Guest Article: My Business Success Philosophy

My Business Success Philosophy
by Larry Underwood

author of the book Life Under the Corporate Microscope: A Maverick's Irreverent Perspective
Underwood started out his career working behind the counter renting cars to people at Enterprise Rent-a-Car, and worked his way up the corporate ladder, eventually becoming a multimillionaire earning almost $4 million per year, and retiring before the age of 49

I was fortunate enough to have worked for a company, Enterprise Rent-a-Car, that believed in rewarding their managers for "bottom line" performance, with an incentive based pay plan that paid me millions for running a (highly) profitable operation for the company. As one of its top executives, I was also afforded the opportunity to run my operation with a great deal of autonomy; to stick to the company's core values as far as not only taking care of customers, as well as employees, in an honest and straightforward manner, but to carry out my responsibilities in a manner as I saw fit.

Having the autonomy to make decisions quickly, without interference from the corporate office, I feel was the key to my long-term success; I spent over 26 years with Enterprise, and not only knew the business very well, I knew how to manage my employees very well; my operation covered all or parts of six western states and I had four top-notch managers reporting to me, who had fairly equal slices of territories to run in the field.

I also had an administrative staff reporting directly to me who handled other facets of the business, from business management, to remarketing of our rental cars taken out of service, along with other divisions of the company, like fleet services and retail car sales.

I was fortunate enough to have quality people working for me, so managing them was a fairly routine task. I gave them plenty of autonomy, didn't micromanage, but was right on top of any problems or challenging issues that might crop up; and there were things that went astray from time to time; but these matters were dealt with swiftly, and with good business logic.

I firmly believed in keeping an upbeat, positive attitude with not only the people who reported directly to me, but more importantly perhaps, with the entry level employees in the field, who really did most of the difficult work but were typically paid on the lower end of the spectrum. I knew that having happy and motivated employees was absolutely critical to the long term success for my operation, so I frequently would travel to the cities in my "Group" (operation), and mingle with some of the young kids in the field and find out what some of their issues were and try to find out ways to make their jobs easier and more rewarding.

That style of management seemed to work. Generally speaking, our employees outperformed most other Groups in the company, and that meant happy customers and employees alike, who stuck around to make Enterprise a long and rewarding career.

The employees in "the trenches" knew specifically what they needed to do to advance, and that simply meant generating nice profits for the company, expanding the business, and keeping the customer service ratings high; higher than corporate averages. Accomplishing those benchmarks successfully, meant our employees would keep moving up the ladder, in a similar fashion to what I had achieved.

If I may digress; as I mentioned, I spent 26 years with the company, had accomplished a great deal of success throughout my career, and retired going out pretty much "on top" in my profession. I was known throughout the company for my humor, my easy going but decisive management style, and my development of many individuals into high ranking and successful positions.

In fact, I had such an interesting career, I wrote a book about it, and it was published at the end of last year. It's called, "Life Under the Corporate Microscope", and if the title suggests I eventually had challenges in dealing with a once friendly corporate hierarchy, as the company grew to mammoth proportions (overtaking Hertz for the top spot in the industry), that would be correct. Suffice to say, when you're a guy making close to $4 million a year, and you have a somewhat irreverent, fun-loving attitude while you're making all that money, you're going to have detractors; that's just life in big business.

I never wavered in my commitment to excellence in how I ran my operation, and the results certainly reflected that mind set. When a company decides to save money by carving up an existing operation into smaller pieces, and farming those pieces out to managers on significantly lower pay plans, that's simply business as usual in corporate America. The experience did inspire the book, which so far, has been selling at a brisk pace in the early going. Actually, writing that book, getting it published, and now marketing the book, has been one of the most rewarding experiences in my entire life; I may write another one soon, as a follow-up story.

The bottom line; I achieved great success with a company that started out small, and eventually grew to become a multi-billion dollar corporation. I stayed on top of my game at all times, worked literally around the clock for most of that time, excelled at sales and marketing, was generally well liked and respected, and absolutely loved what I did for a living. Work never felt like "work". To me, it was a thoroughly rewarding and enjoyable experience, I enjoyed every minute of it, and I put a great deal of passion into my profession. To be truly successful in any endeavor, you've got to be committed to excellence and committed to constantly trying to perform better every day, at least just a little bit, than the day before. I think I accomplished that.

Life Under the Corporate Microscope: A Maverick's Irreverent Perspective is available through Amazon. You can also see a review of the book at


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