Arthur Blank and Bernie Marcus may have found huge success with their company Home Depot, but their venture only started after they were fired from a different home improvement retailer in 1978.
Before they were fired, the two men worked at Handy Dan Home Improvement, a regional company in Southern California.
Near the end of their tenure, they had started testing discount prices at one location and found that “when they marked down items, volume increased and costs as a percentage of sales decreased,” according to a 2008 report in Entrepreneur magazine.
However, they weren’t able to develop their plan for Handy Dan.
In the late 1970s, Handy Dan’s parent company Daylin Inc., was struggling, so it brought in Sanford S. Sigoloff — who was known for “gutting senior management” — to right the ship, Entrepreneur reported.
Even though Handy Dan was a successful branch of Daylin, Blank and Marcus were still fired.
So in 1978, the two men were out of jobs. What they still had, though, was their idea to offer low prices on home improvement products.
Blank and Marcus also wanted the employees of their warehouse retailer to be well trained so they could also advise customers on their home repair projects.
To make Home Depot a reality, Blank and Marcus were joined by Ken Langone and Pat Farrah, who co-founded and invested in Home Depot, according to the company website.
The first two Home Depot stores opened in Atlanta in 1979.
It took some time for the stores to become popular, according to Entrepreneur.
There was little foot traffic in the stores’ early days and in their autobiography “Built From Scratch,” Blank reportedly described the first day as being “a crushing disappointment.”
“It looked like curtains for us,” Marcus reportedly wrote.
However, Home Depot did become a success. By 1981, the company went public, raising $4.093 million, according to the company website.
Aside from its low prices and well-trained employees, Blank and Marcus also made sure to stay focused on how to keep improving their company.
“If you attend any of our meetings, you would never believe that this company is the size it is or doing as well as it is,” Blank said according to Entrepreneur. “We spend very little time talking about the things we are doing well. We spend 80 to 90 percent of our time focusing on the issues and problems, what the competition is doing, what our customers are looking for, what they are not finding in our stores, which stores are having problems. The whole focus of the company is to take today’s standards and accept them for what they are but to say we have to improve upon them for the future.”
Today, the company is still headquartered in Atlanta, but it now has more than 2,200 stores in three countries, according to the company website.
Home Depot had $110.2 billion in revenue last year and $11.2 billion in profits — a record year for the company, according to Forbes.
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Though Blank and Marcus are no longer with Home Depot, both men are billionaires.
Blank, who bought the NFL‘s Atlanta Falcons in 2002, is estimated to be worth $6.1 billion, according to Forbes. Meanwhile, Marcus, who said last year he wanted to give away most of his fortune, is estimated to be worth $7.4 billion, Forbes reported.
Bernie Marcus (left) and Arthur Blank (right) are pictured in this undated photo with Blank’s daughter Dena (middle left) and his now ex-wife Stephanie Blank (middle right). (Photo by Rick Diamond/WireImage)