Home » Starting a Business

Category Archives: Starting a Business

Start-up lessons from Patron Billionaire John Paul DeJoria

Start-up lessons from Patron Billionaire John Paul DeJoria


john paul dejoria


The founder of Paul Mitchell and Patron talks entrepreneurship, branding and the power of passion.

Business Ideas – 3 Business Lessons From George Lucas

Business Ideas – 3 Business Lessons From George Lucas by Evan Carmichael


george lucas


Today we’re going to look at how a young man who wanted to become a professional race car driver changed his career choice after connecting with the right mentor and rose to the top of his industry. This is the story of Star Wars creator George Lucas and the top 3 lessons that you can learn from his success.


“The secret is not to give up hope. It’s very hard not to because if you’re really doing something worthwhile I think you will be pushed to the brink of hopelessness before you come through the other side. You just have to hang in through that.” – George Lucas


George Lucas (born May 14, 1944) is an American film producer, screenwriter, and director, and entrepreneur. He is the founder, chairman and chief executive of Lucasfilm and is best known as the creator of the Star Wars and Indiana Jones franchises. Lucas’ father owned a small office supply store that Lucas was destined to take over but he had other plans – he wanted to become a professional race car driver. Almost his entire childhood was dedicated to cars.

When he was in a near-fatal car accident just days before his high school graduation, Lucas gave up racing and went to college. He enrolled in the University of Southern California School of Cinema-Television because he liked photography and thought “maybe that will be interesting.” The program would change his life. He met Francis Ford Coppola at the film school who served as his mentor and inspired him to become a producer-director. Upon graduation he committed himself to doing films as his profession.

Today Lucas is one of the film industry’s most financially successful directors/producers. His estimated 2011 net worth is $3.2 billion and he’s received numerous honours such as being named among the 100 Greatest Americans by the Discovery Channel and receiving the Lifetime Achievement Award by the American Film institute.



Action Item #1: Love what you do

Action Item #2: Find something you’re great at 

Action Item #3: Keep going



True Story

Lucas wrote the screenplay for Star Wars after being inspired by Flash Gordon and Planet of the Apes. While writing it he thought that it was “too wacky” for the general public but he insisted on finishing it. When the script was finished, only Twentieth Century Fox was willing to take a chance on the movie. In a groundbreaking move at the time, Lucas agreed to give up his director’s salary in exchange for 40% of the film’s box office take as well as all merchandising rights and sequel rights. Breaking all box office records and winning seven Academy Awards, Star Wars made Lucas an instant millionaire as well as a household name.



More Quotes

“I’m extremely grateful that I discovered my passion. I love movies. I love to watch them, I love to make them.”

“It’s hard work making movies…if you don’t really love it, then it ain’t worth it.”

“I got the licensing rights because I figured they wouldn’t promote the film and if I got T-shirts and things out there with the name of the film on them it would help promote the movie.”


Business Ideas – How to Learn, Not Waste Time, and Be Kind Like Benjamin Franklin by Evan Carmichael

Business Ideas – How to Learn, Not Waste Time, and Be Kind Like Benjamin Franklin


benjamin franklin


Today we’re going to take a closer look at the fifteenth child of seventeen children who only had two years of grammar school education and went on to become an entrepreneur and one of the Founding Fathers of the United States. This is the story of Benjamin Franklin and the top 3 lessons that you can learn from his success.


“If a man empties his purse into his head, no man can take it away from him. An investment in knowledge always pays the best interest.” – Benjamin Franklin


Benjamin Franklin (born January 17, 1706) did not come from a family of prominence. Instead, his family could only afford to send him to two years of grammar school and by the time he was 13, Franklin’s father sent him off to apprentice at his older brother’s print company. Here, Franklin helped to compose pamphlets, set up type, sell the paper on the streets and perform other printer-related duties. Franklin also began writing columns under the pseudonym ‘Mrs. Silence Dogood’, who he fabricated to be a middle-aged widow. Dogood was an immediate hit with her writings about the problems and social conditions of women, but when James found out it was actually his younger brother writing her column, he was furious. As a result of James’ ensuing harassment and beatings, Franklin became a fugitive and ran away from his family at the age of 17.


Franklin tried his luck as a printer both in New York and New Jersey, but to no avail. He then moved to Philadelphia, where he did manage to find a job with a printer. But, Franklin was unsatisfied with his prospects there. After a brief stint at a printer’s shop in London, England, Franklin returned to Philadelphia in 1726. Four years and much borrowed money later, he had finally set up his own printing house. He began to publish a newspaper called The Pennsylvania Gazette, in which he would regularly give himself space to comment on the most pressing social issues of the time. He cultivated an image of himself as an intellectual and a productive young man and his writings were the beginning of what would earn Franklin significant social respect.


In 1748, Franklin officially retired from the printing business, although he continued writing literature and satirical essays throughout the rest of his life. He began to take a more formal role in public life, becoming councilman, Justice of the Peace in Pennsylvania and elected member of the Assembly. Five years later, he was appointed Joint Deputy Postmaster-General of North America and several other posts. In perhaps his most well known feat, Franklin began working towards independence as part of the Committee of Five that drafted the Declaration of Independence. In 1787, after he had retired from public office, he attended a series of meetings that would result in the United States Constitution. He became the only Founding Father to sign all three of the country’s major founding documents: The Declaration of Independence, The Treaty of Paris and the U.S. Constitution.



Action Item #1: Always be Learning


Action Item #2: Don’t Waste Time


Action Item #3: Be Kind to One Another



True Story

Benjamin Franklin had no real opinions on slavery until he went to England. His wife, Deborah, was not well educated and had problems even writing to him, but pressured him into visiting a grammar school for black children while he was stationed in London. After visiting the school, Franklin found, to his surprise, that black children were just as smart at white children. After coming to this realization, he changed his entire outlook on the way slavery was being conducted in the United States.


Unknown to most people in America, Franklin was one of the first American politicians to advocate the end of slavery in the United States. He had been socially active most of his life, even creating one of the first fire departments in Philadelphia. During the end of his life, he spent a lot of time speaking, writing and publicly admonishing other politicians that believed in slavery. He wanted to start schools for black children and offer them the same things white children had, but in the end, all of his talk would be disregarded. However, his beliefs would eventually lead Abraham Lincoln to the same realization.





“Remember not only to say the right thing in the right place, but far more difficult still, to leave unsaid the wrong thing at the tempting moment.”


“I didn’t fail the test, I just found 100 ways to do it wrong.”


“Any fool can criticize, condemn and complain and most fools do.”


Business Ideas – 3 Success Lessons from Reed Hastings (Netflix) by Evan Carmichael

Business Ideas – 3 Success Lessons from Reed Hastings (Netflix)


reed hastings


Today we’re going to take a closer look at how a Peace Corps volunteer and teacher began a software company at the age of 48. Deciding to switch careers later in life, this man would build the largest movie-rental service in the United States, with more than 23 million subscribers. This is the story of Netflix founder Reed Hastings and the top 3 lessons that you can learn from his success.


“I got the idea for Netflix after my company was acquired. I had a big late fee for ‘Apollo 13.’ It was six weeks late and I owed the video store $40. I had misplaced the cassette. It was all my fault.” – Reed Hastings


Reed Hastings (born October 8, 1960) is an American entrepreneur and founder of Netflix. He used to teach mathematics in Swaziland as an American Peace Corps volunteer. So, when 48 year old Reed Hastings decided to found his own software company, some eyebrows were raised. But Hastings would prove the disbelievers wrong with the subsequent founding of Netflix, the largest movie-rental service via mail in the U.S. With over 23 million subscribers and sales in the billions, Hastings proved he was able to go from living in Africa, to living in affluence.


Hastings’ father was a prominent lawyer who once worked in the U.S. Department of Health, Education, and Welfare in the Nixon Administration. After graduating with his Bachelor’s Degree and winning awards for his mathematics abilities, Hastings felt the urge to join the Marine Corps. He signed up for their Platoon Leader Class, and spent two years in their boot camp in Quantico, Virginia. In 1983, Hastings found himself in Swaziland working as a mathematics professor for the Peace Corps. He stayed there two years before deciding to return home. Back in the U.S., Hastings was accepted into graduate school at Stanford. His first choice had been M.I.T., but he did not get accepted.


Hastings graduated from Stanford with a Master’s Degree in Computer Science in 1988, and was subsequently hired by Adaptive Technology, where he worked on developing a debugging software tool. But, Hastings wanted more of a challenge, and he wanted to work for himself. Hastings decided the only option was to set off on his own and start a business. In 1991, Hastings quit his job and launched Pure Software, a company dedicated to developing troubleshooting products for software. But, as the company grew, Hastings found that his mathematics and computer background was not enough of a match for running a business. He asked his company’s board of directors to replace him for the good of the company. After finally selling the business, he would wait two years before trying again. In 1998, Hastings founded Netflix as a movie rental by mail service that offered a flat rate subscription fee. Within five years the business was booming.



Action Item #1: Change the Model


Action Item #2: Don’t Underestimate the Competition 


Action Item #3: Work Hard



True Story 


Even though Hastings grew up in a well-to-do family and attended private school, he spent a few years working for the Peace Corps and teaching in Swaziland. After returning to the United States, he would eventually move to California. Unknown to most people, Hastings became very active in educational philanthropy. He would advocate stronger math and science curricula, as well as advocate increasing the number of charter schools, which he believed were better than public schools.


In an effort to change the way the public schools did business, Hastings would organize a drive to get a new proposal on the California ballot during the 2000 elections. Proposition 39 would go on the ballot, but to show his support for education, Hastings would go back to school to get his graduate degree in education. This showed all the residents that he was serious about education and Proposition 39 would eventually be passed by a large majority of residents.





“It was an extremely satisfying experience. Taking smart risks can be very gratifying.”


“Early on, the first concept we launched was rental by mail, but it wasn’t subscription based, so it worked more like Blockbuster. Some people liked it, but it wasn’t very popular. I remember thinking, God, this whole thing could go down.”


“I learned the value of focus. I learned it is better to do one product well than two products in a mediocre way.”


From Homeless to Millionaire – 3 Success Lessons from Chris Gardner by Evan Carmichael

From Homeless to Millionaire – 3 Success Lessons from Chris Gardner


chris gardner


Today we’re going to look at how a high school dropout and homeless man would go from living on the streets and bathing in public restrooms to building one of the most successful stock brokerage firms in America. This is the story of multi-millionaire Chris Gardner and the top 3 lessons that you can learn from his success.


“Find something that you love. Something that gets you so excited you can’t wait to get out of bed in the morning. Forget about money. Be happy.” – Chris Gardner


Chris Gardner (born on February 9, 1954) was the only son of 12 children that was being raised by a single mother. His single mother was trained as a schoolteacher, but wound up taking on numerous part-time jobs in order to provide for her family. Gardner and his siblings were transferred back and forth between relatives and foster homes. His mother had been imprisoned twice; once, for allegedly receiving welfare while working, and the second time for attempting to burn down the house of Gardner’s abusive stepfather. Gardner’s prospects were narrow coming from an environment such as this.


While on a sales call, Gardner met a man who was impeccably dressed and drove a red Ferrari. As fate would have it, the driver of the Ferrari was a stockbroker. When Gardner heard that the man was earning over $80,000 a month, he decided that his future lied in investments. He had no education, no experience, and no connections, but that was not about to stop Gardner from achieving his new dream. Once he had decided to become a stockbroker, Gardner immediately set out to find an investment firm that would give him a chance. In one brokerage firm, Gardner finally found a manager of a training program who was willing to give him a shot. However, when Gardner showed up for his first day of work, the manager who had hired him had been fired and no one else had ever heard of Gardner or his new position. He left with his hopes disappointed.


Nevertheless, Gardner didn’t give up on his dreams. He continued to seek out investment firms, taking odd jobs to pay the bills in the meantime. Dean Witter, a San Francisco-based brokerage firm was interested in Gardner but refused to bring him on board before putting him through ten months of interviews. It would be a grueling ten months. Gardner showed up for his interview in a T-shirt and dirty jeans. He could have fabricated some heroic story to explain his appearance. Instead, Gardner decided to tell the truth. In plain terms, Gardner told his interviewer that the mother of his son had ran off with his child, that he was broke, and that he has just gotten out of jail the day before. As luck would have it, the interviewer had recently been through a nasty divorce and could sympathize with Gardner. He was immediately given a position in the company’s training program. In 1987, Gardner launched his own brokerage firm in Chicago, Gardner Rich. Gardner quickly began to land major clients for his new company, including the pension fund of the Chicago Teacher’s Union. Since then, his business has continued to take off and Gardner hasn’t looked back.



Action Item #1: Get Excited About Something 


Action Item #2: Be the Best You Can Be


Action Item #3: Remember Your Roots 





“Baby steps count, as long as you are going forward. You add them all up, and one day you look back and you’ll be surprised at where you might get to.”


“That’s when I learned in this business, it’s not a black thing, it’s not a white thing, it’s a green thing. If you can make me money, I don’t care what color you are. So that’s how I deal with that to this day.”


“I was Chris Gardner, father of a son who deserved better than what my daddy could do for me, son of Betty Jean Gardner who said that if I wanted to win I could win.”


Business Ideas – Are people ignoring you? Secrets from Coca-Cola’s Asa Candler by Evan Carmichael

Business Ideas – Are people ignoring you? Secrets from Coca-Cola’s Asa Candler


asa candler


Today we’re going to take a closer look at how a man that left school when he was 10 to work on his father’s farm so that his little brother could go to school. He would go on to build one of the most recognizable companies in the world. This is the story of Coca-Cola founder Asa Candler and the top 3 lessons that you can learn from his success.


“Every human life is made to fit some place, and there is a place for every life.” – Asa Candler


Asa Griggs Candler was born on December 30, 1851 in Villa Rica, Georgia, and was the eighth of eleven children. He grew up during the time of the American Civil War. Candler’s father was a well-established merchant and property owner, but the war would take its toll on the family; they often had no more than the bare necessities. Candler’s formal education began when he was five years old, but was sporadic throughout. When he was ten years old, he left school and spent his time working on his father’s farm. While he could have opted to attend Emory College, he instead let his brother, Warren attend in his place.


Candler was anxious to enter the working world. He had an interest in the medical field, but with no money for medical school, he decided to pursue a career as a druggist. He took on an apprenticeship with two pharmacists in his hometown, but his earnings were meagre. So, Candler decided to move to Atlanta in search of better opportunities. In 1873, with just $1.75 in his pocket, Candler made the move to Atlanta and landed a job with a local druggist, George J. Howard. His early success and work ethic led to his promotion as chief clerk. However, after a falling out with Howard, Candler decided to strike out on his own and become his own boss.


Candler used to get migraines and one day they were so bad that he was willing to try whatever it took to get rid of it. He turned to a little known product that had been produced by a fellow Atlanta-based druggist, John Smyth Pemberton. Pemberton had created something called “Coca-Cola,” his own personal fizzy ‘brain tonic’ and headache medicine that combined coca leaves and kola nuts. He had been selling the drink for five cents a glass at his own drugstore. It was created in his back yard in a three-legged fifteen-gallon pot that stood over a fire, and when Candler sampled it, he was immediately hooked. In what appeared to be a rash decision to onlookers, Candler decided at once to sell his entire stock of drugs, paints, oils, glass, and fancy clothes. He sold off everything he could and raised roughly $50,000. He initially invested $500 into Pemberton’s company, but by the end of 1891, he had managed to gain control over the entire Coca-Cola product for just $2,300. He used the rest of the money to continue manufacturing and marketing the drink. Coca-Cola was born.



Action Item #1: Make People Remember Your Product 


Action Item #2: Be Unique 


Action Item #3: If it Ain’t Broke, Don’t Fix It 



True Story 


Asa Candler was a strong businessperson and aggressive when it came to all of his ventures, but he believed personal wealth should benefit the community. Unheard of in his day, he would challenge other wealthy business people to match everything he gave to charity. A lot of this money went towards the building of Wesley Memorial Hospital, which is now known as Emory University Hospital. Candler did a lot for education and is considered the founder of Emory University.


According to one story, he would not associate with other business people that did not share his point of view about giving back to the community. This feeling was proven in public when he slapped one of the richest men in Atlanta at the time for not giving money to help expand Emory University. This story ran in all the local newspapers and was front-page news for more than a week, until the wealthy businessperson finally gave $12,500 to the university and did it publicly.





“I wish that the characteristic excellence of our people may be made better and that the things which blemish our lives may be speedily obliterated.”


“The product sold itself, I just wanted to remind people it was one of a kind.”


“Every human life is made to fit some place, and there is a place for every life.”


Business Ideas: 3 Business Lessons From Visa Founder Dee Hock

Business Ideas: 3 Business Lessons From Visa Founder Dee Hock


dee hock


Today we’re going to look at how a former brick mason refused to settle for less than he felt he deserved and went on to build one of the most successful financial companies in the world. This is the story of VISA founder Dee Hock and the top 3 lessons that you can learn from his success.


“Money motivates neither the best people, nor the best in people.” – Dee Hock


Dee Hock (born 1929) is the founder and former CEO of VISA. In 1968, when credit cards were first starting to get popular, Hock convinced the Bank of America to release control over their BankAmericard credit card program. He started a new company to control the credit cards. It was called National BankAmerica and later changed to VISA.


Hock came from a modest household. His father was a utility lineman and after marrying his high school sweetheart, Hock’s first jobs were working in a slaughterhouse and for a brick mason. He became interested in the banking world and walked away from three separate jobs at respected financial companies because he thought they were too hierarchical and controlling which limited his creativity.


Hock went looking for an opportunity to build a different type of organization, one that valued the creativity and enthusiasm of its employees. The result of this plan was VISA. Today VISA has over $8 billion in revenues and processes over 60 billion transactions per year.



Action Item #1: Hire People Different From You


Action Item #2: Be A Leader


Action Item #3: Empty Your Mind





“Failure is not to be feared. It is from failure that most growth comes; provided that one can recognize it, admit it, learn from it, rise about it, and try again.”


“If you don’t understand that you work for your mislabelled ‘subordinates,’ then you know nothing of leadership. You know only tyranny.”


“Given the right circumstances, from no more than dreams, determination, and the liberty to try, quite ordinary people consistently do extraordinary things.”


Business Ideas: How to Grow, Be Opportunistic, and Ignore Your Critics Like Robert Johnson

Business Ideas: How to Grow, Be Opportunistic, and Ignore Your Critics Like Robert Johnson by Evan Carmichael


robert johnson


Today we’re going to look at how a boy from a family of 10 in Mississippi kept his eyes open for opportunities and turned a $15,000 investment into multi-billion dollar empire. This is the story of Robert Johnson from B.E.T. and the top 3 lessons that you can learn from his success.


“Anything that has to do with money, I want to be in that business.” – Robert Johnson


Robert L. Johnson (born April 8, 1946) is an American businessman, best known for being the founder of television network Black Entertainment Television (BET). In 2001 Johnson became the first African American billionaire, and the first black person to be listed on any of Forbes world’s rich list.


Eleven years after its initial launch, BET became the first black-owned company to be listed on the New York Stock Exchange. Today, BET has spinoff channels and is the largest black-owned cable company in history. Johnson bought back all the BET stock seven years after it went public for $1 billion. He then sold it to media giant Viacom two years later for $3 billion.


Action Item #1: Always Be Growing


Johnson has been called a serial entrepreneur thanks to his love of starting new businesses on the fly. Throughout his career, however, if there is one thing he has learned it is this: there are always new customers to go after.


According to Johnson: “If there’s something I can do and I feel it should be done, I just want to do it. I just don’t want to leave it undone because I’ll sit back and say, why didn’t I do that? Why didn’t I start that business?”


Action Item #2: Be Opportunistic


Where Johnson sees the chance to make money, he jumps at it. No ifs, ands, or buts about it. And, while his critics use that fact as one more chance to knock him down, Johnson attributes his success largely to his opportunism. Johnson is an entrepreneur, plain and simple. He wanted to make money — and lots of it.


According to Johnson: “Whenever I see an opportunity and a chance to change something, I go at it… BET was never a legacy event for me. BET was something I started as an investment and I knew someday I would sell it.”


Action Item #3: Ignore Your Critics


Johnson had a lot of critics as he built his business. One of his greatest successes in his own mind is being an African American who succeeded at the highest level – since he felt that “nobody expects minorities to be there.” As much as others tried to paint his career in terms of black and white, Johnson has refused to let others identify him as anything other than an entrepreneur — and a good one at that.


According to Johnson: “Today, if I were to put on jeans and walk into a jewellery store, and I could probably buy the jewellery store ten times over. But the jeweller’s going to look at me as a black guy in jeans who probably can’t afford it, and maybe who just might steal something.”


Business Ideas – How Craigslist was created without a Business Plan

Business Ideas – How Craigslist was created without a Business Plan


craig newmark


Today we’re going to take a closer look at how the son of a single parent and struggling bookkeeper became a successful Internet entrepreneur. Despite having started off with no business plan, this man built on of the top ten Internet sites in the world. This is the story of Craigslist founder Craig Newmark and the top 3 lessons that you can learn from his success.


“From the very beginning, I was involved in talking to people, listening to people. And it hasn’t stopped. The idea was that people send me information; I’d ask them about it, listen, try to do something about it – and then ask for more feedback.” – Craig Newmark


Craig Newmark (born December 6, 1952) is an American entrepreneur that started with an idea to inform people that turned into Craigslist, a multimillion dollar Internet business. Newmark grew up in Morristown, New Jersey. His father, a salesman who peddled everything from food to insurance, died of lung cancer shortly after Newmark’s bar mitzvah. His mother worked as a bookkeeper and struggled to make ends meet after her husband passed away. Newmark went to Morristown High School, where he became co-captain of the debate team, and also an active member of the forensics club. He also started his own club, which met regularly to play the game Go.


A few years after graduating college, Newmark worked for IBM in Florida then for Charles Schwab in San Francisco. Newmark then began working as an independent consultant, taking on contracts with Bank of America, Xircom, Sun Microsystems and more. After several years of observing people on the Internet and how they used online tools to help each other out, Newmark decided to start his own email service to notify people about cool arts and technology events in San Francisco.


When Newmark’s simple email listings reached over 240 subscribers, he could no longer carry on as he was; even his cc field would not accept anymore email addresses. Instead of shutting down, Newmark decided to move his list to a public server for all to access. He wanted to call his new website “SF-Events” but some of his closer friends suggested calling it “Craigslist” to emphasize the personal and down-to-earth nature of the list. In its first few years, Newmark ran the site as a part-time hobby, continuing his consulting work full-time during the day. He tried to bring on some volunteers, but they did not pan out as Newmark expected. That is when he had an epiphany. He hired the right CEO and Craigslist took off. Craigslist was earning over $10 million in revenues by 2004. Then, in 2005, for a price tag of $15 million, eBay purchased a 25% stake in the company from a former shareholder. As of 2010, Craigslist was generating more than $122 million annually.



Action Item #1: Get Out of the Way


Action Item #2: Do Things Better


Action Item #3: Listen



True Story 


Despite his professional successes, Newmark struggled personally. He enrolled in ballet and jazz dance classes in order to meet women only to wind up in the hospital with a hernia. No matter what most people say, one of the biggest reasons Newmark started Craigslist was because of his struggling personal life. He is a self-admitted nerd, which really turned off women. He thought it was a good idea to start helping people by starting an email service for others like himself.


After finally getting too many people using his email service, Newmark started Craigslist. According to him, it is the reason he has the girlfriend he has today. He likes to say that Craigslist has prevented hurting himself just to meet women. Out of this struggle for personal contact, Newmark built one of the top-ten websites in the world. According to recent statistics, more than five million people use the site every month and more than one billion pages of Craigslist are looked at every month.





“There are different flavors of libertarianism, but my take is that its core values ‘treat people like you want to be treated’ and ‘live and let live,’ which works for most humans.”


“It has helped people who have a hard time meeting other people. They’re using the site and becoming friends, lovers, and every possible twist on those two situations.”


“I admit that when I think of the money one could make from all this, I get a little twinge. But I’m pretty happy with nerd values: Get yourself a comfortable living, then do a little something to change the world.”


“Follow through with basic values, and remember to provide good customer service.”


Business Ideas – 3 Success Tips from Thomas Watson Jr. – IBM

Business Ideas – 3 Success Tips from

Thomas Watson Jr. (IBM)

by Evan Carmichael

thomas watson jr


Today we’re going to take a closer at a boy that was only concerned with drinking and partying and how he turned his life around to become a man that took the reins of a multinational company and built a brand like no other. This is the story of former IBM President and CEO Thomas Watson Jr. and the top 3 lessons that you can learn from his success.


“Nothing is more vital to the continuous improvement of IBM than constructive suggestions or criticism by each of us – fairly given and fairly received.” – Thomas Watson Jr.


Thomas Watson Jr. (born January 14, 1914) was the son of IBM founder Thomas Watson Sr. When Thomas Watson Jr. stepped into his father’s shoes as president of IBM in 1952, he knew they would be hard ones to fill. Not long before that, Watson Jr.’s life had consisted in large part of drinking and partying. IBM had always been a part of his life, but only in the context of his father’s job. Was he ready to take the reins of this multinational company? Could he break out from his father’s shadow and create his own legacy?


In his teenage years, Watson Jr. began to suffer from depression. As a result, and also partly due to his undiagnosed dyslexia, he struggled to get through school. After being accepted into Brown University only as a favour to his prominent father, Watson received his business degree in 1937. Immediately upon graduating, Watson went to work for his father’s growing company, IBM. He had little interest in the job, but was unsure of what to do with his life. It wasn’t until World War II that Watson would find his calling. He enlisted in the Army Air Force and served as a pilot, chauffeuring top military leaders around the USSR — and learning Russian in the meantime. In later years, Watson Jr. would recall how easily piloting came to him and how for the first time ever he had confidence in his abilities.


It had been the suggestion of one of the army generals he had befriended during his service that Watson Jr. try to follow in the steps of his father. So, after the War, Watson Jr. did just that and returned to work at IBM. He was promptly promoted to Vice President after just six months, and placed on IBM’s board of directors four months after that. After three years with IBM, Watson Jr. had become the company’s Executive Vice-President, a position he would hold for another three years until 1952. It was in that year that Watson Sr. decided his eldest son was ready; no amount of additional grooming or training would prepare him for his next challenge. In 1952, Watson Sr. stepped aside and appointed his son as the new president of IBM. Indeed, Watson Jr. would not only create his own unique legacy as a businessman, but he would go on to become named as one of Time Magazine’s 100 most influential people of the 20th century. Under his leadership, IBM’s revenues tripled and the company experienced a rate of growth that few other companies can rival even today.



Action Item #1: Make the Workplace Great 


Action Item #2: Satisfy Your Customers 


Action Item #3: Integrate Integrity Into Your Business 



True Story

Thomas Watson Sr. believed in staying with what you know, but Watson Jr. knew that this kind of thinking would not sustain a company forever. After taking over as President, Watson Jr. took the biggest risk he had ever taken by investing all of IBM’s finances into researching and developing a new product line. That amounted to $5 billion of the company’s money. This risk would not only bankrupt the company if it did not work, but make all the products IBM was currently making obsolete.


Watson Jr. was sure that developing a computer that everyone could use was the wave of the future and after several delays, as well as near bankruptcy, IBM launched the System/360 in 1966. Instantly, the new computer was selling to everyone that could afford it. Between 1966 and 1970, IBM was selling more than 35,000 computers a year, when before it was only selling around 11,000. IBM revenues surpassed $7.5 billion for the first time in company history during this time. The gamble paid off.





“It is essential for each of us to strive to retain originality and to maintain our identity as human beings.”


“This is a company of human beings not machines, personalities not products, people not real estate.”


“IBM’s dedication to the dignity of the individual is no myth. To me it is the very essence of our success.”