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Business Lessons from Henry Ford

by Valentine Ogbamebor

Use of Innovative Strategy

In your business, always strive to discover innovative ways of doing things. Think about how you can re-brand your product that would make it look different from others in the market. Or how you can change your production techniques that would make the process cost less while not affecting the quality of your produce. Or how your customers can reach your products easier and faster than what is contemporary obtainable. Just think of a way to make you or your product positively different.

Henry Ford applied this tactics many times, but the most remarkable was when he changed the daily wage from the contemporary $2.34 to $5! It looked crazy, but he knew exactly what he was doing. But offering such high wages he was able to attract the best mechanics in the entire city, they came with their expertise, their ideas and their genius. Productivity increased tremendously, while training cost fell.

Know When to be Hard and Rigid, and when to be Soft and Flexible:

Although many business publications and articles would advise you to always trust your guts and to be determined and dogged on what you think is the right decision, it is equally as important to know when to be flexible and heed advice’s from family, friends and business associates.

Henry was known to be a stubborn and strong willed individual. This character helped him immensely in a couple of cases, for example, in 1902, when his investors were impatient about putting an automobile on the road but Ford wanted a more efficient car. Rather than bend to their wishes he chose to leave the company. A similar example can be found with Mary Kay Ash and the share-holders of her company.

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But this same character almost ruined Ford’s company. At first it was in the mid 1920s, when sales of the Model T was beginning to decline due to increasing competition. The other companies were incorporating modern mechanical features to their cars and offering customers a credit payment plan. Edsel advised his father that they should incorporate new features into the Model T but Henry refused. Sales kept dropping until production of the Model T was eventually stopped.

And then later in his life, after the sudden death of his only son, Edsel, Henry held tight to the company despite how sick he was. The company was declining so fast, losing over $10 million ($136,290,000 in today’s money) every month that the government was tempted to take it away from Ford. It took the intervention of Edsel’s widow, who led a minor coup to remove Henry Ford and install her son, Henry Ford II, for normalcy to return.
It is good, even necessary to be firm in business, but you have to know when it is time to be flexible.

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