Captain of Industry?
John D. Rockefeller was the guiding force behind the creation of the Standard Oil Company, which grew to dominate the oil industry. This company was one of the first big trusts in the United States, thus much controversy and opposition arose regarding business strategies and its organization. John D. Rockefeller was also one of the United States first major philanthropists, establishing numerous important foundations and donating close to $600 million to various charities.
An ongoing debate remains as to whether John D. Rockefeller was a "robber baron" or a "captain of industry". Rockefeller was highly criticized for his success and the means by which he attained it. Although, in actuality, he brought order to a chaotic economic system. Many of his accomplishments, strategies, developments and donations have positively altered American society and economy.
John D. Rockefeller's was a dedicated, driven young boy who learned the art of hard work and the gains of capital early in life. He continually proved to be hard working, very competitive, a skilled business strategist and forecaster and he had the ability to pick gifted associates and work with them harmoniously. Others viewed him as "industrious, even-tempered, generous and kind [man]" Throughout his life, Rockefeller remained faithful to the values of religion, hard work and family.
In 1970, The Standard Oil Company was founded by John D. Rockefeller, along with his brother William, Andrews, Henry Flagler and others. This was Rockefeller's opportunity to take control, devise and execute strategies to develop and expand the business.
Rockefeller was continuously analyzing the industry, as a whole, as well as his individual company. He despised waste and devoted considerable energy on increasing the efficiency of his refining business. "The seal for perfection of detail was from the beginning a factor in the growth of the Rockefeller's firm." He took decisive steps to increase the efficiency of all aspects of the company.
"The emphasis on cost never ceased." He hired his own plumber and bought his own plumbing supplies. He built his own cooperage shop and made his own barrels for the oil. He bought tracts of white-oak timber for making the barrels. Instead of transporting the freshly cut green timber directly to the cooperage shop, he had kilns built on the timber tracts to dry the wood on site to reduce the shipping weight of the lumber. He bought his own wagons and horses to transport the wood to the cooperage shop in Cleveland.
Nothing was left to chance and nothing left uncounted and measured, efficiencies down to the smallest detail of the business was necessary. Other business entrepreneurs had the same opportunities to make their oil refineries more efficient and cost effective. Whether they did not have to business insight that Rockefeller had, or they were not willing to take the necessary chances, Rockefeller should not be criticized for his drive for perfection and others their lack of ambition or know-how. Economy, precision, and foresight were the cornerstones of his success.
At this time, the entry costs were so low that when times were good many small operators could enter the business cheaply, making it a very competitive market. Rockefeller began his business with little money and invested all of his profits back into the company to build a strong foundation. He realized that he could not expand his business with the overabundance of competitors in the industry. "If he (Rockefeller) could not eliminate competition, then perhaps he could eliminate his competitors by buying them up one by one." The competitive markets, along with his thrive for perfection, drove Rockefeller to be the most efficient oil refinery in the business.
By March-April 1872 Rockefeller had bought up and/or merged with almost all the refineries in Cleveland. At this time, the oil industry revolved around the...