During the Second World War, Jack Crawford Taylor was a Navy fighter pilot. After the war, he soared with a venture somewhat closer to the ground.
In 1957, Taylor founded an auto leasing company, Executive Leasing, which operated in the cramped basement office of a St. Louis Cadillac dealership. Legend has it that leasing salesmen had to scream into the phone to be heard over the rattle of body shop machines next door.
In 1962, the company launched a rental operation, with a fleet of 17, and a car sales division. In 1969 the company changed it's name from Executive Leasing to Enterprise Leasing being renamed in honor of the USS Enterprise, the aircraft carrier on which Jack served in World War II.
After changing its name to Enterprise Rent-A-Car in 1989 and experiencing explosive sales growth in the '80s and '90s, Enterprise is now the largest car rental company in North America, with 600,000 vehicles in its rental and leasing fleet and more than 5,000 locations worldwide. Enterprise, which employs 50,000, is a privately held corporation.
Taylor believed from the start that if Enterprise took care of its customers and employees first, profits would follow. The company, which is now headed by his son, Andy, strives to differentiate itself by giving its customers personalized service. It also applies this mantra toward employee growth, offering employees extensive training that teaches them how to run their own businesses, and then giving them the autonomy and authority to do so.
While the more well-known companies such as Hertz and Avis battled for business at airports, Enterprise quietly built its business by cultivating the insurance replacement market, providing rentals to individuals in need of an alternate vehicle while their own was being repaired. Enterprise is now known as the company that will "pick you up," and offers customers a pick-up service that provides them with a ride to the nearest rental office. Although replacement rentals account for a large part of Enterprise's business, the company also serves the leisure and vacation market and the business market (renting cars to businesses for their short-term needs).
The company has placed high in Forbes Private 500 and the Hoover's 500. It was named one of Fortune magazine's top 100 places to work, and hires more new college grads than almost any company in the country.
Service: Military and Philanthropy
Looking back, Taylor credits his military experience in the growth of his business: "I was a callow youth when I joined the Navy, and I came out of it with more confidence and feeling that I was going to live a happy life and do the right thing," Taylor said.
Taylor distinguished himself as a Naval aviator, flying F6F Hellcat fighters from the decks of the USS Essex and the USS Enterprise. As a member of America's "greatest generation," he earned two Distinguished Flying Crosses and the Navy Air Medal.
Enterprise has made Jack Taylor a billionaire, as much admired for his business acumen as for his civic virtues. In 1992, Taylor founded the Enterprise Rent-A-Car Foundation, the charitable arm of the company. Since that time, the family and company have given some $140 million to causes and organizations in St. Louis and other communities in which the company operates. Most notably, under Taylor’s leadership, Enterprise has given millions to the St. Louis Symphony, Washington University in St. Louis, and St. Louis Zoo, which are just a few of its many gestures of benevolence.
Taylor passed away in July of 2016. He will be fondly remembered and greatly missed.
Image Credit: https://www.nytimes.com/2016/07/03/business/jack-taylor-founder-of-enterprise-rent-a-car-dies-at-94.html