John Henry Patterson: Cash-Calculating Titan
Imagine a company offering its employees immense dining rooms, an orchestra entertaining the diners, vocational and educational courses, a golf course, tennis courts, baseball field, a clubhouse for dances and lectures, in-plant health care, company-sponsored vacations at company-owned resorts and state-of-the-art working facilities. It sounds like Google, voted the No. 1 place to work by Fortune magazine, but it's not. It was National Cash Register in Dayton, Ohio, nearly a century ago, the dream child of John Patterson. Patterson was a genius but, like many geniuses, he mixed brilliant ideas and achievements with eccentric and often bizarre behavior. Historian Harold Evans called him a "capricious egomaniac," "messianic" and "a practicing paranoid." If any employee became indispensable to NCR, no matter how capable, Patterson would give the employee the boot. Some of America's greatest corporate executives were shown the door and subsequently emerged as titans in their own right, including Thomas Watson Jr., who formed IBM; Alvan Macauley, who became president of Packard Motor Co.; and Charles F. Kettering, the inventor and tour de force at GM.