The Founder movie tells the story of four visionaries: the two McDonald Brothers who were the first to understand that speed was a unique selling proposition in the food industry; Ray Kroc who recognized that the McDonald concept could be franchised, and Harry Sonneborn, the real genius who monetized the concept into its billion-dollar fortune.

Sonneborn was an enterprising businessman who helped Kroc understand that he wasn’t in the burger business, rather he was in the real estate business. Sonneborn had the idea for Kroc to buy the land that the McDonald’s restaurants were on and lease it to the franchisees. This provided capital before the restaurant opened, created an ongoing and lucrative revenue stream, allowed Kroc to accumulate hard assets to get more capital to open more restaurants, and gave Kroc leverage to ensure that franchisees followed quality control and standardization procedures or he could pull their lease. In addition, by creating a separate land acquisition entity, it freed Kroc from the restrictions he was bound by through the original McDonald’s contract which required approval from the brothers before any change could be made.

Kroc may have made a name for himself in the restaurant business, but it is through the reframing of his focus to real estate that earned him the prominence and real fortune.

When is the last time you deeply considered what business you are in? Is education for job preparation or life-long learning or citizenship? Are financial institutions there to safeguard your money or teach you to grow wealth? Should churches be in the spiritual business or focus on community-building and belonging? It may be time for a “Sonneborn Retreat” to reflect on the true purpose of your work.

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