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Enterprise CEO Andy Taylor advocates working hard, having fun

Andy Taylor learned the rental-car business by washing cars. In fact, he may be the only CEO in the industry who has scrubbed the cars in his company’s fleet.

The company is Enterprise Rent-A-Car, and since its inception, the DU grad has helped it become the largest in North America. Growing from a fleet of seven cars in 1957 to half a million today, Enterprise recorded annual revenues of $6.3 billion last year.

Named president in 1980, Taylor credits his father for the company’s success and progressive culture.

Andy Taylor’s father, Jack, was a pilot who served aboard the USS Enterprise in World War II. The elder Taylor started the company in the basement of a St. Louis Cadillac dealer-ship. “Dad was ambitious. But he wanted to do it the right way,” Taylor says.

The “right way,” according to Taylor, is very simple. “Dad worked hard, but always believed in having fun.” His philosophy is that if you take care of your customers and employees, the bottom line will follow.

After 40 years in the business, the founding father hasn’t changed that philosophy. Nor has the company. When Jack Taylor drops in to chat with employees, the first question inevitably is: “Are you having fun?”

Citing Enterprise as one of the “100 Best Companies to Work For,” Fortune magazine reports the company hires management trainees and “moves them quickly into management positions, in which they share in their local branches’ profits. Enterprise throws a lot of parties to keep it fun.”

CIO magazine also cited Taylor’s firm as one of the “100 Companies Most Likely to Succeed in the Next Millennium.”

But success hasn’t gone to this 54-year-old CEO’s head. Taylor is self-effacing and quick to credit others for his company’s accomplishments.

“I’m not exceptionally smart or clever,” he admits. “If I’m gonna win it’s because of my tenacity and my ability to build a better team.”

Taylor recalls his grade-point-average at DU as “unspectacular.” He graduated in 1970 with a degree in business administration, yet insists his greatest accomplishment was winning the intramural tennis doubles championship. That, and meeting his wife, Barbara Broadhurst.

Taylor is also quick to admit his mistakes, including an ill-fated foray into the Mexican food business in the late ’70s.

“That decision caused some serious heartburn,” he says with a chuckle. “We thought we could conquer just about any business. But we ventured out of our ‘sweet spot’ and lost significant money. It was a painful reminder to do what you’re good at and what you enjoy.

“This year, Enterprise will rent a car nearly 25-million times,” he says. “We want every one of those customers to be completely satisfied. You don’t do that with employees who don’t know what’s going on.”

To share his vision, Taylor spends considerable time on the road, visiting branches, meeting with his 50,000 employees and as always, dishing out thanks.

He also pitches in when necessary.

“While in San Francisco, a customer needed a ride to his hotel, so I offered to drive him,” Taylor recalls. “On the way he asked what I did for Enterprise. I told him I worked at the home office. ‘What exactly do you do?’ he inquired. I told him I was the CEO, and he told me to drop him off at the next corner.”

That’s one customer request Taylor refused to honor.

“I kept driving and charmed him into renting another car the following week.”

On another visit, Taylor noticed the office was swamped with customers. So he dispensed with the handshakes and speeches and let his staff get back to work.

Meanwhile, he slipped outside, rolled up his sleeves and did a job he was supremely qualified to do.

He washed the cars.

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