Henry Ford is considered one of the most successful entrepreneurs of American History. There is so much that we can learn from his story, not only about the company that nowadays is still one of the major players in the automobile field but also it’s about his personality traits as a man that can teach us so many things, after all being an entrepreneur is not only about good ideas, it’s more on how you take those into reality. Keep reading to find out more about him!

Read: Industrial Design: The Key to Apple’s Success

Who was Henry Ford?

Henry was born on July 30, 1863, in what is now known as Dearborn, Michigan. He was a farmer’s son and since very young, Ford demonstrated the qualities that defined his career through the years: mechanical ability, a facility for leadership, and a preference for learning by trial-and-error. The founder of the Ford Motor Company was always interested in the mechanical aspect of everything surrounding him. He knew how a full-size steam machine works just by being a friend of the men that ran those.

But it went beyond that. Ford taught himself how to fix watches just by opening them and studying the mechanism. That way, he not only knew about the pieces that were part of the mechanism but also learned about their designs, lessons that he put into practice in future years. He also showed leadership within the boys of his age to reunite them to create rudimentary water wheels and steam machines. 

Ford never liked to stay in one place, especially if he can learn more somewhere else. In 1879 he left his father’s farm because he never wanted to follow his steps and got a job at the Michigan Car Company that manufactured railroad cars in Detroit. Then he continued moving to places that offered him new knowledge that lasted at least more than two years. Returning home wasn’t a shame for him. Instead, he showed another trait: a preference to work by himself than for somebody else. 

At home, he worked on steam machines and cut and sold timber from his father’s lands. He worked in several Detroit factories, but they were enough for him. In 1888 Ford got married to Clara Bryant and found another job in the city. He decided to move there with his wife. The job was to be a night engineer at the Edison Illuminating Company. The catch was that Ford didn’t know anything about electricity, but as with everything in his life, he saw this as an opportunity to learn more about it. This led him to be a chief engineer by 1896, showing an incredible passion for learning about the things that interested him. However, he wasn’t keen to stay forever in Edison Company. 

Soon he became another person trying to build a horseless carriage and supported by friends. In 1896, he finished his first self-propelled vehicle named The Quadricycle. It wasn’t perfect. Still, it means the beginning of his trajectory with automobiles. A second car followed in 1898. A new idea began, Ford decided to find investors to start his own company selling horseless carriages. But he didn’t know a thing or two about running a business, so with his preference of learning by trial-and-error, he started his career in the automobile industry. However, this method will always present failures, so before founding Ford Motor Company, he took risks, lost money and support until he decided to start the famous company. 

“Be ready to revise any system, scrap any method, abandon any theory, if the success of the job requires it.”

Henry Ford’s success story

Let’s be clear Henry Ford didn’t invent the automobile or the assembly line, but he saw their opportunities and ways to improve them, and that was the success key with Ford Motor. Besides that, Mr. Ford had a keen eye to find talented people working with him in new company models. The first vehicle was called the Model A. Then several models followed the first one, all of them with improvements. In 1907 they launched the Model N, a four-cylinder vehicle with a cost of $600, quickly it became the most selling car in the country. 

But Ford was always thinking of new and better things, especially with his vehicles. So in 1908, he selected a small team of trusted workers, and together they created the Model T: a car for the multitude, this model became his best vehicle to that date. The secret was a machine easy to operate, maintain and handle on rough roads. Soon Ford was selling all the cars that he could make, but he wanted to make all the cars that could satisfy the demand within the population, and for that, he will need a giant factory.

In 1910 the company moved to Highlight Park, Michigan, a bigger place for bigger dreams. Ford and his team started to work on increasing production and reducing costs. Taking ideas from watches, guns, and bicycle makers, mixing them with their original ideas, they design their moving assembly line. But problems started with workers about the repetitive jobs and tiredness, so by 1914, Ford made a revolutionary move he virtually doubled wages to $5 per day, this was the incentive that the workers needed allowing them to have a better life even having the opportunity to buy the same cars that they assemble.  

This produced several successful years. In 1922 half the country’s cars were the Model T with a cost of only $269. In 1929 Ford bought the investors parts and became the sole owner of the company. He named his son Edsel as the president, but it was Ford who controlled the company. But as with everything in life, soon there was trouble in paradise. Ford Company had to face significant problems in the next decades. From the Great Depression to World Wars, the company took big challenges, and besides those global problems, they also had to face modernity and competition.

The automobile industry has always been one of competition with better and modern models, and not only about the car itself but its mechanism, showing better motors, parts, and materials. However, Ford was getting behind those improvements, and with all the other problems, the company was at the brink of bankruptcy, so Henry decided to step down and pass the control to Henry II, his grandchild. Nowadays, Ford Company is still one the most prominent players in the Automobile Industry. Still, it’s in constant competition for better models and innovations with other companies such as General Motors, Chrysler, Toyota, and Hyundai.

Henry Ford died on April 7, 1947, at the age of 83. Even with all the problems that the company was facing at that moment, his legacy will always stay as an example of constancy, hard work, big dreams, and innovation. Maybe Ford wasn’t the author of the automobile and the assembly line. However, he changed the game at an industrial level. Those innovations are still part of industries worldwide, not only in the automobile sector, the moving assembly line is still used in many areas. Besides that, any automobile company uses his knowledge as the foundation for their success, not only about the assembly line but also about creating mechanisms and even motors. After all, the V8 engine is one of his best creations. 

Mr. Ford is one of the best innovators that America has the honor to have, and his story can teach us many things not only with business and industry aspects but also with life because Henry not only put that knowledge into the company, he lived according to the lessons that he learned. Keep in touch with the magazine to remember more successful stories!

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