Henry Ford (ca. 1919)
Ford Motor Company was started by a man named Henry Ford. In 1891 Ford was an engineer working for Thomas Edison at the Edison Illuminating Co. This position gave him enough time and money to independently work on his hobby, the gasoline powered engine. After developing to prototype motor cars Ford created the Detroit Automobile Company in 1898. His effort failed. The company closed in 1899 due to poor quality vehicles that were too expensive.
Not deterred Henry Ford created and raced a 26-horse power vehicle which he used as a prototype for opening yet another company, Henry Ford Company in 1901. But after bringing in investor Henry M. Leland, Ford left the company bearing his name. The company was renamed The Cadillac Automobile Company.
1903 cadillac: runabout with tonneau
Showing the grit and determination of all successful American entrepreneurs Ford took a third swing at corporate success when he took a $28,000 investment from Jim and Horace Dodge to form the Ford Motor Company. It grew into America’s most successful car making company. Of the three remaining American-originated car companies, Ford is the only one not to take, or need a government bail out in 2009. Ford solicited his investors, then put their money to work in a way that made them all exceptionally rich. Did he have help along the way. Only the help he sought and curated.
Andrew Carnegie, American businessman and philanthropist.
Andrew Carnegie started working for Ohio Telegraph Company as a messenger boy in 1850 at the age of 15. He made $2.50 per week. In 1855 his mother provided him $500 from mortgaging her $700 home. He invested that money in a freight and cargo company called Adams Express, a company still in existence today. Carnegie continually took dividends and profits and re-invested them in several different companies. In 1864 he had $40,000 which he invested in in Story Farm in Venango County, Pennsylvania. That investment turned a $1,000,000 profit within the year through dividends and oil sold from the property.
Carnegie made his greatest fortune in the steel industry. Like Ford (and many successful entrepreneurs) he did so by figuring out how to make a desirable product more cheaply. At his Pittsburg plant Carnegie employed the Henry Bessemer Process in which the high carbon content of pig iron was burnt away in a furnace in a controlled and rapid fashion. The price of steel dropped, and Carnegie reaped the benefits.
As wealthy as Carnegie became the longevity of his name comes more from the giving-away of his money, than the accumulating of it. This hard-core capitalist, who used brutal methods to fight unionization efforts at his mills is believed to have given away more money on an inflation adjusted basis than any single individual ever. Carnegie’s money was used to build libraries, schools, performance halls and so much more. Like so many successful American 1%-ers Carnegie individually, without the help of government, made the lives of average Americans better through his charitable giving. In doing so he also maintained his wealth, throughout.
These are but two examples of a nearly infinite number of American entrepreneurs who used their own courage, daring, money, and effort to build wealth. In more modern times Apple Computer is now the worlds richest company. Apple was nearly bankrupt and out of business twenty years ago. Their resurrection began in 1996 when Steve Jobs, who had left Apple in 1985, a company he founded in 1976 while working out of his parents garage, was brought back as company CEO.
In 2004 three college friends had an idea for a video sharing website and secured a capital investment of $11.5-million dollars to develop and launch their startup. Chad Hurley, Steve Chen, and Jawid Karim uploaded the first video to YouTube.com in April 2005. Less than 2 years later they sold the company to Google for $1.65-BILLION.
John D. Rockefeller became the world’s richest man at the turn of the 20th Century by creating Standard Oil and the first ever private trust in the U.S. In building his company Rockefeller transformed how the world lit their lamps and lanterns from the ever increasingly expensive whale oil, to gas or kerosene. He saved the whales before it was fashionable to do so.
Bill Gates, Sam Walton, Ray Kroc, Cornelius Vanderbilt, John Jacob Astor,
Ben Franklin statue
Benjamin Franklin, Lucille Ball…and on and on. The list of American businessmen, and increasingly women, who either invented a new devise, or method of doing business is long and luminous. They, as well as all of us, stand on the shoulders of giants. We are all the beneficiaries of those who came before us.
But to insult the memory of these great businessmen and those struggling to exist today by questioning how smart they are, or how hard they work relative to others as President Obama has done is to completely misunderstand that which makes a person great. And it isn’t done just by making great speeches. Greatness in business as with all things in life, comes from trying and failing, and then trying again…and again if necessary.
Mr. President I think the average business person/entrepreneur is smarter or works harder or both than the average person. Even if that assumption is wrong, there is no denying that they are more daring and more capable of facing risk and overcoming failure. Aren’t these qualities laudable?
To say, “You didn’t build that” or “You got help along the way”, and to then point to teachers and bridge and road builders as “helpers” in the construction of a successful business is just plain silly. I’m pretty confident there are roads, bridges, and teachers in Cuba, North Korea, Myanmar and everywhere else in the world. It doesn’t help people in those countries lift themselves out of pathetic poverty their socialist dictator governments impose on them. Furthermore, everybody else in America has roads, and bridges, and teachers too. Yet, only the few daring, smart, and hard working BEST of us take that leap into business ownership or entrepreneurism. They should be held up high and honored; not referenced in a snarky, arrogant defilement of their efforts and success.
President Obama revealed himself with this and other recent comments. Remember- “The private sector is doing fine”? But neither Obama nor his White House have walked-back away from these unAmerican comments yet, and at this point I don’t think they will. His whole re-election effort rests on class warfare and fomenting resentment among the masses of those successful individuals who dared stick their heads up above the crowd and try to overcome the many hurdles imposed by government, and start their own business. He rejects individualism in favor of collectivism. He rejects the concept of Liberty; a concept in which this nation was founded.
Adam Smith statue
Adam Smith in The Wealth of Nations wrote of the economy’s “invisible hand”, “By pursuing his own interest he (the merchant/business owner) frequently promotes that (the interests) of the society more effectually than when he really intends to promote it (the interests of society).” Which is to say a business person helps society best by pursuing his or her own selfish profit motives. The Wealth of Nations has been the smart economists bible for over 2 centuries. It’s a book Obama would benefit from reading. I was personally insulted and enraged when I first learned of Obama’s bitch-slap to me and other business owners. But, I am now grateful. His true beliefs and nature are showing much more than they did during the celebrity-carnival that was the 2008 campaign. And while our nation is full of his left-thinking supporters who believe it is better to force people to think their way than to allow them to think as they wish, I believe far more Americans believe in the respect of every individual, as I do.
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