They say if you desire something badly enough, the universe will bend; the universe will break even to bring it to you. This is exactly what happened in the case of a certain John Davidson Rockefeller.
John’s business ambitions started out in Cleveland, where he made use of knowledge, willpower and brutal business tactics to become the richest man in the last 600 years – only being surpassed by Molly King Mansa Musa and Augustus Caesar of Rome.
Back in the 1850s, the petroleum and diesel industry hadn’t quite bloomed as yet. They were gradually entering a time of increased production and reduced demand. At the time, there was an immense oil boom in Pennsylvania, and everyone was looking to take something back from it. Rockefeller wasn’t much about petrol or diesel, he was thinking two steps ahead.
He discovered the immense potential in the oil industry. Inexperienced and ill-conceived plans to drill oil had saturated the market. Along with his partner, Maurice, he decided to focus all his faculties on oil refining rather than drilling. This paved the way for crude oil pumped out of the ground to turn into myriad oil-based products.
The oil market was quite different back then, and prior to drilling, it involved killing whales and boiling their skin to fuel lamps. The primary use of oil for the public was lamps, as it allowed the public to see after dark with relative ease. Hence, Rockefeller and his partners were about to pioneer a revolution by investing in the refinery.
Rockefeller co-founded what would become the greatest oil refinery in the world- The Standard Oil Company Inc. Somewhere along the way, the Rockefeller's grew to be one of the most influential families the world had ever seen. Here are a few pages we can take away from Rockefeller’s success story:
1. Never give up
Like many successful people, Rockefeller faced his fair share of rejection. He was born into a typical New York family, to a God-fearing Catholic mother and an incredulous con artist father. He had no means of attaining a livelihood through either of his parents, so he was compelled to set out on a job hunt of his own regard. Even after tasting rejection and despair on numerous occasions, he continued to persevere and ultimately became the wealthiest person in the United States.
In his business, he faced setbacks both mentally and financially on numerous occasions. He worked for 14 hours a day, 6 days a week. Owing to his work ethic and diligence, he was able to scale inconceivable levels of wealth and power.
2. Directed ambition
Rockefeller started out as an assistant bookkeeper at the age of 16. The concept of recording financial transactions and business accounting appealed to him so much, it convinced him he was destined for something greater. He was ready to traverse the deepest corners of the earth to acquire his fortune.
He made sure to buy out every competitor in the area. By undercutting the competition and colluding directly with railroads, it became one of the earliest oil monopolies.
3. Let your conduct mirror your vision
Always the opportunist, Rockefeller didn’t just strike when the iron was hot – he waited until it was searing. One of his tactics was to reduce the prices of Standard Oil to an extent where they themselves lost money. Consumers would then exclusively by Standard Oil, and the competition failed to keep up.
Standard Oil had made so much money, that they could afford to lose profits for a while just so they could keep competition at bay. Immoral? Yes; Illegal? No.
While Rockefeller always stood by his ethical beliefs, he became very cut-throat and brutal as far as his business was involved. Even if he went into debt, he’d ensure his profits doubled. It wasn’t long before he was ruling the market.
Rockefeller had started to donate 6% of his earnings to charity when he was just 16. He was actually a progressive for his time, being a staunch abolitionist and donating generously to African-American groups.
4. Utilize all your faculties
Rockefellers’ competitors would throw out a chunk of the refined oil, containing gasoline and lubricants. Rockefeller used the by-products of his refining process to power the refining process itself, thus setting a brilliant example of recycling along with making a profit on these by-products.
Rockefeller then started to control every aspect of the refining process, including logistics and delivery. Oil was customarily transported in wooden barrels, and instead of buying pre-made ones, he chose to manufacture his own. Moreover, instead of separately buying wood to make the barrels, he bought a forest. Rockefeller thus believed in self-reliance as the most powerful tool to further his ambitions.
5. Develop meaningful partnerships
In the course of his journey, Rockefeller took many partners on board - like his brother William, Maurice, Clarke, his brothers, and a chemist named Samuel Andrews. Rockefeller chose to buy out the shares of the Clarke brothers, and from then onwards it was just him and Andrews.
He was quick to identify which association would prove toxic and which would be beneficial in the long run.
By 1870, the Rockefeller’s wealth had begun to soar and soon he was controlling 90% of all oil in the USA at his peak. For much of the 19th and 20th century, the United States was the largest oil-producing country in the world. Rockefeller undoubtedly was one of the greatest perpetrators of this.
To this date, John D Rockefeller remains a polarizing figure in world history. He built a kingdom that would burgeon all kinds of economy. When he passed away, he was worth roughly 1.5% of the United States’ entire GDP.
He continued practicing philanthropy throughout his life, contrasting with his public image of being a heartless, conniving man. At the end of it all, it was just business, and he left behind six generations of one of the richest and most powerful families the world had ever seen.