Q&A with H. Wayne Huizenga, Chairman of Huizenga Holdings, Inc.
by Boardroom Brief on October 29, 2010
1. You are the ONLY person in corporate history to be responsible for six companies listed on the New York Stock Exchange and to have founded three Fortune 500 companies, including Blockbuster Entertainment, Inc. and Autonation, Inc. You obviously have a talent for being in the right place at the right time. But more than just being able to recognize a great idea, what other skills are required in developing opportunities into a world-class organization?
Being fortunate enough to be in the right place at the right time is certainly key. Of course, you have to make sure you take advantage of those fortunate opportunities – they don’t come around very often. The real key for us, however, is always remembering that you can never surround yourself with enough good people. It was really the great people that we had on our Team that made us successful!
2. Your first entrepreneurial venture was Waste Management, Inc. (WMI), a waste collection business you began in South Florida in 1962 with a $5,000 loan. Fast forward almost 20 years and by1981, through a score of acquisitions, WMI boasted revenues of $722 million and was the largest waste disposal company in the world. Describe the intensity of your work ethic and how you built and inspired the right team to help drive this success?
We always kept it simple and made sure that we never lost sight of the fact that we were not necessarily smarter than the competition, but we could surely out-work them. Those great people we surrounded ourselves with were also very proud and very competitive. Together, we all feed off each other, we enjoyed working with each other and, perhaps most importantly, we had fun and enjoyed doing it. Now all these years later our core group are still all great friends, that whole experience galvanized our friendships. Of course, it didn’t hurt that we were wildly successful either, but you have to celebrate your successes collectively with all your people no matter their level. We always stressed with everyone in the organization that there is no “I” in Team! For us, it became a culture of Team effort and we all rose and fell as one Team.
3. By the mid-80’s you pondered retirement while buying and operating a wide variety of successful service companies and investing in real estate ventures. And although you rarely watched movies, didn’t own a VCR and thought video rentals were a fleeting craze, you invested in an unproven video store concept with 7 million in sales and 19 stores. Under your helm and in less than 10 years, together with your management company, you grew Blockbuster Entertainment, Inc. into a $4 billion global entertainment company with over 3,700 stores in 11 countries. What originally made you believe in this concept and inspire you to take on this challenge?
The numbers made us believe – just simply the pure power of the numbers and what they said the business model could achieve. Our CFO at the time, Steve Berrard, made the point when he said “If these numbers are only half right, this is a home run”! Blockbuster presented an opportunity for fairly predictable recurring revenue, it was very scalable, had few barriers to entry and there were no dominant players and in fact, mostly only fragmented mom and pop competitors. Blockbuster at the time, in our opinion, lent itself to a combination of a roll-out and roll-up strategy. So we took everything we learned at Waste Management and applied it at Blockbuster. We opened a store every 17 hours for six years, did a bunch of very strategic acquisitions and ultimately made a lot of money for our shareholders.
4. What advice do you have for entrepreneurs looking for the next right idea to come along, especially in today’s economic crisis? Do you think there will be another Blockbuster and if so, in what industry? And do you currently have your sights set on another ‘right’ idea for Wayne Huizenga?
You never know what opportunity will present itself. Great ideas and opportunities come along all the time. You just have to be opened minded and prepared to seize the moment when it comes your way. I don’t honestly know if we will find another Blockbuster. It was just a really fun company that had a special feeling about it.
My partner Steve Berrard and I do have one very special opportunity, however, with Swisher Hygiene that we are very excited about and in the process of taking public. Swisher is a commercial hygiene company servicing customers throughout North America as well as internationally. The company’s products and services are designed to promote superior cleanliness and sanitation in commercial environments such as the foodservice, hospitality, retail, industrial, and healthcare industries. Swisher posses all the business attributes we look for, including predictable recurring revenue, scalability, organic growth, acquisition opportunities and great margins, among others. We feel it’s another one of those right time, right place opportunities.
5. The Huizenga family has been very involved in giving back to our South Florida communities, donating personally and through the Huizenga Family Foundation which has contributed approximately $100 million to our local causes. This includes donating $8 million to Nova Southeastern University to create the Huizenga School of Business and Entrepreneurship, the only school in the nation that features ‘entrepreneur’ in its name. Providing undergraduate degrees and master’s and doctoral programs to over 6,600 promising entrepreneurs, you are helping build leadership and another generation of go-getters with your school of business. In light of our troubled economy and climbing unemployment rate, how are you preparing these students for becoming more marketable and more valuable in the workforce, expanding their opportunities and protecting their future?
Obviously, I can’t take any credit for the curriculum but I do believe learning to think entrepreneurially is key to business success. That’s why we were so excited to become involved. Learning to apply what they are learning in the classroom to real life situations and being exposed to an entrepreneurial environment, will help these young people differentiate themselves as they enter the workforce and we believe serve as a great foundation for their future business success.
6. In addition to your other accomplishments, you are the only person to have ever owned three professional sports teams (Miami Dolphins, Florida Marlins and the Florida Panthers). Today you remain 5 percent owner of the Miami Dolphins and the Sun Life Stadium. What are your projections for our team this year?
I have never, even when we were majority owners, been one to prognosticate on our potential future successes. We leave that to others and in the hands of the professionals who are running the football operation on day to day basis. We are and always have been die-hard Miami Dolphins fans and we will continue to root for them every week and, like all fans, cheer for their success.
About H. Wayne Huizenga
Wayne Huizenga is known for his unprecedented achievement in turning business vision into business reality. He is the only person in corporate history to be responsible for six companies listed on the New York Stock Exchange and to have founded three Fortune 500 companies. Wayne created the global leader in waste management, Waste Management, Inc., as well as the second largest U.S. waste disposal company, Republic Services, Inc.. Additionally, he created Blockbuster Entertainment, the global leader in video entertainment, AutoNation, the country’s first and world’s largest public automotive dealership, as well as Boca Resorts, Inc. and Extended Stay America, both in the lodging industry. He was also the owner of three professional sports teams: the Miami Dolphins of the National Football League, The Florida Marlins of Major League Baseball and the Florida Panthers of the National Hockey League.
Corporate responsibility is also important to Wayne and his companies as they seek to improve the quality of life within their communities. Wayne and his wife Marti have donated over $100 million to South Florida charitable causes including homeless causes, hurricane relief and $8 million to create the Huizenga School of Business and Entrepreneurship at Nova Southeastern University for emerging entrepreneurs.
Wayne’s story demonstrates that the entrepreneurial spirit is alive today. Wayne’s achievements were recognized by the Horatio Alger Association who presented Wayne with their top honor in 1992, along with Henry Kissinger and Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas. In 2005, he received the prestigious recognition of “World Entrepreneur of the Year” by Ernst & Young. Wayne has clearly demonstrated that where innovation and leadership converge, it can be the spark for achievement in the global marketplace.