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4 Entrepreneurial Presidents

Monday, February 19, 2018 | Posted by: Alpha Kappa Psi

On President’s Day, a few major historic figures, like Washington, Jefferson, Lincoln, and Kennedy get lots of mentions, but the achievements of other presidents can go uncelebrated. So today, we’re sharing the stories of four presidents who might not get name-dropped elsewhere, but who were driven by the entrepreneurial business spirit our brothers all share.

Warren Harding (1920-1923)

President Warren G. Harding is one of the least-popular presidents of all time, basically because he was chronically inefficient in office. As President, he spent most of his time having affairs and making the news for scandals and bad decisions. Despite that, he made a decent go of it as a media entrepreneur himself. He owned an Ohio newspaper, the Marion Daily Star, by the time he was 21. Before his election in 1920, his life was devoted to the paper. In 1923, the year he “mysteriously” died in office, he sold the paper for $550,000, the equivalent of $7 million today.

Herbert Hoover (1929-1933)

Before he became President right before the beginning of the Great Depression, Herbert Hoover was an engineer and owner of an internationally-renowned mining company, the Zinc Corporation. In his twenties and thirties, Hoover traveled the world to apply innovative approaches to existing mining operations in countries like Australia and China. By the time he retired from the business in 1912, Hoover was a multi-millionaire. Some of the mines he helped engineer still continue to generate resources like talc and gold.

Harry Truman (1945-1953)

Harry Truman is remembered by history both as the only world leader to ever use a nuclear weapon in war, and as the visionary who created NATO. Before these historic acts and others, Truman served as a soldier in WWI. He and fellow soldier Ed Jacobson had so much fun operating the regimental store, they decided to open one of their own when they got home. They opened the doors of a haberdashery, or men’s clothing store, in downtown Kansas City in 1919. For a few years they found great success, but the recession beginning in 1922, plus some bad legal advice, caused them to close their doors--and Truman to move on to politics.

Jimmy Carter (1977-1981)

Jimmy Carter’s pre-election career as a peanut farmer is one of the best-known facts about him, but many might not know about the toll his entrepreneurship had on his early life. Carter was a successful Navy officer when his father died in 1953. He and his wife moved back to his home state of Georgia to assume the duties of the 2,500-acre family farm, but in the first year the farm only profited $187. Despite this stress, he convinced his wife they should stick with it. By getting involved in the local community, as well as stepping up the business practice of re-selling the peanut crops of smaller local farmers, Carter got the farm to turn a tidy profit by 1959.

In these presidential stories of business success are contained some of the most practical and valuable bits of advice an entrepreneur might ever receive. Some presidents, like Harding, were historic failures because they let themselves be pushed into taking opportunities they weren’t ready for. Others, like Truman, learned that a great idea that meets the needs of the community can still fail if the infrastructure isn’t there to support it. Hoover’s world-traveler role would create challenging work-life balance even for entrepreneurs today, while Carter’s diligence and ability to pivot can inspire perseverance and innovation.

Which past President gives you the most professional inspiration? Let us know in the comments below! 

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