Men and Rubber: The Story of Business by Harvey S. Firestone

Summary
  1. Harvey Firestone discusses some of his background, philosophy and business practices which helped him build one of the most successful companies of the early 20th century
Key Takeaways
  1. The most difficult thing in business is to get yourself thinking and others thinking as well. Almost every man tries to avoid deep thought at any cost
  2. You cannot dismiss the details and you must take regular time to think deeply
  3. There must be one man at the top who has absolute authority for successful business to function properly
  4. Knows intimately every detail about his company and his competition. He has very few friends and social obligations which he leaves him a lot of time to think deeply
  5. The man with absolute authority should not really be called an executive but more of a strategist and deep thinker
  6. Edison has so thoroughly trained his mind to deep thinking that he can go days without food or deviating from what he is working on
  7. Honesty is the keystone of any successful business
  8. The single function of any business is to provide people with a need or want
  9. Thought and not money is the true driver of business success
  10. Never rush in on a deal but let the deal come to you
  11. Many times the true value of a business cannot be shown in numbers or on a balance sheet
  12. You must be multidisciplinary and read a lot and interact with a wide variety of people
  13. A product no matter how thoroughly thought out must always be tested and seasoned in the market
  14. Firestone made a very nice business out of tires for carts and buggies. Soon after he sold the business for a very nice profit work for a small tire company but soon decided to start his own firm
  15. Losing money in business is not alright if you can’t help yourself or if you don’t know why you’re losing it
  16. A great salesman never intrudes and knows the fine line between pestering and persevering
  17. Pay alone never brings and keeps together good men. It is the vision that does
  18. Didn’t pay out a dividend initially even though early investors pressured him to. He put everything back into the company and bought back every stock he could – living as cheaply as possible just to have more money to buy back stock with
  19. Consumers are always and will always be willing to pay up for quality. If you are worried that customers won’t buy if you raise prices, you might not have a superior product
  20. No business can succeed if it is not continually revising its product – not only for the demands of today but also for the potential demands of tomorrow
  21. There is always a better way of doing everything that that which is standard at the moment. It is a good thing for a man to be pushed into finding this better way
  22. Firestone inked a big deal with Ford in 1906 to provide the tires for the new model Ford was putting out. This gave him several thousand captive customers and the partnership with Ford would yield many more over the years
  23. Before hiring anyone, Firestone liked to talk to men in a general fashion to first understand what kind of person they are, what motivations they have and more about about their background. He will never bid a man away from his current job as this means the man is thinking more about the money than the job
  24. The most important thing in business is working and planning ahead. You will always have emergencies but this way you’ll be better prepared. This is so self evident it’s a wonder it’s so neglected. The only danger lies in making plans so inflexible you can’t adapt but some plans can always be made and adapted as circumstances require. A plan which is too rigid may be worse than no plan at all
  25. The management of one self, which gets down to managing ones own time and distinguishing the important from the unimportant, comes only from experience. Every man must work out his own rules and like every rule these must be flexible
  26. Success is the sum of detail
  27. The issue with prosperity is that it hides defects
  28. Firestone believed he was not directly responsible for anything but was indirectly responsible for everything
  29. Firestone had a rule for himself where he would only focus on one urgent thing at a time until he resolved that issue
  30. The first question he asked self before anything is, “is it necessary?” Most often it is not and is simply a result of tradition or ritual. If something is necessary he then asks, “can this be simplified?”
  31. It is poor and shortsighted business practice to work man too hard. It is Firestone’s policy to have good labor policies to pay above average wages, provide rewards and compensation above what any other company provides, foreman and managers a street all employees as trusting human beings
  32. Ford and Edison or two of the brightest minds of all time and their fortunes allowed them to focus on helping humanity and they believed that the best way to do that was to set up systems and organizations which helped humanity help itself
  33. Do not fail to try just because somebody else has tried and failed
  34. He does not know if he is his businesses master or slave but ultimately it doesn’t matter as he enjoys what he’s doing. Business encompasses everything and is the ultimate life learning experience
What I got out of it
  1. One of my favorite business books of all time. Read it 3 times in a row. Goes without saying I highly recommend