Joel Myers launched AccuWeather in 1962 with one client and turned it into a weather-forecasting juggernaut with revenue of more than $100 million. Some of the world's largest companies are clients now, but it took him a decade to convince businesses that buying his forecasts was a worthwhile investment.
-- As told to Will Yakowicz
No one wanted to buy weather reports when I started the business 54 years ago, because they could get them free on the radio. The technology I had back then was just me. To be successful, I had to convince people of two things: that I could save them money by providing customized forecasts tailored to their business, and that I could provide forecasts that were more accurate than those of the government's National Weather Service.
To prove the value of a customized forecast, I would study a potential customer's business and industry carefully. I'd determine the impact the weather had on the customer--an impact the customer would never have known without me. For instance, I learned that people are more likely to buy a four-wheel-drive vehicle when it's snowing. So I'd go to dealerships and explain that if they had customized local forecasts, they could plan to take the sports cars or sedans off the lot and showcase their four-wheel-drive cars when the weather was going to be bad. I also pitched the dealers' insurance companies that I could reduce damages by issuing a warning before hailstorms or hurricanes so the cars could be moved inside.
To prove I could do it better than the government, I had to show exactly how a highly targeted forecast--which the government couldn't give--would save money. For the owners of a ski area in Pennsylvania, I predicted the best time to make artificial snow by tracking relative humidity, which no one was doing yet, and demonstrating that there could be three different weather conditions on a slope at the same time. The owner was still dubious, so I gave him a 30-day free trial--and he finally became a customer.
Still, the vast majority of companies didn't believe me. Starting in 1962, I called 25,000 businesses over the next 10 years. It took a decade before I had 100 paying customers. This meant I had heard potential clients say no 24,900 times. You can't imagine the rejection I felt. But slowly, I convinced people that an accurate weather forecast from Joel Myers could save their business money.
Today, our customers include Union Pacific Railroad, BNSF Railway, Live Nation, Samsung, and Ford, which has integrated our weather app into its vehicles. More than 1.5 billion people get our forecasts daily. But without complete belief in my ability to understand the living, breathing being that is weather, I would not have found the strength to be so persistent.