George Coan, my beloved, late grandfather, was one of the smartest businesspeople I knew.
Coan began his retail career as a boy, selling clothes from a pushcart on the Lower East Side of New York City. He worked for pennies a day, sleeping on couches and making his own way after his family drifted apart.
Movie-star handsome and always sharply dressed, he was about 17 when he landed his first job as a salesman at a men's clothing store. He eventually worked his way up to be a vice president at Howard Clothes. (A funny aside: When he was offered a job managing a store in a predominantly Irish neighborhood, he changed the spelling of his surname from Cohen to Coan. He never changed it back.)