What’s a “maverick” and who are the most prominent mavericks in U.S. business history?

By nature, the most prominent mavericks throughout business history have been pioneers who, at great risk, challenged and in some ways re-defined an entire industry, achieving great success within it. Any list of them must include:

Mary Kay Ash (career opportunities for women)
Warren Buffett (investments)
Andrew Carnegie (steel)
John Deere (farm equipment)
Walt Disney (family entertainment)
Thomas Edison (commercial applications of inventions and innovations)
Harvey Firestone (automotive products: rubber)
Henry Ford (mass production of vehicles)
Bill Gates (computer software development)
A. P. Giannini (banking)
William Hewlett and David Packard (electronics)
Steve Jobs (communications)
Robert Johnson (minority multi-media)
Herb Kelleher (airline travel)
Ray Kroc
(fast food: McDonald’s)
Henry Luce (publications)
Cyrus McCormick (farm equipment)
J.P. Morgan (finance)
David Ogilvy (advertising)
William Paley (broadcasting: CBS)
James Cash Penney (retail merchandising)
John D. Rockefeller, Sr. (oil)
Robert Sarnoff (broadcasting NBC)
Alfred P. Sloan (mass production of vehicles)
Frederick Smith (delivery services: FedEx)
Dave Thomas (fast food: Wendy’s)
Ted Turner (multi-media and broadcasting)
Cornelius Vanderbilt (railroads)
Sam Walton (retail merchandising)
Thomas Watson, Sr. and Thomas Watson, Jr. (IBM)
Kemmons Wilson (hospitality: hotels)

I am greatly in debt to by William C. Taylor and Polly G. Labarre for what I learned in their book, Mavericks at Work: Why the Most Original Minds in Business Win. They explain that Samuel Augustus Maverick (1803-70) was a wealthy land speculator in southwest Texas who cared little about cattle. “When someone repaid a debt with 400 head of cattle rather than cash, Maverick’s caretakers allowed them to wander unbranded. Over time, locals who saw unbranded cattle would say, ‘Those are Maverick’s’ – and a term was born that today refers to politicians, entrepreneurs, and innovators who refuse to run with the herd.”

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