restaurant in faraway San Bernadino had ordered not 1 or 2, but 8 of his milkshake machines.

For most of us in business, we would simply celebrate, waybill the cargo, smile to the bank and move on with business as usual.

Not Ray Kroc!

He drove down there to see what a small business in 1954 was doing with 8 milkshake machines.

Then he landed a discovery of a lifetime; McDonald’s.

Serendipity exists. Only for those who are curious enough.

Never lose your curiosity. Never ignore feedback especially when it’s specific and not coming from a dubious source.

#2 Keep an Open Mind

For me, the highlight of this movie came when Ray Kroc started having trouble with cash flow. And the banks were on his tail.

After explaining his ordeal to this brilliant guy by the name Harry Sonneborn, he simply replied Kroc,

It appears you don’t know what business you’re in. Do you? You’re not in the hamburger business, you’re in the real estate business. Then the light bulb moment came for Ray Kroc. One minor tweak in his business model and boom! McDonald’s goes national.

Like Ray Kroc, most entrepreneurs do not know what business they’re in.

May I say…

…you are not in the clothing business; you are in the sales business. You are not into agriculture; you are a salesperson in agriculture.

You are not a writer, public speaker or blogger; you are first an entrepreneur.

Doing the right business with the wrong model or mentality will run you aground.

Beyond having a skill, you must know the business of your skill. And the opportunities that exist in your space.

You may not realise any of this without an open mind.

Your mind is your greatest weapon. Keep it loaded.

Your mind is like a parachute. It only works when opened.

#3 Never Enter a Contract with Word of Mouth

Back in my undergraduate days as a Quantity Surveying student, my lecturers pummeled this warning down to my subconscious.

Always agree and disagree on paper.


Humans forget; papers don’t.

Humans misbehave; papers don’t.

Humans swindle humans until papers come to the rescue.

An agreement not documented cannot be defended.

When Ray Kroc “stole” the business from the McDonald Brothers, he offered them a blank check.

They agreed on three things…

…a $2.7 million lump-sum payment.

…retaining ownership of their original restaurant in San Bernardino.

…and a 1% annual royalty for life.

But here’s the catch…

…when it was time to conclude the agreement, Ray Kroc slyly refused to include the 1% royalty in the written contract.

Rather, he offered it as a handshake deal.

Decades later, the world realized that Ray Kroc never honoured the 1% annual royalty agreement.

Worse, the McDonald brothers couldn’t prove there was any such contract.

By McDonald’s current size, the brothers, or better still, their children and grandchildren, could have been earning over $100 million annually today.


An undocumented contract is not a contract.

An unclear contract is not a contract.

Beyond having a skill or running a business, take your time to understand the legal structure of your industry.

When your business looks promising and investors come with juicy deals, seek legal advice before letting anyone in.

Giving away 30% stake of your company for shikini N1million today sounds like a wise idea until you blow.

#4 You Mustn’t be The Founder to be The Leader

In this era of “CEO at Self-employed” the founder “thing” is overrated.

Funnily enough, we have online “founders” and “CEOs” job-hunting on LinkedIn.

Truth is, the title of a “founder” sounds glamourous but the realities are much different than most people think.

Not everyone has the spiritual, psychological and physical muscle to be a #1 risk bearer.

Not. Everyone.

The good news is, you don’t have to.

Here’s the trick…

Spot the right founder or start-up who is struggling with a challenge.

Discuss what your unique abilities are and show them how you can help solve the challenge.

By doing so, you have created a unique spot for yourself as a functional team member in that organisation.

When that start-up booms, rest assured you are part of something really big already.

Have you seen the movie yourself?

What lessons did you learn?

Let’s know in the comments.

Have a splendid weekend!

Written by Stephen Angbulu (Photo Credit: Alexmoore media)

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