Words matter. Ideas matter. The idea that investment bankers can claim job creation or as billionaire Ken Langone claims “co-founder of The Home Depot” is truly muddying the idea of entrepreneurship. (More)
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Who is Ken Langone other than the man lately in the news for reacting to the Pope’s comments on rich people? When I kept reading about Langone as the “billionaire co-founder of The Home Depot” I started researching. My youngest son worked for The Home Depot for years and the corporate history tales he related always spoke of the founders as “Bernie and Arthur.”
When it was founded in 1978 by Bernie Marcus and Arthur Blank, The Home Depot began changing consumers’ perspectives about how they could care for and improve their homes. The Company created the “do-it-yourself” concept, spawning an entire industry that now spans the globe.
From another corporate page at The Home Depot we get this:
The Home Depot was founded in 1978 by Bernie Marcus and Arthur Blank. Along with investment banker Ken Langone and merchandising guru Pat Farrah, the founders’ vision of one-stop shopping for the do-it-yourselfer came to fruition when they opened the first two Home Depot stores on June 22, 1979, in Atlanta, Georgia.
Bloomberg Business Week has a lengthy bio of Mr. Langone. It lists him as a co-founder of The Home Depot and “He served as a Director and Lead Director of The Home Depot, Inc. from 1978 to May 22, 2008.”
I am wondering how an investment banker who played a crucial role in finding the initial capital gets to claim “co-founder” status? By this logic does every investment banker turn into a co-founder of businesses they bankroll? Why then are they not credited with the job destruction of the businesses that fail under their investments?
I think this demeans the actual entrepreneurs who have the vision and put in the work of creating and growing the businesses. It ignores the contributions of every worker in the business. It brought to mind Mitt Romney’s claims of creating 100,000 jobs at Staples.
Bernie and Arthur are both still alive. They wrote a book called Built from Scratch: How a Couple of Regular Guys Grew The Home Depot from Nothing to $30 Billion The synopsis reads:
One of the greatest entrepreneurial success stories of the past twenty years
When a friend told Bernie Marcus and Arthur Blank that “you’ve just been hit in the ass by a golden horseshoe,” they thought he was crazy. After all, both had just been fired. What the friend, Ken Langone, meant was that they now had the opportunity to create the kind of wide-open warehouse store that would help spark a consumer revolution through low prices, excellent customer service, and wide availability of products.
Built from Scratch is the story of how two incredibly determined and creative people – and their associates – built a business from nothing to 761 stores and $30 billion in sales in a mere twenty years.
Capital matters but capital is not creating the business idea or putting in the hard work of actually building the business. Letting investment bankers make these claims denigrates the real founders and the workers who make businesses grow. I do not see investment bankers as job creators, Ken Langone’s claims to the contrary.