One of the more famous stories in American business history is how middle-aged traveling milkshake machine salesman Ray Kroc went to visit his best customers, the McDonalds brothers of San Bernardino, and ended up going into business with them and taking the McDonald’s brand nationwide, discarding the brothers along the way. Whether Kroc is this tale’s hero or villain (for crushing the McDonald brothers, one of whom was a logistical genius) has been debated ever since.
In 1950, it typically took about a half hour between the time you walked into a diner and the time the waitress put your hamburger in front of you. The McDonald Brothers figured out in their San Bernardino restaurant how to cut that by at least an order of magnitude. But Ray Kroc wound up with most of the money from their innovation.
The first half hour of the 2016 movie The Founder with Michael Keaton as Kroc, directed by John Lee Hancock (The Rookie, The Blind Side), offers a vivid retelling of this legendary event.
I only now discovered a song, “Boom, Like That” by Mark Knopfler (founder of Dire Straits, e.g., “Sultans of Swing”) that condenses the McDonald’s history to 5′:40″. I assumed it was written for the soundtrack of the 2016 movie, but it turns out that Knopfler released it in 2004:
I’m going to San Bernardino ring-a-ding-ding
Milkshake mixers that’s my thing, now
These guys bought a heap of my stuff
And I gotta see a good thing sure enough, now
Or my name’s not Kroc, that’s Kroc with a ‘k’
Like ‘crocodile,’ but not spelled that way, yeah
It’s dog eat dog rat eat rat
Kroc-style boom, like that
The folks line up all down the street
And I’m seeing this girl devour her meat, now
And then I get it, wham as clear as day
My pulse begins to hammer and I hear a voice say
These boys have got this down
Oughtta be a one of these in every town
These boys have got the touch
It’s clean as a whistle and it don’t cost much
Wham, bam you don’t wait long
Shake, fries patty, you’re gone
And how about that friendly name?
Heck, every little thing oughtta stay the same …
You gentlemen ought to expand
You’re going to need a helping hand, now
A reference to Rod Stewart’s “Maggie Mae,” another rock song with surprisingly detailed realistic lyrics.
Sometimes you gotta be an s.o.b.
You want to make a dream reality
It’s pretty unexpected to see a rock song that functions as a competent business biography that could almost be a Harvard Business School case study. But Knopfler is a guy who made a huge amount of money in the 1980s because A) he’s really talented, B) he made some tough Kroc-like executive decisions, like firing his brother from Dire Straits while recording their Making Movies album.