Greatest Entrepreneurs of All Time

By Skrhak, K. Shelby; Ocker, Lisa et al. | Success, June-July 2008 | Go to article overview
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Greatest Entrepreneurs of All Time


Skrhak, K. Shelby, Ocker, Lisa, Heisz, Deborah K., Success


Entrepreneurs are the great achievers of our society who have the courage, determination and belief in themselves to pursue a dream, to overcome obstacles, to nurture ideas to fruition.

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The greatest entrepreneurs are those who revolutionize business, open opportunities for others and change the way we think and live. Their impact is felt for generations.

The SUCCESS 50 represents America's greatest entrepreneurs of all time. * They are self-made men and women representing a cross section of America, with innovations that opened up the West, heralded the Gilded Age, created an American middle class and ushered in the Information Age. While we believe these men and women to be the best of the best, their accomplishments are varied and not easily compared and, therefore, they are not ranked on this list.

Some of their names may not be familiar, but the impact of their accomplishments is enormous. The lessons we deduce from their ingenuity, spirit and determination are invaluable. With the SUCCESS 50, we bring you these timeless lessons, as applicable to your life and business today as they were in shaping the achievements of the greatest entrepreneurs of all time.

Industry

Henry Ford 1863-1947

Henry Ford insisted on making a car that was affordable for everyone. His goal ran counter to the wishes of his backers at Ford Motor Co., who sought to maximize profits by building cars for the rich. As a key initiator of the moving assembly line, the company mass-produced cars faster and cheaper than other companies, Ford paid his workers a real living wage and, through mass consumption, made Ford Motor Co. very profitable-and eventually bought out those skeptical backers. Perhaps most importantly, he helped create a middle class with "America's Everyman Car," his black Model T (the only color the company produced for years). While he had many personal flaws, Ford's vision of an affordable car enabled more people to commute to work and be more selective about jobs, eventually leading to more free time, including time for Sunday drives.

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* John D. Rockefeller 1839-1937

John D. Rockefeller was the single most important figure in the foundation of the oil industry. With his brother and other partners he founded Standard Oil in 1870 and built it into one of the world's first and largest multinational corporations. With an extreme focus on efficiency and buying or shutting down competitors, the company controlled almost 90 percent of the country's refined oils by the 1890s. Rockefeller, as controlling partner and the largest shareholder, became a billionaire and eventually the world's richest man. In 1911 because of anti-trust litigation, the Supreme Court ruled that Standard Oil must split into 38 companies. Two of those companies eventually became Exxon and Mobil, which merged in 1999.

Rockefeller, who remained a major shareholder although he had retired from running the company in 1896, turned his focus to charitable endeavors. Some argued that he used philanthropy as a moral shield from the critics of his aggressive business practices. But he was as calculating in his giving as he was in business, creating the modern systematic approach to targeted philanthropy, with foundations benefiting medicine, education and scientific research. The Rockefeller wealth, distributed as it was through a system of foundations and trusts, continues to fund family philanthropic ventures today.

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Cyrus McCormick Sr. 1809-1884

The "father of modern agriculture," Cyrus McCormick Sr. invented the horsedrawn mechanical reaper and prevailed as an entrepreneur through his ability to find capitalists to fund the machine and salesmen to get it to farmers. With his innovation, farmers doubled their production, contributing significantly to U.

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