William Clement Stone (May 4, 1902 – September 3, 2002) was a prominent businessman, philanthropist and self-help book author. Stone is remembered for contributing $2 million to President Richard Nixon's election campaigns in 1968 and 1972—these were cited in Congressional debates after Watergate to institute campaign spending limits.
W. Clement Stone was born in and grew up on Chicago’s South Side. From an early age, he demonstrated the entrepreneurship, tenacity and optimism that were hallmarks of his life. To help support his family, Mr. Stone began selling newspapers on the street at the age of six. When older youth drove him away from the busiest corners, he moved his sales to restaurants where he eventually won over owners and customers.
At age 19, Stone started working with his mother selling accident policies. He evidently had enormous energy and drive. At age 19, he averaged selling 48 policies per day. Later in his life, he reached a nine-day average of 72 policies per day, and sold 122 policies in one day. He did this using a cold canvass system at office buildings, meaning he had no pre-arranged appointments. Most of us can't conceive of talking to that many people in one day. He might have made some sales of multiple policies for some families, but he must have seen an awful lot of customers in a day to make those sales.
One of the decisions that Stone made to increase his production was to limit the time he would spend on his sales effort. If a customer wouldn't make the commitment in the designated time, he would move on to the next call.
When Stone reached the 72 policy per day level, he started concentrating on building his own sales force. When the Great Depression hit, he devoted more of his attention to creating a sales training program to improve the effectiveness of his sales team, including spending some initial time with new salespersons in the field. He also developed custom insurance policies that would be easy to sell and renew.
Through these experiences, Mr. Stone developed his lifelong philosophy of Positive Mental Attitude (PMA), which he viewed as the cornerstone of his success. He believed in the power of optimism and that even in adversity lay seeds of success.
He was highly successful and eventually started the Combined Insurance Company of America with a modest initial investment of $100. Combined Insurance grew into a multimillion dollar enterprise that became Aon Corporation in the 1980s.
W. Clement Stone married his high school sweetheart, Jessie Verna Tarson, in 1923 and they had three children. The Stones were committed, lifelong philanthropists who supported countless civic and community groups as well as political and humanitarian causes.