Tuesday, April 4, 2017

Tech Tuesday: AJA R.I.P.

A great man passed away this weekend. This is a brief nod to note the importance of his contribution both to the industry he influenced and the multitude of people whose lives he touched.

It would be no stretch to compare Albert J. Amatuzio's achievements in the oil industry to Steve Jobs in the computer industry. Before Jobs there was no such thing as a personal home computer, and yet today few homes are without one. Before Al, synthetic motor oil for cars did not exist, no company producing it other than for the jet engines of aircraft he flew as a Lt. Colonel in the Air National Guard.

Al told me once that when he was a boy he used to sit on the Oliver bridge and while watching the cars cross between Duluth and Superior wonder, "If I could make a nickel off every car I'd be the richest man in America." He was five years old at the time and his first idea was to put long straws on the lug nuts so that drivers would know they were getting too close to the curb.

These early entrepreneurial yearnings eventually became more grounded. Decades later his ten-year quest to produce a synthetic motor oil for cars came to fruition in 1972 with the introduction of AMZOIL, the first synthetic motor oil in the world to meet American Petroleum Institute service requirements. Its performance benefits included a 25,000-miles or one year service life. And here in the Northland the most readily noticeable benefit was that you did not have to worry about getting your car started when it was 30-below zero in the winter. AMZOIL was a fluid that remained fluid no matter how cold it got here. (The name changed after Pennzoil sued Al for using their "Z"... even though he thought he was using his own Z. The name AMSOIL has been the official title ever since.)

My brother-in-law, a mechanic, introduced me to this high-tech oil in the early 1980s and I became a Dealer so I could purchase it at a discount. Little did I know that I would one day live in Duluth and snag a job at AMSOIL as one of several writers in the communications team. This 1986 career move had two significant consequences. Through Al's encouragement* I began a career in advertising. And through the influence of a fellow writer there I was introduced to the personal computer and bought my first Mac. (Which still runs, by the way.)

The success of those early ad campaigns led to my being hired away from the company for 8 years where I served as in-house ad agency for another firm in the screen printing industry. During this time I remained in close contact with friends at AMSOIL and eventually conceived an idea for a book about Mr. Amatuzio.  I envisioned a coffee table book with lots of photos and him talking to readers about each decade of his life, each chapter culminating in a key lesson about success. The book would highlight virtues like hard work, commitment, vision, determination, and one of his chief attributes: charisma. He grew up tough and knew how to fight, but he could also disarm you with his charm.

The book project was set aside as I instead returned to the company to serve two decades heading the advertising program I'd initiated several years earlier. It's been a privilege.

Over the course of a lifetime Al Amatuzio won many awards, both as a fighter pilot and an oil man. Though inducted into the Lubricant's World Hall of Fame in 1995, the honor he found most gratifying was the Nachtman Award, the highest honor in ILMA (the Independent Lubricant Manufacturers Association.) The award is given to individuals "who typify the vision, dedicated spirit and selflessness of the late Elliot Nachtman, who worked tirelessly for the benefit of ILMA and the industry."

Much more can be said about the man and his achievements. Read his story here.

You can also read my article on the history of synthetic lubricants (which was used as the basis for a segment on The History Channel) and see how Al's achievements fit into the larger picture of lubrication history.

Mr. Amatuzio... you will be missed.

* * * *

* I had been asked to produce an ad, to which I replied, "Does Al want an ad or does he want results? If he wants results we should do a campaign." To which Al replied in a memo, "How would you spend $10,000 a month." I did my homework, presented a proposal and received his sign off: "AJA"

No comments: