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The Lessons of Henry Ford Prevail Today

By: Courtney Van De Burg

Henry Ford is a famous American industrialist, creator of the Ford Model T car, and founder of Ford Motor Company. He is most known for being the first to apply the assembly line concept to large-scale manufacturing, but it was not his ability to generate revenue that made him a business mogul. Rather, it was his innovative way of thinking and leading – lessons that could positively impact any business leader today.

In his words, “America is not a land of money but of wealth – not a land of rich people, but of successful workers.”

Ford points out that success is not focused on the accrual of money. It’s the accrual of knowledge, of resources, of value – and generating money is simply a byproduct of the process. Sharing that wealth of knowledge can lead to even higher levels of success as we identify potential shortcomings and constantly seek out avenues of improvement.

This is the premise behind why business advisory groups can be so beneficial to small and medium-sized businesses and why so many business leaders surround themselves with other successful, like-minded professionals. Doing so allows you to learn from those around you, while also driving you to reach beyond your comfort zone, overcome obstacles, accomplish more than you typically would on your own.

It also an admission that no matter how well we do our jobs or how rich we may be, there should be a drive to do even better and an understanding that there is always room for improvement. Think about it, every peak performing individual – from innovative business leaders to Olympic athletes – relies on the coaching, counsel, or advice of others. It allows one to be truthful about any gaps that may exist and carves out a path to improve skills and better achievements.

Here we explore words of advice from Henry Ford:

“The competitor to be feared is one who never bothers about you at all but goes on making his own business better all the time.”

Like the Olympic athlete with a coach, many successful business professionals engage in some type of advisory group, dedicated to continuously improving their products, services, or operations. Once a benchmark of success is achieved, it is simply time to set the bar higher. Access to advisory support, where knowledge-sharing is key, leads to accelerated growth in a business, helps eliminate pitfalls or blind spots, and allows for creative problem-solving to continually improve.

“If there is any one secret of success, it lies in the ability to get the other person’s point of view and see things from that person’s angle as well as from your own.”

Your viewpoint is shaped by and in many ways limited to your own experiences, perspectives, and innate biases. By engaging professionals from other diverse backgrounds and industries, you will be gain access to fresh ideas and expand your viewpoint. This collective brainstorming can lead you to unique perspectives that you would likely never achieve on your own.

 “Coming together is the beginning. Keeping together is progress. Working together is success.”

Henry Ford understood the power of working in synergy with others. It allows for collective thinking and strategic conversation. You can learn from others’ past mistakes and capitalize on their knowledge and experience. And unlike a board of directors focused on shareholder interests, advisory groups have no stake in the business, no legal obligations and in most cases, no financial motivation. Their only goal is to help you and your business succeed.

“Wealth, like happiness, is never attained when sought after directly. It comes as a by-product of providing a useful service.”

Time and time again, Ford states that success happens because of other activities and not when focused on simply attaining wealth. His words encourage leaders to instead focus on creating the best product or service they can, on helping others achieve their goals, on being a teacher and showing others how to do things, or in working on a goal for the betterment of life. We achieve more with a giving mentality than one of selfish gain.

Image of Ford Museum: Michael Barera, CC BY-SA 4.0 <https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/4.0>, via Wikimedia Commons

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Courtney Van De Burg

Courtney Van De Burg

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