Episode #5 of the course “History’s greatest entrepreneurs”
Henry Ford is known for getting America, and the world, driving. He founded the Ford Motor Company, promoted the industrialized assembly line, and recreated the structure of his business to accommodate higher industry standards for his workers. Ford changed the way America does business.
Born in Michigan in 1863, Ford grew up on a farm with his father after his mother’s death. Once he became an engineer with the Edison Illuminating Company, Ford began experimenting with combustion engines. With the personal help of Thomas Edison himself, Ford developed a 26-horsepower automobile by 1901, which developed into the classic automobile, the Ford Motor Company Model-T, by 1908.
The Ford Model T
Automobiles were immensely popular, and by the 1920s were inexpensive enough that most American families could afford to own one. Local governments had to accommodate their infrastructure, such as roads, bridges, and tunnels, for the heavy automobile traffic, forever changing how America travels. Henry Ford and the Ford Motor Company briefly experimented with airplane design and manufacture. Ford was also interested in how corn and charcoal briskets could be used as a fuel, and he conducted experiments on both.
Ford embraced the idea of an assembly line process for his automobile manufacture. Each worker in his factory was responsible for performing one specific task repeatedly. One of the pioneers of “welfare capitalism,” Ford’s business philosophy included treating workers to certain standards in order to decrease his company’s turnover rate. He promoted a $5 workday for qualified workers (which more than doubled most employees’ daily wages). Ford’s action on his business beliefs strongly impacted the local economy in Detroit, home of Ford Motor Company’s headquarters, throughout the 20th century.
“Anyone who stops learning is old, whether at twenty or eighty. Anyone who keeps learning stays young. The greatest thing in life is to keep your mind young.”
“If you think you can do a thing or think you can’t do a thing, you’re right.”
“Thinking is the hardest work there is, which is probably the reason why so few engage in it.”
“When everything seems to be going against you, remember that the airplane takes off against the wind, not with it.”
“Nothing is particularly hard if you divide it into small jobs.”
“If I had asked them what they had wanted, they would have said a faster horse.”
“My Life & Work – An Autobiography of Henry Ford” by Henry Ford
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