They say you can’t turn back the clock and go back to the good old days. Yet this is precisely what is happening with the total quality service movement, the customer loyalty movement, CRM, and other philosophies that put the customer at the center of the business organization. Millions of dollars are being spent on consultants to relearn what was once common sense, practiced by the great entrepreneurs from the turn of the century to the mid-1950s.
This show, the first in our Entrepreneur Heaven Series, will explore the wisdom of Thomas Edison, Henry Ford, J.W. Marriott, and Walt Disney. Wisdom is timeless, and occasionally turning back the clock is the wisest course of action. Sometimes history is our best teacher.
Thomas Edison (Feb 11, 1847 – October 18, 1931)
Born in Ohio, died 1931, at 84. Scarlet fever as boy may have contributed to him being deaf.
Before age 40: invented the phonograph, electric light, and improved the motion picture camera.
World record of 1,093 patents over lifetime; first at 21; last one granted ten months before his death, and four posthumously.
Sign in Edison’s laboratory:
Hell! There ain’t no rules around here! We are tryin’ to accomplish somep’n.
It is too much the fashion to attribute all inventions to accident, and a great deal of nonsense is talked on that score.
Asked if the age of invention was passing in 1908: “Passing? Why, it hasn’t started yet.”
He loved silent films (he was deaf), but didn’t think there was any money in talking movies. He believed talking films would never supplant silent films (“The public does not want talking movies”).
He also thought films would completely supplant books in schools.
When will you retire: “A few days before the funeral.”
There is no free lunch. 2/22/1929, Fort Myers Press
If you want to succeed, get some enemies.
Most assuredly I do believe in God. Nature and science both affirm His existence, and where the layman believes the man of science knows. 1890 [You could argue he believed in Intelligent Design]
I am at work on an invention which will enable a man in Wall Street not only to telephone to a friend near Central Park, but to actually see that friend while speaking to him…Of course, it is ridiculous to talk about seeing between New York and Paris; the rotundity of the earth, if nothing else, would render that impossible. –September 1, 1889, Levant Herald
Henry Ford on Edison: “It might be said we live in the age of Edison…in many ways, the greatest man since the world began. March 7, 1929, NYT
Henry Ford (July 30, 1863 – April 7, 1947)
Ford’s father: “Henry worries me. He doesn’t seem to settle down and I don’t know what’s going to become of him.”
William Ford died in 1905, before Ford achieved great success.
There’s no record of Ford personally meeting Hitler. But Ford was awarded the Grand Cross of the German Eagle, highest honor in Nazi Party (July 1938).
Revolutionized: $5/day, 8-hour day; five-day-week, as a tool to induce his employees and their families to better living; and profit-sharing.Yet very few employees were paid $5/hour (the average pay was $2.34/hour); efficiency experts set unachievable standards; Ford had the reputation as the worst sweatshops.
He established a “Sociological Department” to monitor his employees behavior on and off the clock. (closed in 1920, when he distanced himself from this view).
He believed in reincarnation; was raised Episcopalian; and was an anti-Semite. He bought the Dearborn Independent in 1919, which ran anti-Semitic articles, and was closed in 1927.
He didn’t believe in charity, which is interesting since the Ford Foundation has given millions. He believed charity “Lowers the self-respect of receiver and deadens the conscience of the giver.”
He had a Puritan streak, disliking jazz, consumer debt, and supported Prohibition.
Thomas Edison was his idol, and they each had a vacation home in Ft. Myers, Fl.
The Model T came only in black because paint dried faster—a case of efficiency over effectiveness. Ford said of the Model T: “The only thing wrong with that car was that people stopped buying it.”
GM started GMAC in 1919 to begin financing cars, which is what really grabbed market share from Ford, who didn’t start a financing arm until the late 1920s. Ford didn’t think people should go into debt.
He also believed in abolishing patents, since he thought they killed competition.
Visitors often ask me what the car of the future will be. I don’t know. If I did I would be making it now. Feb 1936
Business men go down with their businesses because they like the old way so well they cannot bring themselves to change. Circa 1923
[Sound business] is to provide a service. Try to run a business solely to make money and the business will die. Circa 1932
A manufacturer is not through with his customer when a sale is completed. He has then only started with his customer….If the machine does not give service, then it is better for the manufacture if he had never had an introduction, for he will have the worst of all advertisements—a dissatisfied customer. Circa 1923
Profits are merely what we think we work for…The real profit is not what the promoters get, but what the country gets. July 7, 1929 NYT
Walt Disney (Dec 5, 1901 – Dec 15, 1966)
One estimate, in 1966 alone, the year of his death, 240 million people saw a Disney movie, a weekly audience of 100 million watched a Disney television show, 80 million read a Disney book, 50 million listened to Disney records, 80 million bought Disney merchandise, 150 million read a Disney comic strip, 80 million saw a Disney educational film, and nearly 7 million visited Disneyland.
NASA acknowledged that Disney’s early drumbeating for its program was instrumental in generating public support for space exploration.
During London blitz, children’s gas masks had Mickey on them.
Disneyland was just a modern variant on the old Puritan ideal of a shining City on a Hill. “Why should I run for Mayor [of Los Angeles] when I’m already king”
The Walt Disney Family Museum, Park Presidio, San Francisco display over 900 awards for artistic work and service, including his Presidential Medal for Freedom, presented by Lyndon Johnson in 1964.
In 1955, Walt paid $4,000/acre for Disneyland property; 4 years later it was valued at $20,000/acre.
Walt’s good friend, Art Linkletter, refused to invest in Anaheim, and he figures the tour of the property with Walt cost him $3m per step!
Walt Disney World is even more dramatic (27,400 acres bought for $5m = $185/acre. Worth well over $2 million per acre today.
Realtors axiom: Location, location, location. Bunk! It can be trumped with intellectual capital.
Late 1930s, Mickey lost his tail. Thousands saved not drawing it! It was restored. Effectiveness over efficiency.
Paul Anderson, a Disney Historian at BYU lists six characteristics to describe Walt’s success:
- Quality at all costs
- Control—delegate to good people
Every theme park operator told him he’d go broke with Disneyland within one year. Ward Kimball, one of the famous Disney animators:
If you want to know the real secret of Walt Disney’s success, it’s that he never tried to make money.
Ron’s favorite Disney line:
I could never convince the financiers that Disneyland was feasible, because dreams offer too little collateral.
J. Willard Marriott (Sept 17, 1900 – Aug 13, 1985)
Started a Hot Shoppe $3,000 in 1927 (A&W Root Beer).
First hotel was Twin Bridges, Arlington, VA, Jan 1957.
In-Flight catering started by JW visiting Hot Shoppe in 1937 next to airfield, watching customers buy food for airplane flight.
Had an “employees-first philosophy. Knew human touch was all-important for guests staying away from home.
Diversified into catering, cruise ships, theme parks (1972)—got out of all of them eventually.
Rule of decision making: Listen to your heart (research & data only get you so far).
Recommend Books and Readings
Obviously, there are lot of books written on each of these men. The following are the ones Ron has particularly enjoyed, and found to be reliable as to the actual history of their lives.
The Quotable Edison, edited by Michele Wehrwein Albion
The Quotable Henry Ford, edited by Michele Wehrwein Albion
The Animated Man: A Life of Walt Disney, by Michael Barrier
Walt Disney, by Neal Gabler
How to Be Like Walt, Pat Williams
Marriott: The J. Willard Marriott Story, by Robert O’Brien
Earning My Mouse Ears, Part I, by Ron Baker
Earning My Mouse Ears, Part II, by Ron Baker
Earning My Mouse Ears, Part III, by Ron Baker