William Orton was president of the Western Union Telegraph Company in 1876 (Western Union had a monopoly on the telegraph, at the time the world’s most advanced communications technology) making it one of America’s richest and most powerful companies, with $41 million in capital. Gardiner Greene Hubbard, a Boston businessman approached Orton with an offer to sell the patent for a new invention Hubbard had helped to fund, Orton treated it as a joke. Hubbard was asking for $100,000!
Orton bypassed Hubbard and drafted a response directly to the inventor. “Mr. Bell,” he wrote, “after careful consideration of your invention, while it is a very interesting novelty, we have come to the conclusion that it has no commercial possibilities… What use could this company make of an electrical toy?”
The invention, was of course the telephone, would have been perfect for Western Union. The company had a nationwide network of telegraph wires in place, and the inventor, 29-year-old Alexander Graham Bell, had shown that his telephone worked quite well on telegraph lines. All the company had to do was hook telephones up to its existing lines and it would have had the world’s first nationwide telephone network in a matter of months.
Mike Smith and Dick Rowe, executives in charge of evaluating new talent for the London office of Decca Records, traveled to Liverpool to watch a local rock ‘n’ roll band perform. He decided they had talent, and invited them to audition on New Year’s Day 1962. The group made the trip to London and spent two hours playing 15 different songs at the Decca studios. Then they went home and waited for an answer. They waited for weeks.
Finally, Rowe told the band’s manager that the label wasn’t interested, because they sounded too much like a popular group called The Shadows. In one of the most famous of all rejection lines, he said: “Not to mince words, Mr. Epstein, but we don’t like your boys’ sound. Groups are out; four-piece groups with guitars particularly are finished.”
The group, you guessed it, was The Beatles. They eventually signed with EMI Records, started a trend back to guitar bands, and ultimately became the most popular band of all time.
And then there was Art Linkletter who declined the opportunity offered by his friend Walt Disney to invest in a theme park hotel project. Turned out to be a poor choice as everyone knows what Disneyland went on to become. Out of friendship for Disney, Linkletter volunteered his experience as a live program broadcaster to help organize ABC’s coverage of the Disneyland grand opening in 1955. After the opening Art saw what he missed out on and when Disney asked what he could do to show his gratitude for the broadcast’s role in the successful launching of the park, Linkletter asked for Disneyland’s camera and film concession for its first ten years, to which Disney readily agreed. This favor turned out to be very lucrative.
What can we learn from all these stories . . . thinking narrow can lead to missing out on great things. I have been amazed at the people within Tama County that are not afraid to chase their dreams. Now before you tune out and say “I’m too old or I don’t have any talent to add. Please consider this – without action – nothing ever gets done. In order for Tama County to change it will take EVERYONE realizing that they have to actually become INVOLVED. You can call our office at 641-484-3108 and we will show you how you can get involved.