Success Stories By Dick Kazan - Valuable lessons on how to succeed in business and in life
Published on Tue July 12, 2005

     Is the lack of a higher education preventing your success? If so, I’d like to tell you how John D. Rockefeller, who never graduated from high school, learned such valuable lessons as a young man in a menial job, that he later became one of the wealthiest businessmen ever .     

    Rockefeller was born near Oswego, New York in 1839. His father “Wild Bill” Rockefeller was a con-man, a “quack doctor” who sold cancer “cures,” a “sporting man” involved in most forms of vice and a bigamist. As a result his mother Eliza Rockefeller, a devout Baptist strongly influenced John D. to be a devoted church practitioner and to conduct himself with integrity.  

    Needing an income, at 16, Rockefeller dropped out of high school to look for work. To gain some marketable skills, he enrolled in a business school but quit after 10 weeks because he ran out of money. Broke, he desperately searched for a job, calling on firm after firm but all he got was rejection. Then after six weeks of struggle, on September 26, 1855, he got a job as a low-level clerk with Hewitt & Tuttle, a Cleveland produce broker.

    The profound way that job affected him led him to celebrate “job day,” for the rest of his life (he lived to be 97). He later said, “The three-and-a-half years of business training I had in that commission house formed a large part of the foundation of my business career.”   

    How did he receive that training? By doing what any of us could do. He saw how management functioned and he asked questions, absorbing the answers like a sponge. He also spent time with customers, vendors and his firm’s employees and he did bookkeeping.

     What was the most important thing he learned? How people think and function. For example, Rockefeller became renowned for collecting money from past due accounts as he learned to be charmingly persuasive and persistent.

     Rockefeller did so well, the firm promoted him to bookkeeper and paid him $700 a year. The next year when they refused to raise his salary to $800, he quit and went into the oil business as he began his remarkable path into history.

     Rockefeller later built what became the Standard Oil Trust, a monopoly that controlled much of the world’s oil supply and refining capacity. But from his modest start, he showed us there is great opportunity for those who master practical business skills and who can appeal to the fundamental needs of others.

    In the next KazanToday, In the early 1950’s, investors scoffed at Walt Disney’s new concept of Disneyland until Disney risked everything he owned to build it.  

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