2019 Junior Achievement Hall of Fame – Laureate Rick Morrison
Rick Morrison entered the world of business at the tender age of five, when he went door to door charging a 5 cent “delivery fee” for free-sample bottles of Tang.
Laureate Rick Morrison
Rick Morrison entered the world of business at the tender age of five, when he went door to door charging a 5 cent “delivery fee” for free-sample bottles of Tang. “I learned about revenue sharing, because my mom took all my money,” Morrison laughs. From that point on business was an integral part of his life, from selling subscriptions to The Oregonian as a boy to being the sole owner of the Morrison Auto Group before selling the company to Kendall Auto Group in 2013. His youth taught him: “If I wanted something I had to go to work and get it, and I learned to never give up.”
Alaska Business: What was your family life and upbringing like?
Rick Morrison: My dad was a very hardworking guy. He was a grocery store manager and worked up through the ranks. I was in eighth grade when dad had a major stroke and never went back to work. Mom had to go to work, so basically from the time that I was in eighth grade all the way through high school, I kind of had to raise myself.
When dad had a stroke, it took him two years to walk again. He lived for another nine years and died at forty-five years old. He never quit, and he never gave up, and it taught me if you want something, decide what you want, set your goals, and go after it. And, more importantly, help those around you because if you help those around you, you get to what you want faster.
AB: Can you talk a little about ethics in business?
Morrison: I bought a building and remodeled it, and the remodel cost was going to be about $3.5 million. I shook hands with the contractor. We signed the contract two weeks before the project was done. So we literally did a $3.5 million project on a handshake.
I’m a real believer that your word is your bond… Sometimes you may say you’re going to do something and it costs you. Well, that’s the cost of being straight up. I have had multiple occasions where I could have taken advantage of the situation, but I always chose the high road… I can walk any place in this town and hold my head high because I have never intentionally cheated anybody. I remember an old gentleman saying: in this business you can shear a sheep every year, but you can only skin him once. And it took me a little while to understand exactly what he was saying, but it’s basically take care of people and they’ll provide for you for a long time. But if you screw them, you’re done.
AB: What is the most important message you have to share with today’s youth?
Morrison: First, you’ve got to have some idea of things you want to do. You’ve got to dream. Most people spend more time planning a one-week vacation than they do planning their life. Set goals. Figure out what it’s going to take to achieve those goals, what obstacles are in the way, and how to overcome them. And then once you set a course, don’t ever give up.
Second, believe in yourself. If you don’t believe in yourself, nobody else is going to believe in you.
And the last thing is enjoy the ride. It’s not about the end goal. It’s about the journey. I didn’t always quite make it to the destination that I wanted, but there are things that I picked up and learned along the way. So enjoy the ride.
AB: What can we do to prepare children to be successful in a global economy?
Morrison: Education, education, education. And I’m also a believer that you don’t teach a style of business that is win/lose. My goal may be to be competitive with you, and I may sell more than you do because either I have a better product or because I do things better. That’s okay. But if I do something to destroy you or hurt you in the process, that’s not okay. There’s a way you can do business where you can build and you can grow without hurting the other people around you.
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AB: What do you hope for the future for Alaska?
Morrison: We have to grow or we go backwards. I believe that we can develop our natural resources in a responsible way. Locking up the state and doing nothing, I think, is wrong. For example, in Alaska there are fourteen national parks, and the smallest national park is larger than the sum total of all the national parks in the continental United States. Locking up the national parks and not allowing reasonable development, harvesting of trees or proper mining or dealing with the fish—we’re not using our resources responsibly. We can use those resources, be clean about it, be careful about it, and grow jobs and grow Alaska to be the greatest state in the nation, as I’ve always believed it is.
AB: What would you like your legacy to be?
Morrison: The legacy that I’d like to have is for people know that, one, I love the state. I came here in 1975, and the only regret I had is that I couldn’t come here earlier. When I’m on an airplane and I’m coming back in town, I still get goose bumps when we come in and land. Two, I’ve helped a lot of people in business; I’ve coached a lot of people… [and] I don’t need to be the guy out front. But if people know that I’ve been there and helped them move forward, that means a lot. You are successful in life when you help others find success.
In This Issue
Triumphant Journeys: The Alaska Business 2020 Top 49ers
One factor that contributes to successful business operations is the ability to adapt to new situations; rare is the organization that flourishes without changing at all. This year, as we are all acutely aware by now, will go down in history for many, many things including the wide range of methods implemented by businesses as they adapted to the new landscape presented to them by COVID-19.