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Business - The Planner Versus The Plugger

( Originally Published 1912 )

People are divided into three classes. These divisions are not described in the books, nor authorized by the universities, but the practical business man realizes that they are true, nevertheless.


First: The hard thinker. Second: The hard worker. Third : Other people.

In this chapter we are not interested in the "others." We are interested only in the first and second divisions. There are only two types of business men which are worth considering—hard workers and hard thinkers.

These two types are distinctly and fundamentally different. One plugs first and thinks afterwards ; the other thinks first and then plugs. One lets his gray matter work hard straightening everything out and tell him just what to do before he does any-thing. The other plunges in and does it, and then afterwards lets his gray matter tell him how it might have been done better.

Seeing Future Conditions

These are not fantastical nor theoretical divisions; they are divisions that are made after long experience in a large way with business men. The modern enormous development, concentration and intensification of business has drawn into the limelight a far-reaching discovery. The business men who are at the helm guiding great affairs and making the biggest successes, are not the men who are handling details. They are the men who can think clearest and see farthest ahead. They are the men who determine how their business should be conducted to meet the conditions that will arise.

The Most Profitable Employee

Here is the president of a big company drawing a salary of one hundred thousand dollars a year. "How can any man actually earn that amount of money?" you say. As a matter of fact, that president may in reality be the most profitable employee which that company hires. He may save the company from the most costly mistakes, and lead it into the channels which will yield the largest dividends.

Too Close to Own Business

Most men are too close to their own business to be good judges of what ought to be done. They can-not see their business as others see it. They feel down deep in their hearts that they know their own problems, that they have put their best effort into them, that they have worked day and night to solve them. They feel that their own situation is peculiar that they know it better than anybody else could know it, that nobody from the outside could under-stand their peculiar situations.

Acquiring a New Perspective

Several years ago a business man in Chicago had pneumonia. He had worked so hard that his recovery was very slow. For a while it looked as if he would have to give up his business entirely and go to the mountains for a year. Day after day he made his way into the park and sat there in the bright sunshine, trying to breathe in new strength and regain his health. After a while he became strong enough to visit his business again. The business had not changed; it had been managed well; the receipts had not fallen off, neither had the prof-its, but it did not look the same to him.

He had been too close to a greater and more important thing than his business. As he looked around on his business, after his return, it looked small. So many things about it looked unnecessary and useless.

He went back to the sunshine and the open air and tried to readjust himself to the new situation. Then there came to him the thought that he had changed ; his vision had broadened and deepened ; he was now seeing his business as others on the outside might see it if they had his intimate knowledge of it.

New Idea of Own Business

The new idea of his own business was a tonic to him ; he gained strength rapidly, the inspiration of a new imagination filled his mind and his heart.

He soon went back to that business and took the reins. Not as he used to—he no longer had any de-sire to be the first one there in the morning and the last one away in the evening. His desire was to save himself, to build up his strength and keep his body in the best possible condition for helping his mind to think clearly.

Now Earns More Money

Every day for a while he went back to the park and sat in the sunshine, whenever there was sun-shine, and thought over the meaning of the difficulties and problems and successes of the day, and tried to extract from each success or failure a principle or a policy on which to base future actions. The end of the story is obvious—that man is a free man; he earns more money for himself ; he earns more money for his business; he earns more money for his employees than he ever did before. His employees have more faith in him, his credit is higher in the business world because he has made a reputation as a shrewd man with a sound judgment and a keen insight into the business future.

He does not "work" one-half as hard as he did before (since, as some say, thinking is not work). He enjoys himself ten times more than he did. He travels; he mingles with other business men of all kinds ; he is interested in affairs ; be is looked upon by his fellow business men as a big, broad, successful man "with a future."

A Terrible Calamity

A retail dealer in New England had a terrible calamity befall him. He had started his career as a $7.00 a week clerk in a retail store. He was a hard worker and a capable salesman; his salary grew, and he was saving. Finally, he made a break and went into business for himself. He worked very hard. He was so anxious to succeed that some even thought that he was "sharp" in some of his practices. He made a success ; that success, so some thought, puffed him up, just as some retailers will get puffed up because they have done a little better than other retailers in their locality.

Then one day his wife, while at home, upset a lamp; her dress caught fire, and she was horribly burned. For four months this man left his business and stayed by his wife night and day, trying to save her. It was of no avail. After she died, somehow, a great deal of "heart" that he had put in his business before had gone out of him.

Four Hours a Day

He used to go down to the store every morning, but by noon he could not bear it any longer, and would go away—to the country club, or a ball game, or driving, or fishing, or to call on a friend, or to a theatre, or off for a long walk. Sometimes he would get on a train and visit some nearby town and call on the stores that traveling men had said were successful. He would study the way they conducted business.

The result of such a course was to give him a broader, surer grasp of his own business. It was not many weeks before the fact dawned on him with a power that changed his whole way of thinking. He saw that he was worth more to his business if he stayed in the store from eight to twelve in the morning, than if he stayed there from eight in the morning until seven in the evening, because he then had six to eight hours for planning.

The Power of Planning

Then he said to himself : "If this is so, why should I not have two stores? If I can make more money on my own store by spending only four hours a day in it, and the rest of the time in getting my mind clear, and in learning how stores like mine are run successfully, then why can I not just as easily run two, three or five, or as many stores as I like?"

So this man took on a second store. How many he will have eventually, nobody knows. There is a little woman in Ohio, who started on the same road, and now has ten successful stores.

Most men have more in them than they think. There is no limit to the number of stores or the size of a business that a man can manage successfully, providing he gets the right viewpoint, and mentally sees his business as he ought to see it.

Blocks Own Success

There is a manufacturer who blocks the door to his own success. So long as his business was kept down to $1,000,000.00 he was all right. It was still a "one-man" business ; he dominated it. No announcement of the company could go out without his personal supervision of the wording of that announcement. No new design in the machine shop could be made without his personal investigation and O. K. Nothing about the company could be put into operation until he had the time to pass on it.

Any business man with an open mind and with experience knows that a business run in that way is so terribly handicapped that it cannot be a great success.

Best Thought of Everybody

This is an age of committees, and conferences, and boards of directors. The best thought of everybody is the business slogan of the day. "It matters not whether it is the office boy, the foreman of the shop, the wagon driver, the bookkeeper, a stenographer, the casual remark of a customer, the profound thought of the president, or a retort of the treasurer, if in any way it is valuable to the company, use it for all it is worth." This is what every wide-awake, progressive, growing business man is saying.

Cutting Own Nose Off

Not long ago a business man, who has made some-what of a success, sent his advertising manager out on the road for a month's trip, to see if he could find out why his goods were not selling better. The advertising manager came back with his eyes wide open to the feeling of the retail trade towards this man's goods. He had learned from the retailer why the public did not buy these goods in larger quantities. He knew; he was no longer puzzled as to why the goods did not sell; his mind was clear. He came back feeling that at last he could be of great service to his employer.

He went to his employer, and told him in his most enthusiastic and emphatic way what he had learned, and what must be done to let the business grow the way it deserved to grow. The manufacturer listened, said nothing. The next morning he let the advertising manager go.

A few days afterwards, while talking with an acquaintance, he wagged his head from side to side, and said: "I don't like to have anybody working around me who doesn't believe as I do."

Fool, Fool, Fool! Think of the narrow-minded, self-deluded, pitiful business brain that would deliberately discharge an employee who was putting his whole heart into an effort to help that man make a bigger success ! There is no large commercial future for such a self-centred, complacent individual.

His Own Worst Enemy

What a pitiful spectacle it is to see a man who really wants his business to succeed, but who deliberately prevents it from succeeding. Puzzled? Of course he is puzzled. He is bewildered. He cannot see that he is his own worst enemy. Both his business eyes are blinded. He would resent with the fiercest intensity any thought that he, and practically he alone, is the cause of his business remaining small.

This man is not an exception. His health is too poor; his mind is too narrow; he lets personal, individual sentiment, personal feeling and, jealousy, pride, hatred and revenge enter into his business calculations. These things are only said because they are true, and may be a lotion on the eyes of some business man which will bring real insight into the causes of his own non-progress.

Not Growing—Then Dying

If any business is not growing, it is dying. No business can stand still. It may appear to stand still and hold its own, but back of appearances the elements of decay are at work.

This is why successful business men so carefully compare every month's sales with the corresponding month of the previous year, and of every former year. It is why they pay so much attention to their annual volume of business, and annual profits, compared with the same items for previous years. They know that unless there is a healthy increase, there will be an inevitable unhealthy decrease. The first step of eventual failure is the absence of increase.

The business man who has been a hard worker, a plugger, and whose business is not progressing as it ought to, should not work harder.

Get Away and See Straight

He should take himself away from his business, not for the benefit of his health, although his health will improve; not for his pleasure, although he will have a great deal of pleasure ; not for sentiment, nor for a mere theory, but in order that he may be more valuable to his business, and make it a bigger success.

In taking himself away from his business temporarily, he should act on a definite, pre-arranged plan, somewhat as follows:

Question All Present Policies

First, he should, so far as possible, rid himself of all of his old notions about his business. He should put a question-mark after every policy which he has stuck to firmly as a good policy. He should set down in writing just what he has been doing in each department of his business. Do not try to write an essay. Just say on a rough piece of paper how each part of your business is handled ; describe the routine of what you have been doing. When you have gotten through, fold the paper up and put it in your pocket.

Take a Short Rest

Second: Take a couple of days of real pleasure to relax your mind and rest your body.

Visit Other Stores

Third : Take two weeks for travel, to visit other stores, if you are a retailer, or get acquainted with other people who are doing business like yourself. Or, go out and talk with customers of your own and of your competitors, and find out how those customers feel towards you and your competitors, and why they feel as they do.

Ask Questions

Fourth : Visit other kinds of business, just as a spectator, or as an interested inquirer. Ask questions. Do not try to remember all of the questions or answers. Have a little pad in your pocket, and jot down what you hear and see.

Think it all Over

Fifth : Then spend about a week thinking it all over. Do not try to think hard, just let it "come to you."

Take an Outsider's Viewpoint

Sixth : Now, go back to your business and look at it—not as your own business, but as an outsider. SEE—not just with your eyes, but with your mind, with your experience, with your judgment, with your imagination, with your future—see your business as a whole. Do not try to look at the little details, of how Tommy ties a bundle, or how Mamie spells a word, or how Jim washes the floor. Look at the business as an investment, as an enterprise.

Requires Less Than a Month

All this does not mean the great expenditure of time that you may think. Three and a half weeks, or less than a month, should suffice to carry out this plan in its entirety. Then when you do it, you will see how handicapping the mere planless plugging habit is for anybody at the head of a business, little or big. You will see how absolutely essential to growth and success is the habit of thinking in advance clearly and absolutely without prejudice, or fear, or preconceived notions, and then—in accordance with what you have thought out—organizing to put these plans into the most successful operation.

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