13 of 20

Henry Ford

‘Failure is just a resting place. It is an opportunity to begin again more intelligently’

Henry Ford’s most famous quotation is of course, “You can have any colour you want – as long as it’s black” – referring to the Model T car which made his fortune. Henry Ford, whose marque is still one of the biggest car manufacturers, made the quip to his salesmen in 1909 and the Model T became the world’s first affordable car. Every car had to be painted black because that was the only colour quick-drying paint came in, and part of Ford’s success was his pioneering production line. By 1925, half of the cars in the world were Ford Model Ts.

However, Ford’s success came after the failure of his first two attempts at car manufacturing. His first company collapsed after burning through his investor’s money never producing a single automobile, while he flounced out on its successor, the Henry Ford Company, after his Detroit businessman backer brought in an outside manager to micromanage him.

>See also: 8 of the best electric cars for small business leasing

Even after the Model T became the #1 car in the world, Henry Ford refused to update the automobile as the 1920s progressed, eventually losing market share.

However, rather than walking off in a sulk after one business failure on top of another, Ford thought more deeply about the problem – in his case, how to manufacture affordable cars at scale. He realised that by instituting a production line in his car plant, with each man doing a simple repetitive job, he could slash the time it took to assemble an automobile from about 14 hours to just 90 minutes.

Avatar photo

Tim Adler

Tim Adler is group editor of Small Business, Growth Business and Information Age. He is a former commissioning editor at the Daily Telegraph, who has written for the Financial Times, The Times and the...

13 of 20