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Wayne Huizenga
"When you are in business you want to think about what you can do to give back, and you want to think about what people are going to think about you when you're not around anymore; and the type of legacy you are going to leave. And you want to always be known as someone that's fair and square and treated people with courtesy and respect; and somebody that if they gave you a hand shake, that their word was good. That's the most important thing, to be able to have the people feel that, “hey, I can deal with that person, I can trust them and I can feel confident if I do business with them that I'm not going to get stepped on”. That, I think, is the biggest thing that we talk about and through the years, we've had lot of chances in life to take shortcuts and we've always focused on: we don't take shortcuts, you do it the right way, you make it happen properly, you treat everybody with respect. I've tried to instill that into my kids. You only go one way: you do it first class and you do it right and you treat everybody with courtesy and respect no matter who they are, how much money they have or how much money they don't have. Treat everybody the same and you know in life you will be remembered not as a person who has a lot of money but you will be remembered in life as a person who treated everybody with respect, and a genuine nice person. "

Before Blockbuster, before the Miami Dolphins, before all the other businesses and sports teams, there was Waste Management which grew to be the largest waste disposal company in the world. Wayne told of the events that got it started:

"My whole life has been a series of wonderful coincidences or being in the right place at the right time, and that's how I got started. When I got out of the army and came home, my father took me to lunch and as we walked into the restaurant, which was the Yankee Clipper, we went to sit at a table and a voice rang out, said Harry, Harry, how are you? And my father turned around and it was a friend that he went to high school with. The fella was in from Chicago , his name was Herman Molder. Herman was down to hire a new manager for his small garbage company, which was based in Pompano Beach and so we sat down, we had lunch together, and they talked about the good old days and finally Herman turned to me and said, “what are you doing Wayne ?” I said, nothing, I got out of the Army yesterday. He said good, you're my new manager. And I said manager, manager of what? He said, well I've got 3 garbage trucks in Pompano, the guy quit and I need somebody to run it, and I said no, no, I don't want to manage a garbage business, that isn't what I want to do. And he said ok, ok, just do me a favor, he said, just do it for 3 weeks so I can get someone. I can get someone from Chicago to come down and be the manager. Just do it for 3 weeks. Well the next morning at 4:00 I'm driving to Pompano Beach . Three trucks were parked at a gas station and so I did that for 2 weeks, 3 weeks, 4 weeks, 6 weeks, 8 weeks. I kept calling Herman, saying Herman when's this guy coming down here, and he said well, give it another month, and so I did it for a while, and maybe up to like 3 months or so. And so after about 3 months I was looking at a newspaper one day and there was an ad for a trash route for sale in Fort Lauderdale . Now back in those days the difference between Fort Lauderdale and Pompano was significant. There was a 2 lane road with a bunch of mangos on it going to Pompano, and so it was 2 separate cities. I talked to the fella that owned this trash route and he had $500 a month worth of business in an old beat up truck. So I cut a deal with this fella to buy his business. He ended up financing me for the $5,000. Gave him a little bit of money down which was all I had. My father had fallen on hard times, and we didn't have any money and so I convinced this fella to finance this business for me.

And it was just $500 a month worth of business. So then I called my friend Herman, well my father's friend Herman Molder, and I said Herman I want to come to Chicago and see you. So I got on a plane and I flew to Chicago and I said Herman I'm going to leave, I bought this business in Fort Lauderdale , and I want to buy your business. And he said, OK, I want $35,000 for my business, plus take over the leases on the trucks, and I said OK, I'll do that. And he said, “where are you going to get the money?” And I said “you're going to finance me”, and he laughed and laughed and after we talked for a while he said, I'll tell you what I'm going to do. I'm going to sell you the business, no money down. I'm going to finance you, but get this straight, I'm not doing this for you, I'm doing it because your father and I were friends for a long time, and I want to help you out because of your father. I said fair enough. So in the span of a couple of days I bought a commercial route in Fort Lauderdale and 3 residential routes up in Pompano.

And so there I was with no money, and had to run the business. That's how it got started. But it wasn't because I had a vision. It wasn't because I wanted to be in the trucking business or the garbage business or anything like that. It just was a coincidence…"

Billionaire businessman Wayne Huizenga explained to me how he deals with issues that come up in his varied business empire:

We've had problems along the way. The company which had the most problems was AutoNation. AutoNation today is a $20 billion dollar company. It's a big business, and when you win, you have problems, you have big problems; and there was an example where I hired the wrong person. I hired the right person to make the acquisitions, to grow the business, but it was the wrong person to operate the business. There are people who can do certain things really really well., but they can't do other things well. Some people can grow a business and some people can operate a business. I would say, myself, I'm a better builder than an operator. I can see the vision of how to make something happen and how to be dominant in the marketplace and those types of things, but when it comes to the nitty gritty of operating a business and being really successful and paying close attention to the things that matter, that's not really my strong suit. But that's OK, if you recognize that's not your strong suit, then you put people in place to do that for you. Where you run into trouble is if you think you can do all things and you don't admit to yourself that you can't do all things. That, I think, has been, that I think has been good for us and it's been good for a lot of other people too, and the people that are running our businesses today. Whether it's through public services or AutoNation or Extended Stay America , or Boca Resorts, or whatever there are all extremely good people that are running those businesses.


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Copyright © 2006, Alan S. Becker