Many of America’s most successful entrepreneurs are well known names; Carnegie, Ford and Jobs come to mind. But while you know the business, McDonalds, you may not be familiar with the man behind its rise to fame. In the biopic, The Founder, Michael Keaton portrayed Ray Kroc who took the idea for a hamburger stand and turned it into an international success.
His story and that of other entrepreneurs could be what fuels your next research paper.
The hardest part about writing a research paper on American entrepreneurs will be deciding on whom to focus. There have been, and continue to be, so many.
In a September 23, 2015, article for Investopedia.com, “Top 5 Most Successful American Entrepreneurs,” Evan Tarver listed those who have been most successful in terms of world impact.
- Andrew Carnegie: this immigrant from Scotland made his fortune in steel and then invested it in other enterprises such as car manufacturing
- Henry Ford: on his third attempt he was successful in founding the Ford Motor Company
- Oprah Winfrey: a television personality turned entrepreneur Winfrey heads Oxygen Media
- Bill Gates: founder of Microsoft, one of the world’s largest and most influential tech companies
- Larry Page: founder of Google which began as a search engine and has grown into a multinational conglomerate
How to be an entrepreneur
In an article for Inc.com, “What Does It Really Take to Be an Entrepreneur? 6 Beliefs That Are Dead Wrong,” Minda Zetlin asked Harvard and MIT professor Bill Aulet to separate truth from myth. Common myths include:
- Entrepreneurs are born that way
- Individuals start companies
- Entrepreneurs are super smart
- Entrepreneurs are charismatic
- Entrepreneurs do wild and crazy things
- Entrepreneurs love risk
According to Aulet, anyone who is willing to learn skills like management and sales can be an entrepreneur. You don’t have to be super-smart, but you do need focus, dedication and intelligent risk-taking.
“Successful entrepreneurs must have extreme self-discipline because they have few resources, no reputation, and a very finite amount of time in which to succeed,” Aulet said. “More than charisma, successful entrepreneurs exhibit vision, systematic thinking, strong analytic skills, and a blend of humility and ambition.”
To learn more about some of America’s most influential entrepreneurs, head over to Questia and read American Entrepreneur: The Fascinating Stories of the People Who Defined Business in the United States, by Larry Schweikart and Lynne Pierson Doti.
This book vividly illustrates the history of business in the United States from the point of view of the enterprising men and women who made it happen. Weaving together vivid narrative and economic analysis, the authors recounted the successes and failures of American entrepreneurs including J.C. Penney, Henry Ford and Martha Stewart.
The story of McDonald’s began in San Bernardino, California, when Ray Kroc met the McDonalds brothers. First a paper cup salesman, and then moving on to milkshake mixers, Kroc was fascinated with the assembly-line approach that the McDonalds brother applied to preparing fries, hamburgers and beverages.
According to Schweikart and Doti, “Working out a franchise agreement with the brothers, Kroc envisioned a network of drive-in restaurants, with each building like the original (including the famous Golden Arches) and the name, McDonald’s, on all of them. It took a year to open his first locations in Des Plaines, Illinois, which Kroc perceptively saw as a prototype of many other stores; therefore, he repeatedly refined the design to eliminate problems.”
The story of how Kroc made McDonalds a household name illustrates the realities of entrepreneurship. It’s the story of one person who saw the potential in someone else’s idea, defined the vision and then assembled the team and developed the strategies to take that idea to the ultimate level.
Who is your favorite American entrepreneur and why? Tell us in the comments.