Startup Lessons to Learn From John D. Rockefeller

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Beyond the quotes we hear repeated from famous entrepreneurs like John D. Rockefeller about entrepreneurship and success, there are a litany of lessons to be learned from his story of founding, managing, and growing wildly successful companies.

Entrepreneurship Lessons From John D. Rockefeller

John D. Rockefeller is a trailblazing figure in American history. As the country’s first billionaire, he definitely knew a thing or two about entrepreneurship and startup success. Through sheer resolve and grit, Rockefeller was able to carve a path for himself that extends into the present day. 

Here are some of Rockefeller’s top tips for growing a successful business.

1. Teamwork Is Crucial

According to historians, Rockefeller was a great team player and always strived to bring his executive team together. Not only did Rockefeller try to neutralize any internal disputes, he always counseled his board members before making big business decisions, opting instead for unanimous decision-making rather than taking the reins himself. As entrepreneurs, it’s important to surround yourself with people who challenge you and uplift you to succeed.

2. Ambition Alone Is Not Enough

Rockefeller is well-known as an oil tycoon, but he started out as a bookkeeper before making his fortune. Then, during the Civil War, he started his first enterprise selling food supplies and other various goods like hay, grains, and meat. It wasn’t until ten years later that Rockefeller entered the oil business and decided to devote his career to it by starting the Standard Oil Company. 

Take this startup lesson from Rockefeller: Ambition can get you part of the way, but grit and a willingness to do any job that’s required of you can help tremendously when it comes to building your business. You never know where your strengths may lie or what you’ll end up enjoying as you climb the ladder of success.

3. Take Time to Rest

You’d think that since Rockefeller was America’s first billionaire that he was working non-stop, but that’s not the case. Rockefeller was adamant about taking ample time to rest. In fact, he had plenty of hobbies, one of which included landscape gardening, or “road planning,” as he called it. He greatly enjoyed being outdoors and made sure to devote plenty of time to these interests. Taking the time to slow down didn’t hinder his business ventures or work ethic, and it shouldn’t for your startup, either.

4. Controversy Isn’t Always a Bad Thing

Rockefeller is seen as somewhat of a polarizing historical figure. Sure, he was the country’s first billionaire, but the Standard Oil Company caught a lot of flack for owning almost 90% of the oil market. The press wrote scathing articles about the business, claiming that Rockefeller’s greed caused him to partake in shady business ventures, like spying on the competition or even threatening his rivals. 

Still, Rockefeller did not let that deter him. While Congress eventually did intervene and force him to dismantle the Standard Oil Trust, Rockefeller’s legacy continues. He changed the course of American society in several aspects but especially as an entrepreneur. It just goes to show that while controversy can be unavoidable at times, always let your work speak for itself.

5. Give Generously and Often

Throughout the course of his life, Rockefeller donated a grand total of $500 million to his church and other philanthropic organizations that supported educational and scientific endeavors. In 1913, he started the Rockefeller Foundation, which has since developed life-saving vaccines and other impressive medical feats, such as eradicating hookworm disease and yellow fever. 

Rockefeller’s efforts continue to touch the lives of countless Americans today. Entrepreneurs looking to make an impact would do well to note Rockefeller’s magnanimous spirit and find a cause that means something to them in order to bring about societal change.

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