What startups can learn from McDonald’s

Unless you just woke up and don’t have much time to eat, you probably aren’t thinking about McDonald’s while building your unicorn 🦄. But you may be making a mistake. Some of the biggest players in the sharing economy are more like McDonald’s than you might think.

I think there are 3 key areas for success. It may not be imperative to hit all three, but your odds of success increase with each one.

1. Transform instead of create

Ok fine… I will say it… disrupt… McDonald’s wasn’t the first company to specialize in making burgers, they weren’t even the first fast food restaurant. After a pivot, Ray Kroc set out to make burgers the way Henry Ford made cars, like an assembly line. Fast, convenient, with no frills.

The same is true today for companies like Lyft, Uber and Airbnb. Lyft didn’t invent on-demand transportation, nor did Airbnb create remote living accommodations. All they did was modify the delivery of these services.

2. Build entrepreneurs

Any time you can have a business built inside your business, it’s a good thing. McDonald’s didn’t try and build restaurants in every city alone. Instead they made it so anyone could be an entrepreneur using their proven model, just like the sharing economy does now. Anyone with a suitable car can become an Uber driver, and ultimately be their own boss. Companies like eBay have created millionaires many times over.

If you become laser-focused on building tools to make other people successful in delivering on your product, you win.

3. Deliver a consistent, delightful experience

Getting a burger from McDonald’s is meant to be a consistent experience. The idea that I can travel just about anywhere and get the same lunch or breakfast that I may enjoy is hugely important. You would be wise to think about how this applies to your product. Your product should be something that people want to take with them to a new place. When I get to an airport in almost any city, I can grab an Uber or Lyft and I can stay at an Airbnb.

Companies like Slack and Dropbox may only directly hit 2 items on this list. But for these products #2 is addressed in a different way. Slack and Dropbox deliver a product that is so good, their users become advocates. When people go to a new company and they are not using these services, it is often their duty to tell everyone to get on board.

Conclusion aka tl;dr

Change, don’t create. Allow your customers to have customers or have your customers be advocates. Build something that people can and want to take with them wherever they go.