It is noted that we are entrepreneurs of various economic sectors, genres and progress levels. Giving an economic report etc. might not be the best of reading to some, as one can do so from a Business Day, Mail & Guardian and other reputable publications of one’s desire. Thus, I try to publish content that can accommodate everyone, consistently relevant, some clichéd, but as you would note; what I like and I love wisdom!
I have encountered a series of Letters from A Self-Made Merchant To His Son who just started varsity and I was intrigued by the wisdom of the old man that he parted unto him. If I may, I would like to retype them, minimized and slightly modernised. They date as far back as 1902, some of the mataphors used are not heard of and the letters are generally long, because they did not have instant commication means as we do…
Trusting that you will note that the more things change the more they stay the same. So, whatever you are going through as an entrepreneur, you are not the first and won’t be the last, so hang in there! All the business people you aspire to, have been through that route, some might be similar not nessesarrily the same. If they could make it so can you.
Often people wonder what the rich teach their kids, here are some direct lessons!
- ·Another initiative of Consciousness to make history relevant and interesting.
A Business man Father to Son: Letter No. 2
PLOT: Letter from John Graham, at the Union Stock
Yards in Chicago, to his son, Pierrepont, at Harvard University. Mr. Pierrepont’s expense account has just passed under his father’s eye, and has furnished him with a text for some plain particularities
CHICAGO, May 4, 1890
Dear Pierrepont: The cashier has just handed me your expense account for the month, and it fairly makes a fellow hump-shouldered to look it over. When I told you that I wished you to get a liberal education, I didn’t mean that I wanted to buy Cambridge. Of course the bills won’t break me, but they will break you unless you are very, very careful.
I have noticed for the last two years that your accounts have been growing heavier every month, but I haven’t seen any signs of your taking honours to justify the increased operating expenses; and that is bad business.
I haven’t said anything about this before, as I trusted a good deal to your native common-sense to keep you from making a fool of yourself in the way that some of these young fellows who haven’t had to work for it do. But because I have sat tight, I don’t want you to get it into your head that the old man’s rich, and that he can stand it, because he won’t stand it after you leave college. The sooner you adjust your spending to what your earning capacity will be, the easier they will find it to live together.
The only sure way that a man can get rich quick is to have it given to him or to inherit it. You are not going to get rich that way–at least, not until after you have proved your ability to hold a pretty important position with the firm; and, of course, there is just one place from which a man can start for that position with Graham & Co. It doesn’t make any difference whether he is the son of the old man or of the cellar boss–that place is the bottom. And the bottom in the office end of this business is a seat at the mailing-desk, with eight dollars every Saturday night.
I can’t hand out any ready-made success to you. It would do you no good, and it would do the house harm. There is plenty of room at the top here, but there is no elevator in the building. Starting, as you do, with a good education, you should be able to climb quicker than the fellow who hasn’t got it; but there’s going to be a time when you begin at the factory when you won’t be able to lick stamps so fast as the other boys at the desk. Yet the man who hasn’t licked stamps isn’t fit to write letters. Naturally, that is the time when knowing whether the pie comes before the ice-cream, and how to run an auto-mobile isn’t going to be of any real use to you.
I simply mention these things because I am afraid your ideas as to the basis on which you are coming with the house have swelled up a little in the East. I can give you a start, but after that you will have to dynamite your way to the front by yourself. It is all with the man. If you gave some fellows a talent wrapped in a napkin to start with in business, they would swap the talent for a gold brick and lose the napkin; and there are others that you could start out with just a napkin, who would set up with it in the dry-goods business in a small way, and then coax the other fellow’s talent into it.
I have pride enough to believe that you have the right sort of stuff in you, but I want to see some of it come out. You will never make a good merchant of yourself by reversing the order in which the Lord decreed that we should proceed–learning the spending before the earning end of business. Pay day is always a month off for the spend-thrift, and he is never able to realize more than sixty cents on any dollar that comes to him. But a dollar is worth one hundred and six cents to a good business man, and he never spends the dollar. It’s the man who keeps saving up and expenses down that buys an interest in the concern. That is where you are going to find yourself weak if your expense accounts don’t lie; and they generally don’t lie in that particular way, though Baron Münchhausen was the first travelling man, and my drummers’ bills still show his influence.
I know that when a lot of young men get off by themselves, some of them think that recklessness with money brands them as good fellows, and that carefulness is meanness. That is the one end of a college education which is pure cussedness; and that is the one thing which makes nine business men out of ten hesitate to send their boys off to school. But on the other hand, that is the spot where a young man has the chance to show that he is not a light-weight. I know that a good many people say I am a pretty close proposition; that I make every hog which goes through my packing-house give up more lard than the Lord gave him gross weight; that I have improved on Nature to the extent of getting four hams out of an animal which began life with two; but you have lived with me long enough to know that my hand is usually in my pocket at the right time.
Now I want to say right here that the meanest man alive is the one who is generous with money that he has not had to sweat for, and that the boy who is a good fellow at some one else’s expense would not work up into first-class fertilizer. That same ambition to be known as a good fellow has crowded my office with second-rate clerks, and they always will be second-rate clerks. If you have it, hold it down until you have worked for a year. Then, if your ambition runs to hunching up all week over a desk, to earn eight dollars to blow on a few rounds of drinks for the boys on Saturday night, there is no objection to your gratifying it; for I will know that the Lord didn’t intend you to be your own boss.
[Illustration: “I have seen hundreds of boys go to Europe who didn’t bring back a great deal except a few trunks of badly fitting clothes.“]
You know how I began–I was started off with a kick, but that proved a kick up, and in the end every one since has lifted me a little bit higher. I got two dollars a week, and slept under the counter, and you can bet I knew just how many pennies there were in each of those dollars, and how hard the floor was. That is what you have got to learn.
I remember when I was on the Lakes, our schooner was passing out through the draw at Buffalo when I saw little Bill Riggs, the butcher, standing up above me on the end of the bridge with a big roast of beef in his basket. They were a little short in the galley on that trip, so I called up to Bill and he threw the roast down to me. I asked him how much, and he yelled back, “about a dollar.” That was mighty good beef, and when we struck Buffalo again on the return trip, I thought I would like a little more of it. So I went up to Bill’s shop and asked him for a piece of the same. But this time he gave me a little roast, not near so big as the other, and it was pretty tough and stringy. But when I asked him how much, he answered “about a dollar.” He simply didn’t have any sense of values, and that’s the business man’s sixth sense. Bill has always been a big, healthy, hard-working man, but to-day he is very, very poor.
The Bills ain’t all in the butcher business. I’ve got some of them right now in my office, but they will never climb over the railing that separates the clerks from the executives. Yet if they would put in half the time thinking for the house that they give up to hatching out reasons why they ought to be allowed to overdraw their salary accounts, I couldn’t keep them out of our private offices with a pole-axe, and I wouldn’t want to; for they could double their salaries and my profits in a year. But I always lay it down as a safe proposition that the fellow who has to break open the baby’s bank toward the last of the week for car-fare isn’t going to be any Russell Sage when it comes to trading with the old man’s money. He’d punch my bank account as full of holes as a carload of wild Texans would a fool stock-man that they’d got in a corner.
Now I know you’ll say that I don’t understand how it is; that you’ve got to do as the other fellows do; and that things have changed since I was a boy. There’s nothing in it. Adam invented all the different ways in which a young man can make a fool of himself, and the college yell at the end of them is just a frill that doesn’t change essentials. The boy who does anything just because the other fellows do it is apt to scratch a poor man’s back all his life. He’s the chap that’s buying wheat at ninety-seven cents the day before the market breaks. They call
him “the country” in the market reports, but the city’s full of him. It’s the fellow who has the spunk to think and act for himself, who buys for less in bulk and sells for high profits while there is a demand and insufficient supply, that sits in the directors’ meetings in his thirties.
We’ve got an old steer out at the packing-house that stands around at the foot of the runway leading up to the killing pens, looking for all the world like one of the village fathers sitting on the cracker box before the grocery–sort of sad-eyed, dreamy old cuss–always has two or three straws sticking out of the corner of his mouth. You never saw a steer that looked as if he took less interest in things. But by and by the crew of boys tend to be influenced by him, and then you’ll see Old Abe move off up that runway, sort of leading the crew after him with that arrogant inflated ego, as if there was something mighty interesting to lead the naïve crew astray, yet his attire is dusty and outdated more then the crew he is leading, he ought to have a look in the mirror and put a metropolitan finish on himself. The crew just naturally follow him along on up that runway and into mischief. But just as they get to acting the scene he commands that crew to proof there manhood by partaking in the given activity. Old Abe, then somehow disappears, gets lost in the crowd, and he isn’t among the crew when he has lead them into trouble, and such are “friends”.
I never saw a dozen boys together that there wasn’t an Old Abe among them. If you find your crew following him, keep away from it. There are times when it’s safest to be lonesome. Use a little common-sense, caution and conscience. You can stock a store with those three commodities, when you get enough of them. But you’ve got to begin getting them young. They ain’t catching after you toughen up a bit.
You needn’t write me if you feel yourself getting them. The symptoms will show in your expense account. Good-by; life’s too short to write letters and New York’s calling me on the wire.
Your affectionate father, JOHN GRAHAM.