About a year ago I read My Life and Work by Henry Ford. It amazes me how clearly he writes and how much of what he writes is still totally true today. The things he says about entreprenership sound like new ideas, but he proves they are old ideas, at least as old as 1922. These quotes are in order of appearance in the book. If you are short on time, just read the bolded quotes.
We waste so much time and energy that we have little left over in which to enjoy ourselves.
Power and machinery, money and goods, are useful only as they set us free to live.
Ideas are of themselves extraordinarily valuable, but an idea is just an idea. Almost anyone can think up an idea. The thing that counts is developing it into a practical product.
The primary functions are agriculture, manufacture, and transportation.
The foundations of society are the men and means to grow things, to make things, and to carry things.
That is the economic fundamental: every one of us is working with material which we did not and could not create, but which was presented to us by Nature.
The moral fundamental is man's right in his labor.
Money comes naturally as a result of service. But we do not want to forget that the end of money is not ease but the opportunity to perform more service. In my mind nothing is more abhorrent than a life of ease. None of us has any right to ease.
Start with an article that suits and then study to find some way of eliminated the entirely useless parts.
We are constantly experimenting with new ideas.
I do not believe in letting any good idea get by me, but I will not quickly decide whether an idea is good or bad. If an idea seems good or seems even to have possibilities, I believe in doing whatever necessary to test out the idea from every angle.
The essence of my idea then is that waste and greed block the delivery of true service.
The principles of service are these: 1. An absence of fear of the future and of veneration for the past. One who fears the future, who fears failure, limits his activities. Failure is only the opportunity more intelligently to begin again. There is no disgrace in honest failure; there is disgrace in fearing to fail. What is past is useful only as it suggests ways and means for progress. 2. A disregard of competition. Whoever does a thing best ought to be the one to do it. It is criminal to try to get business away from another man-criminal because one is then trying to lower for personal gain the conditions of one's fellow man - to rule by force instead of by intelligence. 3. The putting of service before profit. Without a profit, business cannot extend. There is nothing inherently wrong about making a profit. Well-conducted business enterprise cannot fail to return a profit, but profit must and inevitably will come as a reward for good service. It cannot be the basis - it must be the result of service. 4. Manufacturing is not buying low and selling high. It is the process of buying materials fairly and, with the smallest possible addition of cost, transforming those materials into a consumable product and giving it to the consumer. Gambling, speculating, and sharp dealing, tend only to clog this progression.
There is an immense amount to be learned by tinkering with things.
Machines are to a mechanic what books are to a writer. He gets ideas from them, and if he has any brains he will apply those ideas.
I figured out that watches were not universal necessities
Even then I wanted to make something in quantity
To lift farm drudgery off flesh and blood and lay it on steel and motors has been my most constant ambition.
That is the way with wise people - they are so wise and practical that they always know to a dot just why something cannot be done; they always know the limitations. That is why I never employ an expert in full bloom. If ever I wanted to kill opposition by unfair means I would endow the opposition with experts. They would have so much good advice that I could be sure they would do little work.
No work with interest is ever hard. I always am certain of results. They always come if you work hard enough.
I draw a plan and work out every detail on the plan before starting to build.
Many inventors fail because they do not distinguish between planning and experimenting.
There was no "demand" for automobiles - there never is for a new article.
The whole thought was to make to order and to get the largest price possible for each car. The main idea seemed to be to get the money.
In March, 1902, I resigned, determined never again to put myself under orders.
The most surprising feature of business as it was conducted was the large attention given to finance and the small attention to service. That seemed to be reversing the natural process which is that the money should come as the result of work and not before the work. The second feature was the general indifference to better methods of manufacturing as long as whatever was done got by and took the money. In other words, an article apparently was not built with reference to how greatly it could serve the public but with reference solely to how much money could be had for it - and that without any particular care whether the customer was satisfied. To sell him was enough.
the effect of refinancing is simply to pay the poor managers to keep up their bad management a little longer.
I determined absolutely that never would I join a company in which finance came before the work or in which bankers of financiers had a part. And further that, if there were no way to get started in the kind of business that I thought could be managed in the interest of the public, then I simply would not get started at all. For my own short experience, together with what I saw going on around me, was quite enough proof that business as a mere money-making game was not worth giving much thought to and was distinctly no place for a man who wanted to accomplish anything. Also it did not seem to me to be the way to make money. I have yet to demonstrate that it is the other way. For the only foundation of real business is service. A manufacturer is not through with his customer when a sale is completed. He has then only started with his customer. In the case of an automobile the sale of the machine is only something in the nature of an introduction. If the machine does not give service, then it is better for the manufacturer if he never had the introduction, for he will have the worst of all advertisements - a dissatisfied customer. There was something more than a tendency in the early days of the automobile to regard the selling of a machine as the real accomplishment and that thereafter it did not matter what happened to the buyer. That is the shortsighted salesman-on-commission attitude. If a salesman is paid only for what he sells, it is not to be expected that he is going to exert any great effort on a customer out of whom no more commission is to be made.
If the first consideration is to earn a certain amount of money, then, unless by some stroke of luck matters are going especially well and there is a surplus over for service so that the operating men may have a chance, future business has to be sacrificed for the dollar of today.
life is not a battle except with our own tendency to sag with the downpull of "getting settled"
Even the man who most feels himself "settled" is not settled - he is probably sagging back. Everything is in flux, and was mean to be. Life flows.
There is also the great fear of being thought a fool. So many men are afraid of being considered fools. I grant that public opinion is a powerful police influence for those who need it. Perhaps it is true that the majority of men need the restraint of public opinion. Public opinion may keep a man better than he would otherwise be - if not better morally, at least better as far as his social desirability is to be concerned. But it is not a bad thing to be a fool for righteousness's sake. The best of it is that such fools usually live long enough to prove that they were not fools - or the work they have begun lives long enough to prove they were not foolish.
Everything had to be planned to make money; the last consideration was the work. And the most curious part of it all was the insistence that it was the money and not the work that counted.
The desire seemed to be to find a short cut to money and to pass over the obvious short cut - which is through the work.
time spent in fighting competition is wasted; it had better be spent in doing the work.
I had plenty of time, for I never left my business. I do not believe a man can ever leave his business. He ought to think of it by day and dream of it by night. It is nice to plan to do one's work in office hours, to take up the work in the morning, and to drop it off in the evening- and not have a care until the next morning. It is perfectly possible to do that if one is so constituted as to be willing through all of his life to accept direction, to be an employee, possibly a responsible employee, but not a director or manager of anything.
If a man wants leisure and get is - then he has no cause to complain. But he cannot have both leisure and the results of work.
What i realized most about business in that year: 1. That finance is given a place ahead of work and therefore tends to kill the work and destroy the fundamental of service. 2. That thinking first of money instead of work brings on fear of failure and this fear blocks every avenue of business - it makes a man afraid of competition, of changing his methods, or of doing anything which might change his condition. 3. That the way is clear for any one who thinks first of service - of doing the work in the best possible way.
Ask a hundred people how they want a particular article made. About eighty will not know; they will leave it to you. Fifteen will think that they must say something, while five will really have preferences and reasons. The ninety-five, made up of those who do no know and admit it and the fifteen who do not know but do not admit it, constitute the real market for any product.
That is not service - it seeks only to provide something new, not something better.
It is strange how, just as soon as an article becomes successful, somebody starts to think that it would be more successful if only it were different. There is a tendency to keep monkeying with styles and to spoil a good things by changing it.
They listened to the 5 per cent, the special customers who could say what they wanted, and forgot the 95 per cent, who just bought without making any fuss.
Any customer can have a car painted any color that he wants so long as it is black.
The impression was that a good car could not be built at a low price, and that, anyhow, there was no use in building a low-priced car because only wealthy people were in the market for cars.
It is asked only because of the failure to grasp that a principle rather than an individual is at work, and the principle is so simple that is seems mysterious.
No manufacturer can say, "I built this business" -- if he has required the help of thousands of men in building it. It is a joint production. Everyone employed in it has contributed something to it.
but I am not particularly anxious for the men to remember what someone else has tried to do in the past, for then we might quickly accumulate far too many things that could not be done. That is one of the troubles with extensive records. If you keep on recording all of your failures you will shortly have a list showing that there is nothing left for you to try--whereas it by no means follows because one man has failed in a certain method that another man will not succeed.
We got some of our best results from letting fools rush in where angels fear to tread. None of our men are "experts." We have most unfortunately found it necessary to get rdi of a man as soon as he thinks himself an expert - because no one ever considers himself an expert if he really knows his job. A man who knows a job sees so much more to be done than he has done, that he is always pressing forward and never gives up an instant of thought to how good and how efficient he is. Thinking always ahead, thinking always of trying to do more, brings a state of mind in which nothing is impossible. The moment one gets into the "expert" state of mind a great number of things become impossible. I refuse to recognize that there are impossibilities. I cannot discover that any one knows enough about anything on this earth definitely to say what is and what is not possible. The right kind of experience, the right kind of technical training, ought to enlarge the mind and reduce the number of impossibilities. It unfortunately does nothing of the kind. Most technical training and the average of that which we call experience provide a record of previous failures and, instead of these failures being taken for what they are worth, they are taken as absolute bars to progress. If some man, calling himself an authority, says that this or that cannot be done, then a horde of unthinking followers start the chorus: "It can't be done."
It is not necessary to have meetings to establish good felling between individuals or departments. It is not necessary for people to love each other in order to work together. Too much good fellowship may indeed be a very bad thing, for it may lead to one man trying to cover up the faults of another. That is bad for both men.
There will never be a system invented which will do away with the necessity of work. Nature has seen to that. Idle hands and minds were never intended for any one of us. Work is our sanity, our self-respect, our salvation. So far from being a curse, work is the greatest blessing.
For the day's work is a great thing - a very great thing! It is at the very foundation of the world: it is the basis of our self-respect.
We are against trying to make borrowed money take the place of work.
Money is only a tool in business. It is just a part of the machinery. You might as well borrow 10,000 lathes as $100,000 if the trouble is inside your business. More lathes will not cure it; neither will more money. Only heavier doses of brains and thought and wise courage can cure.
Borrowing may easily become an excuse for not boring into the trouble. Borrowing may easily become a sop for laziness and pride.
Borrowing under certain circumstances is just like a drunkard taking another drink to cure the effect of the last one.
The time for the business man to borrow money, if ever, is when he does not need it.
I hold that it is better to sell a large number of articles at a small profit than to sell a few at a large profit. This enables a larger number of people to buy and it gives a larger number of men employment at good wages. It permits the planning of production, the elimination of dull seasons, and the waste of carrying an idle plant. Thus results a suitable, continuous business, and if you will think it over, you will discover that most so-called urgent financing is made necessary because of a lack of planned, continuous business.
Therefore I do not want stockholders in the ordinary sense of the term - they do not help forward the ability to serve.
And that is the danger of having bankers in business. They think solely in terms of money. They think of a factory as making money, not goods.
The present money system is not going to be changed by speech-making or political sensationalism or economic experiment. It is going to change under the pressure of conditions - conditions that we cannot control and pressure that we cannot control.
The wealth of the world neither consists in nor is adequately represented by the money of the world.
thus leading to that most paradoxical situation - a world filled with wealth but suffering want.
There is a pathetic faith in what money can do.
Professional charity is not only cold but it hurts more than it helps. It degrades the recipients and drugs their self-respect.
The habit of failure is purely mental and is the mother of fear. This habit gets itself fixed on men because they lack vision. They start out to do something that reaches from A to Z. At A they fail, at B they stumble, and at C they meet with what seems to be an insuperable difficulty. They then cry "Beaten" and throw the whole task down. They have not even given themselves a chance really to fail; they have not given their vision a chance to be proved or disproved. They have simply let themselves be beaten by the natural difficulties that attend every kind of effort. More men are beaten than fail. It is not wisdom they need or money, or brilliance, or "pull", but just plan gristle and bone. This rude, simple, primitive power which we call "stick-to-it-iveness" is the uncrowned king of the world of Endeavor. People are utterly wrong in their slant upon things. They see the successes that men have made and somehow they appear to be easy. But that is a world away from the facts. It is failure that is easy. Success is always hard. A man can fail in ease, he can succeed only by paying out all that he has and is. It is this which makes success so pitiable a think if it be in lines that are not useful and uplifting.
Lawyers, like bankers, know absolutely nothing about business. They imagine that a business is properly conducted if it keeps within the law or if the law can be altered or interpreted to suit the purpose in hand. They live on rules.
Following our general policy, all titles and offices other than those required by law were abolished.
It was a little hard to break the "orders" habit; the men first were afraid to take responsibility.
Will a billion dollars solve that sort of trouble? No, a billion dollars will only make the difficulty one billion dollars worse.
And old gambling trick used to be for the gambler to cry "Police!" when a lot of money was on the table, and, in the panic that followed, to seize the money and run off with it. There is a power within the world which cries "War!" and in the confusion of the nations, the unrestrained sacrifice which people make for safety and peace runs off with the spoils of the panic.
True education is gained through the discipline of life.
If a man is born with normal human faculties, if he is equipped with enough ability to use the tools which we call "letters" in reading or writing, there is no knowledge within the possession of the race that he cannot have-if he wants it!
The object of education is not to fill a man's mind with facts; it is to teach him how to use his mind in thinking. And it often happens that a man can think better if he is not hampered by knowledge of the past.
I think if we give more attention to serving our fellows we shall have less concern with the empty forms of government and more concern with the things to be done.
A common purpose, honestly believed in, sincerely desired - that is the great harmonizing principle.
I pity the fellow who is so soft and flabby that he must always have "an atmosphere of good feeling" around him before he can do his work.
And we are growing out of this worship of material possessions. It is no longer a distinction to be rich. As a matter of fact, to be rich is no longer a common ambition. People do not care for money as money, as the once did. Certainly they do not stand in awe of it, nor of him who possesses it. What we accumulate by way of useless surplus does us no honor. It takes only a moment's thought to see that as far as individual personal advantage is concerned, vast accumulations of money mean nothing. A human being is a human being and is nourished by the same amount and quality of food, is warmed by the same weight of clothing, whether he be rich or poor. And no one can inhabit more than one room at a time. But if one has visions of service, if one has vast plans which no ordinary resources could possibly realize, if one has ambition to make the industrial desert bloom like the rose, and the work-a-day life suddenly blossom into fresh and enthusiastic human motives of higher character and efficiency, then one sees in large sums of money what the farmer sees in his seed corn - the beginning of new and richer harvests whose benefits can no more selfishly confined than can the sun's rays. There are two fools in this world. One is the millionaire who thinks that by hoarding money he can somehow accumulate real power, and the other is the penniless reformer who thinks that if only he can take the money from one class and give it to another, all the world's ills will be cured. They are both on the wrong track.
It has been thought that business existed for profit. That is wrong. Business exists for service.