May 2, 2011
Al Amatuzio reflects on success
By Candace Renalls
Al Amatuzio, founder and chief of Amsoil Inc.,
received the prestigious
Business Person of the Year Award nearly two weeks ago during the
Labovitz Entrepreneurial Success Awards in Duluth.
The awards have been handed out each year since
1971 to a local business
leader who has demonstrated outstanding ethics, integrity and effective
business practices that have made a positive impact on the local
Amatuzio, 86, is the latest recipient in an impressive
list of winners going back to 1971 that include George Goldfarb,
Jeno Paulucci, Manley Goldfine, Jack LaVoy and Robert S. Mars Jr.
Amatuzio remains at the helm as president and
CEO of the company he started in 1972 after serving 25 years in
the Air Guard.
And it all started with what others called a “crazy
As a military jet fighter pilot, Amatuzio saw
first-hand how well jet engines performed with synthetic oil.
“Every jet airplane uses synthetic oil;
that’s where I got the idea,” he told the hundreds of
people gathered at the Duluth Entertainment Convention Center for
the awards ceremony.
He thought: Why not use synthetic oil in automobiles?
That led to the creation of what is said to be
the world’s first synthetic motor oil approved for automotive
use and the start of a company that’s grown to have about
275 employees and distribution centers around the world.
Despite the company’s growth and success,
the Duluth native has kept the company based in Superior. Amatuzio’s
Business Person of the Year award follows on the heels of his company’s
contribution of $6 million over 20 years to the DECC’s new
arena for naming rights.
To learn more about Amatuzio’s approach
to business and success, we asked
him some questions.
Q: How does one go from being a military jet pilot
to starting a corporation?
A: I began experimenting with synthetic motor
oil several years before I retired as a jet fighter pilot. And although
I absolutely loved flying, I knew my idea was a good one. When I
determined it was time for me to move on from myflying career, I
became totally committed to building the company.
Q: Where did you get the know-how and drive to
A: I have never claimed to be the smartest guy
in the world, but I have a lot of common sense and have always been
Q: Do you come from a family of business people?
A: No, not really. Growing up on Raleigh Street
was predominately blue-collar. But I always had a sense for business.
As a kid I had a paper route, sold magazines,
collected scrap iron and did whatever I could do to earn a buck.
Q: You had a “crazy idea” that paid
off. What do you think about crazy ideas in general?
A: A lot of crazy ideas turn out to be not so
crazy after all. If a person truly believes in an idea, don’t
Q: What does it take to succeed in business?
A: There is no secret. It takes a burning desire.
You need the commitment and willingness to give it your all. And
a smart business person surrounds him or herself with smart people.
Q: What do you see as your greatest career accomplishment?
A:When I introduced my synthetic motor oil, the
lubricant industry wanted
nothing to do with me. They wouldn’t acknowledge a superior
product. Now look
at them, they all manufacture synthetic oils.
Q: Have recessions affected your business? How
A: We are affected by cost increases just like
all businesses, but we have been fortunate. We have continued to
grow. With the tight economy, people want
their vehicles and equipment to last longer, and they are drawn
because our products can help them do that.
Q: What principles or philosophy have guided you
in your work and life?
A: Be honest. My father always told me to tell
the truth because you can always repeat the truth. When you lie,
you will never remember your lies. I’ve
always been truthful.
Q:Of what are you most proud?
A: I guess I am most proud of building a company
that provides jobs for so many fantastic employees. Employees tell
me all the time how much they appreciate their jobs at Amsoil, and
I take great satisfaction in that.
Q: What advice would you give someone starting
out in business?
A: If you truly believe in what you are doing,
don’t let anyone tell you it can’t be done.
Q: How do you want to be remembered?
A: As a hard worker, a good friend and someone
who treated people fairly.
Q: What did the naming rights to Amsoil Arena
mean to you?
A: I have had many opportunities throughout the
years to relocate the company, but I’ve remained committed
to the community. Securing the naming rights to the Amsoil Arena
is a testament to that commitment.