The Fortune 1000 Entrepreneur: Wayne Huizenga Gets his Start

He is the only person in history to build three Fortune 1000 companies. He is the only person to have developed six NYSE-listed companies. And, he is the only person to ever own three professional sports teams in a single market. His name is Wayne Huizenga, and he is one of the most successful entrepreneurs of modern times.

Harry Wayne Huizenga, Jr. was born on December 29, 1937 in the Chicago suburb of Evergreen Park. His parents, Gerrit Harry and Jean Huizenga, were both of Dutch descent. When Huizenga was 15 years old, his family picked up and moved to Fort Lauderdale, Florida. Soon after the move, his parents divorced and the 17 year old Huizenga went to live with his mother (interestingly, his parents would remarry 24 years later).

The divorce was a traumatic experience for the young Huizenga, who got an after-school job driving a truck and pumping gas to help his mother pay for their expenses. After graduating from high school, Huizenga moved back to Chicago to be closer to his grandparents and most of his friends. He later enrolled in Michigan’s Calvin College, but found it was not for him and dropped out just three semesters later.

In 1959, Huizenga decided to enlist in the Army reserve and spent six months completing his basic training. After marrying a childhood friend, Huizenga moved back to Fort Lauderdale, where his entrepreneurial spirit began to show through.

Huizenga had drifted from college to the army with no real direction in his life. Finally, back in Fort Lauderdale, Huizenga made a life-changing decision. He decided to join a family friend who was in the garbage collection business.

Garbage collection was not a completely foreign business for Huizenga. After all, his grandfather was the owner of Ace Scavenger Service, a Chicago-based collection company. Huizenga saw similar opportunities in Fort Lauderdale to those his grandfather had seen in Chicago.

In 1960, Huizenga began working for Pompano Carting, where he was primarily in charge of the acquisition of new clients, but he also drove the occasional garbage truck. In just under two years, Huizenga was confident enough in his knowledge of the industry that he bought his own truck and $500 worth of clients from Wilbur Porter, the owner of Porter’s Rubbish Services. It was Huizenga’s first step into the waste management industry, and one that would forever change his life.

Huizenga once said that the only thing that motivates him is “working with great people who make it happen, and seeing the results.” To that end, Huizenga immediately began to establish a reputation for himself as a hard worker. When he was first starting out, he would drive his single garbage truck from 2:30 am until noon, and spend the rest of the afternoon knocking on doors and introducing himself to different neighbourhoods to try and gain new customers.

It was a strategy that paid off for the young Huizenga. In little time, he had not only made a name for himself, but he was becoming one of the leaders in the young industry.

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