Quotees Archive

Rockefeller preferred to own raw land. In 1873, he invested in seventy-nine scenic acres at Forest Hill, a lovely, thickly wooded spot, crisscrossed by steep ravines and gulleys, just four miles east of his Euclid Avenue home.

- Ron Chernow

Rockefeller succeeded because he believed in the long –term prospects of the business and never treated it as a mirage that would soon fade.

- Ron Chernow

Rockefeller’s supreme insight was that he could solve the oil industry’s problems by solving the railroad’s problems at the same time, creating a double cartel in oil and rails. One of Rockefeller’s strength in bargaining situations was that he figured out what he wanted and what the other party wanted and then crafted mutually advanteous terms. Instead of ruining the railroads, Rockefeller tried to help them prosper, albeit in away that fortified his own position.

- Ron Chernow

Seeing his education soley in utilitarian terms, he studied hard, but showed no intellectual playfulness.

- Ron Chernow

The good-will of a business which is losing money is not worth much.

- Ron Chernow

You can abuse me, you can strike me, so long as you let me have my own.

- Ron Chernow

On John D. Rockefeller and the ideal entrepreneur: He embodied all its virtues of thrift, self-reliance, hard work, and unflagging enterprise.

- Ron Chernow

Let the good work go on. We must ever remember we are refining oil for the poor man and he must have it cheap and good

- Ron Chernow

Later on, Rockefeller learned to camouflage his business anxiety behind a studied calm, but during these years it ws often graphically displayed. Clark remembered one daring venture when the firm wagered its entire capital on a large grain shipment to Buffalo. With foolish, atypical imprudence, Rockefeller suggested that they skip the insurance and pocket the $150.00 premium; Gardner and Clark reluctantly acquiesced. That night, a terrible storm blew across Lake Erie, and when Gardner came to the office the next morning, a frightfully pale Rockefeller paced the floor in agitation. Let’s take out insurance right away, he said, We still have time – if the boat hasn’t been wrecked by now. Gardner ran off to pay the premium. By the time he got back, Rockefeller was waving a telegram announcing the ship’s safe arrival in Buffalo. Whether unnerved by the episode or upset at having paid the unnecessary premium, Rockefeller went home ill that afternoon.

- Ron Chernow

A man has not right to occupy another man’s time unnnecessary

- Ron Chernow

Let the good work go on. We must ever remember we are refining oil for the poor man and he must have it cheap and good.

- Ron Chernow

A man who succeeds in life must sometimes go against the current.

- Ron Chernow

Nevertheless, in the first years of Standard Oil, Rockefeller regularly toured his facilities and was extremely inquisitive and observant, soaking up information and assiduously quizzing plant superintendants. In his pocket, he carried a little red notebook in which he jotted suggestions or improvements and always followed up on them. He knew the terror inspired by the little red book. More than once I have gone to luncheon with a number of our heads of departments and have seen the sweat out of on the foreheads for some of them when that little red notebook was pulled out.

- Ron Chernow

As he brooded over how to raise the money, he was informed by his father that he had always intended to give each of his children $1,000.00 at age twenty-one, and he now offered to advance John the money. But, John, he added lest his son expect miracles, the rate is ten. Having just retrieved a thousand dollars from Hewitt, Bill might have been looking for a high return on these idle funds. John knew his father too well to plead for a gift and accepted the 10 percent loan, which was higher than the prevailing rate. So on April 1, 1858 backed up by this borrowed money, John D. Rockefeller left Isaac Hewitt and joined the partnership of Clark and Rockefeller at 32 River Street (in Cleveland). At eighteen, he was catapulted to a partner’s rank in a commission house. It was a great thing to be my own employer, said Rockefeller. Mentally I swelled with pride – a partner in a firm with $4,000 capital! The moment was fraught with meaning for him and after his first day at work, he went back to the Cheshire Street house, fell to his knees, and implored the Lord to bless his new enterprise.

- Ron Chernow

Rockefeller never clarified why he dropped out of high school around May 1855, just 2 months shy of commencement, excercises on July 16…

- Ron Chernow

By the end of the war (the civil war) John D. Rockefeller had established the foundations of his personal and professional life and was set to capitalize on the extraordinary opportunities beckoning him in postwar America. From this point forward, there would be no zigzags, or squandered energy, only a single-minded focus on objectives that would make him both the wonder and terror of American business.

- Ron Chernow

Despite incessant dissappointment, he doggedly pursued a position. Each morning, he left his boardinghouse at eight o’ clock, clothed in a dark suit with a high collar and black tie, to make his rounds of appointed firms. This grimly determined trek went on each day, six days per week for six consecutive weeks, until late in the afternoon. The streets were so hot and hard that he grew footsore from pacing them. His perseverance surely owed something to his desire to end his reliance upon his fickle father. At one point, Bill (his father) suggested that if John didn’t find work he might have to return to the country; the thought of such dependence upon his father made a cold chill run down his spine, Rockefeller later said. Because he approached his job hunt devoid of any doubt or self-pity, he could stare down discouragement. I was working every day at my business –the business of looking for work. I put in my full time at this everyday. He was a confirmed exponent of positive thinking. With almost thirty thousand inhabitants, Cleveland was a boom town that would have thrilled any young man avid for business experience. It had drawn many transplants from New England who had brought along the Puritan mores and Yankee trading culture of their old hometowns. While the streets were largely unpaved and the town lacked a sewage system, Cleveland was expanding rapidly, with immigrants pouring in from Germany and England as well as the Eastern seaboard. The plenty if the Midwest passed through the commercial crossroads of the Western Reserve: coal from Pennsylvania and West Virginia, iron ore from around Lake Superior, salt from Michigan, grain and corn from the plains states. As a port on Lake Erie and the Ohio Canal, Clevelend was a natural hub for transportation networks. When the Cleveland Colombus and Cincinatti Railroad arrived in 1951, it created excellent opportunities for transport by both water and rail, and nobody would more brilliantly exploit these options than John D. Rockefeller. For all the thriving waterfront commerce, the job prospects were momentarily bleak. No one wanted a boy, and very few showed any overwhelming anxiety to talk with me on the subject, said Rockefeller. When he exhausted his list he simply started over from the top and visited several firms two or three times. Another boy might have been crestfallen, but Rockefeller was the sort of stubborn person who only grew more determined with rejection.Then, on the morning of September 26th 1855, he walked into the offices of Hewitt & Tuttle, commission merchants and produce shippers on Mervin Street. He was interviewed by Henry B. Tuttle, the junior partner, who needed help with his books and asked him to return after lunch. Ecstatic, Rockefeller walked with restraint from the office, but when he got downstairs and rounded the corner he skipped down the street in pure joy. Even as an elderly man, he a saw the moment as endowed with high drama: All my future seemed to hinge on that day: and I often tremble when I ask myself the question: What if I had not got the job?In a fever of anxiety, Rockefeller awaited until the noonday meal was over, then returned to the office, where he was interviewed by senior partner Iasacc L. Newton. Owner of a good deal of Cleveland real estate and a mighty capitalist indeed. After scutinizing the boy’s penmanship, he clared we’ll give you a chance. They were evidently in urgent need of an assistant bookkeeper, since they told Rockefeller to hang up his coat and go straight to work without any mention of wages. In those days, it wasn’t unusual for an adolescent to serve an unpaid apprenticeship, and it was three months before John received his first humble retroactive pay. For the rest of his life he would honor September 26th as JOB DAY and celebrate it with more genuine brio than his birthday. One is tempted to say that his real life began on that day, that he was born again in business as he would be in the Erie Street Baptist Mission Church. All the latent dynamism that had been dormant during his country youth would now quicken into robust, startling life in the business world. He was finally liberated from Big Bill (his father), the endless flight from town to town, the whole crazy upside-down world of his boyhood.

- Ron Chernow

Each morning before breakfast, Rockefeller led the family in prayer, charging out a penny fine to latecomers.

- Ron Chernow

Employees were invited to send complaints or suggestions directly to him and he always took an interest in their affairs. He was the best employer of his time, instituting hospitalization and retirement pensions. He was a fine boss if workers abided by the rules, but if they did something foolish, like show interest in a union, they promptly forfeited his sympathy. Rockefeller never acknowledged the legitamacy of organized labor, nor did he tolerate union organizers on his premises.

- Ron Chernow

He listened closely to what people said and filed away as much information as he could, repeating valuable information to himself until it was memorized. There was humility in this eagerness to learn. As he said, It is very important to remember what other people tell you, not so much what you yourself already know.

- Ron Chernow

He possessed a sense of calling in both religion and business, with Christianity and capitalism forming the twin pillars of his life.

- Ron Chernow

His strategy would be to subjugate one part of the battlefield, consolidate his forces, then move briskly on to the next conquest. His victory over the Cleveland refiners would be the first but alos the most controversial compaign of his career.

- Ron Chernow

I remember clearly when the financial plan – If i may call it so – of my life was formed. It was out in Ohio, under the ministration of a dear old minister who preached, Get money; get it honestly, and then give it away wisely. I wrote that down in a little book.

- Ron Chernow

In absorbing companies, Rockefeller was secretive and asked them to continue operating under their original names and not divulge their Standard Oil Ownership. They were instructed to retain their original stationary, keep secret accounts, and not allude on paper to their Cleveland connection.

- Ron Chernow

In his rigidgly compartmentalized life, each hour was tightly budgeted, whether for business, religion, family or exercise. Perhaps those daily rituals helped him deal with the underlying tensions that might otherwise have become ungovernable, for although he tried to project to an air of unhurried calm, he was under terrific strain the surface, was constantly on edge. In one of his few admissions of weakness he recalled, for years on end I never had a solid night’s sleep, worrying about how it was to come out…I tossed about in bed night after night worrying over the outcome…All the fortune that I have made has not served to compensate for the anxiety of that period.

- Ron Chernow

In this early period, Rockefeller was a chronic worrier who labored under a great deal of self-imposed stress. Though not versed in the scientific side of refining, he often excercised a direct managerial role in the plant. With fluctuating market conditions, he sometimes needed shipments to New York with great dispatch and personally rushed down to the railroad tracks to motivate the freight handlers. I shall never forget how hungry I was in those days. I stayed out of doors day and night; I ran up and down the tops of freight cars, when necessary; I hurried up the boys.

- Ron Chernow

It it impossible to comprehend Rockefeller’s breathtaking ascent without realizing that he always moved into battle backed by adundant cash. Whether riding out downturns or coasting on booms, he kept plentiful reserves and won many bidding contests simply because his war chest was deeper. Rockefeller vividly described the way he had hastily enlisted the aid of bankers to snap up one rifinery: It required many hundreds of thousands of dollars and in cash, securities would not answer. I received the message at about noon, and had to get off on the 3 o’clock train. I drove from bank to bank asking each president or cashier, whomever I could find first, to get ready for me all the funds he could possibly lay hands on. I told them I would be back to get the money later. I rounded up all of our banks in the city, and made a secondary journey to get the money, and kept going until I secured the necessary amount. With this I was off on the 3 o’clock train and closed the transaction.

- Ron Chernow

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