Alfred P. Sloan, Jr. was born in May 1875 in New Haven, Connecticut, as the first of five children to Alfred P. Sloan, Sr. and Katherine Sloan. In 1885, he moved with his family to Brooklyn, New York. Once there, Alfred became known for his academic prowess in public schools and at the Brooklyn Polytechnic Institute (Who Was Alfred P. Sloan, Jr.?, 2014). After initial delays in acceptance to the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, he went on to receive his Electrical Engineering degree in 1892.
After graduation, Alfred began working in a small machine shop in Newark, New Jersey, called the Hyatt Roller Bearing Company. During his time as an employee, Alfred looked for a way to improve the company share and was able to convince the company to begin manufacturing antifriction bearings for automobiles. In 1899, at the age of 24, Alfred Sloan became president of Hyatt Roller Bearing Company and assumed responsibility for all aspects of the business. Under his leadership and direction, Hyatt grew rapidly and the company’s bearings became the standard for the automobile industry. In fact, Oldsmobile was the first automotive customer for Hyatt, with other manufacturers soon following. In 1916, Hyatt Roller Bearing Company along with other automotive manufacturers, merged with United Motors Corporation. Alfred Sloan, Jr. was appointed president of the newly formed entity. After two years of continued growth, United Motors merged with General Motors Company to form General Motors Corporation. Again, Alfred assumed a leadership role with the merge, becoming Vice President in Charge of Accessories and serving as a member of the Executive Committee. His success in the company continued and he became President of GM in 1923 and in 1937, after a successful tenure as President, he was elected as Chairman of the Board.
Under Alfred Sloan, Jr., General Motors became the standard by which diverse business operations were managed using financial statistics, such as return on investment. Sloan focused on developing an objective organization, one that under this type of management style would remain at the pinnacle of industry and the economy (McDonald, 1964). As an engineer, Sloan had evaluated all of the various intricate details to develop a foolproof system that believed in policies, systems, and structures (McDonald, 1964). Sloan firmly believed that his management approach was infallible and felt that GM would continue to grow and adapt to the changing markets and the needs of the consumers. While the system was successful, it failed to account for societal change and growth and proved to be detrimental to company operations in the latter part of the twentieth century.
A shrewd executive, Sloan was able to propel General Motors to the top of the automobile industry through the implementation of annual styling changes and set pricing structures, also known as the ladder of success that allowed the different brands under...