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Lesson #2: Be Ruthless and Refuse to Accept Rejection
One thing Huizenga was not lacking, however, was ambition. With a newlywed wife to provide for, Huizenga had returned to Fort Lauderdale to take a job with a family friend selling trash-colleting services.
One particular day, Huizenga approached the house of Thomas Millwood, a self-employed electrical engineer. Huizenga told Millwood he should switch garbage collection services to Pompano Carting, the company that Huizenga was then working for. Millwood, however, was not convinced and told Huizenga he did not want to switch companies.
What happened next is on record in a civil suit filed by Millwood in November 1961. Huizenga snapped, refusing to leave the premises. He could not handle the sales rejection. Huizenga retorted to using profane language towards Millwood and his wife, even hitting Millwood. Millwood was left with a ripped shirt, broken sunglasses and bruises. The matter went to trial, where despite pleas by Huizenga that Millwood had instigated the violence, the jury award Millwood $1000 in damages.
It was a hefty fine for the young, struggling Huizenga to pay, but even more than that, it was an important lesson for Huizenga to learn. The lesson was not that Huizenga should stop being ruthless and accept rejection when it comes. Rather, what Huizenga took from the incident was that when met with resistance, stay the course, but be willing to pay the price.
It has been this ruthlessness that has helped propel Huizenga to the top of the business world. It was this ruthlessness that enabled Huizenga to plan the often hostile takeovers of smaller, struggling companies on his rise to success.
Today, Huizenga is painted as a straight-shooting and hard working businessman, who serves as a model of corporate social giving and is a devoted sports fan. To many, he represents the American dream of rags to riches. Still, Huizenga’s career might better be characterized by a steel will in the face of any opposition.
"I don't think we are unique, we're certainly not smarter than the next guy,” says Huizenga. “So the only thing I can think of that we might do a little differently than some people is we work harder and when we focus in on something we are consumed by it. It becomes a passion.”
Huizenga guided his companies to success by making sure that rejection was never accepted, and that failure was never an option. He may not have gotten into any more fist-fights after the incident with Millwood, but Huizenga never lost his ruthlessness. It was his willingness to do whatever it takes that took him to the top.
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