Dan Waldschmidt

by Dan Waldschmidt

April 23, 2018


Wayne grew up an average child with average parents. His dad was a businessman who told his son over and over again “you can’t make any real money working for someone else.”

Those words rang in Wayne’s ears throughout his life. 

After dropping out of college, Wayne spent the better part of five years hopping from job to job. Working for other people. Not making any “real money.” 

He was frustrated and confused. Not sure what to do next. 

So he decided he’d go serve his country and enlisted in a six-month full-time reserve position with the US Army.

But when he completed his time, he still had no idea what he would do with himself.

So he left Chicago and moved back home to Florida — where his parents were. 

It definitely wasn’t a step up. He felt like a loser. 

One gorgeous Florida day, he had lunch with his father. They sat talking about what Wayne would do with his life.

And then in what seemed like a stroke of fate, a family friend appeared. After talking for a few minutes, he immediately hired Wayne to manage his trash hauling company. 

Wayne wanted no part of it.

But he was told it would just be for a few weeks.

Wayne didn’t have anything else to do — plus it was for his father’s friend — so he gave it a shot.

A few weeks turned into a few months, and Wayne started getting the hang of the business. He knew the ins and outs.

But more importantly, he knew it was something he could do. His confidence was at an all-time high.

And as luck, or timing, would have it, Wayne saw a trash hauling company for sale. 

On the money he was making, he couldn’t afford to buy it. But he convinced the man selling it that he was just the man to sell the business to.

He left such a good impression that the owner of the company decided he would finance the deal himself and let Wayne pay him out of the money he was making from the company. 

Wayne was making $500 a month. 

And he was determined to make more. A lot more. 

Wayne would wake up at 2 am and get dressed, fill his satchel with a sandwich, grab a thermos of coffee, and be out the door.  He’d get into his truck and go pick up trash.

He’d hop in the truck to drive. He’d hop out of the truck to dump the garbage into the back.

In the truck to drive. Out of the truck to get the trash. Over and over.

He was in and out of the truck more times a day than he could count. He’d take it to the landfill and dump it. By the time he would get to the landfill, the sun would be starting its blistery heat. Heating up the old food and soiled linens and whatever else that people chose not to keep.

The smell would hit him like a rogue wave. And the stench would get caught in his clothes and in his nose. 

After leaving the landfill, he would head home. Time to go get new customers.

He showered. Not knowing if the smell was actually gone — because it never quite left his nostrils. Then he put on some nice clothes and visited local businesses and residents — trying to win contracts.

And he was a success. 

He offered a service people wanted and he was personable.

People liked him and they liked telling him “YES.” 

Wayne did this grueling daily routine for a few years until he had saved enough money to buy a few more garbage disposal companies. And then a few more. And then a few more.

He started buying so many companies that it was time to go “big time” with his group of companies.

Wayne Huizenga combined all 133 businesses into a holding company — that he took public.

He called the company, Waste Management.

Within 10 years of getting behind the wheel of his own garbage truck, Wayne was a multi-millionaire. He had made that “real money” his father had told him so much about.

He sold the company and retired. 

And lived happily ever after.

For five weeks. 

He didn’t have a thing to do.

So he started buying real estate and hotels, portable toilets, residential water jug delivery services. Anything he could find that he thought people needed more of. 

 One day a friend told him about a little movie rental business that he should go check out. 

Wayne had a preconceived notion about mom-and-pop video stores. They were grimy and dirty. They had a terrible selection of movies.

He wasn’t interested in looking at a movie store. He didn’t even own a VCR or watch much television for that matter. It was a waste of his time, but after enough prodding, he eventually gave in and walked into a small video store.

The sign over the door said Blockbuster.

Just like so many years earlier in the garbage industry, the wheels started turning in Wayne’s mind.

In an instant, he saw the untapped market that was video rental.

This Blockbuster store was not like the others.

It was clean. Well lit. Well stocked. It had over 10,000 movie titles. And none of them had to be looked at behind a secret curtain.

Everything was family friendly. 

So he bought the company. 

All 11 stores. 

And then he started buying more stores — buying mom and pop shops everywhere and converting them into the new Blockbuster stores.

Hundreds of them.

Eventually thousands.

And they were a success. Big time.

In 1994, Wayne got offered $8.4 billion for the company. He took it.

And retired. Until he didn’t.

Wayne bought more garbage trucks, and car lots, and rental cars companies.

He called it AutoNation — a place to buy, sell and trade cars. A business that is worth over $4 billion, thanks to the internet.

Wayne Huizenga was the first entrepreneur to have three Fortune 500 companies under his belt.

But businesses — and making money — weren’t the thing that made Wayne tick.

He was a dreamer and a giver. 

He had the vision of bringing baseball and hockey to South Florida. He eventually bought the Miami Dolphins to go along with the Florida Marlins and the Florida Panthers, who both won championships before Wayne ended up selling them.

Although Wayne was great at acquiring businesses that would help him acquire great wealth, he never wanted to keep that wealth to himself. 

Wherever there was a cause, Wayne would give.

He gave money to the local chapter of the Boys and Girls club. He donated money to Florida colleges. 

He donated millions to the United Way. And even more to cancer research. 

Because it was personal. His sweet wife, Marti, died of cancer just a couple months shy of their 45th wedding anniversary.

And just a year after her death, cancer took Wayne too — on March 22, 2018. 

The world of business and sports agreed that he left behind something much greater than a legacy.  He left behind something to strive for. An example. 

You don’t have to have fame and fortune to make a difference. You can do something as small as donating your gently used clothes because you have too many of them. You can buy someone dinner if you know they are having a hard time. 

Or you can just be a genuinely nice person. A person that people aspire to be like.

A person who changes the community they live in. 

Wayne Huizenga created thousands of jobs in his lifetime. He made the Forbes list of the top 100 richest men in the US in 2013. He created a sports dynasty in Florida. But that’s not what everyone will remember about him. 

“A lot of people will remember Mr. Huizenga for his business acumen, but we will remember him for his heart,” said Renee Booth, Development officer of the Boys & Girls club in Florida.  

You might start your path to success a little later than you would like. You might feel like a loser when all your hard work doesn’t seem to be leading to massive success soon enough.

You might already have enough money and still not be happy. Not feel fulfilled.

Wayne’s life is full of powerful lessons about what true success looks like.

  1. Work hard even when you aren’t exactly sure what you want from life.
  2. Do whatever needs to be done in order to get to where you want to be.
  3. Have a purpose bigger than making money if you want to find true wealth.
  4. Give so much away that it no longer seems to make sense to those around you.
  5. Remember the people who helped you out along your journey to success.

You have everything you need to change the world. Now, go do it.

About the author

Dan Waldschmidt

Dan Waldschmidt doesn’t just talk about leveling up. He’s obsessed with it. He's set records as an ultra-runner and been the personal strategist for the leading business leaders of our time. He wrote a book, called EDGY Conversations that accidentally became a worldwide bestseller and continues to share his insights from the stage as a keynote speaker and on the blogs and podcasts you will find here. Most days, you'll find Dan heads-down, working on breakthrough strategies for his clients at EDGY Inc, a highly-focused, invite-only, business strategy execution company based out of Silicon Valley.