John H. Patterson*
John H. Patterson, the founder of NCR, headquartered in Dayton, Ohio, has been called one of the true geniuses of American business. Upon acquiring the cash register company in 1884, he found himself the owner of a business referred to by the Dayton business community as “Phillip’s Folly,” after the hapless seller of the failing concern. Ignoring his colleagues’ predictions of doom, Patterson taught potential buyers why they needed a cash register and created a market for the machine.
He oversaw the development of the cash register as a sophisticated data gathering device that revolutionized the retail trade, making the company a pioneer in the development of information technology. Patterson also introduced the practice of systematically training employees when he established the first world’s first sales school in 1894. Although employee training is a practice now viewed as a matter of common sense, it was derided by Patterson’s contemporaries who believed that a good salesman was born and not made.
After NCR continued to thrive even during the severe economic recession of 1893, the business community quit laughing and started copying his sales and training methods. NCR became famous for its innovative business ideas, and Patterson’s methods were adopted by companies around the world. Patterson continued to guide the development of NCR as an international business presence until his death in 1922 at the age of 78.