How Wayne Huizenga perfected the art of starting and growing a business

Wayne Huizenga is an entrepreneur and company builder who has found success on a grand scale. He led six companies to be listed on the New York Stock Exchange, with three of them achieving Fortune 500 status, was the first person to ever own three major sports franchises at one time, propelled unknown companies to become household names and was recently named the 2005 Ernst & Young World Entrepreneur Of The Year.

Despite the fortune he has amassed, the soon-to-be 68-year-old billionaire says it’s about the excitement of building something, not about the money.

“I don’t do this for money,” says Huizenga, who chairs Ft. Lauderdale-based Huizenga Holdings and owns the National Football League Miami Dolphins franchise. “It’s the challenge, it’s the excitement and it’s the ability to put something together to let other people make money. All the jobs that we’ve created, all the companies that we’ve created — a lot of people have made a lot of money.”

Huizenga has found success by recognizing opportunities, moving quickly to take advantage of them and putting the right people in charge.

Building momentum
While still in his 20s, Huizenga convinced the owner of a garbage hauling service to sell him a truck. Huizenga parlayed that one garbage truck and the score of accounts that came with it into Waste Management Inc. and grew it into the largest waste management company in the country in less than 10 years.

With Waste Management, “We made small acquisitions in different states around the United States,” Huizenga says. “It was just easier, faster and cheaper to go in and buy out a guy who was already established in a market, even if he was very small. Then we’d hire a bunch of salespeople to go out and do the internal growth.

“The plan was always to have internal growth, but in order to get internal growth growing quickly, it’s sometimes easier to go … into a certain market and buy out a guy who had three or four trucks, and then you’d say, ‘OK, let’s grow this business now.’”

During one nine-month period in the early 1970s, Waste Management bought 133 companies. By 1981, it was the largest waste disposal company in the world. Blockbuster Inc., on the other hand, was built mostly from scratch because at the time, there were no chains to buy. When Huizenga and his investors bought into the company in 1987, Blockbuster had 19 stores with $7 million in revenue. When he sold to Viacom in 1994, it was a $4 billion enterprise with more than 3,700 stores in 11 countries.

Looking for a new endeavor, Huizenga recognized the opportunity to provide better service and better offerings than the mom-and-pop video stores were providing, but it meant acting quickly to seize the best locations to make customer access easy and to maximize visibility.