John D. Rockefeller is labelled as the richest man that ever lived. As of the beginning of the 20th century, the fortune of the first ever billionaire was estimated at 200,000,000,000$, at the time, meaning that without taking into consideration the depreciation of the value of money, basically by purchase power, Rockefeller was one century ago, as rich as Jeff Bezos and Elon Musk today. Unfortunately, John Rockefeller was also labelled the “most hated” man in history, mostly due to his strategies and his father.
John grew up with a very religious mom who took such good care of him, and a very distant father that cared so little about his family that he was nicknamed “Devil Bill.” William Avery Bill, father of John, was an American lumberman, salesman and con artist that gained his life selling elixirs, because he also identified himself as a “botanic physician.” Of course, he earned money thanks to tons of other activities, like loaning money to farmers at a rate of 12%. Moreover, he tried to lend to farmers that could not repay to foreclose and take hold of the farms. As a teenager, John realized that he had to be the man of the house since his father was practically not part of the family, so he made the activity of earning money his main occupation. Making money made him feel satisfied and fulfilled. As a teenager already, he used the money his father lent him and the money he made keeping his neighbours’ turkeys to give loans to his fellow classmates. At 14 years old, he moved to Cleveland where he started his first job as an assistant bookkeeper for a company named Hewitt & Turtle. The 26th of September 1855 was the day Rockefeller got his first job and for him, the 26th of September, also called “job day”, was a celebration day that was more important to him than his birthday. He would often say “What if I had not got the job?”
THE BEGINNINGS OF JOHN ROCKEFELLER
In his first job, John was paid 50 cents a day, and at that time already, only at 16 years old, he was giving away his surplus. His surplus was all the money that was not used for reinvestment or providing for his personal needs and his mother’s needs. Later, he started selling cornflakes and gaining notoriety in the business world. The mid-19th century marked in the US the gold rush, precisely the black gold. At the very beginnings of exploiting the industry, Rockefeller knew that drilling the oil will not be as promising and as lasting as refining it. The difference between the two is that drilling is the process by which tubing is bored through the Earth’s surface and the petroleum is removed from underground through a pump, and refining is the transformation of the black gold into finalized consumable goods. Oil has several usefulness such as heating, lighting, etc… John was proposing low end, but high-quality goods.
THE RISE OF ROCKEFELLER AND HIS BEST COUPS TO RUIN THE COMPETITION
“Devil Bill”, John’s father, used to lend money to his son when he happened to be at home, but with interests. It would not matter for him to ask his child to repay at any time since he would say “it sharpens his business flair.” His father would also not hesitate to con him. The results were pretty much efficient since J. Rockefeller was head of the biggest oil company in the US, Standard Oil, in his late twenties. Inevitably, competition started growing and that meant a threat to him. John decided to do something about it, and, in the space of two months, he would own 22 of the 25 oil companies in the United States. You may ask how could he do that so easily and quickly? Easy. We are finally going to understand the origins of the label “most hated man” in the country. Refining oil needed first and foremost creating an inventory of oil and this inventory needed barrels. The solution was there, John would buy every single supply of barrels so his competitors could not keep the oil anymore and were forced to sell the business to a bigger company, Standard Oil, because they went bankrupt.
John would then go on and do the same thing with the chemical essentials to the refinery. Of course, it would be okay if he stopped there, but you are not the richest man to ever live for no reason. The unhealthiest collaboration he will make is with the railway companies. John chose a small company and used them to transport the oil at a much cheaper price than what his competitors paid, which allowed him to sell at a less expensive price, for the same quality. Of course, all the operation was secret, and this helped him conquer all the oil companies in the country and expand his empire. After months of business, the other companies will eventually financially starve and will be forced to either collapse or become a subsidiary of Standard Oil. John Rockefeller will find himself controlling 90% of the oil business on earth, at only 40 years old.
THE VALUE OF MONEY TO JOHN ROCKEFELLER
John had a vision about money that no other billionaire had. His daily spending will never exceed a few dollars. According to one of his associates John Gardner, when he was 23 years old, John decided not to spend 150$ on the insurance for a cargo he had sent. The insurance would give him full coverage in case of incident. When he heard that the conditions of the trip were not ideal, he rushed to acquire the insurance. To his surprise, the merchandise arrived safely so he considered the 150$ he spent spoiled. Even though the net income of the year was at the time a few hundred thousand dollars, he got so frustrated and stressed that he would spend the whole next day in bed, due to sickness.
When he approached retirement, his past got dug up, mostly because of the daughter of one of the competitors he had previously ruined, who was a journalist and wrote all about his messy business strategies and his father’s fooleries. He would be forced one day to sell most of his businesses. But sells equals more profit for him, so he sold most of the subsidiaries he had and kept the most efficient ones for himself so that he still had some business going on. This fierce mentality allowed his fortune to be worth 2% of the US economy.
REDEMPTION AND PHILANTROPY
He and his dad caused the family name to be a little bit frowned upon. That is why he put his son John Rockefeller Jr. in charge of the Rockefeller foundation, that his son also built. His retirement made him go from a business mad man to a casual grand dad who spent most of his time playing golf and spending time with his grandchildren. Journals were not furious against him anymore, because he would give monstruous amounts to charity. Even when he gave to charity, he did not want to give help people just to help them, but he mostly invested in research of new vaccines and helped the less fortunate. He would also be seen giving young children in the streets coins of 10 cents, which were a big amount considering inflation. He would enjoy his retirement as much as he could, and he peacefully died at the age of 97 years old. It is known for people to say that John D. Rockefeller failed to achieve his biggest target: being immortal.
HOW HE CHANGED THE WORLD
John D. Rockefeller was surely one of the most game changer entrepreneurs that ever lived. He brought different business strategies and perceptions about work that no one else did. Furthermore, thanks to him, many other industries could be created and could run, up to this day. The input of fossil-oil that he brought is so important that we could have been a lot less developed now. Nevertheless, development, innovation and prosperity come with a price and this price is being paid today by us, casual people. The concerns about climate change are higher than ever and Rockefeller could arguably not last today for he would receive so much judgement and so much pressure that it would not be possible for him to prosper the way he prospered. Today, people like Elon Musk are contributing to a new type of innovation that I would call “constructive innovation”, opposed to destructive innovation. Many entrepreneurs, scientists and businessmen are today contributing to a new kind of goods and a new trend of consumption, plastic-free and environment friendly products.
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