AIB Featured Business Leader – Chris Gardner

AIB Featured Business Leader – Chris Gardner


If you haven’t heard about the career of Chris Gardner, you’re in for quite the story. With a plethora of titles under his belt, the American entrepreneur, stockbroker, motivational speaker, author, investor and philanthropist has an extensive career to be admired. Gardner wasn’t always so successful though; in the 1980’s he struggled with homelessness while raising his toddler son on the streets. Prior to this homelessness, Gardner experienced what he called a “pivotal moment” where he met an impeccably dressed man with a Ferrari during one of his sales visits to a hospital. After asking the man what he did for his career, the man told him he was a stockbroker. From thereon in Gardner decided that would be his career path and he spent several months applying for training programs at the major firms.

His big break came in the early 1980’s when he got accepted into the E.F Hutton training program. As a result, Gardner quit his sales job so that he could dedicate his time to his training. Unfortunately for him however, on his first day he arrived to learn that his hiring manager had been fired and there was no position for him. In addition Gardner was sent to jail for ten days as punishment for being unable to pay the $1200 he had accrued in parking fines while applying for training programs. It is after returning home from jail that he found that his wife had left him and cleared their apartment. Fortunately he gained a position with Dean Witter Reynolds’ stock brokerage program however this offered no salary. He was therefore unable to meet his living expenses, and spent close to a year living on the streets with his son, while working his way up in the firm.

Chris Gardner’s perseverance paid off when he received a full time position, which he worked in for two years before joining Bear Stearns. There he became a top earner over the next three years, before establishing his own firm, Gardner Rich & Co in 1987. Specialising in the execution of debt, equity and derivative products transactions, Gardner set up the business with only $10,000 and one piece of furniture. Over the years it thrived into a successful firm in which he sold off a small stake for several million dollars in 2006. With this money he became Founder and CEO of Christopher Gardner International Holdings, with offices in New York, Chicago and San Francisco.

Aside from business, Garner is the author of autobiography “The Pursuit of Happyness”, which went on to be made into a major motion picture by the same name in 2006. He is an avid philanthropist who sponsors many charitable organisations, including the assistance in funding a $50 million project in San Francisco that creates low-income housing and opportunities for employment in the area of the city where he was once homeless. Some of his most notable quotes are “Make your vision larger than yourself” and “It’s okay to fail, and it’s not okay to quit”. There’s no doubt that Chris Gardner has had not just a remarkable career, but also a remarkable life. Today his net worth is more than $60 million and with a number of motivational speaker bookings taking him into 2016 there is no sign of him slowing down either.

What do you think?

Are you inspired by journeys such as Chris Gardner’s? It certainly puts life into perspective when you hear of someone who truly went from the bottom to the top. I am interested to know however, what inspires you most about his story? Comment below and share your views.

This article was written by Laura Hutton on behalf of the Australian Institute of Business. All opinions are that of the writer and do not necessarily reflect the opinion of AIB. The following sources have been used to prepare this article:  Wikipedia; Full Net Worth; Billionaire Success; Chris Gardner Media

Image Credit: Full Net Worth

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