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Monday, July 18, 2016

Humble Sweat Equity Beginnings

Jack C. Taylor died recently. Does that name ring a bell? Probably not for most of us. But he was certainly well known for his “drive.” Automotive News carried his obituary.

Mr. Taylor was a Navy World War 2 vet who became a Cadillac car salesman in the 1950s. Intrigued by the relatively new leasing programs in the car industry, he left the dealership side of the business and helped launched Executive Leasing with just seven cars. He took his business savvy with him.

When he died recently in St. Louis at the age of 94, the Taylor built empire known as Enterprise Holdings was impressive. Along with the popular and well known Enterprise Rent-A-Car, other acquisitions included Alamo Rent-A-Car and National Car Rental. Who doesn’t know the phrase, “We’ll pick you up!”

Just how successful was Jack C. Taylor? The company boasted 2015 revenue at $19.4 billion! Their 1.7 million vehicles was double the size of Hertz or Avis. Enterprise Holdings also has a retail automotive division, now “the largest buyer and seller of cars and trucks in the world.”

The Enterprise model was unusual since it did not have airport locations to start. That came in 1995. Purchasing the two other rental agencies gave it an increased airport presence.

Jack knew how to make a buck or two. At the time of his death, his personal wealth was estimated by Forbes at $5.3 billion. By now, you probably wish you DID know Jack C. Taylor!

I like his often quoted business maxim. “If you take care of your customers and employees, the bottom line will take care of itself.” Picking up people who might not be able to get to a rental location was simple but genius for this business.

Along with celebrating his success story, it reminded me of how frequently it seems like this success came out of nowhere. All I remember growing up was Hertz and Avis. It appeared like Enterprise came more suddenly on the scene. I always assumed it was a late bloomer.

It’s that way with many companies. It may take decades to build a brand. The world today celebrates the high tech billionaires who can make incredible sums of money at a young age. Instant wealth.

For example, the founder started as an online bookstore in 1994. It was run out of his garage in Bellevue, Washington. His first book sold in the summer of 1995. His IPO was issued just two years later. The world’s largest online retailer is now

We often forget how much effort and humble beginnings went into some of our most impressive businesses. Contrast the Bezos empire with that of Disney. We see the Mouse imprint everywhere today. But let’s go back to 1923 when the company began. It started about 45 minutes away from the current Disneyland Park in Anaheim.

Walt Disney and brother Roy had moved in with an uncle to set up “The First Disney Studio.” Yes…another garage start up. Ninety-some years later, Disney became the highest-grossing media conglomerate in the world. (But did you know the Disney company did not start with Mickey and Minnie but with Alice Comedies based on the original Alice’s Wonderland?)

And how about this one! It was 1901. A 21-year-old young man took his recently drawn up plans for creating a small engine to power a bicycle to a childhood friend. The two of them built their first “motor-bicycle” in a friend’s small wooden shed in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. Today, their company is the most well-known motorcycle brand in the world, Harley Davidson.

All four of the stories shared in this blog have one thing in common. Simple, humble beginnings. But the success stories we read about today don’t always capture the long and winding road of hard work and sweat it took to get there.

Beyond the business world, there is a life lesson to be learned here. People who stay focused on their objectives and goals—and who are willing to sacrifice now for later rewards—have the highest degree of success.

My generation was blessed by the sacrifices made by our parents and grandparents. Expectations of success without a price seem more common today. Where will this lead?

Gain without cost is ill-advised. Expecting blessing without the work leaves want. The writer of Proverbs said it this way, “Lazy people want much but get little, but those who work hard will prosper.” (Proverbs 13:4, NLT)

If God has given you a vision for a new thing, I hope you’ll pursue it. Work at it. Be patient. Enjoy watching it grow. But know it will take a lot out of you.

The don’t call it “sweat equity” for nothing.

That’s The Way WE Work. Click on the link to the right to connect via Facebook.

Let’s Talk with Mark Elfstrand can be heard weekdays from 4-6 PM Central. To listen outside the Chicago area, tune to for live streaming or podcasts, or download the AM1160 app. 

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