Book Summary: Driven by Larry H. Miller

My Personal Summary

This book is an autobiography of Larry H. Miller, a self-made billionaire and the most successful entrepreneur in the history of Utah.

Larry famously worked 80-90 hours per week for several decades and built a multi-billion dollar empire that included the ownership of 50+ auto dealerships, ownership of the Utah Jazz, and a variety of other businesses in different fields.

Although Larry was ultra-successful in business, he worked so much that he missed being able to watch his kids grow up and he ultimately brought on his own early death at 64 by neglecting his physical health for so long.

Larry helped the Salt Lake City community and Utah in countless ways and he is still remembered today for his generosity and how he used his wealth to give back to others.

Book Notes

  • Larry was born in 1944. He had an awful upbringing and his parents were alienating and hard to be around. If he didn’t make it home in time for dinners, they would beat him and not even let him eat. They even went on several family vacations without him.
  • “I decided as a very young kid that being mediocre is no fun.”
  • Larry married his high school sweetheart, Gail, in 1965. He said that she was a huge reason for his success.
  • “She (Gail) enabled me to do so much of what I did and never complained. I worked from 6:30 in the morning until about 10 at night for 20 years of our marriage to build our business. Other than the annual vacation we took, I had little interaction with the kids. They were asleep when I left and asleep when I got home. Gail was basically a single parent.”
  • In high school, Larry did excellent on an aptitude test and became a National Merit Scholar, but barely graduated high school with just a 1.77 GPA because he never did homework and always got bored in class.
  • Larry attended the University of Utah but dropped out after 6 weeks.
  • Although Larry isn’t against students attending college, he always told his own kids “All you really need to be a success in business is common sense and the ability to add, subtract, multiply, and divide.”
  • This is similar to something Charlie Munger once said: “I think you’ll find, if you really know the basic stuff, it’s enormously useful, and only very few people are ever going to need any calculus.”
  • Larry was obsessed with numbers ever since he could remember. He could memorize long lists of numbers, he was the statistician for his high school basketball and baseball teams, he counts steps to different locations when he walks, and he memorizes sales figures for his businesses.
  • Larry worked various blue-collar jobs for about 10 years following high school, then finally landed on a job he was world class in: being an auto parts manager for a Toyota dealership.
  • In 1979, at age 35, Larry bought a Toyota car dealership for $3.5 million. He only had $88k in savings at the time so he had to take out millions in loans to finance the transaction.
  • Shortly afterwards, Larry began to buy one auto dealership after another. He would eventually acquire 40 dealerships.
  • In 1985, Larry raised $8 million in loans from various banks to buy half of the Utah Jazz. He did this because the team was in a terrible financial situation and was about to be relocated to Miami or Minneapolis and Larry had a strong conviction that the team should remain in Utah.
  • In 1986, Larry bought the other half of the Jazz.
  • Larry always said that his auto dealerships were purely for profit while his ownership of the Jazz was purely for the Utah community.
  • Larry borrowed nearly $70 million to build a new, bigger arena for the Utah Jazz. It was completed in 1991 in just 15 months, the fastest an NBA arena had ever been completed.
  • Larry was obsessed with cars and even built his own racetrack in Utah, although he admitted it loses $2 million per year.
  • Softball was another great passion for Larry and he even played in national and world tournaments until age 41. In 1992, he was inducted into the International Softball Hall of Fame.
  • Larry’s biggest regret was working so much that he missed seeing his kids grow up. ”I missed most of my children’s youth. I missed ball games and science fairs. I missed the first day of kindergarten and playing catch in the yard. I missed dinner at home with my wife and kids.”
  • “The great irony of my life is that I originally began working those long hours to benefit my wife and kids, but wound up hurting them.
  • In the mid 1990’s, Larry donated $50 million to build the Salt Lake Community College.
  • “How did we do it? I get asked that often. Here is one of the main messages in this whole book: It is not fancy. It is as fundamental as blocking and tackling. I just did it. I just went to work every day and did everything that needed to be done.”
  • Larry died in 2009 at age 64. Much of his health problems stemmed from working too much and ignoring his physical health for decades.

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