The Lives and Times of Henry Ford: Entrepreneur Extraordinaire

“Failure is only an opportunity to begin all over again, this time more intelligently”

Henry Ford


Henry FordMore than one hundred years ago, Mr.  Henry Ford (1863–1947) made an announcement that shook industries as it had hitherto existed till that point in time. A Cleveland newspaper also reported that it “shot like a blinding rocket through the dark clouds of the present industrial depression”.

Since the Ford automobile factory had a very high turnover rate and people were constantly leaving his company for rival car makers; productivity was falling. Therefore, with the settled upon goal of tackling not just employee turnover but also improving overall productivity at his plant, Henry more than doubled the wages of many, to a staggering (for that period of time) five dollars a day.  This move led not only to a great increase in the overall output per worker along with near absolute company loyalty (no one would want to leave a company that was paying double the going rate for their expertise), it also allowed Ford’s Motor Company’s own employees to afford the very cars that they were making.

What he had inadvertently done was to help establish what would go on to become the twentieth century’s clearly defining the social formula, which was that workers are equal to the consumers. Thus, Henry Ford not only gave birth to the assembly line concept but thanks to his foresight, also to the mass-consumption economy for the decades to come.

This is indeed precisely why even these days, Henry Ford is widely considered to be a household name, and as a matter of fact, there must be very few people indeed who have not been affected by the sheer towering genius of this man. However, it had not always been this way at all.  As a matter of fact, at 23 years of age, Henry Ford was just a machinist’s apprentice. But what set him apart from others was the fact that he had a vision and the ambition to make that vision come true.


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.

Henry Ford


However, his life was no fairy tale success story at all. On the contrary, his failures outwighed his success. In fact, be became widely known as a person who, in spite of being a highly intelligent engineer, still failed to invent anything really worthwhile.  But this was due to his dedication to perfection. Yes, it is certainly true that he really was late in his deliveries, but that was largely due to the near absolute perfection he expected from every product that he had created. And while his seeming inability to be able to deliver on his commitments on time, did tarnish his early reputation, he still did not allow himself to slack off, or even decrease his own self-imposed standards, in any way.

In fact, it was largely due to these very failures early in his career that he learned some really valuable lessons. And they were instrumental in sparking all of his future success.

But before that, with a badly tarnished reputation and no financial backers interested in furthering what was by now seen as a ‘lost cause,’ Henry was in a really troubled spot.  He had become a bit of a pariah in the (as yet) nascent automobile industry, and no one wanted to finance him anymore. But that did not mean he lost all hope. Rather, he was spurred to ever greater efforts

And went on to create the Ford ‘Model A’ manufactured by the newly formed “Ford Motor Company.”

The initial failure of the Model A

The very first batch of the Model A’s was not exactly the success that Henry had in mind. The vehicle started to brake down all over the country and people who bought these cars became very loud in their condemnation of the model.

However, Ford did not let even this setback, make a pessimist out of him.  Rather he carefully sat and listened to the feedback that his mechanics and customers brought him. This proved to be so very valuable that he actually made a long list of all of the problems, that the vehicles were facing and methodically implemented various corrective measures in his assembly line. With the help of such flexible planning, his young company kept making mistakes, kept making cars, and also learning enough to work on a new generation of vehicles.

 The Ford Model T

After a few more years of trial and error, not to mention having to contend with countless failures before he launched what is considered to be the best automobile in the world till that point in time, the truly iconic “Ford Model T”. This model effectively revolutionized the automobile industry of that age, and Ford’s name leapfrogged to the very forefront of the whole industry. And it was not just the company alone. But he also almost singlehandedly helped establish the city of Detroit, as one of the industrial powerhouses of the US.

Henry Ford: Learning to succeed

Here the most important thing to remember is that Henry’s seemingly endless perseverance as well as his intrinsic ability to overcome all setbacks was the cornerstone to his subsequent success. The main thing that one can see in his life is that he used failure itself, as a stepping stone to success. And the feedback that he personally and so painstakingly gathered from all those failures was the inspiration that he used to fine-tune his revolutionary design ideas, and thus eventually managed to change the very world we live in.


“You will find men who want to be carried on the shoulders of others, who think that the world owes them a living. They don’t seem to see that we must all lift together and pull together.”

Henry Ford


by Bobby J Davidson

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