Half luck and half brains

I recently finished Half Luck and Half Brains: The Kemmons Wilson, Holiday Inn Story, it is an intriguing story of the man that changed the hotel industry that we know and love today. He took a concept of a downtown hotel with all of its luxuries and accommodations and put it out on the highway for the car traveler to have access to. He usurped the occasional motels on the outskirts of the city by growing a national chain, a brand for consumers to recognize, and a quality of service that people would appreciate. Things like kids staying free at a hotel and even the size of the rooms are concepts that Kemmons pioneered when he launched Holiday Inn. Now there are copycats all over the world.

The first Holiday Inn opened in 1952, by 1953 he had three just outside of Memphis and a fourth shortly after. Kemmons truly built a moat around his business in a single market before figuring out how to scale to other markets. He personally built and managed these first four Holiday Inns in Memphis, to scale though he learned that he needed to setup a franchise model to compliment the corporate owned Inns.

So how did he find franchisees? A cold call letter to home builders with a promise of wealth if they’d fly to Memphis to hear his pitch. Yep, one of those funny letters you get in the mail from a stranger that is promising riches beyond belief if you’d just fly to their seminar for the weekend. Needless to say only a few responded, but everyone that signed up and opened franchises came out much wealthier.

Kemmons constantly took risks with his wealth, took loans, and took partners. He rarely gave up control to outside investors and only gave up portions of his business to true operators willing to put capital and labor into the business.

There are loads of interesting insights into how Kemmons redefined the hotel industry and scaled a business into a world-wide brand. One of my favorite quotes regarding international expansion from Kemmons isĀ  “There are hundreds of languages in the world, but a smile speaks all of them. A smile never needs an interpreter.” This is true for different languages as well as just different personality types.

Kemmons includes a long list of tips for success. Some are great and some not so great, but understanding what Kemmons thinks makes him tick is interesting and insightful nonetheless.

  1. Work only a half a day; it makes no difference which half – it can be either the first 12 hours or the last 12 hours.
  2. Work is the master key that opens the door to all opportunities.
  3. Mental attitude plays a far more important role in a person’s success or failure than mental capacity.
  4. Remember that we all climb the ladder of success one step at a time.
  5. There are two ways to get to the top of an oak tree. One way is to sit on an acorn and wait; the other way is to climb it.
  6. Do not be afraid of taking a chance. Remember that a broken watch is exactly right at least twice every 24 hours.
  7. The secret of happiness is not in doing what one likes, but in liking what one does.
  8. Eliminate from your vocabulary the words, “I don’t think I can” and substitute, “I know I can.”
  9. In evaluating a career, put opportunity ahead of security.
  10. Remember that success requires half luck and half brains.
  11. A person has to take risks to achieve.
  12. People who take pains never to do more than they get paid for, never get paid for anything more than they do.
  13. No job is too hard as long as you are smart enough to find someone else to do it for you.
  14. Opportunity comes often. It knocks as often as you have an ear trained to hear it, an eye trained to use it, a hand trained to grasp it, and a head trained to use it.
  15. You cannot procrastinate – in two days, tomorrow will be yesterday.
  16. Sell you wristwatch and buy an alarm clock.
  17. A successful person realizes his personal responsibility for self-motivation. He starts himself because he possesses the key to his own ignition switch.
  18. Do not worry. You can’t change the past, but you sure can ruin the present by worrying over the future. Remember that half the things we worry about never happen, and the other half are going to happen anyway. So, why worry?
  19. It is not how much you have but how much you enjoy that makes happiness.
  20. Believe in God and obey the Ten Commandments.

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