I am always interested in rags-to-riches stories to discover how people attain personal and professional success, and that’s what How to Build an Empire on an Orange Crate by Ed Mirvish is. And more importantly, I want to know if they are worthy of admiration. How did they treat their family and friends? How did they treat their staff? What moral compass guides them? Did they give back to their community? Would I want to study them, the way Napoleon Hill studied his invisible counselors. What kind of invisible mentors would they make? Are they unique leaders who we can learn from by studying them?
I have never met Ed Mirvish, but I have attended live performances at his theatres – The Lion King, Sound of Music – and I have eaten at his restaurants. Every Christmas season he gave out turkeys, and many would stand in line to receive their turkey. He also had door crasher specials and many customers stood in line, rain or shine for the Honest Ed store to open. This man gave back to his community. He did many outrageous acts and secured a lot of free publicity.
Honest Ed Mirvish‘s story is a real rags-to-riches one. He was born in poverty in Baltimore, US, in 1914. And came to Toronto, Canada at age nine. His father David Mirvish thought he would fare better selling The Encyclopedias of Freemasonry in this untapped territory. Ed’s father didn’t have the Midas Touch, and even though he owned a business for most of his life. He was not an entrepreneur. And he didn’t understand that operating a business required a lot more that dreaming. He didn’t understand that he couldn’t consistently write off receivables because clients couldn’t pay. David Mirvish had too many customers who needed his ware, but couldn’t pay for it. As dirty as it may sound, you go into business to make money. Yes service is important, but you have to price your products at the right price and you have to get paid. Ed Mirvish learned these potent lessons that went right over his father’s head.
Content: How to Build an Empire on an Orange Crate
In How to Build an Empire on an Orange Crate or 121 Lessons I Never Learned in School, an autobiography of Honest Ed Mirvish’s life, you learn these lessons about operating a business and much more. Honest Ed, like countless others who achieved spectacular success, did not have a lot of formal education. He dropped out of high school out of necessity to work in the family’s grocery store. But he excelled in the school of life. How to Build an Empire on an Orange Crate is in two sections. In section one, Ed tells his life story in the usual manner. And in section two he tells his story by using 121 lessons that he learned. Published in the early 1990s, some of the businesses mentioned in How to Build an Empire on an Orange Crate are no longer around.
Yes, Ed Mirvish was very lucky, and he admitted that in his autobiography. He deserves a lot of respect, and we can truly learn from him. In the book, you see this fearless, entrepreneurial, business savvy person, who is willing to go against the grain. What he does often defies logic. What we are taught – to only go into a business that we know about. Ed went into the restaurant and theatre businesses, which he knew nothing about, and excelled at them.
“Thousands of teenage country girls were streaming into Toronto to build parachutes, fighter planes, and bombs in the war plants. For the first time ever, they had money to spend on smart dresses. And they spent.”
Ed used this information to his advantage. Because the girls had money to spend freely, Ed allowed them to buy on credit while other retailers accepted cash only. Ed’s way of thinking was if the girls were allowed to buy things on credit, they would buy more which they did. They didn’t default on payment because money was flowing to them. Ed also sold the payment contracts to Mutual Discount Company. When the girls came in on Fridays to make payments, he told them. They didn’t care who received their payments. This allowed him to sell more when they saw all the new dresses.
Eventually, other retailers switched to allowing these girls to buy on credit. Ed switched to cash because by that time the war was ending. And many of these girls would no longer have jobs. They would likely default on their payments – he had great foresight. The potent lesson here is to look at what’s going on in your environment, and “the devil is in the details.”
5 Great Ideas from How to Build an Empire on an Orange CrateWhen opportunities come knocking, make sure you recognize them and open the door.Click To Tweet
- When opportunities come knocking, make sure you recognize them and open the door.
- To stand out, go against the grain and do the opposite of what others are doing.
- If you want to learn a craft, study the masters, then personalize, and put your unique touch to what you’ve learned.
- Study your environment to predict what trends will unfold.
- Fail fast to success.
15 Lessons from How to Build an Empire on an Orange Crate
- No matter how attractive the substitute, you must always give patrons what they PAY for.
- We own nothing! We are all just custodians and caretakers.
- To be of service IS to be happy. What else brings greater satisfaction?
- People would soon suffer than change old habits.
- Before you jump into anything BIG always check the DETAILS first.
- It may be good, but it can always be better.
- Listen to your instincts and follow your convictions.
- Traditional methods aren’t always the best. Improvisation often pays off.
- Sheer ignorance sometimes beats experience. But you can’t succeed if you don’t try.
- Beware of experts who insist it can’t be done!
- Dreams alone don’t run a business.
- To have the right influences in your life is fortunate. They all pay off in the end.
- Adverse publicity can often be a bonus – if acted on instantly.
- Experiment! If it works, stick with it. If it doesn’t move on!
- Anything you do to INVOLVE your customers keeps them involved with YOU!
Conclusion: How to Build an Empire on an Orange Crate by Honest Ed Mirvish
I enjoyed reading How to Build an Empire on an Orange Crate and learned a tremendous deal from someone who has the Midas Touch. As you read the autobiography you see Ed’s evolution as a businessman, and he builds on each success until he has an empire. He never stood still and How to Build an Empire on an Orange Crate is the perfect example of where initial small steps can take you. Though Ed Mirvish had many successes, he also had several failures, but what he did was fail fast. It’s not where you start in life that really matters, it’s where you end up. I recommend How to Build an Empire on an Orange Crate.
What are 10 takeaways from the book? What ideas can you adapt immediately?
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