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White Motor Company’s Way of Doing Business

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Walter Charles White

Walter Charles White

The White Motor Company of Cleveland, Ohio, the major truck and bus builder in the world, may have had a better way of doing business. In studying the Whites of White Motors it became obvious to me that the good old days, approximately 1900-1929, may very well have been the better old days as far as doing business was concerned.

Walter White, president of White Motors at this time, 1922, felt that trust was the key component in any business deal. To quote Walter, “Why is it that investments in White trucks exceed $200,000.000 and that individual investments run as high as $3,000,000 or $4,000,000? If you want a man to have faith in you”, said Walter “you must not betray his trust. When a man gets a good White truck it is not by accident. They are built neither by guess nor by luck, but by mathematics, science, and a system of testing which has no superior in the automobile field. When a White truck leaves the plant it carries with it the honor of the Whites.”

Now this is how business should be. Walter and his philosophy were a major force in the making of a great Cleveland, Ohio. Cleveland’s roots were planted in great soil and remain intact to grow again. Our Cleveland and our country would do well to return to those better old days to study and learn. Trust and respect were givens, not the exception in business. Say what you mean, mean what you say, no matter what the circumstance. Honor, pride and trust, these principles need to be the foundation in returning Cleveland, Ohio to its former greatness.

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November 19th, 2009 at 1:55 pm

The White Workers – Greatest Asset Recognized

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Thomas Howard White

Thomas Howard White

I have been writing about Cleveland, Ohio and its great period 1875-1929 when Cleveland by all accounts was one of the greatest cities in the world. I write because often times the path to a return to greatness can be clearly defined by understanding the cause of former greatness.

Cleveland became a great city and world force in the past because of great families doing great things. Example, John D. Rockefeller of Standard Oil fame and the White’s of truck giant, White Motors. Both Rockefeller and the Whites knew all too well how to treat their workforce. The Whites in particular created a family atmosphere among employees, thus their turnover rate was exceptionally small. Employees were treated as a major asset of the company.

A family approach, what was this? The brothers, Windsor, Rollin and Walter, founders of White Motors were schooled well by their father, Thomas H. White who founded The White Sewing Machine Company. Father Thomas insisted that while growing up his sons work side by side with the men who ran the production equipment: an experience his sons used to guide their treatment of their future employees – over 4000.

The White brothers now in charge of their own company added to their fathers’ philosophy. The Whites promoted employee orchestras which played at lunch time. Even the grave yard shift had its own band. Company sports teams, baseball in particular, were used to build company pride. The company operated its own small hospital and its own night school offering classes of all types. Employees could pay utility bills and even their taxes through the company cashier. Their industrial service department helped employees fill out forms when needed.

All of the above and more served notice that the Whites valued and respected their work force. All three brothers spend several hours a day in the plant getting to know the names of all employees. Lunch on many occasions found the Whites in the employee cafeteria, not the executive dining room.

When an employee of Walter White fell sick and could no longer work in the plant, Walter transferred him to his Circle W. Farm, a healthier environment for this worker. Common sense, productivity matters, productive workers matter, turnover is no good. The Whites applied common sense to human nature to achieve great results. The White model holds the partial key to a return to greatness not only for Cleveland, but for our entire country.

The absence of common sense today is historical.

Many thanks for Charles D. Weller Esq. and The Cleveland Plain Dealer for some of our content.

 

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October 10th, 2009 at 1:53 pm

Real Innovation Where Are You?

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Windsor Thomas White

Windsor Thomas White

I think we all agree that real innovation and new technology will be the keys to building back up our faltering economy. How can this be done? Well, I believe we will find part of our answer in early Cleveland history, 1900, and in particular in the genius of the White brothers, Windsor, Rollin and Walter of the White Motor Company. (White Motors)

The Whites began the development at their company back in 1899. Father Thomas H. White of White Sewing Machine fame gave his boys an area in his plant to begin their venture, automobile production. Inventor of the group, brother Rollin developed one of the greatest steam cars ever in 1899; talk show host Jay Leno owns a White steamer. Rollin and brothers believed early on that the auto was going to be more than just a passing fancy and thus committed time and resources to building a great car.

Rollin Henry White

Rollin Henry White

The White’s were always conscious of building perfection into their product and built 5 original vehicles for testing. To insure perfection they tested these vehicles for 2 years before selling began. Talk about standing behind your product.

The real innovation here is somewhat surprising for the Whites built one of their 5 cars with a truck chassis, proof of their great wisdom and foresight. White vehicles were credited in large part to the winning of WWI. The Whites and in particular brother Walter soon began to develop a philosophy of how truck and rail should operate together to produce the more efficient results.

The Whites quickly built a three ton model trucks, a result of 10 years of study, did I say quick, and featured it at the New York Automobile Show in 1910. Leaving nothing to chance, they developed a ¾ ton and 5 ton truck.

Innovation based upon tremendous foresight and commitment to perfection at all costs, this is what made The White Motor Company a major player in the world of first class trucks.
Walter Charles White

Walter Charles White

One would do well to study the White model of doing things. Real lasting innovation is what we need more than ever. The great brothers in doing what they did and how they did it lead to a great Cleveland, Ohio, a city from which so much innovation came. Where are the next Windsor, Rollin and Walter White? Please come forward, we need you.

Many thanks for Henry Merkel, great grandson of Walter White, for some of our content as well as thanks to B.C. publishing Co. of New York for their great insight into the Whites whom they labeled as automotive giants in America.

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October 9th, 2009 at 1:49 pm

Cleveland – The Heart of the Industrial Revolution

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White Manufacturing Workers

White Manufacturing Workers

I believe it safe to say that most of us love a good story. Stories can entertain, as well as inform, enlighten and, in some cases, motivate people to an action.

Knowing the power of a good story, I have decided to embark on a mission: the telling of the great story of Cleveland, Ohio from 1875-1929.

Cleveland was considered by many to be the wealthiest city in the world – home to John D. Rockefeller and the grand Euclid Avenue, “Millionaires Row.”

If our reader knows Cleveland only through nationally-used, uncomplimentary stereotypes, our story will be particularly enlightening and fascinating.

Most important to our story is the examination of what led to this great success, and our answer will be found in the not so obvious: the grand families of Cleveland and the philosophies they held, which together made Cleveland the heart of the Industrial Revolution.

Many families made Cleveland’s heyday happen.

One of the most prominent of the time was the White family of White Sewing Machine fame and who eventually built the vast White Motors Empire, rival to Henry Ford. (Talk show host Jay Leno owns a White Steamer as part of his vast auto collection).

I chose the White family for a reason: they embodied characteristics that are universal in achieving success. Their philosophy and their work ethic, if duplicated, remain keys to success, regardless of where we are in history.

The Whites loved Cleveland and worked hard to make it the great city of their time. The story of the White family is one of those gems we sometimes find in the past – a gem because the reader will find contemporary application in many of the things the Whites did and believed in. They were an example of what made America great.

Our story, I believe, will unlock keys to success and, hopefully, move our reader to look at Cleveland, Ohio in a somewhat different light.

We invite our readers to respond and share with us their reactions as our story unfolds over time.

Consistent throughout our tale will be a common thread that ran throughout America during this period, Individuals of great talent going into business and creating thousands of manufacturing jobs that made Cleveland the center of the industrial revolution.

It was a time when risks were taken and job creators took personal responsibility for their actions, when customer was king and quality was sacred. How refreshing!

Could it be the Whites and their contemporaries knew something we have worked hard to forget? We will let our reader be the judge.

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August 18th, 2009 at 1:35 pm

History Lessons – extended warranties & coping with downtimes 100 years ago

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White Motor Cars offered an 100,000 Mile Warranty!

White Motor Cars offered an 100,000 Mile Warranty!

All too often, we neglect the important lessons of history as it applies to the solving of some of today’s problems. For example; I have been writing about the extremely successful White Motor Company of Cleveland, Ohio, examining their early history and how they solved problems of the time, 1900 to 1929 in a totally upstart industry.

During these years, car manufacturing was in its infantsy and thus all items giving into a car trial and error. In spite of this, the brothers White, Windsor, Rollin and Walter insisted on perfection. They expected each of their vehicles perform well for a minimum of 100,000 miles back in 1915. General Motors did a whole ad campaign touting their 100,000 mile guarantee as a dramatic break through. How could the Whites be almost 100 years ahead of General Motors?

To get top quality the Whites believed in a labor force of impeccable dedication and work ethic. It was not unusual to have up to 4 generations of one family work at White, non union. This allowed the White employee to pass down father to son work ethic based upon family pride and excellence. The Whites for their part participated by systematically rotating a new employee until the job fit the employee both from an aptitude and what the employee took satisfaction in. The Whites felt that their best advertisement was their customer and his satisfaction with the product. Building with a highly skilled and motivated work force, taking pride in all aspects of their work assured the owner of a White that they received maximum value for every dollar spent. Jay Leno, Talk show host, has a White in his famous collection and often times speaks about this tremendous vehicle.

GM and the entire auto industry today could learn from the White Motors way of doing business. The Whites were also very conservative as businesses, and felt strongly about having large cash reserves in case of a long down time. What a novel idea here.

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July 8th, 2009 at 1:25 pm

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