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Wayne Huizenga: How This Modest Garbage Man Became a Self-Made Billionaire

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This is the inspiring story of a Chicago-born man by the name of Wayne Huizenga.

From an early-age, his father told him, “You can’t make money working for someone else.” After dropping out of college after only one year, a family friend convinced him to get into the trash business. He liked how the business was simple, needed no elaborate training, and had high demand. He bought his first garbage truck in 1962.

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Every morning, he would begin his route at 2 a.m., he’d personally pick up garbage and haul it to the dump until the early afternoon. He would haul garbage at $1.25 per wagon. After that, he’d shower, dress up and spend the rest of the day cold-calling homeowners and businesses to find new customers.

“I didn’t know anything about the business… I just worked hard and gave good service.”

As his business increased, he was eventually able to buy out other private garbage truck businesses. By 1982, he owned the largest waste disposal company in the United States. You may know Wayne’s business today by the name of Waste Management, a publicly-traded company worth billions of dollars.

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Wayne’s approach to building a successful businesses was simple- take fragmented industries that are mainly made up of small business-owners and create a corporation that completely owns the space. He applied this concept to other ventures, including the acquisition of more than 100 businesses ranging from bottled water, lawn-care services, hotels and office buildings. By 1986, all of these businesses had a combined annual revenue of $100 million.

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One of the secrets to his success is his ability to find people who can do certain jobs better than he can.

“He knows what makes things go, hires good people and stands back to let them work…” –  Former Colleague

But he really didn’t make himself known as the business legend today until his second big venture, which was  a video company he and his partners bought out by the name of “Blockbuster.” Using the same business concepts he holds true to himself, he led Blockbuster to be the biggest movie rental chain in the U.S. by 1994.

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He then repeated the same thing in the auto industry, acquiring auto dealerships and forming AutoNation in 1996. That company eventually became the nation’s largest automotive dealership and a Fortune 500 company.

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Currently, Huizenga is worth $2.5 billion, he has owned multiple sports team,  stadiums, and other large assets. Not bad for someone who started off as a garbage man!

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“I enjoy building something good and having a successful product and making money.”

What’s the lesson here? Work your ass off, pay your dues, and see things other people can’t and it may pay off for you too!

Source: Entrepreneur, The New York Times

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