Henry Ford — Leadership Lessons & Business Tips
You probably know Henry Ford best for founding the world-renowned Ford Motor Company and transforming the way that products are built in the United States. While it’s certainly easy to idolize someone who had so much business success, Henry Ford actually experienced many of the highs and lows that business owners still face today. However, his experience and his triumphs make for some incredible leadership lessons & business tips.
Henry Ford’s success isn’t just a story in a history book.
What he did was built on a strong foundation of good business practices. His foresight revolutionized the transportation industry and enabled many people to purchase their first car. Then, everything from how he treated his customers to his management of employees contributed to the rise of Ford Motor Company.
Known as an industrialist, he is credited as the creator of “Fordism” — a movement which saw the mass production of inexpensive goods coupled with high wages for workers.
Along the way he was renowned for his commitment to the consumer, an ethos which ultimately saw him build an empire and become one of the wealthiest and most well-known business operators of his time.
Henry Ford was an amazing man. He was an innovator, visionary and certainly achieved amazing things during his lifetime.
He was an inventor credited with over 100 patents. During his time, he was one of the richest people in the world. Henry Ford knew that he needed to leave the safety of his position to explore life as an entrepreneur on his own terms. While we know him as one of the great inventors of America, if you’ve ever studied his leadership skills, they too are truly astonishing.
The best part is that if you need help overcoming an obstacle today, many of his lessons are still applicable to the 21st century.
His legacy is filled with terrific quotes which collectively point toward a powerful philosophy of entrepreneurship & leadership. With this in mind, let’s take a look at five leadership & business lessons from Henry Ford.
Lesson #1: Efficiency Is Key
Henry Ford was a huge believer in the power of working efficiently. Today he is credited with the modern concept of Fordism. Fordism is a system based on an efficient, standardized form of mass production.
Long story short, Henry Ford realized that by keeping the efficiency of his workers at a premium level he could achieve the maximum level of output.
He achieved this by incentivized loyalty through better wages and a reduced workweek. As entrepreneurs you strive to work the minimum number of hours for the maximum reward. By eliminating inefficiencies you can increase your proportion of billable hours which ultimate results in a higher equivalent hourly rate. As the 80/20 Principle teaches us, 20% of the input creates 80% of the output, or in simpler terms: targeted, effective work beats generalized, hard work every time.
The Ford company was based on the efficiency of it’s’ production line.
When Henry Ford introduced this production model in Michigan in 1913, he doubled the production of his Model T without needing to hire more employees or sacrificing the quality of his product. Assembly line allowed producing cars in a fast and low cost way, but also gave the possibility of paying better wages to employees. This also allowed the company to retain employees for a longer time and train them to be prepared for the company’s growth.
We all have 24 hours in our day, yet some succeed while others fail. Why is this?
The reason is because some successfully control their day, while others are controlled by their day. Some dictate where their day goes, while other’s let their day dictate where they go. If you fail, you will fail because you failed to make excellent use of your time, if you succeed, you will have succeeded in mastering your time! Are you mastering your time?
Have you ever heard the statement that is better to work smarter, as opposed to harder?
The best way to improve efficiency is to measure and evaluate all of your processes and systems. An effective strategy for implementing change in your business means making the choices and adopting the tools and processes that generate the best results at the least cost for your business or organization. Cost here refers not to just dollars and cents, but also impacts on all other resources, including time and employee happiness. Is there a process in your business that can be improved? Can you do something more efficiently?
Lesson #2: New Is a Deal
It is important to remember that Henry Ford was not an inventor; he was an innovator. He did not invent the automobile or the assembly line but he did revolutionize the way in which they were produced and utilized. He had the vision to take something which already existed, improve it and re-sell it as something new.
Ford proved that reinventing the wheel isn’t necessary when modification and improvement can serve us equally as well.
It’s about having belief in the power of professional vision and understanding how to capitalize on opportunities. Great entrepreneurs not only put ideas in motion but they commit to them mentally as well. Having an amazing idea is all well and good but seeing it through to the implementation and execution phase is just as important.
That’s why I believe that in order to continue to grow as an individual you must continue to learn.
Once you stop learning, you stop growing. Self-improvement aligns with increased knowledge, self-growth and self-development. If you want to keep your mind young and achieve your goals, never stop learning. Read books, take classes, try new things, or go back to school. Make the decision to commit yourself to a lifelong dedication to learning.
It is a ubiquitous fact that Henry Ford possessed one of the most curious minds.
Since his childhood and teen years, he had obtained the characteristic of being an inquisitive individual. He was known to tear apart and then put back his siblings’ playthings in order to understand how they functioned. He, later on, earned the reputation of a watch repairman due to his excellent success in dismantling and assembling timepieces of friends and neighbors. It is this curious mind of his that led to the invention of Model-T.
Henry Ford achieved success by offering a solution for a problem that people did not know they had.
As an engineer, he wanted to develop a personalized form of transportation. But before doing it, he conducted a strong market research to figure out what people needed and how much they were willing to pay for it. The Model T assembly production was developed in order to reach a wider market with a low cost car. Ford knew what the market needed, even though the market was still not aware of it.
Lesson #3: Keep Your Eye On the Prize
Henry Ford knew which direction he wanted his life to take and he made long-term, calculated plans to get there. He switched jobs often believing that once he had learned all he needed to know it was time to move on to something more challenging. He was not content to simply be.
This is a good reminder of the importance of learning and adapting to trends within our chosen industries.
An idle moment could mean a missed opportunity. Evolving through learning can spark off new ideas, meaning it is also necessary to adapt and amend your goals. Sometimes this can lead to self-doubt but be reassured that change is a natural by-product of professional growth and doing the work you love will give you the strength to overcome anything.
Henry Ford broke away from the traditional mold and bucked the expectation that society had placed on him so that he could follow his dreams.
This is an idea that resonates with many entrepreneurs who have branched out and had the courage to try an alternative career path, even in the face of doubt and criticism from others. It can be scary when you’re going it alone, especially if you give up a secure, relatively well-paid job to build your business, but the fact that you’ve already had the determination to make the break should give you the reassurance that you’ve got what it takes to make it.
It can be easy to become distracted when pursuing your goals.
Challenges and obstacles can make it seem as if you will never achieve your dreams. Never take your eyes off the prize. Stay focused on achieving your goals. By doing so you will remain focused, inspired, and dedicated to achieving your dreams. Don’t let difficult times deter you…focus on your goals and visualize how great it will be when you achieve them.
Henry Ford was an individual who had acquired the trait of being persistent and carried it without resignation.
In the initial years, Henry Ford was forced to work on his father’s farm which was a task he despised but was forced to perform in order to raise funds the development of his dreams to build an automobile empire. Eventually, he convinced and gained approval from Thomas Edison to build his brainchild the Quadricycle and from there, embarked on the journey of being one of the most powerful entrepreneurs of his time.
Lesson #4: Don't Make It Alone
Happy employees will make business growth seem like a piece of cake, and there are a lot of ways to go about it. Generally, compensation, workplace culture, and sense of belonging are the huge factors that affect employee satisfaction.
Henry Ford knew his workplace culture was what it was.
Factory work is hard to make engaging and sexy. What he did to remedy this was unheard of in his time; he doubled the salaries of his workers. The effect of this was two-fold. Obviously making more money makes employees feel happier about going to work. It also allowed most Henry Ford employees to actually be able to afford a Ford automobile, which increased their commitment to their jobs.
He astonished the world in 1914 by offering a $5 per day wage ($130 today), which more than doubled the rate of most of his workers.
The move was a huge success, reducing employee turnover. Meanwhile, he also believed workers would be more efficient if given leisure time. After implementing the eight-hour work day, he introduced the 40-hour work week, noting workers put more effort into their work time after sufficient leisure. “It is high time to rid ourselves of the notion that leisure for workmen is either ‘lost time’ or a class privilege,” he said.
Strive to give your team members the feeling they are valued, whether by means of salary or by recognition and in the long run, you’ll attract strong people to your organization.
Providing your staff with remuneration that is commensurate to their skills and experience is the first step to showing that you value them. However, don’t forget that people want to work for more than just a salary. They want to work in an environment where they feel appreciated and like an essential part of the organization. If you can show that you value each person on your team, you will attract talent.
Last but not least, Henry Ford had faith in employees.
He personally hired his employees and made sure that they were taken care of. He had eradicated all the designations from his company and provided every employee with a crucial responsibility in the firm. He always encouraged his employees and treated them with a Saturday off every now and then. As stated earlier, he was known to have introduced the 40 hours a week work schedule for his workers so that they would not be exhausted by the tiresome hours at work.
Lesson #5: Know Your Market
Just as we are often advised today, finding your niche is really important. A “generic” freelance writer might struggle to win contracts, but if they marketed themselves as a freelance writer specializing in producing training manuals or composing funding bids for non-profit organizations, they’d probably have more luck.
As much as technically minded people like to think, products unfortunately do not just sell themselves.
Sometimes, you are pointing directly to the value your product gives with flashing red lights and sound effects around it, yet customers still won’t see it. So Henry Ford put himself in those people’s shoes: they were so used to farm life, that when presented with a solely technical alternative, they could not see the benefit. His idea was totally new and as such he needed a different way of selling it.
The secret to success lies in serving others!
All successful people serve, the greater the success, the greater the service. Knowing your target market goes much deeper than simply knowing what they want. Ford believed in offering his customers solutions to problems they didn’t even know they had. Wealth is created from service, wealth only comes from service. He said, “Wealth, like happiness, is never attained when sought after directly. It comes as a by-product of providing a useful service.” Who are you serving?
Henry Ford was acutely aware his business was only successful because of the customers who had faith in his product.
Rather than catering to the rich and hiking up his prices, he offered a vehicle that was affordable and reliable for all. So many businesses are essentially cash grabs. They prey on people’s weaker impulses, or worse, their outright, urgent needs. It’s far better to be a provider of real value. Money accrues to value, too. There seems to be a myth out there that money is the province of the greedy and the unethical. Oftentimes, the opposite is true: So many entrepreneurs achieve financial success because they’re playing some essential role in people’s lives. As such, money isn’t the object of the game; it’s merely a natural aspect of each transaction.
You will only be rewarded for the problems that you solve for other people.
Are you solving any problems? If you solve big problems you will receive big rewards, if you solve little problems, then you will receive little rewards. If you solve problems for a few people, then your payment will be small, if you solve problems for the masses, then you will become rich. Don’t waste your time going around problems, solve them!
Leadership, like entrepreneurship, is an often aspired-to position, but it’s rare for most to actually achieve and display true leadership capabilities. Being in a role where you’re the boss, the supervisor, and for entrepreneurs, the founder doesn’t by default mean that you’re a good leader.
You can start a business, but that doesn’t mean you can lead a movement, or even a staff.
Leadership takes an incredibly nuanced balance of authority and compassion, grit and softness and drive and a sense of reward. It’s perhaps the toughest role entrepreneurs will ever step into when they begin to hire out staff and drive their vision forward.
Long before the likes of Steve Jobs, Bill Gates and Jeff Bezos, Henry Ford was considered the mastermind of business success.
What you may find is that Henry Ford was no different than any other ordinary man in the outset, but had the utmost dedication, commitment, and passion throughout his life and work. Henry Ford was an inspirational person who believed in efficiency, quality, and mindfulness. Every business owner would be well-served to adhere to these principles.
Start small, and keep things simple. Just remember that a journey begins with just a single step!
The lessons we can draw from Henry Ford and the way he ran Ford Motor Company have clearly stood the test of time. No matter what industry or stage of business you’re in, these are important lessons that will help you optimize your business for today’s marketplace! Which lesson do you think is most relevant today? Share with me!
Digital Dandy. Hacker From Heart. Workaholic. Coding Artist. Self-made.