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Paseka Lesolang

Entrepreneur and Christian

A Business man Father to Son: Letter No. 5

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A Business man Father to Son: Letter No. 5

Dear Young Money Readers

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. 5

PLOT: Letter from John Graham, head of the house of Graham & Co., at the Union Stock Yards in Chicago, to his son, Pierrepont Graham, at Lake Moosgatchemawamuc, in the Maine woods. Mr. Pierrepont has written to his father withdrawing his suggestion to go to Europe in celebration of completing his semester, to work for his father’s business instead.

July 7, 1890

Dear Pierrepont: Your fourth letter has the right insight, and it says more from the number of words used than any letter that I have ever received from you. I remember reading once that some fellows use language to conceal thought; but in my experience, many more people use language instead of thought.

A business man’s conversation should be regulated by fewer and simpler rules than any other function of the human animal. They are as follows:

1> IF you have something to say.
2> Say it.
3> Stop talking.

Beginning before you know what you want to say and keeping on after you have said it, lands a businessman with a lawsuit and on the statistics list of the poor, and the first is a short cut to the second. I maintain a legal department here, and it costs a lot of money, but it’s to keep me from going to court.

It’s all right when you are talking to a girl or talking with friends after dinner to run a conversation informally, taking your time like a Sunday-school excursion, with stops to pick flowers; but in the office your sentences should be the shortest distance possible between working periods. Cut out the introduction and elaboration, and stop before you get to you second point or statement. You’ve got to preach short sermons to catch sinners; and long sermons to make deacons believers. Give fools the first and women the last word. The meat’s always in the middle of the sandwich. Of course, a little butter on either side of it doesn’t do any harm if it’s intended for a man who likes butter – Different strokes for different folks.

Remember too, that it’s easier to look wise than to talk wisdom. Say less than the other fellow and listen more than you talk; for when a man is listening he is not exposing himself and he is flattering the fellow who is. Be a good listener to most men and take note of the finer details that women mention and they will tell you all they know. Listen to even the dull and the ignorant; they too have their story. Money talks, but not unless its owner has a loose tongue, and then its remarks is always offensive due to its arrogance. True success is never boastful. Poverty talks, too, but nobody wants to hear what it has to say.

I simply mention these things in passing because I’m afraid you’re more likely to be the ‘man’ who’s doing the talking, but also cautious that you do not end up as the many people who fall in line for their daily wage, hungry and inclined to kill your appetite by eating the cake in the centre of the table before the soup comes on; lacking etiquette and patience.

Of course, I’m glad to see you striving for what is right with enthusiasm; by coming on here and going to work before eating the cake. However, do not be fooled by your status as my son “The Heir”, you’re bound to find the waters of initiation pretty cold at first. I’ve seen many competent good young men come and go out of this office. The first week a lot of them go to work terrified of being fired; and the second week terrified that they won’t be fired. By the third week, a boy that’s no good has learned just how little work he can do and keep his job; while the boy who’s got the right stuff in him is holding down his own place with one hand and beginning to reach for the job just ahead of him with the other. I don’t mean that he’s neglecting his work; but he’s beginning to take notice, and that’s a mighty hopeful sign in either a young clerk or a young widow.

You’ve got to handle the first year of your business life the way you would a race horse. Warm up a little before going to the track, not enough to be in a sweat, but just enough to be loose and eager. Never start off at a pace or level that you can’t improve or maintain, but move along swiftly to the next level. Whip the horse enough halfway the racing course, not to hard that the whip breaks and the horse ends up with scars, but hard enough not to fall back into the ruck. At the third quarter you ought to be going fast enough to poke your nose out of the other fellow’s dust, and running like you are chased by a vicious beast. Keep your eyes to the front all the time, and you won’t be distracted by the petty things by the sides along the way. Head up, and steady upon your horse – that’s the way the winners look after finishing the race successfully. Such is living life with a vision and purpose. Your mission will be accomplished only if you FOCUS; Follow One Course Until Successful, unrelenting to the challenging circumstances that try to distract you off your course. And that’s the way I want to see you loyal to me at the end of the year, when we mention the successful candidates who are good enough to be promoted and pick out the salaries which need a little sweetening.

I’ve always taken good consideration in what you call “Blood-will-tell” if you’re a Methodist, or “Heredity” if you’re a Unitarian; and I don’t want you to come along at this late day of my life and disturb my religious beliefs. A man’s love for his children and his pride are pretty badly intertwined up in this world, and he can’t always pick them apart. I think highly of you and highly of your siblings in the family, and I want to see you get along well together. To do that you must start right. It’s just as necessary to make a good first impression in business as in courting. You’ll read a good deal about “love at first sight” in novels, and there may be something in it for all I know; but I’m dead certain there’s no such thing as love at first sight in business. A man has to keep company a long time getting to know his position, and come early and stay late and sit close, before he can get a girl or a job worth having. There is nothing that comes without desired initiative in this world, and after you’ve desired you generally have to go and fetch it yourself.

Our bright young men have discovered how to assess business situations in relation to the subsequent appropriate action and they don’t need any help from supervisors either. You can even sense the level of their progress if you’ve developed the ability to access the business activities; but none of the boys have been able to discover anything that will pass as a substitute for work, even in a boarding-house, though I’ll give some of them credit for having tried pretty hard.

I remember when I was selling goods for old Josh Jennings, back in the sixties, and had rounded up about a thousand in my bank savings, a mighty hard thousand, that came a dollar or so at a time, and every dollar with evidence of my self-gratification policy upon it, I associated with a dry-goods clerk named Charlie Chase. Charlie had a desire to be a rich man; but somehow he could never see any connection between that desire and his counter; being his lack of initiative to that regard, except that he would hint to me sometimes about a heiress who used to squander her father’s money shamefully for the sake of being his guardian and Charlie, by then, a minor. Thus, Charlie would constantly mention how he was entitled to be rich beyond the dry-goods business, as an heir to his father’s money and blamed the heiress for that delay, instead of viewing his situation as an opportunity to find his own way to riches as his father did.

Needless to say, he finally saw the connection. He was paid on Saturday, Tuesday night he stayed up late throughout the night at home and began to scheme. He’d commence at eight o’clock and start a magazine, maybe, and before midnight he’d be turning away subscribers because his presses couldn’t print a big enough edition. Or perhaps he wouldn’t feel literary that night, and so he’d invent a system for speculating in wheat and go on pyramiding his purchases till he’d made the best purchases that made the leading business’s purchases look insignificant. All he ever needed was a few hundreds for a starter, and to get that he decided to let me in on the ground floor. I want to say right here that whenever anyone offers to ‘let you in on the ground floor’ it’s a pretty safe rule to take the elevator to the roof garden. I never exactly refused to lend Charlie the capital he needed, but we generally compromised on half a dollar the next morning, when he was impatient to start the venture before his passion ran dry.

He dropped by the office the last week of the month, a little tired and discouraged, but with his passion intact. He told me he was President of the Klondike Exploring, Gold Prospecting and Immigration Company, with a capital of ten million. I guessed that he was the board of directors and the capital stock and the exploring and the prospecting and the immigrating too; everything in fact – a prestigious one-man show. Except the business card he presented to people; for Charlie always had a gift for advertising printers who trusted him. He then proposed that for the sake of old times he’d let me have a few thousand shares at fifty cents, though they would go to par in a year. In the end we compromised on a loan of ten dollars, and Charlie went away happy.

The world is full of individuals like Charlie, fellows who’d rather make a million a night in their heads than five dollars a day in cash. I have always found it cheaper to lend a man of that character a little money than to hire him. As a matter of fact, I have never known a fellow who was smart enough to think of ways that enrich the business and impoverishes himself. A man who tries that is usually a pretty poor thinker, and he isn’t much good to either; but if there’s any choice the business gets the worst of it.

I simply mention these little things in a general way. If you can take my word for some of them you are going to save yourself a whole lot of trouble. There are others which I don’t speak of because life is too short and because it seems to afford to give a person more satisfaction to pull the trigger for oneself, to see if it is loaded. Granting one a painful lesson, learnt first-hand with the virtue of never being forgotten.

You report to Milligan at the yards, eight sharp on the fifteenth. I suggest you be here on the fourteenth, because Milligan is a pretty touchy Irishman, and I may be able to give you a point or two that will help you remain on his mellow side. He is currently feeling a bit underestimated and uncomfortable accepting a new man in his department without his approval.

Your affectionate father,


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