Lesson #1: Service is the Secret to Success

Huizenga did not create three Fortune 1000 companies by accident. Nor was it simply luck that took him to the top. Instead, Huizenga implemented a formula for success that, through each of his ventures, has proven to work time after time. What was that formula?

It is no coincidence that all of Huizenga’s ventures were all focused on service industries. From garbage collection to video rentals to hotels to car dealerships, he specifically made the point of concentrating only on those service industries in which there was no foreseeable decline in demand, and where there would be a constant stream of recurring income. Even with Autonation, what would become one of the largest automobile dealerships in the nation, Huizenga did not open up a single manufacturing plant. Instead, he focused on providing a service to his customers.

It was not just the service industry that Huizenga was focusing on. It was providing quality service as well. In every industry that Huizenga entered, he insisted that his companies set a new standard of highly professional service. After all, if he was going to be providing a service that was already being provided by others, he would have to go above and beyond what his competition was doing.

Another key ingredient to Huizenga’s success was his focus on service and rental industries that were fragmented, and had poor service histories. He did not look for where others were achieving success and try to copy their model. Instead, he looked for where others were not making the profit that Huizenga believed they should be, and decided to give it a go himself.

“We're looking for something where we can make something happen: an industry where the competition is asleep, hasn't taken advantage,” he says. “It's going to be hard to find another Blockbuster, but that doesn't mean you can't have three good companies growing. The point is, we're going to be busy.”

To that end, his formula for success included the rapid acquisition of smaller disjointed companies in the industry, followed by the implementation of new service and performance standards. During Huizenga’s periods of acquisition, he made sure to impose close management control and direction throughout his expanding companies in order to ensure quality and profitable operation of each newly acquired individual local unit.

With each of his ventures, Huizenga’s reputation as a man focused on quality of service and hard work was further solidified. He was known as a manager who emphasized good old-fashioned hard work, always being the first one to arrive at work in the morning and the last one to leave at night.

It was through this strategy of focusing on fragmented businesses and industries with poor service histories that Huizenga was able to rapidly acquire struggling companies, quickly build a reputation for quality service, and grow each of his ventures from million to billion dollar companies that are successful around the world.

By focusing on both service industries and providing quality service, Huizenga was able to turn a single garbage truck operation into the world’s largest waste disposal company and a small video rental store chain into one of the most well-known companies in the U.S. By repeating his proven formula time after time, Huizenga was able to become the billionaire business magnate that he is today.

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