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The Home Depot started with two words on an ordinary day in the spring of 1978: “You’re fired!” Arthur Blank and Bernie Marcus were unceremoniously fired from their positions at Handy Dan, a chain of home improvement stores, notwithstanding the fact that the two had built up Handy Dan to over $155 million in sales. “Bernie and I picked ourselves up, we mapped out Home Depot on a napkin in our favorite coffee shop. We had almost no capital," recalls Arthur.

Twenty-five years later, The Home Depot has grown to more than 1500 stores and over $50 billion in sales. “We created a company where employees matter and where people could be free to make mistakes,” Arthur explains in his book, Built From Scratch (Times Books, 1999). “We learned as we went along. We went from hard drinking cowboys of retail to instilling a quilt of families in our company.”

Arthur credits his parents with giving him a strong drive to succeed. Arthur grew up in Queens, New York, in a small one-bedroom apartment with his parents, Max and Molly, along with his older brother, Michael. Max Blank, a pharmacist, had started a small mail order pharmaceutical business, Sherry Pharmaceutical. Unfortunately, Max passed away only a few years after the company’s creation. Arthur was only 15 years old at the time. It was then that Arthur’s mother, Molly, decided to take over the family business. Arthur remembers, “She was a housewife with no business experience, but she marched right into Sherry determined to make a go of it and she ran it the best she could. It was a very small business at the time, but she built it from the ground up. She did very well and built Sherry into a multi-million dollar business.”

Arthur went to Babson College where he began show his entrepreneurial spirit. In addition to being president of the senior class, Arthur launched his own landscaping company, a laundry business, and even found time to baby sit on the side. “I think I first realized I was an entrepreneur, or self-starter, back in the days when I was playing ball. I was playing in the outfield, but I wanted to catch. The reason I wanted to catch was that I wanted to be involved in every play. I wanted to be in the middle of the action.”

After graduating from Babson, Arthur worked for a large accounting firm for several years before joining his mother and older brother in the family business. Sherry Pharmaceutical was later purchased by Daylin, Inc. Arthur became vice-president of finance at Handy Dan, a Daylin division, working with Bernie Marcus. But it was the termination of their positions at Handy Dan that made The Home Depot possible, and they’ve bled orange ever since.
“Bleeding orange,” Arthur explains in his book, “means investing in employees…being present and accounted for in your community…giving back to those less fortunate…knowing that we are not that smart and listening to those that are…and not standing on the sidelines.”

Arthur Blank served as CEO of The Home Depot for 23 years and is now owner of the Atlanta Falcons. Arthur, along with his family, oversees the Arthur M. Blank Family Foundation, which has donated over a $100 million dollars to various charities. For more information about Arthur Blank, please log onto www.blankfoundation.org.

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"Being a successful entrepreneur takes being a risk taker, having a vision, having staying power, believing in yourself, and listening to your customers."
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