22 Entrepreneurial Lessons We Can Learn From Henry Ford

Henry Ford Lessons

A Little Entrepreneurial History

With $28,000 in capital, Henry Ford started the Ford Motor Company on November 30, 1901.

Over the next four years, he was joined in the entrepreneurial ranks by the prime movers behind 13 historically significant companies:

  1. Kodak
  2. Firestone
  3. Harley-Davidson
  4. Standard Oil
  5. Hershey Chocolate
  6. Silvania
  7. U.S. Steel
  8. Quaker Oats
  9. Monsanto
  10. Philip Morris
  11. J.C. Penney
  12. Texaco and
  13. Pepsi-Cola.

All of these companies were tremendously successful and changed American culture forever.

Where is the Magic? What About the Rest?

Many more small and medium sized companies flourished duting these years — but are forgotten today.

The purpose of this article is to provide the lessons we can learn from one of the wealthiest and best known survivors, Henry Ford.

To be successful, one approach you might wish to consider is to follow these three suggestions:

  1. Learn and apply the deathless wisdom of your predecessors; wisdom which has sustained itself through the passage of time.
  2. Surround yourself with serious entrepreneurial mentors, and
  3. Thoroughly embrace social media.


22 Lessons We Can Learn from Henry Ford – In His Own Words

  1. “Whether you think you can, or you think you can’t — you’re right.”  It has long been believed that all successes actually begin in the mind.  In fact, it is generally accepted that both success and failure occur first in our minds before they present themselves in reality.  Henry Ford believed strongly in this principle and lived by it during his daily business life.  Most great men and women understand that whatever view you have of yourself in your mind will manifest itself in reality.  So the first objective in any successful venture is to commit mentally to that success — charting a course in your mind that will virtually guarantee positive empirical results.  This can be a lonely exercise.  But today, thanks to the magic of social media, you can share your vision with countless other entrepreneurs.  They will empathize with you, understand your concerns and help you stay on track.
  2. “Anyone who stops learning is old, whether at twenty or eighty. Anyone who keeps learning stays young.” The mind is a terrible thing to waste.  During our developmental years we must concentrate on learning — which leads us to thinking. And once we have learned to think we must never lose that ability.  Continuous lifelong learning, from both successes and defeats, not only encourages success but keeps us young.  Today, we can dramatically increase the knowledge base from which we draw learning — from countless friends and followers who have shared similar experiences.  It is an education without cost but brimming with value.
  3. “Failure is simply an opportunity to begin again, this time more intelligently.”  The best thing about failure is that it is definite.  Failure is an absolute.  Once it occurs we are free to let it be and to set out once again with a fresh outlook.  Social media provides accountable “partners” who will encourage us to dust ourselves off when failure occurs and to march forward with the lessons we have learned.
  4. “Obstacles are those frightful things you see when you take your eyes off your goals.”  Businessmen and businesswomen with whom you engage through social media tend to be serious people who have adopted a long view of things.  They tend to overlook short-term obstacles and to focus on longer-term goals.  They are forward-thinking people who focus on the future.  Like-minded people gravitate to each other online.  Use this valuable resource to it fullest.  You will be glad you did.  And by the way, you are also a resource for others — take that role seriously.
  5. “My best friend is the one who brings out the best in me.”  Most of the friends you meet online have “no dog in the fight” regarding your success.  They are not family or caregivers — they are merely fellow travelers.  They also tend to be cautiously optimistic.  They will hold a mirror up to your actions — but only to reflect the best in you. They will share in your successes with enthusiasm and commiserate with your failures with compassion.
  6. “You can’t build a reputation on what you are going to do.”  The only person that will listen to your promises of things to come — is yourself.  Everyone else, especially entrepreneurs who have long ago dismissed self-delusion as a business approach, will encourage you to focus on results only.  When you are facing the vagaries of business life — nothing else matters.  Take small steps at first.  Set interim goals and share those goals with your friends and followers.  When you achieve those goals, share the successes.  This is the way to build your online reputation.
  7. “Thinking is the hardest work there is, which is probably the reason so few engage in it.”  Creative thinking is extremely difficult and rare — but don’t let the difficulty dissuade you.   Press on.  In the long run, thinking is more important than money in the bank.  Without it, all the financial resources in the world cannot guarantee real success.  With it, financial success will follow as certainly as Spring follows Winter.  Use your online followers as a sounding board.  If you share your thoughts as they develop, both your thought process and the resulting creativity will blossom.  Thinking is rare — but remember that the hugely successful companies of the past began their upward trajectory with the power of a new idea.
  8. “Don’t find fault, find a remedy; anybody can complain.” As an entrepreneur, my pet peeve if I have one is individuals who complain.  Instead of problems, they should concentrate on solutions.  Instead of finding fault with an idea or a proposed course of action, it is much more productive to find a remedy.  I would defy anyone to show me one positive outcome that comes from complaining.  It has been my experience that when you find complaints being spread in a company — the company will ultimately fail.
  9. “I believe God is managing affairs and that He doesn’t need any advice from me.  With God in charge, I believe everything will work out for the best in the end.  So what is there to worry about?”  Apparently Ford believed that God was in control.  Of course, this is very subjective — but one fact is undeniable — if you endorse this belief you will find that you never worry.
  10. “It has been my observation that most people get ahead during the time that others waste.”  In any race, victory often goes to the strategic thinker.  If you hold back, carefully analyzing the competition and waiting for them to pause through indecision or lack of courage, the resulting wasted space is an opportunity for you to capture the lead.  In social media — as in any vanguard concept — there is a period where the competition loses their stride.  If you take advantage of that opportunity, however brief, you can win.  It’s only common sense to run while others waste their time.
  11. “The only real mistake is the one from which we learn nothing.”  Mistakes are golden.  Never run from them. Instead, welcome them as important learning opportunities.  You often learn much more from your defeats than you do from your victories.
  12. “Chop your own wood and it will warm you twice.”  I love this idea.  Hard work toward a positive goal is doubly beneficial: The act of working hard itself brings positive results.  You are encouraged, emboldened and justifiably proud of the accomplishment — and when it pays off ultimately you are rewarded again.  How can you beat that?
  13. “Nothing is particularly hard if you divide it into small jobs.”  Whenever someone says, “I can’t do that.  It’s just too hard,” I always advise them to cut the task into smaller, palatable, bite-size pieces.  It’s better to take longer to digest a problem that to choke on it while attempting to swallow it whole.
  14. “When everything seems to be going against you, remember that the airplane takes off against the wind, not with it …”  Adversity is like the wind in your face.  Any pilot knows that if you position yourself properly and point the leading edge of your wings into the wind, the natural lift you create will make you soar.  Without that lift you will stall, if not plummet to earth.  Learn this lesson well and you will always fly above the competition.  And by the way, when you remain aloft you will find other entrepreneurs through social media who have also learned to fly. Collaborate with them and you will always have a wingman.
  15. “Coming together is the beginning. Keeping together is progress. Working together is success.”  This is another favorite.  Actually, as I mention in my new book “Trajectory“, this Ford quotation is an excellent definition of social media, as it should be properly embraced.  You must first come together, then work together to achieve progress and by doing so achieve success.
  16. “One of the greatest discoveries a person makes, one of their great surprises, is to find they can do what they were afraid they couldn’t do.”  I have known many a budding entrepreneur who exclaimed when he achieved his goal, “Wow, that actually worked!”  It is OK to be surprised when the inevitable happens after you expend the proper effort.  Most everyone is the first time.  After that, however — once you have been inducted into the august group of successful entrepreneurs — you have an obligation to share your knowledge with others.  After all, success is valueless if you can’t share it.
  17. “Most people spend more time and energy going around problems than in trying to solve them.” When the transcontinental railroad was built in 1869, progress was halted by the towering Rocky Mountains.  Intrepid engineers were faced with a classic dilemma:  Do we go around them, or through them?  Sometimes it is better to confront our problems in the same way.  We can avoid them of course — but true leaders role up their sleeves and forge ahead.  A few sticks of properly placed dynamite, like a few days of concerted effort, can reduce the impact of mountains and problems both.
  18. “You say I started out with practically nothing, but that isn’t correct. We all start out with all there is, it’s how we use it that makes things possible.”  No one in this century starts off with nothing.  At the least, we have the collected business wisdom of decades before us to rely upon.  With the advent of social media and the global economy, we now have a ready conduit for this knowledge.  As a generation, if we cannot run circles around our predecessors we have only ourselves to blame.
  19. “Vision without execution is just hallucination.”  Vision is important, but execution is indispensable.  Even the best ideas are mostly ignored, misapplied and then forgotten.  The difference between a good idea and a great one is execution.  Nothing ever happens unless it is made to work.
  20. “The whole secret to a successful life is to find out what is one’s destiny to do, and then do it.”  There are only two requirements for success:  Find what you’re passionate about … and then do it.
  21. “You can’t learn in school what the world is going to do next year.”  One ability that cannot be taught — even in the finest schools — is clairvoyance.  As human beings, we are not given the ability to know the future.  We can only speculate, plan for it and then act upon our plans.  A visionary who dreams of what might be is infinitely more useful to have a round than an educated practitioner who is always worrying about the details.
  22. “If everyone is moving forward together, then success takes care of itself.”  Whenever I am considering a joint venture with another entrepreneur, I visualize that we are both getting into a rowboat together, taking our respective oars and beginning to row toward our objective.  In no time at all, I can judge the potential for success. If after a few moments the boat is turning in circles because one of us is not rowing hard enough, the venture is sure to fail.  If, on the other hand, the boat is true to its course because we are both rowing in harmony, success is a foregone conclusion.  Sometimes it’s just that simple.


 If you found this post useful, you will love my eGuide — Trajectory: The Ultimate Guide to Building a Successful Business with Twitter



About Michael R.H. Stewart
"Give me faith, freedom, resources, and a little time ... and I will make things happen that matter." Michael R.H. Stewart is a respected Internet executive with broad experience in all aspects of online business, with an emphasis given to social networking development, and company management. He has over 131,000 engaged Twitter followers. He enjoys 22 years of direct experience with corporate, entrepreneurial, governmental and non-profit clients, having advised them on all aspects of their online initiatives. Prior to his Internet career, he served as a Senior Vice President of AIG Marketing, doing business in 135 foreign countries as well as the United States. Stewart is an experienced public speaker and communicator, with worldwide experience; an expert on corporate branding; an accomplished writer, a creative thinker and problem solver.


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