What Milton Hershey Taught Me About Strategy

Milton Hershey. You can’t say that name without thinking about the chocolate candy bar. But there is a bigger story. While Milton spent hours upon hours perfecting milk chocolate, Henry Hershey (Milton’s dad) had a much different approach to business. Henry was always on the look out for the next big opportunity.

While you certainly might admire Henry for being an opportunist, it didn’t work out so well. He always moved to the next big thing before what he was working on had an opportunity to succeed.

While Milton was perfecting milk chocolate, Henry was dabbling in real estate, oil prospecting, making cough drops, fish farming, planting fruit trees, raising cattle, planting berries and growing roses.

If there is one lesson to be learned, it is this:

By being a strategist, Milton Hershey:

  • Experimented but with singular focus
  • Looked for opportunity, but only as it related to milk chocolate
  • Failed, but kept pushing forward in the same direction

By being an opportunist, Henry Hershey:

  • Experimented in many different things, lacking focus
  • Looked for opportunity in whatever was hot at the moment
  • Failed, but never gave any one thing the opportunity to succeed

If you want to be a strategist instead of an opportunist, here are a few suggestions:

1. Move in the direction of simplicity

Whether we realize it or not, we naturally make things more complex. We buy into the lie that doing more, means achieving more. That just isn’t true. I love the quote by Albert Einstein that says, “Any intelligent fool can make things bigger and more complex. It takes a lot of courage to move in the opposite direction.”

2. Allow what you are doing now to reach an inflection point.

I’m just coming back from the Platform Conference. One of the more powerful moments for me was to hear Michael Hyatt talk about the inflection point with his blog. I experienced much of the same thing with my blog so it really resonated with me. It wasn’t until his fourth year of blogging that he finally reached his inflection point.

Most of us give up before the inflection point. it reminds me of a Jim Rohn quote: “Most people plant in the Spring, water in the Summer, only to give up before the harvest.”

Question: How about you? Do you struggle with being an opportunist? You can leave a comment by clicking here.


    Jonathan has been blogging since 2009 and is still in awe that the Creator of the Universe desires to have a relationship with him. His passions include spending time with his kids, reading, March Madness, surprise get-a-way trips with his wife, and watching funny YouTube videos.

    Please note: I reserve the right to delete comments that are offensive or off-topic.

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    3 thoughts on “What Milton Hershey Taught Me About Strategy

    1. Great stuff Jonathan. Really enjoyed the post! The Hershey story has been one of my favourite for years. Going bankrupt and setting up shop over and again in several locations. Simplicity and focus are my favourites.

    2. Good insights. I think another great strategy Hershey used was allowing the quality of his work to speak for itself. In other words, the fruits of his labor where appreciated by others who enjoyed them. Eventually, people shared their appreciation and opinions of his chocolate with others. Hershey once said, “Give them quality. That’s the best kind of advertising in the world.” Giving people quality is certainly something I can do today, right now.

      • Excellent point Michael. That came through loud and clear to me as well when I read his biography. I think the quality attribute also can be seen in the fact that he was building homes and a town for his employees. He also required the homes to have running water and indoor plumbing during a time when less than 20% of Americans had the luxury.