Economy

Inspiring US billionaire entrepreneur dies

SmartCompany /

Tributes are pouring in for one of America’s richest men, who died just before Christmas. Ken Hendricks, a high school dropout who learnt the roofing trade from his father, opened his own roofing company in 1963. He began buying real estate in the 1970s. In 1982 he launched American Builders and Contractors Supply, which combined expertise of local markets with centralised support and cost efficiencies.

ABC Supply was estimated to turn over US$3 billion a year, with 6000 employees, and Hendricks was regularly on the Forbes Rich List.

The 66-year-old, who received many accolades including being named Inc. magazine’s entrepreneur of the year in 2006, fell from his garage roof in Wisconsin and died of massive head injuries the next day. Apparently he had been overseeing construction work.

He is also remembered by the people of his home town of Beloit, a rust belt community that had been dying until Hendricks spent his money and time to revive it.

Last year he persuaded town officials to help him launch a state-of-the-art vocational training program in part of an abandoned mall. He also leveraged his massive real estate holdings to prevent Kerry Ingredients, a large Beloit employer, from abandoning the town.

Here are some of his memorable quotes:

  • “Whatever you do, do the best you can and never set a limit on how far you can go.”
  • “It doesn’t matter what you do. It’s always fun if you’re successful.”
  • “If you’re willing to work hard and you want to do something with your life, I’m going to give you an opportunity. Some of these people working for me are guys that would have never had a chance in hell of going anywhere because some big shot in an office looking at their resume says, ‘He’s got no college education, did drugs when he was 19. Naahh, I’m not interested in this guy.'”
  • “This company is just blooming. We’re growing 25% a year and people say, ‘How do you do that?’ Well, I can’t get a bunch of phony executives to do it. But I can get a hell of a lot of people that have dreams.”
  • “I couldn’t be prouder of my kids.” (Most of his seven children work at ABC or Hendrick’s other businesses.) “When they wanted a car, they earned a car. I paid tuition for their colleges but every one of them did waitressing or worked other jobs during school. I have seven winners.”

 

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