Over the weekend I watched a documentary on Netflix about Henry Ford and his struggles he had creating a vehicle to sell to the mass US (and world) market. What struck me was his tenacity toward the business and his wiliness to put together innovations that allowed him to assemble a full car for a very low cost which offered an affordable option to buyers of his robust end product.
Ford was born on his father’s farm in what is now Dearborn, Michigan on July 30, 1863. He organized other boys to build rudimentary water wheels and steam engines. He learned about steam engines by becoming friends with the men who ran them. He taught himself to fix watches Ford and he had good mechanical ability, a facility for leadership, and a preference for learning by trial-and-error.
In 1879 he left the farm to become an apprentice at the Michigan Car Company, whom made railroad cars in Detroit. Over the next two-and-one-half years he held several jobs, moving when he thought he could learn more somewhere else.
In 1888 Ford married Clara Bryant and in 1891 they moved to Detroit where Henry took a job as night engineer for the Edison Electric Illuminating Company. Ford did not know much about electricity but he saw the job in part as an opportunity to learn. He started working in barns and small shops across the country trying to build horseless carriages. With a team of friends, his experiments culminated in 1896 with the completion of his first self-propelled vehicle, the Quadricycle.
A second car followed in 1898. Ford demonstrated the ability to articulate a vision and convince other people to sign on and help him achieve that vision. He persuaded a group of businessmen to back him in the biggest risk of his life, a company to make and sell horseless carriages. Ford knew nothing about running a business, and learning by trial-and-error always involves failure. The new company failed, as did a second. He still didn’t give up after two failed businesses, he attracted additional financial backers, and on June 16, 1903 Henry incorporated his third automotive venture, Ford Motor Company.
Henry Ford had an ability to identify and attract outstanding people. He hired a core of young, men who believed in his vision. In 1903 the new company’s first car, called the Model A was created, and followed by a variety of improved models. In 1907 Ford’s four-cylinder, $600 Model N became the best-selling car in the country. But by this time Ford had a bigger vision: a better, cheaper motorcar for the great multitude. Working with a hand-picked group of employees he came up with the Model T, introduced on October 1, 1908. The Model T had the qualities of being extremely durable, easy to work on and, easy to manufacture.
What was interesting to me was he actually had 19 models of the car before he perfected the Model T (Model A – Model S). The Model N was successful but his vision causes him to still make improvements and on the 20th design he hit pay dirt. Pretty inspiring stuff if you ask me!
So what you can you learn from this? Plenty! First being an app developer you may have failures on your first apps you create. Henry had plenty of failure but that didn’t stop him. You need to learn from your mistakes and keep going. Another thing to learn is to surround yourself with good people that share your vision for your apps. You don’t have to do it all on your own. We all have strong and weak points, they key is to identify which those are for yourself and seek out others whom are much better than yourself in those things. It’s not a weakness to admit you are not the best coder, designer or even marketer. You just like Henry Ford are the person in charge and need to seek out others to help your vision become reality and create fantastic apps that the world will love and use every day. Lastly Ford created a robust car which is exactly what his customers needed. Roads back in 1908 were nothing like they are now so the car had to withstand bumps, holes and other obstacles. Your apps must have the same qualities. You need to have very high quality in your apps if you expect success and, at the same time you must fill a need that someone needs.
If you have some time this weekend, checkout the Henry Ford story on Netflix, it’s very motivating. I hope you found this post inspiration and useful, please add some comments below. I would love to hear what you think.