John D Rockefeller Biography & Tips on Growing a Business

Looking for a John D. Rockefeller biography with actionable takeaways to help you grow your business? If so, you’re in the right place. Here, you’ll get a biography of John D. Rockefeller with practical tips you can apply to take your business to the next level.

If you’re trying to grow a business from concept to enterprise, it’s quite a feat.  There are many twists and turns in business growth.  Things like:

  • Hiring employees
  • Doing taxes
  • Marketing the business
  • Building a reputation
  • Maintaining great products and services
  • and scaling up…

Can all become challenges that require direction, input, and teamwork to navigate successfully.  It’s best to use “great entrepreneurs”, either from history or the present as a blueprint for scaling your business.  One great entrepreneur to learn from is John D. Rockefeller.

john d rockefeller biographyWho is John D. Rockefeller? | John D Rockefeller Biography

As one of the richest men who ever walked the face of the Earth, John D. Rockefeller is no one to underestimate in the world of wealth accumulation.  He was able to start from a modest life growing up in upstate New York, and develop an idea that enabled him to grow a multimillion-dollar empire.

His early life was filled with adversity.  

He was raised in a very confusing household.  His father was a homeopathic medicine merchant who traveled quite often.  During his travels, he met another woman and had children with her.  Eventually, he decided to bring the mistress home and blend the two families: his wife, his mistress, and their children.  Added to the marital confusion of John’s home, they lived a nomadic lifestyle: moving from place to place until they settled for awhile in Cleveland, Ohio.

In Cleveland, John was able to go to school.  Less than one year after starting school, John dropped out to become a bookkeeper for a local produce broker.  He earned $0.50 per day, but after working there for awhile with no meaningful raises, he decided to quit and start his own produce brokerage.  He was able to get a loan of $4000 to start his brokerage, and began selling hay, meat, and grains.  In his first year, he made half a million dollars in sales!

He’s established a great reputation with banks and had many bankers ready to give him money.  

Around this time, the first oil well was discovered just 100 miles east of Cleveland in Titusville, Pensylvania, and the oil rush began.  At this time, gas cars hadn’t been invented, so oil wasn’t nearly as valuable as it is today.  Instead, oil was processed into kerosene for use in lamps.

John decided that drilling for oil was not the most profitable component, but instead, refining the oil was the portion of the oil industry he wanted to focus on.  Many people were looking for oil, so he decided to buy oil from them.  Then, when the railroads were built to bridge Pennsylvania and Cleveland, he had a solid reputation with the banks that enabled him to have the financing to build a team.

He hired a team of seasoned engineers and chemists who made the oil refining process efficient and who found byproducts that the refined oil could be made into.  He began selling the refined oil and the byproducts like paraffin wax, tar, and naphtha.  Within two years, the Rockefeller Refinery was worth more than $70,000 or $1.18 million in modern dollars!  Within the 5 years following, John bought out all except 4 of his competitors; meaning he acquired 21 refineries!

Then, John continued in negotiations with his remaining competitors by proving to them that he could operate at a loss longer than they could.  He bought out those who were willing to negotiate and gave them positions in his company, which meant he had the top professionals in the oil industry within his business.

For others who weren’t as willing to negotiate, John reduced the price of oil until it strangled the competitors out of the market.

As a result of the oil monopoly he’d established, he was in control of 90% of the country’s oil.  As a result, he had the power to negotiate with railroad companies for reduced price on freight, and the government and business world got very upset.  The Ohio legislators began doing investigations, but Rockefeller stayed ahead by incorporating Standard Oil Trust in New Jersey.

At this point, he’d owned 40,000 oil wells, employed 100,000 people, and ran 100,000 miles of oil pipeline.  Even with his massive success, he had not anticipated the growth of oil on a global scale. Oil wells in Russia and Asia were being developed by the Rothschild family who were importing their oil to the US.  Added the that, the government had passed an AntiTrust Law that allowed the Standard Oil Trust to be investigated and broken up.  However, Rockefeller was no longer managing Standard Oil Trust.

They had paid out over $0.5 billion dollars in dividends (which equates to $1 trillion in today’s money).  

In 1911, the Supreme Court found Standard Oil Company guilty of noncompetitive practices and broke the company up into 34 smaller companies.  John found that the breakup of the oil companies was the most profitable thing that could have happened.  His companies were broken into smaller companies that have become Chevron, BP, ExxonMobil, and others.  In total, if he were alive, his net worth today would be estimated at $400 billion, which is more than all of those on the Forbes list including Jeff Bezos, Warren Buffet, Bill Gates, and all others.  In fact, some argue that he was the richest man who ever lived.

See his biography in video here:

What Routine Business Habits Created John D. Rockefeller’s Success?

In a previous post on the Compound Effect, we talked about how a series of daily actions can either drive you further towards the future you desire or further away from it.  John D. Rockefeller is no exception from the compound effect.  In fact, author Verne Harnish studied Rockefeller very closely to discover that he implemented 10 habits in his business that directly correlated to his success.

Even further, other great entrepreneurs like Steve Jobs, Warren Buffet and other companies that have grown massively; reaching more than $100 million in sales all maintain these 10 core habits…

Habit 1: The Executive Team is Healthy and Aligned

John D. Rockefeller made sure his executive team all were aware of the priorities ad rhythm of the company, and all are working in sync collaboratively.

Habit 2: Everyone Knows the #1 Thing to Move Forward this Quarter

Everyone has the same centralized focus their working towards for the quarter, and each person can tell you what that one thing is.

Habit 3: Communication is Established and Flowing Accurately

The people within the company know how communication should flow, the chain of command, the reporting procedures, and communication is flowing accurately.

Habit 4: Every Part of the Organization Has a Person in Charge to Keep Goals Met

There are several key performance indicators in each business.  When you make too many goals without one central focus, it’s likely that things won’t get done.  John D. Rockefeller placed a single person in charge of each organizational goal to ensure each goal was met.

Habit 5: Ongoing Employee Input Is Collected To Identify Obstacles And Opportunities

Employees are on the front line of business affairs.  They deal with the customers, hear the complaints, see the opportunities, and can be a very valuable source of feedback.  John D. Rockefeller was very aware of the value of employee feedback, and therefore, made it possible to get ongoing feedback that helped to identify obstacles and opportunities.

Habit 6: Ongoing Customer Feedback is Taken Frequently and Accurately

Similar to employee feedback, don’t you think it’s valuable to hear from people who might want to buy from you?  Of course!  John D. Rockefeller made sure there were systems in place to receive feedback from customers frequently and accurately.

Habit 7: Core Values and Purpose are Alive and Active

There are certain virtues and behaviors every business stands for or against, but not every company clearly communicates them. John D. Rockefeller made sure the core values and purpose of the company was alive and active.

Habit 8: Employees Can Articulate the Key Components of the Growth Strategy

Sometimes, when communication within a company is dampened, it can feel like the executives are making all of the decisions, but the employees are simply puppets.  Instead, Rockefeller wanted the employees to feel they were a part of the company also, so he was transparent about their plans for growth.

Habit 9: All Employees Can Articulate Whether they Had a Good Day or Week in Relation to KPIs

When employees know how they impact the company as a whole, it can positively influence their performance in their individual position; especially when they know how their daily activity influences the organization.  One of the Rockefeller habits is showing each employee how they influence key performance indicators well enough they can articulate whether or not they had a good week or bad week.

Habit 10: The Company’s Plans and Performance are Visible to Everyone

Some companies use a vision board, some use wall size charts, and others use digital graphs.  John D. Rockefeller made sure the company’s plans and performance were visible to everyone.

How the John D. Rockefeller Habits Can Influence Your Business

The Rockefeller Habits helps you to maximize productivity whether your organization is 1 or 100,000s.  They help you stay conscious of the metrics that matter and get insight to scale and grow.

John D. Rockefeller Quotes

For every successful person, there always mantras and quotes that they reiterate time and time again to propel positive action.  Here’s a few John D. Rockefeller quotes that drove his success:

“Don’t be afraid to give up the good and go for the great.” John D. Rockefeller

“I always tried to turn every disaster into an opportunity.” John D. Rockefeller

“Own nothing, control everything.” John D. Rockefeller

“The way to make money is to buy when blood is running in the streets.” John D. Rockefeller

“If you want to succeed you should strike out on new paths, rather than travel the worn paths of accepted success.” John D. Rockefeller

“The secret of success is to do the common things uncommonly well.” John D. Rockefeller

“I believe in the dignity of labor, whether with head or hand; that the world owes no man a living, but that it owes every man an opportunity to make a living.” John D. Rockefeller

“Giving should be entered into in just the same way as investing. Giving is investing.” John D. Rockefeller

“Perseverance can overcome all obstacles. Even the laws of nature cannot stop it.” John D. Rockefeller

“Charity is injurious unless it helps the recipient to become independent of it.” John D. Rockefeller

“I would rather earn 1% off a 100 people’s efforts than 100% of my own efforts.” John D. Rockefeller

“The most important thing fo a young man is to establish a credit, a reputation, and character.” John D. Rockefeller

“A friendship founded on business is better than a business founded on friendship.” John D. Rockefeller

“Every right implies a responsibility; Every opportunity and obligation; Every possession a duty.” John D. Rockefeller

“Good leadership consists of showing average people how to do work of superior people.” John D. Rockefeller

“He who works all day has no time to make money.” John D. Rockefeller

“Singleness of purpose is one of the chief essentials for success in life, no matter what may be one’s aim.” John D. Rockefeller

John D Rockefeller Biography Playlist

This is a video playlist with documentaries on John D. Rockefeller.  These will give you more backstory and visuals on his life and family. Check it out!

Recommendations for More Information on John D. Rockefeller

If you’re looking for more information on John D. Rockefeller, these are some great resources to learn more about his life, his family, and his business…

Titan | An Autobiography by Ron Chernow

The Tycoons

John D. Rockefeller on Making Money

America: The Story of Us Documentary Series

Final Words on this John D Rockefeller Biography

The goal of this article was to show you the example of a man who built a business from idea to enterprise and outpaced all of our richest modern-day entrepreneurs. If you need inspiration for how you can start from nothing and dent the universe with your business, studying John D. Rockefeller might be a good place to start.  If you have questions or concerns about this, don’t hesitate to leave them in the comments section.  I’d love to help you out!

Like What You Saw Here?

If you like what you saw here, and you’d like to learn to start or scale your business, check out my free e-course. It’s a framework to help you grow your business: from idea to enterprise. Check out the free e-course here.

Now, it’s Your Turn…

What golden nuggets did you get from reading this John D. Rockefeller Biography?  Did his background and early life story inspire you?  Which quotes were your favorite?  Leave your comments below.

2 thoughts on “John D Rockefeller Biography & Tips on Growing a Business”

  1. Sujandar Mahesan

    John D. Rockefelle – It was a great pleasure to read about him and to know what he achieved throughout his life. I loved reading this article. It gave me lots and lots of information I didn’t know about. The quotes were really motivational and critical to think about. I really appreciate that you pointed those quotes.  Gave me a lot of motivation and confidence reading it. Thank you for your time in this article. It was great. 

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