Al Amatuzio reflects on successAl Amatuzio, founder and chief of Amsoil Inc., received the prestigious Business Person of the Year Award nearly two weeks ago during the annual Joel Labovitz Entrepreneurial Success Awards in Duluth.
By: By: Candace Renalls, Duluth News Tribune , Superior Telegram
Al Amatuzio, founder and chief of Amsoil Inc., received the prestigious Business Person of the Year Award nearly two weeks ago during the annual Joel Labovitz Entrepreneurial Success Awards in Duluth.
The awards have been handed out each year since 1971 to a local business leader who has demonstrated outstanding ethics, integrity and effective business practices that have made a positive impact on the local economy.
Amatuzio, 86, is the latest recipient in an impressive list of winners going back to 1971 that include George Goldfarb, Jeno Paulucci, Manley Goldfine, Jack LaVoy and Robert S. Mars Jr.
Amatuzio remains at the helm as president and CEO of the company he started in 1972 after serving 25 years in the Air Guard.
And it all started with what others called a “crazy idea.”
As a military jet fighter pilot, Amatuzio saw first-hand how well jet engines performed with synthetic oil.
“Every jet airplane uses synthetic oil; that’s where I got the idea,” he told the hundreds of people gathered at the Duluth Entertainment Convention Center for the awards ceremony.
He thought: Why not use synthetic oil in automobiles?
That led to the creation of what is said to be the world’s first synthetic motor oil approved for automotive use and the start of a company that’s grown to have about 275 employees and distribution centers around the world.
Despite the company’s growth and success, the Duluth native has kept the company based in Superior. Amatuzio’s Business Person of the Year award follows on the heels of his company’s contribution of
$6 million over 20 years to the DECC’s new arena for naming rights.
To learn more about Amatuzio’s approach to business and success, we asked him some questions.
Q: How does one go from being a military jet pilot to starting a corporation?
A: I began experimenting with synthetic motor oil several years before I retired as a jet fighter pilot. And although I absolutely loved flying, I knew my idea was a good one. When I determined it was time for me to move on from my flying career, I became totally committed to building the company.
Q: Where did you get the know-how and drive to do that?
A: I have never claimed to be the smartest guy in the world, but I have a lot of common sense and have always been very driven.
Q: Do you come from a family of business people?
A: No, not really. Growing up on Raleigh Street was predominately blue-collar. But I always had a sense for business. As a kid I had a paper route, sold magazines, collected scrap iron and did whatever I could do to earn a buck.
Q: You had a “crazy idea” that paid off. What do you think about crazy ideas in general?
A: A lot of crazy ideas turn out to be not so crazy after all. If a person truly believes in an idea, don’t give up.
Q: What does it take to succeed in business?
A: There is no secret. It takes a burning desire. You need the commitment and willingness to give it your all. And a smart business person surrounds him or herself with smart people.
Q: What do you see as your greatest career accomplishment?
A:When I introduced my synthetic motor oil, the lubricant industry wanted nothing to do with me. They wouldn’t acknowledge a superior product. Now look at them, they all manufacture synthetic oils.
Q: Have recessions affected your business? How so?
A: We are affected by cost increases just like all businesses, but we have been fortunate. We have continued to grow. With the tight economy, people want their vehicles and equipment to last longer, and they are drawn to Amsoil because our products can help them do that.
Q: What principles or philosophy have guided you in your work and life?
A: Be honest. My father always told me to tell the truth because you can always repeat the truth. When you lie, you will never remember your lies. I’ve always been truthful.
Q:Of what are you most proud?
A: I guess I am most proud of building a company that provides jobs for so many fantastic employees. Employees tell me all the time how much they appreciate their jobs at Amsoil, and I take great satisfaction in that.
Q: What advice would you give someone starting out in business?
A: If you truly believe in what you are doing, don’t let anyone tell you it can’t be done.
Q: How do you want to be remembered?
A: As a hard worker, a good friend and someone who treated people fairly.
Q: What did the naming rights to Amsoil Arena mean to you?
A: I have had many opportunities throughout the years to relocate the company, but I’ve remained committed to the community. Securing the naming rights to the Amsoil Arena is a testament to that commitment.