Edsel Ford

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Starting a Franchise

"At the risk of having all of you lose your faith in me, I am going to tell you a story about my own life.  When most of you were still in the spirit world, I signed an Edsel franchise with Ford Motor Company.  Some of you may not know what the Edsel was.  The older brethren know that it was one of the most disastrous national marketing mistakes ever made in the United States.

Ford Motor Company spent over two hundred million dollars producing an automobile that would carry the name of Edsel Ford, the father of Henry Ford II, who was then the president of Ford Motor Company.  The sales promotion, anticipation, and the excitement were unbelievable.  You can appreciate what it was like, being a relatively young businessman and having all the power of the Ford Motor Company brought to bear on me to encourage me to become the Edsel dealer for Salt Lake City.  I wrestled with the decision.  I said to my father, who was a great man in my life, 'Before I sign the franchise, I want to see the car.'

They made special arrangements for us to fly to California to see the car.  Now, as I wrestled with this, I was also asking the Lord about it, asking for direction.  It was a big decision; it involved a lot of money, a lot of commitment on my part.  The minute my father and I saw the cars I had the distinct impression not to go ahead with the franchise.

When I got away from the new car showing, the sales power of Ford Motor Company started to work on me again--they assured me the car was going to be the greatest thing that ever came into the automobile industry.  And I allowed myself to drift from the prompting of the Spirit that I had earlier.  I had followed the counsel of the ninth section of the Doctrine and Covenants, but I wavered from the impression the Lord had given me.

I made the decision to sign the franchise, then went through the torments of the damned, almost.  If we had more time, I could tell you that it is not fun to lose a lot of money fast.  Regardless of what I did, it didn't matter; I couldn't stop the losses.  Ultimately I had to sell the franchise at a great loss.

This was a learning experience.  I am now able to sit down with just about anybody who wants to talk about the automobile business and instinctively draw from my bank of experience to give pretty good counsel.

I can think straight now when it comes to those kinds of decisions because of what I suffered.  Perhaps we need to understand that failure is part of life.  We are not going to be successful in everything we do, but we never need to fail to learn the lesson and to place in the bank of our memories those things that will then cause us to become increasingly powerful and most importantly, increasingly helpful to the building of the kingdom of God."

Elder M. Russell Ballard shared this personal experience at a BYU Devotional address on November 29, 1983.