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William Wrigley: Double your pleasure

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in Leaders & Managers,Profiles in Leadership,Workplace Communication

William Wrigley, Jr.Chewing gum magnate William Wrigley had a lot going for him, although in the beginning, money wasn’t one of them. He arrived in Chicago from Philadelphia in 1891, holding only $32.

For one thing, he was spirited. True, Wrigley had been suspended from school about once every three weeks for high jinks, until he was finally expelled at age 13 for throwing a pie.

But even Wrigley’s troublemaking suggests his underlying enthusiasm:
  • Persistence. As a salesman for his dad, he learned not to take no for an answer. He won over one critic by asking for his advice. He gradually won over an early riser by bumping into him every day at 6:45 a.m.

  • Optimism. “A man’s doubts and fears are his worst enemies,” he said. “He can go ahead and do anything so long as he doesn’t know he can’t do it.” Despite a dozen competitors in the chewing gum business and the usual assortment of business crises, one of his executives said Wrigley always remained as cheerful as if he’d been on a Sunday picnic.

  • Strategy. Wrigley crowned himself “King of the Free Sample.” Early on, he used giveaways as incentives to buy and soon gave away so much gum that he started selling it under his own name in 1892, launching Juicy Fruit and Wrigley’s Spearmint in 1893. Twice, he sent free gum to every person in the phone book nationwide.

  • Fairness. After striking such a good deal that his vendor would have lost money, Wrigley tore up the contract, saying he didn’t want any partner to lose money on his account. He also became one of the first employers to move to a five-day workweek in 1924.
Bottom line: Wrigley’s enthusiasm built an empire on chewing gum, the Chicago Cubs baseball team and perhaps his greatest legacy, the development and conservation of Catalina Island, off the shore of Los Angeles—land that he made sure would remain protected for future generations to enjoy.

—Adapted from “William Wrigley Could Chew Anything He Bit Off,” Steve Watkins, Investor’s Business Daily.

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