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100 Year Old Lessons For Today’s Startups


 100 Years of Lessons For Startup Founders Today

We still have the basic principles of business at play being a problem; the need to help our fellow man have an affordable and quicker way transport goods and people. Solution; the horseless cart. I was recently inspired by a documentary on the man who was an adventurer in business, I had an overwhelming desire to share this with you. I am sure you will see many more lessons throughout this journey.

An inventor, an engineering and mechanical genius and entrepreneurial innovator. An innovator that changed the course of history that still affects how we experience our life daily. These lessons are from the great Henry Ford for today’s startups, came hard and fast as I listened and watched intently as the story of his life unfolded before me.

“Henry Ford was a true adventurer in business”

A calculated risk taker willing, to conceive an idea and to follow his dream to help his fellow man, to explore what was possible and to discover more about himself and become the adventurer. He valued adventure; he loved nature and the outdoors and the simplicities of life on the land.

What You Value Affects Your Business  

Values are our foundation and an essential part of a startup journey. Henry was tough-minded and thrived on ingenuity and willingness to experiment. However, these types innovators in general need to be on the look out for an attitude that could kill their chances to get their invention (MVP) to market, and initially, this is what Henry Ford experienced. Knowing what you value in business and life, is like a filter that you will sift everything through to make the critical and non-critical decisions.

Henry surrounded himself with the best minds the world Thomas Edison, Albert Einstein, where some of his closest confidants and they valued their input and gathered together often. They understood the power of collective Master Minds. Understanding the value of gathering the right minds is essential for growth.

The struggle was part of everyday life. Henry knew struggle so very well in life because he came from a simple home and his father was from the land. His values and beliefs were instilled in him as a young child, so his journey to get his MVP to market was an adventure, to say the least, it was more like a Bear Grills series, filled with drinking your own piss and falling down craters, with limited options to survive.

Like all of us, Henrys values and beliefs were instilled in him as a young child; he valued hard work and quality of excellence that his investors did not value, so his journey to get his minimum viable product to market was an adventure, to say the least. It was more like a Bear Grills series, filled with drinking your own piss and falling craters, with limited options to survive.

As I listened intently to the story, my view on this great man evolved from greatness to complex mishmash of emotion as I hear for the first time of his to take the view of Nazi-sympathetic introspection and reportedly sent his engines to Germany during the Second World War. But through all of the emotion, you can’t deny his inventions stood the test of time which says everything.

A man truly passionate about innovation, he often used the power of film as a marketing tool, and he used every opportunity to influence his buyers and invited the public to buy into his life as he shared his camping adventures on film to show the ruggedness of the of his Model, T Ford.

Prepared to back up his product with his life. After going back to rebuild his car, after failed attempts, Henry decided he would prove his car was the best, by racing his own car, in a race to win. And he won the race. He had never raced a car and certainly not at those speeds before but he had absolute confidence in his creation.

Not threatened or concerned about his competitors who had gone to market with their luxury product he was only concerned about his value to deliver quality and excellence,  to be the best.

12 Key Lessons, Relevant to Today’s Entrepreneurs & Startups Today.

  1. BUILD ON SOLID PRINCIPLES & VALUES. Henry Ford built his empire on solid principles of Quality, Customer Focus, Continuous Improvement, Employee team focus, Integrity. He was brought up as a hard worker and had pride in his work and home and expected the same from his workers. Henry Ford’s invention of the car and further creation of the factory is still a very prominent part of our lives today. These solid principles helped him last the test of time.
  2. YOUR STORY IS POWERFUL.  The storey of Henrey Ford’s life is about passion and through that passion came innovation and through his need to help his fellow man he became what we can today and Entrepreneur. He saw a need in the market and he tested the market by driving his Horseless carriage down the road. Most people who used the road didn’t like this horseless carriage using their road. , very aware of how our experiences in life allow us to see different perspectives and how important it is just to have a go. You can use the power of your own story to make the difference that makes the difference.
  3. LEARNING FROM THE PAST. Observing the turn of the last century entrepreneur showed me that what an entrepreneurial startup goes through now is no different to what the men and woman in the turn of last century battled, in fact, some would argue it’s much much easier today than ever before. Of the man who changed the way, we experience life today.

4. ENVIRONMENTAL IMPACT. Indeed Henry Ford was a man who lived with many regrets of what he created as the world began to demonstrate to him very quickly how they would use the horseless carriage and then later the factory and life changed for everyone. His goal was efficiency which became destructive to the environment, reduced oxygen from our atmosphere and caused a skyline eyesore. There is also the opposite effect that factories and cars created jobs, and so the lesson is to be careful with your impact n what you create as an entrepreneur.

5. DON’T ASSUME ANYTHING.  To assume is to take for granted without proof of knowledge. To assume something is a guess, this guess work is treading on dangerous territory. To assume can be a simple interpretation. Assumption comes from a lack of knowledge of the facts. We filter experience from what you first learned about the person or thing, then that limited information you have stored from the past gives a with new information of your experience now will rapidly change your view, and you can make new decisions that are more informed.

6. PERSONAL BENEFITS. This means that; we tend to take everything personally until we recognise perception is the key to understanding our natural state is to project our life out onto the world around us. Therefore, what we perceive of others, that of which we perceive of our-self. We project onto the world around us of our fears, happiness, uncertainty, continuously, I am doing it now by writing this, I am sharing my ideas from the past with the information I have now. Remember people are only interested in themselves and the top question on their mind is “what’s in it for me.”

7. DO EVERYTHING AT 100% TOWARD EXCELLENCE. Being a perfectionist is not what I am talking about here, when I mention excellence, what I want to express here is that we simply “do our best”.

8. IT ALL STARTS WITH A DREAM. The life story of Henry Ford teaches us that it starts with a dream. That dream to help others experience a new reality and easier way. A reality that will affect and touch the lives of almost every person on the planet, a goal so significant that it still alive today. His idea to create the horseless carriage and make it affordable to a working man; blew out of proportion. He just wanted to help his fellow man by making it easier for the ordinary farmer to get his goods to market.

9. MINIMUM VIABLE PRODUCT. One product that drove it all. Henry Ford projected this dream into the world with his MVP, in the form of a model T Ford. One product, one colour at one low price to target one market, that the average man could afford. And that’s the way he wanted it to stay. But much to his dismay, the demand for more luxury and comfort was insistent and his Model T Ford became less attractive. The consumers demanded change, and he insisted on keeping it the same, he would not pivot even when his customers demanded it. Eventually, he gave in and changed to suit the demand and today we drive around in latest Ford Ranger, and it always makes me wonder what Mr Ford would think about this luxury we drive around in today and that most of which is standard in cars now. If he could see it today. Henry had a product he loved.

10. PASSION FOR SIMPLICITY. Keep it simple. Mr Ford had a product he loved, he loved that it was quality engineering; he loved that it was practical and that it solved a basic problem and he has a solution for that problem, he loved it for its simplicity and effectiveness. He achieved this goal to make it affordable for the working class man and now we experience life beyond the limits of his imagination.

Throughout his life journey, he became one of the most powerful men in the world. A passionate man who surrounded himself with people he trusted.

Creating a Monster

Sometimes to our horror, we can create a monster that you can’t control. Henry Ford found himself in this predicament after her created the first factory. He created the monster and began to see the ugliness of his innovation of the car and the first ever factory. He saw how it changed people expectations and even changed fashion. That bore the new age of industry, and the creation of the monster factory, which became unstoppable. He could not unmake it; he now had to live with it.

Interestingly in his despair, Henry built an entire town that was a replica of his former life, his Grandparents house and the family home, church, schools and strangely enough, even the horse and cart. Essentially he created a parallel world, (a town) one that represented a simple life he once knew as a child. Because the world he lived in, was changing so rapidly with his inventions and innovation, he yearned for a simpler life. Being aware of the ecology of your creation should be taken into account.

A belief that he could make life easier for his fellow man, became his driving force. He also found it had the opposite effect. My personal understanding and opinion is that it was later fuelled by the taste of power that became ego driven in a way that, his passion became his nemesis. However that is my understanding, I would like to here yours?

But what if it fails?

We all have this voice; ” but what if it fails?” at one point or another, I had a dear friend say that to me and I said; “well I would rather give it a go than not try at all”. But what if it works? It is inevitable that this will come up on a startup journey, but even if it does fail at least, you have more information now than if you didn’t give it a go. It is just about focusing on serving others to solve the problem.

A vision of building a machine, accessible and affordable to every household initially failed, and his competition beat him to market. However, he kept going, perfected it, and tried again until he created an empire! He never lost sight of his desired outcome. He never lost sight of his desired outcome, and the Model T Ford became a reality in 1908 and in 1914 he had claimed 48% share of the automobile market. He never lost sight of his desire to help his fellow man and lives globally. He failed then when back to make it better.

In the creating the horseless cart, a significant change took place in the lives of the people of in 1908. A turning point in, fashion and the values of a modern man shifted to luxurious lifestyles started to change, fashion changed, and we became the ultimate consumer. The life of the modern man, just go more complicated, amending the expectations of the people forever.

The invention of the car became a pivot point in history, affecting fashion and the personal values of a modern man shifted. They became the ultimate consumers of luxury items which started to change style. The life of the modern man, just got more complicated, amending the expectations of the customer forever.

We can learn from the change makers of the past and present as to how to do innovation and business better. Learning from their mistakes and the successes of those who ventured before us and gather the valuable learnings to apply to our current situations.

“Don’t find fault, find a remedy”- Henry Ford 

My learnings will be different to yours, so I recommend this documentary (Netflix) to any budding entrepreneur or startup out there! I am sure you will get the learning you need from it. You will discover your own gold nuggets in regards to current day entrepreneurs and startups. Feel free to share them with us in the comments below.

I will leave you with a quote by the man himself:

“Coming together is a beginning; keeping together is progress; working together is success.”- Henry Ford

What assumptions have you made about history’s change makers that surprised you? Or you didn’t expect? Please share below.




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