Adversity is a friend Featured

8:01pm EDT June 30, 2011
Adversity is a friend

When Mike Jackson was 10 years old, he made his first entrepreneurial endeavor by cleaning horse stalls for $1 each, and he learned how to appreciate hard work.

He also learned as a child how to persevere. When he was 14 years old, he signed up for and paid for a Boy Scout summer camp program in New Mexico on his own, but he was small for his age. So when he showed up to board the bus with the other scouts, the leader insisted he stay behind, but he wouldn’t back down. He went on to the camp, withstood ridicule from other scouts and persevered against bears and rattlesnakes. He learned that adversity was his friend, and at the end of camp, he was named the one outstanding camp scout out of several thousand attendees.

After college, while on his way to law school, his old Mercedes broke down. He couldn’t afford to have it fixed, so he offered the dealership his time in exchange for repairs. He did odd jobs, and when they asked him to stay on as an apprentice mechanic, he delayed the start of law school and took the job.

He went on to join Mercedes Benz as a master technician, and in 1979, at age 29, he purchased the dealership where he had worked as an apprentice. The dealership grew substantially, and Mercedes approached him to run its failing North American business, which he accepted because adversity was, indeed, his friend.

He made the company the strong business it is today. The turnaround caught the eye of entrepreneurial legend Wayne Huizenga, who was the chairman of AutoNation Inc., which was a young auto retailing startup at the time. He had rapidly built it and was looking for someone to lead the company from growth through acquisition to growth via sales. Jackson accepted, and he’s grown the organization significantly, and today, he serves as chairman and CEO.

How to reach: AutoNation Inc., (954) 769-7000 or