Failure is the opportunity to begin again, more intelligently – Henry Ford
We can all agree that Henry Ford is one of the world most famous entrepreneurs in history. We often think of him as an embodiment of success. People know him as a founder and leader of Ford Motor Company. He not only revolutionized transportation but also changed the United States forever. Ford Motor was one of the first companies to produce low-cost innovative manufacturing process, reliable vehicles, while simultaneously keeping its workers well-paid and loyal.
However, what people don’t know is that Ford launched two companies prior to Ford Motor Company. The Detroit Automobile Company and Henry Ford Company both gone bankrupt very quickly.
Ford is no stranger to failures. But when we think about him, we don’t picture failures because all it took was just one massive success. Before his success, however, Ford encountered many failure during initial production of his first automobile.
1st Detroit Automobile Company
In 1899, at the age of 36 years old, Ford convinced William H. Murphy, a Detroit businessman, to back his automobile production and they formed his first company, the Detroit Automobile Company. Shortly after launching the company it turned out that one humongous problem was piling up. Henry’s vision and strategy was not in line with shareholders plan. A year and a half after the company began operations, Murphy and the shareholders got restless and cold feet. Ford wanted to create the perfect automobile design, but the board saw it as paying way too much attention to details. They wanted quick results and in their eyes, he was simply not delivering. Soon after, that they dissolved the company and it went bankrupt.
2nd Henry Ford Company
After the first failure Ford changed his approach but stayed committed to his vision. He realized that he was trying to satisfy too many customer needs at once. Somehow, he to managed to convince Murphy to give him a second chance. In 1901 they made their second venture Henry Ford Company. This company also started on wrong foot. Ford felt Murphy’s expectations were unrealistic from the beginning. Murphy brought in an outside manager to supervise Ford and to have a finger on the pulse. This ended up with Henry leaving the company and leaving behind the rights to his name. That company was later renamed to the Cadillac Automobile Company.
Still not the end
Two failures like that would be a carrier-ending moment for most people but not for Henry. By that time everyone already wrote him off but Ford recalibrated his efforts once again. He used the lessons from these failures to instruct his future success as an inventor and a businessman.
Ford Motor Company
It was Ford’s third try, the Ford Motor Company, that became a massive success over the years. Few years after his second failure, Ford met Alexander Malcomson, a coal magnate with a risk-taking spirit like Ford. Malcomson gave Ford full control over his production, and in 1904 the company introduced the Model A.
Not a bed of roses
Do you think that after that it was a bed of roses?
Between 1903 and 1908 Ford produced the Models A, B, C, F, K, N, R, and S, most of which sold in the hundreds or few thousands a year. Not impressive at all for an automobile company. It took another 5 years to 1908 before Ford introduced Model T. Ford’s Model T went on to sell over 17 million units. Simple to drive and cheap to repair, half of all cars in America in 1918 were Model T’s. Ford ended up revolutionizing the automobile industry, pioneering not only the Model T and the assembly line, but also the concept and notion of an automobile in every home.
Failure is an opportunity to begin again
For Henry Ford, failure did not hinder innovation, but served as the impetus to hone his vision for a technology that would ultimately transform the world. In his autobiography released in 1922, Ford outlined one of principles for his organization: An absence of fear of the future and of veneration for the past. One who fears the future, who fears failure, limits his activities. Failure is only the opportunity more intelligently to begin again. There is no disgrace in honest failure; there is disgrace in fearing to fail. What is past is useful only as it suggests ways and means for progress.
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