By John Grubbs
Someone reading this is thinking it’s too late. I missed my window. I blew it. I am too old. I should have done it long ago. Stop that thinking. It’s never too late to do something great.
I strongly believe life is a series of opportunities that often go unnoticed or worse unacted upon when the little nudge tickles our brain. We are going to have a few “moon shots” in life and sadly most do not take the shot. The greatest tragedy in life is regret.
The year is 1954 and a 52-year-old milkshake salesman is fighting to get a bulky machine from the trunk of his car. As sweat soaks the shirt under his suit coat, he carries the machine toward the door of yet another restaurant for his practiced pitch to make a sale. He hates the job. He hates the repeated rejection. He knows it is a numbers game.
That night, in his cheap motel room as he listens to yet another motivational record, he is saddened by his lot in life. He has attempted many great ideas over the years and failed. So he listens to the voice hoping to conjure the energy to repeat the same series of rejections the next day in hopes of make a single sale.
He ponders the strained relationship with his wife and the toll his work has taken on them both. Her need to fit in with the country club crowd has increased the pressure he feels to prove his worthiness to her. He blocks the thought from his mind.
The next day while trolling the small towns of the Midwest in search of eateries to sell his milkshake machine, he gets a call from his assistant. A restaurant in California has placed an order for six of his machines. He tells her it must be a mistake and asks for the number to confirm the error. He calls the diner to fix the order and the phone is answered amidst the sounds of action in the background. He tells the owner there must have been a mistake since you ordered six of my expensive machines. The owner, distracted by the call, abruptly agrees and says he needs eight of the machines instead. Then the owner insists on knowing how soon they will arrive.
Intrigued by the call, the milkshake salesman calls his assistant and tells her he’s driving to San Bernardino, California to check this place out. She taunts that it is half-way across the country. Our salesman heads west.
Upon arriving at the small food place, he notices a line of people waiting to place an order. He gets in line and a local lady assures him the line moves quickly. When he gets to window, he is immediately in awe of short time it takes to get his food. He sits on a bench and starts eating his sandwich that tastes remarkable. He goes in and owner gives him a tour of the orchestrated magic inside. Organized chaos is what he sees.
After a brief meeting with the owner he departs while unable to ignore the tickle in his brain. After a short period, he returns to the owners and proclaims one word…franchise. The owner sadly replies, we have tried that and it will not work. We cannot replicate the system or the quality of our work here. The milkshake salesman is saddened as he departs once again. The brain tickle however does not go away. It only intensifies.
He returns once again to the restaurant and convinces the owners to let him try. With little to no money to invest, or milkshake salesman’s energy and passion accompanied by the pride of the restaurant owner seals the deal.
Our salesman gets the green light to sell the franchise in the Midwest. At first, he returns to the country club crowd and makes his pitch. He is again ridiculed for having yet another scheme for their money. Embarrassed and ashamed, he remains persistent. Even his wife makes fun of his new idea. He secretly mortgages their home and starts the first franchise. He proudly uses his restaurant as the leverage his needs to again pitch the business. Some of his rich acquaintances accept the challenge and make the investment.
At first things are great. Slowly, he begins to notice that the rich investors do not have the same passion for the business. It is merely an investment, and they do not love the business as our salesman does. Some restaurants drift from the consistency and the very model that made them a success. He realizes these people are not the people he needs to own a franchise. He looks for young couples with an urge to go “all in” for their own business. This creates the magic he needs.
The franchise begins to grow. After twelve years, our milkshake salesman convinces the original owner to sell him the name of the business. After all, the owner is doing nothing and making money. The salesman, armed with the rights to the name and the system, risks everything once again to catapult the business across the country.
Today, this restaurant is the largest small business in the world with eateries in every developed part of the globe. Everyone reading this, including those of you who think it is too late, has eaten his food. Our salesman is Ray Kroc and the hamburger stand is McDonalds.
So let me ask you. What is your moon shot? What do you do when the little brain tickle occurs in your brain? What if this tickle is your McDonalds? Will you take the chance? Sure, failure is a possibility. Remember, we miss every opportunity we do not take. If Ray Kroc ignored the tickle, we would not know McDonalds. Bernie Marcus founded Home Depot at age 50. And my favorite, Harlan (Colonel) Sanders, started KFC at the ripe old age of 65. The greatest tragedy in life is regret. It is never too late!