Personal Comments by John L. Eilertsen             


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Personal Comments

Personal job experience and those individuals who educated me

by John L. Eilertsen

I am very grateful for the many fine, intelligent, and talented individuals I have been fortunate enough to have come into contact with during my business career.  Whatever success I may have had, I certainly owe it to these individuals. 

Early years on the job.  The first person that created a most lasting impression on me was my father, Louis M. Eilertsen, who was a heavy equipment sales engineer for Caterpillar Tractor for much of his adult life covering Michigan, Ohio and Indiana.  However, he left Caterpillar and started his own distribution business that involved industrial engines, auxiliary power units, electrical wiring harnesses and other related components. 

It was during this time I began to learn what business was supposed to be about.  I started to work for my father at about age 11 and every Saturday and Sunday I was expected to help him out.  It wasn't a question about free choice in this matter so I learned how to properly clean ash trays, urinals, toilets, floors and windows along with any other assignments he came up with.  I was also taught how to read engineering specifications in building industrial wiring harnesses. Also, to bend, form and flair copper tubing assembles, silver solder and welding.  Welding was definitely not my favorite job, but I did learn to lay a mean bead. 

During the time I worked for m Father, and before I somewhat escaped from his labor camp to deliver news papers.  While working my news route I observed and learned from my younger Jimmy (James T. Eilertsen) how to build up customer good will and to collect money. Jim was the bright one of the family and went on to graduate as an engineer from Annapolis, then added a couple of Master Degrees and eventually retired from the Navy as a Captain. 

During high school I was able to get a normal job at age 16 when I became a shoe salesman for R & S Shoes in Royal Oak, Michigan.  I worked for R&S on Thursday and Friday 5 hours a day and all day Saturday. This job afforded me my own car that I raced up and down the famous Woodward Avenue whenever possible.  In my senior year I took a job with Montgomery Ward and ended up running their Annex operation.  The money was better and the only thing not so good was loading the smelly manure fertilizers into the trunks of cars.

During college I always had at least two jobs on campus whether it was in the mail room, the printing office, or the bursars office.  My favorite job was being the school's classical disk-jockey that involved spinning records 25 hours a week for interested students and faculty in the Music Room located in the Commerce-Finance Building.  I built the school's first stereo system that became a big hit. These jobs along with a fencing scholarship helped put me through college.  I finished undergraduate school with two majors and four minors

During  my senior year in collage I taught an 8th grade class at a local grade school during the day, but left teaching and became a salesman of business forms for the Standard Register company.

Down to business with the company brains!  My major business education really started at Ford Motor Company working with "the best and the brightest," and is where I earned my business stripes.  It started in the Chassis Engineering Office (and later in the Product Development Office) during which time I worked with many individuals who ended up as directors, vice presidents or Presidents of the company.  Of course, at that time I didn't know certain of those who would reach such career heights - but it was fun and  I certainly learned from them. 

After a couple of years in Engineer, I was promoted into the world of product planning.  Car Product Planning was known as the "Elite Guard" at Ford and essentially "ran" the company (although the bean counters would argue this point). 

Product Planning was a small group of about 100 individuals.  Don (Pete) Petersen was our head boss who reported to Lee Iacocca (Pete was later to become President of Ford), under Pete was Harold K. (Hal) Sperlich and later Jim Capolongo - all so very quick and smart.  Hal was later released by Henry Ford for trying to sell Ford on a small car strategy.  Mr. Ford's reply was "I don't like small cars, I like big cars."  Hal made some sight remark, I  remember what it was, but one that Mr. Ford didn't like and Hal was soon out.  Of course, Hal, with his education, brains, innovation and talents moved over to Chrysler Corporation, introduced the "mini-van" (that probably saved Chrysler) and later became President of Chrysler (before Lee Iacocca). 

One of my early bosses at Ford was Tom Denomme who also went to Chrysler and became Executive Vice President and later Vice-Chairman of the Board.  Another Product Planner, Jerome (Jerry) York was also in our department.  A few times Jerry and I would share driving back and forth to work since we lived in the same neighborhood and worked really crazy long hours.  Jerry later became another "defector" to Chrysler where he became CFO and then left to join Kirk Kerkorian (Trancinda) and then IBM.  I never thought Jerry would live long enough to accomplish so much because he was such an maniac behind the wheel, although it sure was a great driving experience. 

I can't forget to mention Alex Trotman, like many others, he was high up in Product Planning and later became Ford's President and CEO.  While B. E. (Boyd) Horne did not become either a VP or President, he was my favorite boss.  One of my good friends was James L. (Jim) Funk who came into Product Planning after his E.E. degree for the University of Chicago and receiving his MBA from Stanford.  I learned a lot for Jim especially the way he could "grind" numbers - tooling or piece costs, it didn't matter.  Jim later became the number 2 (maybe 3?) person in Ford Truck Operations, but left the company to start his own business like many of us. 

I was impressed by several others in our operation that provided me with excellent business lessons they include:  Ralph Peters, Alan McNabb, Jim Funk (and our operation's only really good golfer), John Risk, Mike Messner, John T. (Jack) Eby, Mike Thomas, Steve Russell (boy genius and Ford's youngest ever PSR manager), Frank Mei, Webb McDonald, Charlie Nave, Chuck Bazzy, (our real world "Great White Hunter"), Steve Deneroff (our business and tennis pro), Jim Watts, Charles (Chuck) Norwood, Tony Bustamante (good at everything and had twelve kids), Bill "the ripper" our Styling Liaison Manager), Pat Gaughan (our "G2" guy), Roger Maugh, and George C. Evanoff to name just a few.  During my time in this illustrious group of individuals, I did my best to learn from them and will always be indebted to them for all the help and support they gave me during my time at Ford.

Out of the corporate Mickey Mouse world and into the Entrepreneurial blues. After many years with the security of the monthly pay check, and with the support of my wife, I decided to leave Ford and do something for myself.  I figured I helped make millions of dollars for Ford, so perhaps I could do better being my own boss in my own business.  So, I started a business called Consulting Technologies. 

At the same time, I also started a company named Capital Funding Group that aided companies needing help with either business or product plans in their quest in seeking venture capital.  However, Capital Funding Group didn't really get off the ground because my friend Mayer (Mike) Morganroth introduced me to Lawrence E. (Larry) Fiedler  and I pretty much ended up selling several tax oriented private placement programs through his company named Meridith Corporation in NYC. 

The first couple of years was pretty  rough and I took any kind of consulting to generate some income - it wasn't as easy as I thought is was going to be.  It helped when I was asked to do some special consulting for Ford Engineering under Tom Spear (another old Product Planning Manager who ended up in Australia as head of Engineering).  Then another consulting assignment came from Jim Funk of Ford Truck Operations, and still another from Truck's Controller's Office under Greminder Beti.  However, I knew from my former Ford experience that my days as a high-priced consultant with Ford would be numbered, so I took in work from General Motors and ten EDS along with some automotive suppliers. 

This lead me to a job offer to become an interim President of a small software company named American Business Computer owned by Gordon Dye.  Gordon was a great software programmer, but wanted a business oriented guy to head up his company.  I got the business organized and we launched his new EDI software into the Ford, GM and Chrysler suppliers base. This was excellent small business experience and, I might add, it was very successful.

Upon leaving ABC, I saw an opportunity to provide a unique software protocol call 3780 RJE Bisynchronous communications to the automotive suppliers who were all going to need to link into Ford, GM, Chrysler, Toyota, Honda, etc. to transmit their business oriented documents (e.g., P.O.s, Invoices, Advanced Shipping Notices). I started CTI Communications and ended up establishing most the major EDI software houses as my dealers for this old (and now obsolete), software and the necessary synchronous modems that went with the software. Today we use the Internet and a different protocol (like HTTP/S) is sold.    

  possibly to be continued..