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John D Rockefeller - The W1nners' Club

Here is a list of items that you will no longer be able to afford if you become suddenly unemployed:

  1. Alcohol that isn’t Frosty Jack cider.
  2. Recreational drugs.
  3. Cigarettes that don’t have a deceptively grandiose name such as Ambassador, Attaché, Diplomat, Executive or Brexit Secretary.
  4. Filter coffee.
  5. Shopping at Waitrose.
  6. A girlfriend / boyfriend.
  7. Christmas presents.
  8. Netflix
  9. Spunking money on mobile gaming add-ons.
  10. The latest Nike trainers.

On that basis, it’s important that if you have recently been given the elbow by a previous employer, to sort out the situation pronto and get yourself a new job.

Have you ever considered becoming the richest person in modern history?

You may find that one day a hip hop label is named after you.

If refining oil and distributing it to pretty much anywhere on the planet that has humans living there sounds like it could be a bit of a giggle – here’s what you’ll need to do to become the next John D. Rockefeller:

1.    Become proficient in book keeping


It sounds obvious but having a keen enthusiasm for “all the methods and systems of the office,” as Rockefeller put it, won’t do you any harm if you plan on becoming the richest person in modern history. A keenness for calculating transportation costs alongside having the personal dream of earning $3 million ($100,000 in Rockefeller’s day) will also set you on your path to future success.

2.    Build an oil refinery


Okay – so maybe you’re not going to build an oil refinery from scratch in the 21st century like John D. Rockefeller did back in 1863, but the point is at that time the commercial oil business was still in its infancy. Whale oil had become too expensive for most common folk, so a cheaper, general-purpose fuel was needed for everyday activities like lighting and Rockefeller recognised that the refining of oil to make kerosene for lamps might prove a bit of a winner going forward. Have a look on Google Trends and see if you can spot a need that hasn’t yet been fully exploited.

3.    Focus on efficiency


When oil was refined back in Rockefeller’s day, only 60% of it became Kerosene and the remaining 40% was usually dumped in rivers and sludge piles by the wasteful speculators who were buoyed by the federal government oil subsidies of the time. Rockefeller however, was a bit smarter than most in using the ‘waste,’ product – a little known substance called gasoline to fuel his refinery, and selling the rest as lubricating oil, petroleum jelly and paraffin wax alongside other by-products. ‘Waste not want not’ and all that malarkey!

4.    Control the means of distribution


Mr. Rockefeller did this by setting up the South Improvement Company in 1871. This was basically a cartel he entered into with the railroads of the time that meant he was able to effectively control the cost of transporting oil and gas whilst ensuring his competitors paid nearly double the amount he did for ferrying his produce about. You’d probably get into quite a bit of trouble if you tried to pull something like that off today, but the point is that you need to be able to get your goods and services to customers and efficiently as possible if you’re going to became like J.D. – Rockefeller, not Wetherspoon!

5.    Acquire your competitors


“They can’t beat you, so they’ll have to join you!” This of course is a statement that has never been said by anyone at any point in history and is our editor’s shameless attempt at trying to appear witty, but there is an element of truth in it in that buying out your rivals is a proven way of keeping the competition at bay. Over a four month period in 1872, Rockefeller’s Standard Oil acquired 22 of its 26 competitors in the Cleveland oil industry. A similar approach has been taken by the tech firms of today with Facebook purchasing Instagram and WhatsApp for example.

6.    Grow horizontally and vertically


This of course is something we all do in our lives – otherwise we’d be the same size as adults as we were when we were new born babies. In a business sense however, horizontal growth is the process of a company increasing the production of goods or services at the same part of the supply chain. Vertical growth is an arrangement where the entire supply chain of a company is owned by that company. Standard Oil engaged in both measures by developing its own pipelines, tank cars and home delivery networks. It also developed over 300 oil-based products from tar to paint to petroleum jelly, right through to products like chewing gum. Our Publisher Darcus White has also grown horizontally lately – but this is a result of drinking too much and eating fatty foods!

7.    Build a Monopoly


At its peak, Standard Oil had a market share of 90% of the market for oil refining and sales. It was able to improve the quality and availability of kerosene products while greatly reducing their cost to the public (the price of kerosene dropped by nearly 80% over the life of the company). Despite this however, the company faced much widespread criticism for its business practices because as a Monopoly, it was able to crush its competitors by such tactics as underselling, differential pricing, and engaging in secret transportation rebates or ‘kickbacks’. It’s not unlike what most people try to do when playing the board game Monopoly against family members after a drunken Christmas dinner!

8.    Create an aura of invincibility


Standard Oil had gained an aura of invincibility by the 1880s. The company seemed to always prevail against its competitors, critics, and political enemies. It had become the richest, biggest and most feared commercial entity in the world and was seemingly immune to the ever-shifting boom and bust of the business cycle. In fact, if you look close enough and in the correct light, it’s as if John D. Rockefella’s face has been somehow superimposed over the features of Amazon’s Jeff Bezos – or maybe that’s simply because I don’t have my glasses on as I’m writing this?

9.    Get involved in a bit of philanthropy


You think Bill Gates invented philanthropy? Think again. J. D. Rockefeller was giving away cash to charitable causes as early as the age of sixteen years old – well before he’d amassed a fortune of any kind. Much of his giving was church related and he was also well known for contributing significant sums to establish schools and colleges for freedmen in the South after the American Civil War as a result of his staunchly abolitionist beliefs. Rockefeller when traveling, would often attend services at African-American Baptist congregations and leave a substantial donation, whilst he also gave money to public health causes alongside science and arts programmes.

10.    Count yer money


A New York Times obituary about J. D. Rockefeller said: “it was estimated after Mr. Rockefeller retired from business that he had accumulated close to $1,500,000,000 out of the earnings of the Standard Oil trust and out of his other investments. This was probably the greatest amount of wealth that any private citizen had ever been able to accumulate by his own efforts.” His personal wealth adjusted to modern figures amounted to something in the region of $392 billion and this accounted for about 2% of the entire GDP of The United States of America and according to some methods of wealth calculation, Rockefeller’s net worth over the last decades of his life would easily place him as the wealthiest known person in recent history.

If he could do it – why can’t you?

Good luck!


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