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#287 The Founder of Rolls-Royce
January 23rd, 2023 | E287

What I learned from rereading Rolls-Royce: The Magic of a Name: The First Forty Years of Britain s Most Prestigious Company by Peter Pugh.


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[2:31] Henry Royce had known poverty and hardship all his life. The only university he had graduated from was the one of hard knocks.

[3:00] Rolls on Royce: I was fortunate enough to make the acquaintance of Mr. Royce and in him I found the man I had been looking for for years.

[5:00] A great product has to be better than it has to be. Relentlessness wins because, in the aggregate, unseen details become visible. All those unseen details combine to produce something that's just stunning, like a thousand barely audible voices all singing in tune. — Hackers and Painters by Paul Graham (Founders #277)

[6:00] You can always understand the son by the story of his father. The story of the father is embedded in the son. — Francis Ford Coppola: A Filmmaker's Life by Michael Schumacher. (Founders #242)

[9:00] This ability to observe, think about and then improve on existing machines (products) was to be a consistent theme throughout Royce’s life.

[10:00] Many times our position was so precarious that it seemed hopeless to continue.

[12:00] Against The Odds: An Autobiography by James Dyson (Founders #287)

[12:00] Some have tried to give the impression that it was almost by chance that Royce became involved in designing a motor car. Royce was not a man to rely on chance. He saw that the motor car had a great future and that it would be an ideal product for his business.

[12:00] This part is excellent: There was nothing revolutionary about Royce’s car. He had taken the best of current automobile design and improved on every aspect of it. I do not think that Royce did anything of a revolutionary nature in his work on motor cars. He did, however, do much important development and a considerable amount of redesigning of existing devices so that his motor cars were far and away better than anyone else’s motor cars. He paid great attention to the smallest detail and the result of his personal consideration to every little thing resulted in the whole assembly being of a very high standard of perfection. It is rather to Royce’s thoroughness and attention to even the smallest detail than to any revolutionary invention that his products have the superlative qualities that we all know so well.

[13:00] Henry Royce ruled the lives of the people around him, claimed their body and soul, even when they were asleep.

[14:00] They didn't understand how important this was to me. —Coco Chanel: The Legend and the Life by Justine Picardie. (Founders #199)

[16:00] He's made-and remade-Apple in his own image. Apple is Steve Jobs with ten thousand lives. — Inside Steve’s Brain by Leander Kahney. (Founders #204)

[21:00] Thomas Edison on how overregulation crippled the British car industry: The motor car ought to have been British. You first invented it in the 1830s. You have roads only second to those of France. You have hundreds of thousands of skilled mechanics in your midst, but you have lost your trade by stupid legislation and prejudice.

[27:00] This is a first: A company so focused on quality that they risked going to prison. Claude Johnson took the bold stand that he would tear up every drawing and go to prison rather than agree to risk inferior skills of other companies. Johnson said that the plan of using other manufacturers was futile and would yield nothing but mountains of scrap.

[28:00] Royce admitted it: I prefer to be absolute boss over my own department (even if it was extremely small) rather than to be associated with a much larger technical department over which I had only joint control.

[31:00] They worked in monastic seclusion in an office situated in the middle of the village about a quarter of a mile from Royce’s house. To ensure a minimum of distraction the office was for a number of years forbidden the luxury of a telephone. This was the team responsible for the design of every car and all their components from 1919 until Royce died in 1933. In matters concerning the actual model which eventually went into production, Royce’s decision was final.


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