• 2019-09-17

Henry's Breakaway Vision

If somebody walked up to you today and told you they were going to change every aspect of your business, industry and career, you would likely think they were a little bit south of crazy.

A century ago, people thought Henry was crazy as he told friends and associates about taking a wild leap into a southern swampland of commercial unknown. After listening politely, they ridiculed him behind his back, uttering phrases like “that will never work” or “Henry’s got more money than brains”. Years later, the critics also condemned (in similar fashion) everyone from to Ted Turner, Reed Hastings and Jeff Bezos before CNN disrupted network news, before Netflix decimated Blockbuster and before Amazon gutted Sears.

 The number of critics has always outnumbered the number of visionaries with impossible vision.

Impossible vision only stands a chance when intense curiosity collides with a grounded understanding of current reality.

One without the other is useless. 

Vision that lacks a fundamental grasp of current reality is daydreaming. A mind fixed only on day-to-day realities without a sense of wonder leads to frustration, cynicism and prevents you from ever breaking away from the middle of any pack.

Which brings us to the story of Henry, who was both a visionary and a realist.  He was also the original snowbird who loved nothing more than bright sunshine and fresh Florida orange juice. Probably not the Henry you were thinking of.

To be sure Henry Flagler of Saginaw, Michigan shared a lot in common with that hard-working Ford fella over in Detroit who was about to transform transportation and manufacturing with his breakthrough Model T. But, after the demise of his Saginaw salt company, Henry moved to Cleveland and joined forces with John D. Rockefeller and built the world’s richest company before using his visionary gifts to share his love of the sun and the finer things in life with millions of others.

If you are curious about Henry’s enduring legacy and how commercial prophets bring their dreams to life, join us at one of America’s most iconic hotels and discover The Power of Breakaway Vision on this edition of Leaders & Legends.


         “I have always been contented, but I have never been satisfied.” 



Here are three key points to consider about Henry Flagler, Henry Ford and The Power of Breakaway Vision


There Are No Guarantees For Success

The road to any game-changing success is always filled with many curves, potholes, hills, detours and dead ends. Henry Ford’s business manager, James Couzens, once said that Ford was thrown out of so many offices in Detroit that one time he just sat on the curb and wept. Back then, none of the stuffy bank managers in Michigan seemed to grasp his vision that automobiles could be manufactured and sold to the masses and not just built and marketed as expensive toys for the wealthy and racing enthusiasts.


The Future Favours The Bold 

Which means taking risk even if you are a 53-year old Henry Flagler willing to start all over again and pour millions of dollars into constructing luxury hotels and railroads in a state where none existed. In 1883 and on a Florida honeymoon with his second wife, Henry felt that even though there was no prior evidence to confirm his feelings, the area was ripe for future development. As Henry put it, “It occurred to me very strongly that someone with sufficient means ought to provide accommodations for a class of people who would want to come here to enjoy the climate, have plenty of money, but could find no satisfactory way of spending it.” As you can imagine, creating the winter Mecca for America’s high society crowd took plenty of guts to put money and the line and the emotional courage to ignore the many critics and naysayers. The Breakers in Palm Beach serves as a shining example of the following: Whenever you see a successful business, you see how someone once made a courageous decision.


Chase Vision Before Money 

Henry Ford was famous for saying that a business that only concerns itself with making money is a poor business. In his 1922 book, Ford explained that the automobiles, the factories, the machinery and the money they produced were but a means to an end. Henry saw them as necessary tools that in the end, make the world a better place in which to live. Likewise, Henry Flagler saw his development of Florida’s railroads and hotels like the Breakers as something much more than functional attributes that allowed people to enjoy transportation and accommodations. In his words, Flagler stated, “I am not a hotel builder…But the Breakers is an altogether different affair. I want something to last all time to come…”



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**Big shout out to Josh Parlee at CreoVisuals for creating the video above (and all videos we produce).  If you need a video genius (we're not kidding), contact Josh here.