When your best employee quits, it can be a tough pill to swallow. When they leave to start a rival company using your business model and your ideas ... "gutted" is the only way to describe it. Back in the early years of 1-800-GOT-JUNK?,this happened to me.
I was devastated, but I also realized I wasn't the first entrepreneur to have his idea hijacked. Mark Zuckerberg poached the idea for Facebook from his Harvard peers. Disney has been accused of stealing stories from countless sources. And Ray Kroc stole a one-shop burger stop from two mild-mannered brothers, and turned it into a mega-franchisor that took over the world.
McDonald's was never meant to be the global conglomerate it is now -- and the man credited asThe Founder in the newly released biopic isn't the man who opened the chain's first restaurant. Originally started by Dick and Mac McDonald, it was a simple shop run on a simple premise: serve up consistent, cheap burgers in 15 seconds max.
Ray Kroc saw something different. While the brothers were comfortable with their local operation, Ray believed they were missing a huge opportunity. He saw potential for growth and mass expansion, and to him, there was only one way to do it: franchise.
We know how it worked out forKroc: McDonald's serves an estimated 70 million customers daily at its 35,000 locations across 119 countries. But what's lesser known is how he did it: as he catapulted their brand to fast-food fame, he shoved the McDonald's brothers out.
It's easy to look at Ray as the bad guy -- I thought Mike (my employee-turned-competitor) was a villain when he swiped my idea for professionalized junk hauling out from under me. But when I got over the feeling of being stabbed in the back (and when I found out he'd gone out of business), I realized something big: a great idea without consistent execution won't ever work anyway.
In 2015, I was approached by DaveNotte. He had a business he thought would fit well within the O2E Brands family -- an all-in-one house-detailing service offering window washing, gutter cleaning, and power washing. He'd been running Shack Shine successfully on his own but knew it could be bigger. He just didn't know how to get there.
Dave had the foresight to know he needed help to scale his business, so he partnered with the company that had done it with 1-800-GOT-JUNK?. If the McDonald's brothers had had the same instincts with their business, maybe they could've found a way to work with Ray Kroc instead of letting him go against them.
It's not easy to admit that someone else is better suited to run your business than you. For founders, it's even harder: control is a motivating factor for most successful entrepreneurs. However, I was forced to accept this harsh reality myself a few years ago. One morning, in our daily Huddle, one of our most successful franchise partners asked me in front of everyone, "Do you really think you're the CEO to take this company to the next level?"
I won't lie, I was hurt -- even more than when Mike walked out. But it got me to take a hard look at myself and the business. I had strengths (like vision and out-of-the-box thinking) but it was time to face up to my shortcomings. I'm not a strategy or operations man, so I hired a COO who is.Our strengths complement each other's and it's made our company stronger than ever.
Unfortunately for the McDonald brothers and RayKroc, it wasn't just a difference in vision or skill or personality -- it was all three. And they weren't able to reconcile their differences to build something bigger, together. Dick and Mac simply didn't see their restaurant's potential or have the drive to go big. Kroc did -- and, as a true entrepreneur, he had the ambition to take it there.
I'm not sure why Mike's junk company didn't take off like ours did; something didn't translate from 1-800-GOT-JUNK? to his business. The idea was there -- just like it was for Shack Shine and McDonald's -- but the execution wasn't.
So it comes down to this: in business, is your golden ticket idea enough? Or is an idea only as good as the person putting it into action? To me, you need both: a visionary to see the larger-than-life possibilities and a strategic integrator to help make it happen.