The Business Man
( Originally Published 1912 )
THE life of modern business is in-spired largely by interchange of ideas and opinions. The heads of many houses meet daily in close conference to determine questions of business policy and to discuss important problems. At such meetings it is the man with ideas, one who can formulate his arguments clearly and effectively, who wins.
The average business man has occasion daily to use his powers of argumentation. Perhaps the price of goods has been advanced; forthwith the customer must be given good and sufficient reasons. Or a letter of complaint from out-of-town re-quires that a representative be sent immediately to satisfy the disgruntled correspondent. In numerous ways a business man must be ready to meet daily emergencies, all more or less demanding the gift of persuasion.
Misunderstanding in business, due to lack of clearness of ideas or of expression, is a prolific cause of litigation. It may be that a man does not know how to say precisely what he means, or at the moment does not really know what he means. As a result he becomes entangled in a tedious and expensive lawsuit. The records of courts show that in thousands of cases a little more clear and careful reasoning would have obviated trouble.
The value of silence in the business man is often quite as important as correct and forceful speech. A talkative man may easily say too much, and in an unguarded moment betray to watchful competitors the most vital secrets of his business. Many customers dislike much talking, and prefer to do their business quietly and in their own way. It is just here that a man must use tact and discretion. To say too little may as readily give offense as to say too much.
There are times when one of the strongest arguments that can be offered is a firm but pleasant "yes," or "no." Many men, however, lack the faculty of positive assertion. They make up their minds to say "no," but for lack of proper reasons to back up their decision, they capitulate at the first appearance of formidable argument.
To be able to argue successfully in business, a man must not only have the facts but the ability to put them together. At the head of a large commercial business in New York is a young lawyer who, through long training under the most able men of his profession, has developed a mind of rare logical acuteness. Why was he selected for this important trust? Be-cause he is a man with a trained mind. He can take a business matter of any description, reduce it to its smallest ele ments, and present it in the clearest and most forceful manner to his associates. He is paid for his brains. So great is his ability that he can on short notice argue either side of a case with equal success. His logical and argumentative powers place him in immediate control of any matter under discussion, and he has not the slightest difficulty in convincing others of the correctness of his opinions. In short, he has the gift of presentation.
Next to having the facts of his business, a man should possess a full degree of earnestness by which he can enforce his points and make others believe as he does. A half-hearted manner in speech is almost surely fatal. Earnestness can best be developed through belief in one's self and the power of self-excitation. The mind is first stored with reasons that are unassailable ; then the speaker charges himself with a strong feeling that he is right, that there is no other way to bring about the desired end, that it means much to him and his associates, and furthermore that he will drive home these reasons with all the power of his being, that he will compel others to his way of thinking, that he will positively win. Such thoughts repeated to himself will generate a full sup-ply of self-excitation, and at the proper time he impresses his opinions and beliefs upon others by sheer force of personality.
The business man should cultivate agreeable manners. This insures at least a good hearing, and often a favorable one. He can be pleasant without being weak. Opposition and contrary opinions should be met patiently and generously. He may even yield minor points to win the larger aspects of his case. Such a man will sometimes win with comparatively weak arguments as against a pugnacious and disagreeable man who fails properly to use strong ones.
There is an expert connected with a certain house who lacks the power of statement. When asked his opinion on a subject, one side looks quite as good to him as the other. He can not bring him-self to take a positive attitude. Another fault of his is that he never has his facts ready. He must look them up, or he will tell you tomorrow. The result is that, altho lie has expert knowledge of his business, for lack of clear statement he carries no weight with other men.
Sincerity is an essential part of successful business argumentation. It is akin to earnestness and one may be said to complement the other. When a man is sincere, when he has diligently studied out his subject in all its details, when he believes in his mind and heart that he is right, he becomes a formidable opponent in almost any kind of argument. Sincerity based upon facts is not readily dislodged. If facts are stubborn things, they are particularly so when exprest by a man who is at once earnest, agreeable, positive, and sincere.
The president of one of the largest manufacturing concerns in this country, with headquarters in New York, spends almost every day of his business life in conference with the heads of different departments. Possibly a strike has taken place at one of their factories, and he calls in some of his most trusted men. They must devise means of settling the difficulty, and they proceed to discuss the question whether they will accede to the demands of the strikers or fight them. On such an occasion it is men who can present their reasons lucidly and convincingly that stand highest with the company.
Or possibly a question of competition arises.. How is it to be met? Certain, men are called in, who are expected to present good ideas and arguments. If they can the president is satisfied ; if they can not he sends for other men. He wants the man who can argue well. The head of a business house once sent a man out of the conference because he could not present his ideas clearly. He was in the way. A befuddled brain is a hindrance on such an important occasion.
A company thinks of erecting a new building somewhere, and immediately there is a call for the best men to talk it over. The president wants to know their opinion of the location, whether it should be on a railroad convenient for easy shipments, or in the center of the town for local delivery. Maps are called for and the merits of various locations are discust. Here, again, the man of clear-cut, logical mind, who can seize instantly upon all the points of a situation and present them forcefully, wins the day. It would astonish an outsider to know in what detail such a matter is discust. How high should the building be? What space should be allotted to each department? When should it be built? A hundred vital questions must be answered.
Next the president of the company calls in the heads of the traffic department. He wants to know the rate to Texas or to some other point. The men must have the answers at their tongue's end. Rates are perhaps too high, and one of the men must go to the railroad and by force of argument induce it to lower its rates.
Again, the managers of the different factories are called in from all parts of the country and closely interrogated. Why are the shipments being delayed, and what is the cause of so many complaints? These and numerous other questions must be answered in a careful, diplomatic and convincing manner ; otherwise the services of such men will be no longer required.
In every big house are hundreds of sales agents, whose duty it is to employ good salesmen and to bring them together every day for an earnest talk about ways and means. They must secure capable men and inspire them with enthusiasm for their work. Usually these sales agents have a regular meeting-room, where they talk to their salesmen about the goods and the best methods of salesmenship. They endeavor to inspire their men to greater effort.
In every business, great and small, there is constant need for argument in some form or other. To succeed in these days of keen competition, the heads of a business house must be men of large reasoning powers, with ability for clear, logical, accurate statement, and possessing the gift of forceful speech. These qualities can be cultivated through conscientious study. The various suggestions offered throughout this book apply equally to the business man. He should set his mind in order, learn the precise and accurate use of words, study the syllogism, strengthen his mental forces by wide and profound reading, and develop by daily practise his varied powers of expression. Voice, face, manner, and personality must be made his obedient servants, by which he can impress his thoughts and beliefs upon others with convincing power.