Henry Ford is quoted as saying: “Failure is simply the opportunity to begin again, this time more intelligently.” Henry initially failed with his first two companies before he succeeded with Ford Motor Company. Born on a farm in Bearborn, Michigan in 1863, Henry was the first surviving son of William and Mary Ford.  Henry left the family home at the age of sixteen for the nearby city of Detroit, where he found apprentice work as machinist. Henry got his first glimpse at the gas-powered engine and his lifelong fascination began. He worked nightshifts at the Edison Illuminating Company as an engineer, and during the day he would work in a shed behind his home tinkering with the new internal-combustion engine he was trying to develop.

Competition was ruthless, the amount of capital needed in the late 1890’s to secure a future for automobiles was a daunting prospect for even the wealthiest of backers. However, Ford quickly found the perfect backer: William H. Murphy, one of the most prominent business men in Detroit. The new company was named the Detroit Automobile Company, everyone who was involved with the company high hopes. Unfortunately problems arose quickly; the car Ford had designed as a prototype had many problems, he kept trying to refine the design to come closer to his ideal, however, it was taking too long for his backers, the stockholders were getting restless. In 1901 eighteen months after the company had started operation the company was liquidated.

Henry decided that he had been trying to make his automobile serve too may consumer needs. He would give the process another go with a lightweight and smaller vehicle. He convinced Murphy to back him a second time, (a rare event in the automobile industry). Murphy still believed in the genius of Ford and agreed, together they formed the Henry Ford Company. Henry was under immense pressure from the shareholders and resented the interference from people who knew nothing about the design or the high standards he was trying to set. An outsider was brought in to supervise the process. This was a step too far for Ford, less than a year after its establishment, Ford left the company, and everyone wrote him off.

henry ford

His attitude was one of unconcern, he informed everyone that these were all invaluable lessons, he had taken apart his these failures in his mind and had identified the root cause, namely the people with the money were meddling in mechanical and design something they knew little about, they were in point of fact polluting the process with mediocre ideas. He needed to find a way to maintain independence from the financiers.


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