Five Timeless Quotes from Henry Ford’s 1922 Autobiography

I finished My Life and Work, the autobiography of Henry Ford in February of the year. I would highly recommend it, as the principles for success Henry Ford wrote in the book are timeless. Below are some of my favorite quotes from the text.

  • “Money comes naturally as the result of service. And it is absolutely necessary to have money. But we do not want to forget that the end of money is not ease but the opportunity to perform more service.” Henry Ford believed that the point of earning money was to provide more service (and/or product) at a lower price.
  • “The most surprising feature of business as it was conducted was the large attention given to finance and the small attention to service. That seemed to me to be reversing the natural process which is that the money should come as a result of the work and not before the work.” I constantly see people trying to impress VCs when they would likely be better off trying to impress their customers (whether they are present or future customers).
  • “People seem to think that the big thing is the factory or the store or the financial backing or the management. The big thing is the product, and any hurry in getting into fabrication before designs are completed is just so much waste[d] time.” Ford believed that the product was the most important part of the business. Throughout the book, he talks about how other businesses often showed an indifference to excellence in manufacturing so long as “whatever was done got by and made money”. He knew such an approach was unsustainable. While other businesses in the automobile industry showed little concern for what happened to a car once it had been sold, Ford worked to ensure that the number of cars needing replacement parts was kept as close to zero as possible.
  • “My idea was then and still is that if a man did his work well, the price he would get for that work, the profits and all the financial matters, would care for themselves and that a business ought to start small and build itself up and out its earnings.” The best way to get what you want is to deserve what you want. Charlie Munger would agree with this.
  • “With all our fancy skill, we still depend largely on natural resources and think that they cannot be displaced. We dig coal and ore and cut down trees. We use the coal and the ore, and they are gone… We shall someday harness the heat that is all about us and no longer depend on coal.” One could say Ford’s foresight was 20/20.