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Joe Wilson and the Creation of Xerox Hardcover – September 1, 2006

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Joe Wilson and the Creation of Xerox + Copies in Seconds: How a Lone Inventor and an Unknown Company Created the Biggest Communication Breakthrough Since Gutenberg--Chester Carlson and the Birth of Xerox
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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Transforming family-owned Haloid Corp., which struggled in the shadow of hometown behemoth Eastman Kodak, into the globally recognized Xerox is an amazing accomplishment. But as Ellis's biography of Joe Wilson attests, Wilson's achievements ranged more widely and went much deeper than many gave him credit for. Ellis, author of 11 books and former financial industry consultant offers a heartfelt, if not artful, telling of the CEO's life story. He contends that Wilson embodied all of the qualities that leadership management books celebrate: integrity, foresight and the ability to inspire people to perform. He credits these attributes to helping Wilson so spectacularly realize his vision for his company; its employees; his alma mater, the University of Rochester; and the city and people of Rochester, N.Y. Ellis's telling starts off slow and is initially quite repetitive. But once Xerox is finally born, after years of setbacks, the story picks up. The real purpose for the detailed buildup appears toward the end, when credit for the last 20-odd years of corporate strife and ultimate success is given to the wrong person, Wilson's best friend and the company's corporate counsel. At that point, it becomes clear why Ellis was compelled to write this book so long after the company's rise and its true founder's demise. (Sept.)
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From Booklist

In Copies in Seconds (2005) David Owen told the story of Chester Carlson, the lone inventor of the Xerox machine. Here, Ellis creates a portrait of Joe Wilson (1909-71), the CEO of Xerox, who took the invention to fruition. An even-tempered man with impeccable values and enormous patience, Wilson took on an incredible risk backing a completely untested technology, which paid off only after decades of tireless work. When office workers embraced the technology, copying everything in sight, the Xerox copy machine became one of the most lucrative inventions of the twentieth century. But Wilson wasn't just about making money; he was one of the first business leaders to become personally involved in civil rights, hiring African American workers when most other companies effectively locked them out of jobs. Wilson remained humble even as others around him took credit for Xerox's success, and he passed on quietly just as the company began to lose its way. Ellis' account is a shining example of how honest and compassionate leadership can create profits and benefit the community at the same time. David Siegfried
Copyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved
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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 424 pages
  • Publisher: Wiley; 1 edition (September 1, 2006)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0471998354
  • ISBN-13: 978-0471998358
  • Product Dimensions: 6.3 x 1.4 x 9.3 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.3 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (9 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #974,976 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful By Lloyd Jamison on May 10, 2007
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Joe Wilson would likely be the first to admit that many contributed to the creation of Xerox. But he was the glue that held everyone together. Without Wilson, adoption of the technology might have been delayed by decades. Computer printers would have remained impact devices for decades longer. The laser printer might not have seen the light of day until recently.

There are so many remarkable facets to this story, that if it were a work of fiction readers might criticize the plot for being too fantastic and contrived.

First, the technical inventor, Chester Carlson, was listed as one of the richest men in America in the late 1960s by Forbes Magazine. He wrote the magazine informing them that they ranked him too high because he had donated two-thirds of his fortune away anonymously in earlier years.

His mother died as he was entering his teen years and his father had tuberculosis. Chester had to work for a living as an adolescent. Despite this, he somehow graduated from Cal Tech during the Great Depression.

Second, when Wilson's company was looking for funding he sought financial partnerships with every important office equipment company in the United States, but was turned down in every instance.

Third, IBM declined to partner with Xerox in the formative years. They hired Arthur D. Little to do a nearly year-long study of the product potential which concluded that the market size was too small at only $200 million. Later, after Xerox was an obvious success, IBM told Wilson that it should be granted an exclusive license to compete so that Xerox would not run afoul of antitrust regulations.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful By Don Smith on March 6, 2009
Format: Hardcover
As a retired Xerox employee I was fascinated by the author's comprehensive description of Joe Wilson the man and corporate leader. Although I started at Xerox in 1968 near the end of Mr. Wilson's career his philosophy of treating employees fairly and with respect was continued for many years after his departure albeit at a slowly diminishing rate. The final straw was the betrayal by Paul Allair and his Henchman Richard Thoman. These scoundrels not only deceived the stockholders by falsely reporting profits but lied to employees to the bitter end of their reign resulting in serious losses for those who had faithfully invested in the company. My apologies for the diatribe but what better way to extol the virtues of the good man than to contrast them with the faults of the bad. Of all people, Joe Wilson would have been mortified at the chicanery of his unworthy successors.

Ellis does a good job of balancing his description of Mr. Wilson's many exemplary personal and business traits along with the fascinating story of the growth of Xerox. However, the book ends sadly not only because of the death of the hero but with the pointing out of his unfortunate flaw namely that of trusting too much in his successor. The company survived the many poor decisions of Peter McColough based on the strength of its technological monopoly but one can't help but wonder how great Xerox might have become had Joe Wilson been able to remain it's leader for several more years.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By Rolf Dobelli HALL OF FAMETOP 1000 REVIEWER on March 23, 2007
Format: Hardcover
This notable biography recounts the remarkable story of Joe Wilson, a shy entrepreneur who overcame tremendous technological and business challenges to develop an entirely new photographic process and create the Xerox Corporation. Wilson was a powerful but quiet leader who motivated employees, family members, business associates and his community to achieve the impossible. Charles D. Ellis presents a comprehensive portrait of the man and his times, highlighting the roles of luck and perseverance. He tells how Wilson built a revolutionary machine even before he had a market and, in that process, pioneered a new technology and transformed his grandfather's small company into Xerox. The story is slow at times, but we highly recommend Ellis's inspirational business profile to those who enjoy stories of legendary business leaders and the companies they built.
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2 of 3 people found the following review helpful By Richard C. Ferris on December 26, 2006
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Joe Wilson led Xerox through more years of uninterrupted growth at a more rapid pace then achieved by any other company. This fact is sufficient motivation to read Charles Ellis' comprehensive and compelling story of Joe Wilson and the creation of Xerox. Most business aficionados think they know the story but this book will truly open your eyes and mind. Mr Ellis' thorough research and deft prose reveals the true leadership genius of Joe Wilson.The Xerox journey, from it's humble Haloid beginnings, through the twists and turns resulting in the introduction of the 914, reads like an adventure novel worthy of Eric Larson. The introduction of Joe Wilson to Chester Carlson, the inventor of Xerography, was just the beginning. The author provides countless examples of situations that could have derailed the success of Xerox.Examples include Homer Piper's invention of Haloid Record during the thirties. Without this milestone,Haloid would not have survived the depression and therefore Xerox would not have evolved.The author also explores how Xerox managed to avoid being acquired by the mega Corps.,once the potential of Xerox was understood.Tom Watson, IBM CEO, stated that failing to pursue the acquition of Xerox was the biggest regret of his career.It's almost a foregone conclusion that GE would have purchased Xerox if,at the time,it wasn't distracted by developing the technology for color TV.The true genius of Mr. Ellis'is his ability to bring Joe Wilson alive through the pages of this monumental work. Joe Wilson's leadership,vision,passion and creativity are a wonder to behold. His true commitment to customers,shareholders and employees are truly inspiring.Read more ›
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