Lee Iacocca

My father always used to say that when you die, if you’ve got five real friends, then you’ve
had a great life.
– Lee Iacocca

I’ve always felt that a manager has achieved a great deal when he’s able to motivate one
other person. When it comes to making the place run, motivation is everything. You might be
able to do the work of two people, but you can’t be two people. Instead, you have to inspire
the next guy down the line and get him to inspire his people.
– Lee Iacocca

If I had to sum up in a word what makes a good manager, It’s decisiveness. You can use the
fanciest computers to gather the numbers, but in the end you have to set a timetable and
– Lee Iacocca

The ability to concentrate and to use your time well is everything if you want to succeed in
business – or almost anywhere else, for that matter.
– Lee Iacocca

I learned that the real spirit of America is a kind of pragmatic optimism: Everything will turn
out well in the end, but only if you struggle and sacrifice to make it happen.
– Lee Iacocca

The key to success is not information. It’s people. And the kind of people I look for to fill top
management spots are the eager beavers. These are the guys who try to do more than
they’re expected to… Then there are the other guys, the nine-to-five gang. They just want
to get along and be told what to do. They say: “I don’t want to be in the rat race. It might
affect my heartbeat.”
– Lee Iacocca

The speed of the boss is the speed of the team.
– Lee Iacocca

My father always drilled two things into me: never get into a capital-intensive business,
because the bankers will end up owning you. (I should have paid more attention to this
particular piece of advice!) And when times are tough, be in the food business, because no
matter how bad things get, people still have to eat.
– Lee Iacocca

I hire people brighter than me and then I get out of their way.
– Lee Iacocca

I was the general in the war to save Chrysler… I began by reducing my own salary to $1.00
a year. Leadership means setting an example. When you find yourself in a position of
leadership, people follow your every move.
– Lee Iacocca

When the product is right, you don’t have to be a great marketer.
– Lee Iacocca

Nothing stands still in this world. I like to go duck hunting, where constant movement and
change are facts of life. You can aim at a duck and get it in your sights, but the duck is
always moving. In order to hit the duck, you have to move your gun. But a committee faced
with a major decision can’t always move as quickly as the events it’s trying to respond to. By
the time the committee is ready to shoot, the duck has flown away.
– Lee Iacocca

Start with good people, lay out the rules, communicate with your employees, motivate them
and reward them. If you do all those things effectively, you can’t miss.
– Lee Iacocca

Any supervisor worth his salt would rather deal with people who attempt too much than with
those who try too little.
– Lee Iacocca

There’s a funny orientation at the Federal Reserve Board – they’re all bankers, no
businessmen. If a bank goes under for making bad decisions, it gets immediate attention. Two
little banks go under in Oklahoma, and you have Paul Volcker yelling about a liquidity crisis
and loosening the strings on money. But when Chrysler and International Harvester, two
companies with almost a million jobs at stake, are going under, that’s good old free enterprise
at work.
– Lee Iacocca

The most important thing a manager can do is to hire the right new people.
– Lee Iacocca

Am I the only guy in this country who’s fed up with what’s happening? Where the hell is our
outrage? We should be screaming bloody murder! We’ve got a gang of clueless bozos steering
our ship of state right over a cliff, we’ve got corporate gangsters stealing us blind, and we
can’t even clean up after a hurricane much less build a hybrid car. But instead of getting
mad, everyone sits around and nods their heads when the politicians say, “Stay the course.”
Stay the course? You’ve got to be kidding. This is America, not the damned Titanic. I’ll give
you a sound bite: Throw all the bums out!
– Lee Iacocca

Management is nothing more than motivating other people.
– Lee Iacocca

Too many managers let themselves get weighed down in their decision-making, especially
those with too much education.
– Lee Iacocca

In the press, I’m sometimes described as a flamboyant leader and a hip-shooter, a kind of fly-
by-the-seat-of-the-pants operator. I may occasionally give that impression, but if that image
were really true, I could never have been successful in this business. Actually, my
management style has always been pretty conservative. Whenever I’ve taken risks, it’s been
after satisfying myself that the research and the market studies supported my instincts. I
may act on my intuition – but only if my hunches are supported by the facts.
– Lee Iacocca

In times of great stress or adversity, it’s always best to keep busy, to plow your anger and
your energy into something positive.
– Lee Iacocca

Boys, there ain’t no free lunches in this country. And don’t go spending your whole life
commiserating that you got the raw deals. You’ve got to say, I think that if I keep working at
this and want it bad enough I can have it. It’s called perseverance.
– Lee Iacocca

So what do we do? Anything. Something. So long as we just don’t sit there. If we screw it
up, start over. Try something else. If we wait until we’ve satisfied all the uncertainties, it
may be too late.
– Lee Iacocca

Establishing priorities and using your time well aren’t things you can pick up at the Harvard
Business School. Formal learning can teach you a great deal, but many of the essential skills
in life are the ones you have to develop on your own.
– Lee Iacocca

Even a correct decision is wrong when it was taken too late.
– Lee Iacocca

You always need a poor man’s car- that’s all the first Henry Ford ever envisioned – but then
you need upscale cars, too, because you never know when the blue-collar guy is going to be
laid off. It seems that in the United States the one thing you can count on is that even
during a depression, the rich get richer. So you always have to have some goodies for them.
– Lee Iacocca

We’re losing the manufacturing edge to Asia, while our once-great companies are getting
slaughtered by health care costs.
– Lee Iacocca

The discipline of writing something down is the first step toward making it happen.
– Lee Iacocca

The most successful businessman is the man who holds onto the old just as long as it is
good, and grabs the new just as soon as it is better.
– Lee Iacocca

As I’d learned from McNamara, the discipline of writing something down is the first step
toward making it happen. In conversation, you can get away with all kinds of vagueness and
nonsense, often without even realizing it. But there’s something about putting your thoughts
on paper that forces you to get down to specifics. That way, it’s harder to deceive yourself –
or anybody else.
– Lee Iacocca

We at Chrysler borrow money the old-fashioned way. We pay it back.
– Lee Iacocca

There are times in everyone’s life when something constructive is born out of adversity.
There are times when things seem so bad that you’ve got to grab your fate by the shoulders
and shake it.
– Lee Iacocca

Name me a leader who has a better idea for homeland security than making us take off our
shoes in airports and throw away our shampoo.
– Lee Iacocca

You can have brilliant ideas, but if you can’t get them across, your ideas won’t get you
– Lee Iacocca

No matter what you’ve done for yourself or for humanity, if you can’t look back on having
given love and attention to your own family, what have you really accomplished?
– Lee Iacocca

With all the firings, we ended up stripping out several levels of management. We cut down
the number of people who needed to be involved in important decisions. Initially we did it out
of the sheer necessity to survive. But over time we found that running a large company with
fewer people actually made things easier. With hindsight it’s clear that Chrysler had been
top-heavy, far beyond what was good for us. That’s a lesson our competitors have yet to
learn – and I hope they never do!
– Lee Iacocca

When the product is right, you don’t have to be a great marketer.
– Lee Iacocca

Americans are not going to accept second-class status in the world. Maybe some of our
leaders aren’t too alarmed about our country’s losing its ability to compete, but my mailbag
has convinced me that the American people won’t stand for it.
– Lee Iacocca

The week I was fired (by Henry Ford III), Walter Murphy, who had been my close associate
and executive director of the company’s worldwide public relations staff for twenty years,
received a phone call from Henry in the middle of the night.
“Do you love Iacocca?” Henry wanted to know.
“Sure,” said Walter.
“Then you’re fired,” said Henry.
Henry rescinded the order the next day, but it shows you how crazy he got.
– Lee Iacocca

The trick is to make sure you don’t die waiting for prosperity to come.
– Lee Iacocca

I have always found that if I move with seventy-five percent or more of the facts that I
usually never regret it. It’s the guys who wait to have everything perfect that drive you
– Lee Iacocca

I’ve had a terrific career, and this is the country that gave me the chance to do it. I seized
the opportunity, but I was no ninety-day wonder. It took me almost forty years of hard work.
People say to me: “You’re a roaring success. How did you do it?” I go back to what my
parents taught me. Apply yourself. Get all the education you can, but then, by God, DO
something! Don’t just stand there, make something happen. It isn’t easy, but if you keep your
nose to the grindstone and work at it, it’s amazing how in a free society you can become as
great as you want to be.
– Lee Iacocca

Name me a leader who has a better idea for homeland security than making us take off our
shoes in airports and throw away our shampoo?
– Lee Iacocca

When I read historical accounts of World War II and D-Day, I’m always struck by the same
thought: Eisenhower almost blew it because he kept vacillating. But finally he said: “No
matter what the weather looks like, we have to go ahead now. Waiting any longer could be
even more dangerous. So let’s move it!” The same lesson applies to corporate life.
– Lee Iacocca

We are continually faced by great opportunities brilliantly disguised as insoluable problems.
– Lee Iacocca

The office of the president was the size of a grand hotel suite. I had my own bathroom. I
even had my own living quarters. As a senior Ford executive, I was served by white-coated
waiters who were on call all day. I once brought some relatives from Italy to see where I
worked, and they thought they had died and gone to heaven.
– Lee Iacocca

Don’t get mad. Get even.
– Lee Iacocca

In my lifetime, I’ve had the privilege of living through some of America ‘s greatest moments.
I’ve also experienced some of our worst crises: The Great Depression, World War II, the
Korean War, the Kennedy Assassination, the Vietnam War, the 1970s oil crisis, and the
struggles of recent years culminating with 9/11. If I’ve learned one thing, it’s this: You don’t
get anywhere by standing on the sidelines waiting for somebody else to take action. Whether
it’s building a better car or building a better future for our children, we all have a role to play.
– Lee Iacocca

One of the things the government can’t do is run anything. The only things our government
runs are the post office and the railroads, and both of them are bankrupt.
– Lee Iacocca

My father always said: “Be careful about money. When you have five thousand, you’ll want
ten. And when you have ten, you’ll want twenty.” He was right. No matter what you have,
it’s never enough.
– Lee Iacocca

Every business and product has risks. You can’t get around it.
– Lee Iacocca

I’m constantly amazed by the number of people who can’t seem to control their own
schedules. Over the years, I’ve had many executives come to me and say with pride: “Boy,
last year I worked so hard that I didn’t take any vacation.” It’s actually nothing to be proud
of. I always feel like responding: “You dummy. You mean to tell me that you can take
responsibility for an $80 million project and you can’t plan two weeks out of the year to go
off with your family and have some fun?”
– Lee Iacocca

In the end, all business operations can be reduced to three words: people, product, and
– Lee Iacocca

I learned about the strength you can get from a close family life. I learned to keep going,
even in bad times. I learned not to despair, even when my world was falling apart. I learned
that there are no free lunches. And I learned the value of hard work.
– Lee Iacocca

The greatest discovery of my generation is that human beings can alter their lives by altering
their attitudes of mind.
– Lee Iacocca

Mistakes are a part of life; you can’t avoid them. All you can hope is that they won’t be too
expensive and that you don’t make the same mistake twice.
– Lee Iacocca

In a completely rational society, the best of us would be teachers and the rest of us would
have to settle for something else, because passing civilization along from one generation to
the next ought to be the highest honor and the highest responsibility anyone could have.
– Lee Iacocca

The only rock I know that stays steady, the only institution I know that works, is the family.
– Lee Iacocca

Whenever one of my people has an idea, I ask him to lay it out in writing. I don’t want
anybody to sell me on a plan just by the melodiousness of his voice or force of personality.
You really can’t afford that.
– Lee Iacocca

For Nicola and Antoinette (his parents), America was the land of freedom – the freedom to
become anything you wanted to be, if you wanted it bad enough and were willing to work for
it. This was the single lesson my father gave to his family. I hope I have done as well with my
– Lee Iacocca

I have found that being honest is the best technique I can use. Right up front, tell people
what you’re trying to accomplish and what you’re willing to sacrifice to accomplish it.
– Lee Iacocca