July 5, 2012
Harry stood out from the other kids. He seemed to have more street smarts than book smarts. Perhaps that’s what develops when you grow up poor. Harry’s grandfather was in the garbage removal business and many people looked down on him for that. Harry’s own father didn’t want anything to do with garbage removal so he steered clear of it. But Harry was different; he liked everything about the big trucks and didn’t mind getting dirty.
Very few people aspire to become garbage men and Harry decided to pursue college instead. To help pay for school he pumped gas at a local station and drove a dump truck part time. He quickly learned that he really wasn’t cut out for college. He loved to play practical jokes and one time he got in trouble for bringing a baby alligator into the college dorm. At the start of his sophomore year, Harry decided to drop out. He joined the Army and after a few years he still felt lost. It was time for him to pursue his passion, no matter what others thought about him.
At the age of 25, Harry started working in a garbage removal business. He lived in South Florida and the region was experiencing significant growth. Harry saw an opportunity to go into his own business. His family was poor and he didn’t have much money either, having just recently married. He had an idea and he made an offer to the owner of the garbage company. He asked if he could buy just one old garbage truck and the collection route for 20 customers. The owner decided to sell him one of the oldest trucks he owned and a list of customers in a lower income part of town. Harry was able to borrow $5,000 from his father-in-law.
One of Harry’s friends from high school saw him driving the garbage truck and thought he must have hit rock-bottom. Harry would drive the truck from 2:30 in the morning until noon, picking up garbage throughout the day. Then he would spend the afternoons knocking on doors trying to get new customers. His hard work paid off. Little by little he would add more customers and then buy another used truck and hire a driver. In a few years, Harry accumulated over 40 trucks and then he merged his business with another garbage removal company in Chicago.
Harry had an even bigger idea. He decided to buy smaller garbage companies all over the United States and roll them into one big company. By the time he was 37; Harry Wayne Huizenga (pronounced High-zinga) was a multi-millionaire and owned the largest garbage removal business on the planet, Waste Management, Inc. Over the span of twelve years, he had acquired over 150 garbage companies and his stock was traded on the New York Stock Exchange.
A dozen years later, Wayne (he goes by his middle name) ventured into a new business but used the same strategy. He bought a small video rental chain for $7 million and then started acquiring hundreds of mom and pop video stores. In less than ten years Wayne owned over 3,700 stores and his company, Blockbuster Video, was valued at over $4 billion. Blockbuster was the second company Wayne took to the New York Stock Exchange. He later sold Blockbuster to Viacom for over $8 billion.
I met Wayne shortly after the sale to Viacom. We were mutual friends with Dave Thomas, the founder of Wendy’s, and the three of us met to discuss youth empowerment. Wayne told me about his latest venture called AutoNation, the first national chain of car dealerships. He eventually grew AutoNation to 370 stores and they became the first car dealership to go public on the New York Stock Exchange. Wayne is also the only person to have owned three professional sports teams, football’s Miami Dolphins, baseball’s Florida Marlins and hockey’s Florida Panthers.
I still remember Dave Thomas joking that Wayne did pretty good for himself, especially for a garbage man. This reminds me of the saying that one man’s trash is another man’s treasure. How often do we let other people’s opinions get in the way of our own dreams? It’s time to embrace the 100% Accountable mindset and take out the head trash stored between our own two ears. Simply put, find what you love and pursue it with passion.
Until next week…
Live Your Dreams