The 11 Greatest Business Leaders of All Time

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There have been millions of successful entrepreneurs throughout the world. These were men who took capital and made gain. They made profound decisions that uplifted societies and yielded massive financial gain for themselves. And yet, to choose the best ten from so many candidates would be a momentous task. Through the hourglass of history, we highlight a polished list of the most accomplished men and women in the business sphere.

1.      John D. Rockefeller

John RockefellerHistory remembers John Davison Rockefeller as the second richest man who ever lived. By the time he died in 1937, his fortune accounted for more than 1.5% of the national economy, equating to roughly $253 billion by 2013 estimates. Yes, you can forget about Bill Gates and stock-market indicator Warren Buffet, and get over it. Rockefeller replaced the early wildcat oil economy with a functioning international money minting machine. He borrowed heavily to build Standard Oil and colluded with railroad entrepreneurs to have his product shipped more affordably and efficiently.

2.      Henry Ford

Henry FordHenry Ford manufactured the first car that many middle-class Americans could afford. By so doing, he converted automobiles from expensive curiosities to everyday conveyances. Ford’s Model T auto recorded soaring sales, resulting in a massive fortune for the industrialist. Ford is to thank for the modern interstate highway system. His assembly line mode of production recolonized the auto industry.

3.      J.P Morgan

JP MorganJ.P. Morgan was a man of integrity, unlimited resources, and stewardship. He might as well be the most important banker to ever live. Morgan helped struggling railroad businesses get back on track. He played a key part in the installation of major industrial machines, including General Electric, U.S. Steel, International Harvester, AT&T. During times of crisis, he operated as the De Facto lender of last resort. Indeed, his influence and leadership were so magnificent that it convinced American lawmakers that there was the need for a central bank as they could not rely on one private individual.

4.      Andrew Carnegie

Andrew CarnegieCarnegie was a Scottish-American businessman who transformed the country from a rural agricultural hub into an industrial power. By employing his business wit to compare cost and output, and gauging the efficiency of management, he helped make the United States the world’s number one steel-producing country. Around 1901, Carnegie was about the richest man in the world. Eventually, he gave away nearly all his fortune.

5.      Thomas Edison

Thomas EdisonThomas Edison is the man who gave the world electric light, talking motion pictures, the phonograph, and over 1,300 other patented inventions. He was a business leader on his own level, and no doubt the world’s greatest inventor. Edison started out as a teenager, printing newspapers and then selling copies to train passengers. His combination of entrepreneurial flair and inventive genius made him a truly outstanding individual. His life’s work has had a profound impact on people’s lives.

6.      Alfred Nobel

Alfred NobelAlfred Nobel invented dynamite and went a mile ahead. He monetized his innovation to start 16 explosives plants in 14 nations. And when these companies started competing amongst themselves, he merged them. This was a genius prove that is studied as an effective way to manage a global empire. Nobel’s dynamite has had a profound impact on the globe today. It has helped in the construction of infrastructures such as railroads, canals, and tunnels. It has also contributed to the carnage of warfare. But perhaps, Nobel’s most abiding legacy is the annual prizes for literature, physics, peace, chemistry, medicine and economics given in his name.

7.      King Croesus

King CroesusThere’s a good reason the name of King Croesus features in the ‘as rich as Croesus’ phrase. As the sixth century B.C., ruler of the Asian Kingdom of Lydia, he minted the world’s first coinage, thus creating the lifeblood of everyday business (cash flow and liquidity) – in a single stroke.

8.      Ray Kroc

Ray KrocRay Kroc was one hell of a persistent entrepreneur. As a kitchen wares salesman, Ray had his imagination captured by a family-run restaurant outside Los Angeles. He bought out the McDonald Brothers and proceeded to nationally implement the concept of fast service, low prices, and a limited menu. This way, he fostered the fast-food industry, dramatically impacting the lifestyles, and sadly collective health, of American people.

9.      Walt Disney

Walt DisneyTogether with his brother Roy, Walt Disney created the world’s first, modern media conglomerate. He exploited the ripe children’s market in such a way as nobody else had done before. His ability to take expensive risks enabled him to add significant entertainment to each of his films. A good example is Steamboat Willie, introducing the country to Mickey Mouse. Walt also pioneered innovative work in color and sound in motion pictures. He launched Disneyland (a brilliant extension and the first theme park) in 1955.

10.  Sam Walton

Sam WaltonSam Walton was an American businessman and entrepreneur who founded Walmart and Sam’s Club. But he didn’t invent the concept of a discount store, he just perfected it. His ability to combine supply chain management and information technology enabled him to considerably undercut his competition. Cash registers in Wal-Mart stores are linked to supplies and headquarters. The chain is the biggest global retailer and has helped spur the economy, despite ‘old-fashioned’ complaints that Sam’s creation contributed to the unnatural death of mom-and-pop shops. Walmart has empowered shoppers to keep more dollars in their market. It is also America’s leading employer, with over 1.3 million people working in its branches. If Sam Walton were alive today, he’d probably be the richest man in the world.

11.  Sakichi Toyoda

Sakichi ToyodaSakichi Toyoda was born in 1867 to a poor carpenter in Japan. Working as a weaver in 1924, he invented a special loom that detected errors and automatically stopped production, thus preventing the creation of defective goods.  Toyoda sold the patent on his invention to a British company for about $150, 000. This money helped his son set up a startup, Toyota, which would grow to become the world’s second-largest automaker. Sakichi Toyoda’s innovation of integrating human judgment into machines (automation) would be adopted by his son’s car-making enterprise, and almost every other industrial enterprise much later – helping cut down on waste, revealing problems, conserving resources and improving customer relations. Today, Toyoda is remembered as the “King of Japanese Inventors”.

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