July 28, 2014

Icon: Wayne Huizenga

Entrepreneur, 68

Amy Keller | 1/1/2006
I think personality plays a huge role in a CEO or president of a company and other positions. If you ranked people by intelligence, personality and smart, and if I could only take two of the three, I would take personality and smart. There are many, many people who are intelligent and smart, but not as many as you might think.

I love to tell jokes. I love to listen to jokes. I’m comfortable with people no matter what level, and it’s just been easy for me. I’ve never been frightened, no matter who I was with, or intimidated, no matter who I was with.

Wayne Huizenga
Wayne Huizenga [Photo: Eileen Escarda]
We’ve been in lots of different businesses, which is unusual. Been in the waste collection business, Blockbuster video. Then we went back in the waste collection business again. We’ve had two different hotel companies.

To me, people are important, really important. There’s been times in the past where I would have to terminate someone, and yet ... we’d still remain good friends, three, four, five, 10 years later. I’m 50-50 partners with a fellow now that we had to agree to disagree several years ago, and now today we’re 50-50 partners in a business. ... I’ve never had a problem with terminating anyone, even family.

I have fish or chicken and once in a while I have beef.

My wife and I ... always decided we didn’t want to have a big business that we would leave to the kids. We would rather have four smaller businesses, and each one of them would have their own business to operate, and they wouldn’t be forced to get together. They could get together if they wanted to, but they wouldn’t have to.

I wish I was younger because I’d be in all this Google stuff and Microsoft and all those things. Those are such, you know, that’s like being a steel baron in the old days or creating Goldman Sachs or JPMorgan or something like that. The housing market is a big concern to me. The middle-class person is getting shut out, you know.

I like being with people. I like going to cocktail parties where there’s a lot of people around. I don’t like going to dinners where you sit at a table for three hours with six other people, but I do like mingling with people. I like to be out with people.

We, for six years, managed opening a new store every 17 hours (Blockbuster). There are some owners, and they’re very active in their team. They’re involved in every decision. It’s better for me to go off and do what I do best and let someone else run the team than me. We share in the highs, and we share in the lows, but I don’t get too emotional about it. I try to look at it like a business. Now, my good Dolphins fans would not like to hear me say that, but that’s reality.

One of my good friends that really keeps his feet on the ground and everybody he’s with really admires him and that would be Justice Clarence Thomas. He’s got such a great outlook on life, and he’s got a laugh from the belly. When he laughs, it’s contagious. You talk about being with a famous person, he’s so easy to be with, it’s unbelievable.

Jack Welch once told me that there’s two golden rules. ‘Rule No. 1: Never ever lose money. And Rule No. 2: Do not forget Rule No. 1.’

We’ve always boated, and when our kids were growing up we’d go on the boat and spend a lot of weekends on the boat and the kids would get out of school. We’d go to the Bahamas and stay on the boat, and it was a good way to force yourself to be together as a family. When our two oldest boys started getting in that 15-years-old age, they’d always want to be off the boat and walking in town or something like that. So my wife and I started anchoring out so they couldn’t get off the boat.

Our guys, they’re out on the road, they’re doing things. You don’t make a whole lot of money sitting around the office.

I have more fun at work than I do on the golf course. I remember I tried to take a year off one time. That lasted three weeks, and I learned then that wasn’t going to happen.

People ask, what’s your success? Other than hiring good people, I don’t know of any one thing. Every business is slightly different. You have to have a passion for it. If you’re trying to build a big business and you don’t want to get up in the morning and go to work, that isn’t going to happen. Who says you can’t go (in) at 4:30 or 5 o’clock? Why do you have to be home at 6 anyway? If that’s really what you’re having fun doing, then go ahead and do it.

We’re trying to grow businesses. We’re not trying to cut expenses. You can cut expenses only once. Better to grow the business and keep the employees and end up having to hire more employees rather than cut, cut, cut.

It’s fun when everybody makes money. Now, that’s not the only reason you do it, but that’s how you keep score.

A lot of our people have been successful in six different businesses that were public and many different businesses that were not public, and people don’t hear too much about those, and we like it that way. Our people have done real well.

I’m not looking to climb any more mountains. I don’t want to retire, but I don’t need a new challenge.

Tags: Florida Icon, North Central

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