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Built from Scratch: How a Couple of Regular Guys Grew The Home Depot from Nothing to $30 Billion Hardcover – April 27, 1999

4.3 out of 5 stars 63 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

Amazon.com Review

Built from Scratch is about two businessmen who achieve the American Dream by fundamentally changing the realm of home-improvement retailing. Bernie Marcus and Arthur Blank, cofounders of the Home Depot, explain how they established the first national chain in the industry by concentrating on low prices, customer service, and strong leadership values.

Ultimately, this is a book about grit and determination. "Building the Home Depot was a tough, uphill battle from the day we started," they write. "No one believed we could do it and very few people trusted our judgment." The two cofounders launched the company only after they were fired by a California hardware retailer because of politics. The Home Depot lost $1 million in its first year of operation in Atlanta. Today it's one of the great successes on Wall Street, with more than 700 stores across the country and 160,000 employees.

One reason the book is so engaging is that it includes corporate anecdotes. A favorite: the company banned wild parties after several employees were demoted and a couple were fired in the wake of a drunken annual managers' meeting. Another yarn involves Sears, which made one of the worst financial mistakes in retailing history when it passed on a deal to purchase Home Depot in the early 1980s. The authors are self-serving at times; for example, they whine too much about paying $104.5 million to dispose of a sex-discrimination lawsuit. But there's no denying the smashing performance of Big Orange. Marcus and Blank paint a story with some sparkling advice for practically anyone in business. --Dan Ring

From Library Journal

When Chris Roush approached Marcus and Blank about his book on Home Depot (Inside Home Depot, LJ 1/99), they denied him access, preferring to tell their own story. While it is more folksy and humorous, it essentially covers the same information, with the addition of intimate details of many business relationships and dealings. Blank, the company's president, chief operating officer, and chief executive officer, and Marcus, the chairman of the board, began Home Depot in Atlanta with little backing. But their shrewd merchandising ideas and ability to work with key players not only surprised many in the industry but created a corporate culture that competitors are now trying to emulate. The authors candidly discuss setbacks, including a multimillion dollar discrimination settlement, as well as ideas gone awry. Most libraries should have at least one of these books on Home Depot, and larger public libraries and business collections should consider both.ASteven J. Mayover, Free Lib. of Philadelphia
Copyright 1999 Reed Business Information, Inc.
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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 352 pages
  • Publisher: Crown Business; 1st edition (April 27, 1999)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0812930584
  • ISBN-13: 978-0812930580
  • Product Dimensions: 9.6 x 6.5 x 1.2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.4 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (63 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #95,788 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Hardcover
Reading the 1 star reviews, I can see where a lot of the critics are coming from and I think they have a valid point. This book does seem to be self-congratulatory. Definitely seems like a marketing tool in order to put Home Depot in the best light. ie. All about how great Home Depot is to their employees. How hard they worked. How smart they are. Additionally, they seem to gloss over or ignore the many negative aspects of their business/actions.

But, I've noticed that a lot of the books written by founders are written this way. I think it's a really rare person who's going to write a book that tells you the complete truth that also includes the evil things that they did. (I think that every business owner has to do some questionable stuff to get ahead, especially in their early years when money is so tight. For example, the now beloved Warren Buffet was once considered the Ogre of Omaha. Frankly, it's hard to succeed in business if you're a complete saint. For example, if you know that a land for sale is filled with gold but the poor seller is ignorant. Is it ok to pay $1,000 for the land even though you know it's worth $1 MM?)

I've read many other books written by founders and most also seem very self-congratulatory...almost to the point of seeming shady. They take credit for the littlest of things and they seem to gloss over many questionable acts. And, like other founders, this author isn't going to just give away his secrets that he's learned over the past 30 years. He's only going to give away a few here and there. He might actually throw in a few half-truths to make himself look good.

But, I've learned to accept this and try to glean as much information as possible. So, as a business owner, I did learn some stuff. Nothing earth shattering but something here and there. The book was also entertaining as well. 3 stars.
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Format: Paperback
In reading one of the less flattering reviews of this book, the reviewer took exception to the subtitle mentioning "regular guys" because of the connections and startup capital that was available to the founders. I think the reviewer in question has entirely missed the point.

First, there is a growing litany of "entrepreneurs" who have had access to as much or more capital as these gentlemen and then went on to squander this resource through self indulgence and generally incomprehensibly poor judgment. The point the authors made consistently throughout the book was that despite capital being critical to this venture, smart and calculating decisions were far more crucial to their success. Look at second generation wealth, second and third generation CEO's, or the offspring of celebrities for that matter, and try to convince anyone that they had a walk away advantage over the people who struggle to pioneer new concepts. Sad but true, knowing someone with a huge bank account-or someone who simply has a big bank account-does not guarantee success.

As an entrepreneur with a fledgling six year old company that was started on next to zero capital, we have steadily grown our company to 1.5 million in sales in much the same fashion as Home Depot but on a smaller scale of course. This book has been what I have been looking for to find a way to illustrate to our team and potential investors what we are capable of. Believe in the idea; go beyond any reasonable sense of effort to insure it works; constantly look for new opportunities and ways to reinvent yourself; reward the people who helped you get there; and through hard work and being better at what you do, inadvertently punish anyone who tried to stop you or rip you off.
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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
My wife bought this book and loves the story, the lessons presented and the background it provides on the founders of Home Depot. She has worked for HD for over 20 years all around the US and loves the company and how it was founded where the employees are treated like family. Great read for those wanting to start their open business, those who have started their own business, and those who want to know what it takes to create a world leading business from scratch!
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Format: Paperback
Reimagining Retail: The Emergence of Supercenters and Department Stores

From 1955 to 1978, retailers sold in smaller volumes, had high margins and dealt with multiple (unnecessary) levels of the supply chain. In those times, supercenters and departments stores hardly existed. Then along came Bernie Marcus and Arthur Blank who created The Home Depot. Before The Home Depot, both men were employed by Handy Dan, a home improvement center generating a respectable $3-$5 million in annual volume. However, in the late 1970s, tensions grew at Handy Dan and Bernie and Arthur’s employment ended abruptly with “you’re fired”. It was at this juncture that the two men realized that they had been “kicked in the ass by a golden horseshoe” (37). Up until then, Bernie and Arthur had only dreamed of opening up their own home improvement stores. Both of them envisioned a new type of retail, one so big, with such volumes that customers could practically “smell the bargain” (41). To put it into perspective, Handy Dan, where Bernie and Arthur were fired, averaged 35,000 sqft of retail space and the envisioned warehouse would be nearly twice the size with an expected throughput of 5x to 10x more than Handy Dan. Would such devastation to your career, image and financial stability make you want to start from scratch and become an entrepreneur—what Bernie and Arthur did in this book? Who knows (until it actually happens). Being fired can have negative implications but also positive ones. Built From Scratch is the book that I will be talking about, and I shall concentrate on a critical assessment of the books’ strengths, weaknesses and insights gleaned relative to my understanding of the reading.
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