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  Category: Articles » Business » Entrepreneurs » Article

Business Health, Wealth and Workers

By John Mehrmann

Condensed highlights are only a glimpse of the many incredible accomplishments from the life of this prolific entrepreneur. Many may ask, "What inspires and enables a man to achieve so much in a single lifetime?" To this question he has demonstrated the answer in actions as well as his own words. His business success was founded on a genuine commitment to the workers. From humble beginnings and a romantic quest, he was lifted to astounding success on the shoulders of the workers and the values that he supported. See if you can recognize this man by his accomplishments before you get to the last paragraph.

Problems in work clothes . . . .

From his humble beginnings as a cashier in a dry goods shop in Utica, New York, this future entrepreneur moved many times in the pursuit of hardware business and photography. At an early age he met and feel in love with a girl in New York society. He expressed a desire to marry her, but the girl's father insisted that the young man establish himself and become financially stable enough to support his daughter properly. Thus began a search that would take him to Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada, where in 1912 he established a road paving business in Washington state and British Columbia.

By 1914 he won his first California paving contract and established headquarters in Oakland, California. Demonstrating his prowess as a true leader, he created an innovative management structure that stressed good pay for workers. As are result of motivational compensation, the California road paving contract was completed under budget and ahead of schedule. This success paved the way for more opportunities in government sponsored programs to build roads and infrastructure.

The workers responded to the supportive management style with creativity and collaboration. At that time cement powder, four times more fine than cosmetic face powder, was created by a refining process at the quarry and packaged in bags. The bags of cement were then carried by truck to be mixed and poured at the site. The company engineers designed an improved process that allowed them to refine and mix the cement at the building site, vastly improving the efficiency of the production. This innovative process was used on one of the more notable contracts won by the growing company, the Hoover Dam (Boulder Dam) on the Colorado River. The Hoover Dam is a monument to hard work and creative engineering.

Surrounded by smarter people . . . .

The company continued to win more contracts, including the building of the Bonneville, Grand Coulee, and Shasta Dams. They built natural gas pipelines in the Southwest, Mississippi River levees and the San Francisco - Oakland Bay Bridge underwater foundations. The workers were inspired by the freedom and motivation to develop enhanced production techniques, which became famous at the shipyards in Richmond, California, Ryan Point (Vancouver) and the Columbia River in Washington. During World War II, the workers used these production techniques to generate one cargo ship every 30 days, rapidly increasing the size of the naval cargo fleet. These concepts for mass production are still in use today. As a means to care for the health and benefits of the workers at the Richmond, California shipyard, the company pioneered the idea for a now well recognized HMO program.

As a real estate magnate, he founded the Honolulu Suburban community of Hawaii Kai, where a public High School still bears his name. He also developed a community in Panorama City near Los Angeles.

The entrepreneur continued to test his boundaries, and in 1945 he established a new automobile company in Willow Run, Michigan. Production began in abandoned facility that had been used to build aircraft during World War II. Ten years later they moved production to plants in Brazil and Argentina. These South American operations were subsequently sold to a Ford-Renault combine. In 1970 he sold the Willy's Motors line of Jeep utility vehicles to American Motors Corporation, and Henry decided to leave the automobile business. As a result of the transaction, he acquired 22% interest in AMC.

Still concerned for the health and welfare of his employees, in 1948 he established a non-profit, private operating foundation focused on the major health care issues facing the workers of the nation. The foundation became an independent voice and source of facts and analysis for policymakers, media, the health care community and the general public. It is also responsible for numerous hospitals, medical centers and medical schools.

The Legacy of dreams against the stars . . . .

Henry spent much of his later life with his wife, his first love from New York society, perfecting the urban landscape he designed in Honolulu. Together they founded the Hawaiian Village Hotel, which has become one of the most famous Hilton Resorts in the world. Among other things, this resort contains one of the first commercially practical geodesic domes.

The innovative management style and employee conscious commitments began in the small mining town of Eagle Mountain, California. It was the cement plant that created integrated mining and processing operations which first carried the name Kaiser Permanente. Under the caring leadership of Henry J Kaiser, with stress for good pay and health care to workers, the company expanded into construction, developing communities, the Hoover Dam, aluminum, shipyards, automobiles, and eventually into the first health maintenance organization that still bears the name, Kaiser Permanente.


Words of Wisdom

"Problems are only opportunities in work clothes."
- Henry J Kaiser

"I make progress by having people around me who are smarter than I am and listening to them. And I assume that everyone is smarter about something than I am."
- Henry J Kaiser

"I always have to dream up there against the stars. If I don't dream I'll make it, I won't even get close."
- Henry J Kaiser


You may distribute this article freely, print it, sell it, or include it as part of a package as long as it is intact, unchanged and delivered in the original format with acknowledgement to Executive Blueprints Inc.
About the Author
John Mehrmann is a freelance writer and President of Executive Blueprints Inc., an organization devoted to improving business practices and developing human capital. provides resource materials for trainers, sample Case Studies, educational articles and references to local affiliates for consulting and executive coaching. provides self-paced tutorials for personal development and tools for trainers. Presentation materials, reference guides and exercises are available for continuous development.

John Mehrmann is a freelance author, industry expert and President of Executive Blueprints Inc, an organization dedicated to developing human capital and personal growth.

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