Continued from Part 1…
Edward S. Jordan was born in 1882, the only boy in a family of six, in the lumber town of Merrill, Wisconsin: talkative, brash, a little bit rude, with heaps of determination but little money. He wore white spats and bright ties and well-tailored suits, but he wasn’t a huckster. He had style, like the cars he built and the words he wrote.
Working his way through the University of Wisconsin as a newspaper reporter, Jordan discovered a talent for words. His sales and advertising know-how was learned with the help of two people: his mother and John Henry Patterson.
Kate Griffin Jordan taught her son about people—a knowledge, Ned wrote, “vital to all good advertising. She never used the word ‘psychology,’ but she did say that ‘Tilly Hart wound up at the Devil Creek place because she valued silk stockings above her immortal soul,’ [and] ‘Mrs. Webster’s Fred has been raised to five dollars a day, so she is trying to learn to like olives and read a book.’”
John H. Patterson was President of the Microsoft of its day: National Cash Register, with a 97 percent market share for the leading business machine of its time. He hired Jordan out of college. “Do at least one thing, however simple it may be, a little better than anybody else,” Patterson said. “Then go out and make your prospective buyer feel as you do about your product. Just remember, a man is only half-sold until his wife is sold.”
Ned’s wife, one of the Jeffrey girls from Kenosha, Wisconsin, sold him. Marrying her got Ned into the car business. In 1907 he arrived in Kenosha, having been fired by Patterson: “Any man fired by John H. is worth from $10,000 a year on up to any business. ‘How’d you get fired?’ was the lodge greeting among old N.C.R. men….
[I] met [Jeffery’s] Charlie McArthur at the station, had lunch in the diner, and was hired as advertising manager. I was successively branch manager, sales manager and secretary of the Jeffrey Company before I was thirty. Confidentially, I was the one who encouraged Charlie to sell to Nash, because he knew I was then planning to organize the Jordan Company.
Well before he founded Jordan in January 1916, Ned had seen the light:
Cars are too dull and drab. People dress smartly, so why should they drive prosaic looking automobiles? I think people are growing sick and tired of ordinary cars. Great careening arks of bulk and extravagance. The world is too full of the commonplace.
Build what the customer wants, Ned insisted: “Do you know why Henry Ford is the greatest man in the automobile industry? All the other early manufacturers built cars in which they like to ride themselves. He was the first to build a car for the other fellow.”
Jordan told investors he would emphasize “appearance or style, comfort and convenience, power in reserve, durable service or quality….Thousands of Dodge and Buick owners aspire to own a better car. If you can sell twenty-five Jordans you stand a good chance of making forty-five percent on your investment.”
“We were a bunch of bright kids,” Ned reflected. “I was 33, the rest 28, when we started. We did make a lot of money, awfully fast. The Idea was almost too gol darned good.”
Continue reading Part 3…