Some consider him an icon of the self-made man. Some accuse him of being a liar and a traitor. His revolutionary innovative concept, called after him “Fordism”, helped to increase the economic prosperity of the United States in the 1940s to 1960s. He was also responsible for the creation of the Ford Foundation – one of the world’s richest philanthropic organizations.
During his life he was known as a man, who in spite of his wealth continued to care for the common man. But also as a person, who was responsible for publishing nearly a hundred anti-Semitic articles in his newspaper the Dearborn Independent.
There is no single opinion of Henry Ford. One thing however that can be confidently said about him is that he was a great man, who was not afraid to dream BIG and go after his dream…
Poor Student and Poor Farmer
Henry Ford was born on July 30, 1863 on a farm near Dearborn. When Ford was 12 years old his mother died during childbirth, leaving him and his 5 siblings in the care of their father. Until the age of 15 Ford attended school, even though he strongly disliked it. He never learned to spell or read well and wrote only using the simplest sentences.
His lack of interest in his studies was compensated by his fascination for machinery and mechanical objects. He repaired his first watch at the age of 13 and soon neighbors and friends started to bring him their broken watches to fix.
Since his early childhood Ford knew that farm life was not for him and as soon as he got the chance he headed to Detroit to become an apprentice. In 1882, Henry finished his apprenticeship and was qualified to work as a machinist.
This did not appeal to his father at all. He offered Ford a bargain – forty acres of timberland in exchange for the promise that he gave up machinery. Ford accepted the proposal, and used the land to build a small house, sawmill and a first-class machinist’s workshop (to the great disappointment of his dad).
During this time Ford also met and then married Clara Bryant.
In 1891 he finally found a job at Edison Illuminating Company and moved with his wife back to Detroit. In 1896, at age 32, Henry Ford completed his first successful horseless carriage, which he called the Quadricycle.
“Failure is simply the opportunity to begin again, this time more intelligently.”
Ford proved this quote to be true with his own life. His first two automobile companies failed miserably. The first time his investors withdrew after Ford spent $86,000 without producing a car that could be sold. The second time he failed even though a car was ready.
Desperately trying to attract publicity for his projects, Henry started building and driving his own race cars. However, the average person did not need a race car. They needed something reliable.
Ford refused to give up and by 1903 convinced twelve people to invest a total of $28,000 in another motor company. In the same year the company sold its first Model A car for $850. Ford’s business finally took off. By 1907 the Ford Motor Company profits exceeded $1,100,000.
Rich and famous…
In 1908, Henry Ford designed the Model T car that was supposed to appeal to the masses. It was light, strong, fast and came only in one color – black. The car became so popular that it was selling faster than Ford could produce them. He started to look for ways to speed up the manufacturing process.
It took him almost 4 years, but in 1913 he added the first motorized assembly line in the plant. It cut construction time and lowered the cost of each car, making them affordable to every family.
Henry Ford was now officially not only rich, but also famous. If his manufacturing methods were revolutionary for most people, his work philosophy came as a shock! He paid his workers almost twice as much as other auto companies did. His reasoning was simple – greater pay will make the worker happier and, therefore, faster on the job and they would be more likely to stay with company longer, leading to less down-time training new workers.
For his work policy Ford was called “a traitor to his class” by other industrialists and professionals.
He did not care!
In 1925 Ford was producing 10,000 cars every 24 hours, gaining 60 percent of America’s total car market.
Million Dollar Mistake and Personal Struggles
Ford was an inflexible man and he continued to insist on producing only the Model T, even though public tastes began to shift. When he finally realized his mistake, Ford Motor Company had already lost its dominant position to the General Motors (GM) company. In 1927 the Chevrolet had officially become the best-selling car.
Slowly the friction between Henry Ford and his only child Edsel Ford began to grow. Edsel did not support his father’s method of running the company, and Henry Ford did not trust his son to run it by himself. In 1938 Henry Ford suffered a stroke, but came back to run the company. In 1941 he had another stroke. Only two years later Edsel died from stomach cancer at the age of 49. Ford’s grandson, Henry Ford II, took over the company after the war.
Henry Ford passed away on April 7, 1947.
Quotes from Henry Ford:
1. “Coming together is a beginning. Keeping together is progress. Working together is success.”
2. “When everything seems to be going against you, remember that the airplane takes off against the wind, not with it.”
3. “Whether you think that you can, or that you can’t, you are usually right.”
4. “If there is any one secret of success, it lies in the ability to get the other person’s point of view and see things from that person’s angle as well as from your own.”
5. “Most people spend more time and energy going around problems than in trying to solve them.”
6. “I cannot discover that anyone knows enough to say definitely what is and what is not possible.”
7. “Life is a series of experiences, each one of which makes us bigger, even though sometimes it is hard to realize this”
8. “One of the greatest discoveries a man makes, one of his greatest surprises, is to find he can do what he was afraid he couldn’t”
9. “Don’t find fault, find a remedy; anybody can complain”