The Book of Business Etiquette Part 4

It is a common practice for a business man to give his personal card with "Introducing Mr. Mills" or "Introducing Mr. Mills of Howard and Powell Motor Co." written across it to a man whom he wishes to introduce to another. This enables him to get an interview. What he does with it rests entirely with him.

Sales letters are a highly specialized group given over, for the most part, to experts. Their most common fault is overstatement or patronizing. The advertisements inserted in trade papers and the letters sent out to the "trade" are often so condescendingly written that they infuriate the men to whom they are addressed. It is safer to assume that the man you are writing to is an intelligent human being. It is better to overestimate his mentality than to underestimate it, and it is better to "talk" to him in the letter than to "write" to him.

Sales letters are, as a rule, general, not personal, and yet the best ones have the personal touch. The letter is a silent salesman whose function is to anticipate the needs of its customers and offer to supply them. In this as in any other kind of salesmanship it is the spirit which counts for most, and the spirit of genuine helpfulness (mutual helpfulness) gives pulling power to almost any letter. The one which presents a special offer on special terms specially arranged for the benefit of the customer wins out almost every time, provided, of course, that the offer is worth presenting. There is no use in declaring that all of the benefit is to the subscriber. It would be very foolish if it were actually true. Once a man went into a haberdashery to buy a coat. The shop owner unctuously declared that he was not making a cent of profit, was selling it for less than it cost him, and so on and on. The man walked out. "I'll go somewhere where they have sense enough to make a profit," he said.

A sales letter should never be sent out to a large group of people without first having been tried out on a smaller one. In this way the letter can be tested and improvements made before the whole campaign is launched. The results in the small group are a pretty fair indication of what they will be in the large one, and a tremendous amount of time and money can be saved by studying the letter carefully to see where it has failed before sending it out to make an even bigger failure.

On the face of things it seems that an order letter would be an easy one to write, but the mail order houses have another story to tell. Order blanks should be used wherever possible. They have been carefully made and have blank spaces for the filling in of answers to the questions that are asked. In an order letter one should state exactly what he wants, how he wants it sent, and how he intends to pay for it. If the order consists of several items, each one should be listed separately. If they are ordered from a catalogue they should be identified with the catalogue description by mention of their names, their numbers and prices. One should state whether he is sending check, money, stamps, or money order, but he should not say "Enclosed please find."

The commonest form of letter of acknowledgment is sent in answer to an order letter. If there is to be the least delay in filling the order the letter acknowledging it should say so and should give the reason for it, but even when the order is filled promptly (if it is a large or a comparatively large one) the letter of acknowledgment should be sent. Then if anything goes wrong it is easier to trace than when the customer has no record except the copy of his order letter. The letter of acknowledgment should simply thank the customer and assure him of prompt and efficient service.

Complaints should be acknowledged immediately. If there is to be a delay while an investigation is made, the letter of acknowledgment should simply state the fact and beg indulgence until it is finished. Complaints should always receive careful and courteous attention. Most of them are justified, and even those that are not had something to begin on.

The letter of complaint should never be written hastily or angrily. It should go directly to the root of the trouble and should state as nearly as possible when and where and how it came about. One should be especially careful about placing the blame or charging to an individual what was really the fault of an unfortunate train of circumstances. The tone should never be sharp, no matter how just the complaint. "Please" goes further than "Now, see here."

Collection letters are hardest to write. They should appeal to a man's sense of honor first of all. It is a cheap (and ineffective) method to beg him to pay because you need the money, and rarely brings any reaction except rousing in his mind a contempt for you. The first letter in a series (and the series often includes as many as six or eight) should be simply a reminder. Drastic measures should not be taken until they are necessary, and at no time should the letters become abrupt or insulting. In the first place, it is ungentlemanly to write such letters, in the second it antagonizes the debtor, and if he gets angry enough he feels that it is hardly an obligation to pay the money; that it will "serve 'em right" if he does not do it.

Advertising is a sort of letter writing. Each advertisement is a letter set before the public or some part of the public in the hope that it will be answered by the right person. It enters into an over-crowded field and if it is to attract attention it must be vivid, unusual, and convincing. Increasingly--and there is cause to be thankful for this--exaggerated statements are being forced to disappear. In the first place the ballyhoo advertisers have shouted the public deaf. They no longer believe. In the second place advertisers themselves have waked to the menace of the irresponsible and dishonest people who are advertising and are taking legal measures to safeguard the honor of the profession.

One of the most successful advertisers of modern times was a man who carried the idea of service into everything he did. For a while he had charge of soliciting advertising for automobile trucks for a certain magazine. Instead of going at it blindly he made a careful study of the map of the United States and marked off the areas where automobile trucks were used, where they could be used, and where they should be used, and sent it to the manufacturers along with a statement of the circulation of the magazine and the advantages of reaching the public through it. The result was that the magazine got more advertising from the manufacturers than it could possibly handle. It is very gratifying to know that this man succeeded extraordinarily as an advertiser, for not once during his long career did he ever try to "put one over" on the public or on anybody else.

No advertisement should be impertinent or importunate. During the war there was a splendid poster bearing a picture of Uncle Sam looking straight into your eyes and pointing his finger straight into your face as he said, "Young man, your country needs you!" The poster was excellent from every point of view, but since the war, real estate companies, barber shops, restaurants and whatnot have used posters bearing the pictures of men pointing their fingers straight at you saying, "There is a home at Blankville for you," "Watch out to use Baker's Best," and "You're next!" After all, Uncle Sam is the only person who has a right to point his finger at you in any such manner and say, "I need you." And besides, there is the moral side of it. Imitation is the sincerest flattery, but the dividing line between it and dishonesty is not always clear. And the law cannot every time prosecute the offender, for there is a kind of cleverness that enables a man to pilfer the ideas of another and recast them just sufficiently to "get by." It would be very stupid for a man not to profit by the experience of other men, but there is a vast difference between intelligent adaptation of ideas and stealing them. This is more a question of morals than of manners, for the crime--and it is a crime--is usually deliberate, while most breaches of manners are unintentional and due to either carelessness or ignorance.

House memoranda are letters among the various people who are working there. They should be brief, above all things, and clear, but never at the sacrifice of courtesy. Titles should not be dropped and nicknames should not be used although initials may be. Memoranda should never be personal unless they are sent confidentially. An open memorandum should never contain anything that cannot be read by every one without reflecting unfavorably upon any one. And it is wise to keep in mind--no matter what you are writing--that the written record is permanent.



It has become a habit of late years for people to argue at great length about right and wrong, and what with complexes and psycho-analysis and what with this and that, they have almost come to the conclusion that there is no right and wrong. Man, so they have decided, is a frail and tender being completely at the mercy of the traits he has inherited from his ancestors and those he has acquired from his neighbors. What he does is simply the result of the combination of circumstances that have made him what he is. There is some truth in it, of course, but what there is is no bigger than a mustard seed, and all the volumes that have been written about it, all the sermons that have been preached upon it, and all the miles of space that have been devoted to it in the newspapers and magazines have not served to increase it. Most of us never give any one else credit for our achievements and there is no more reason for giving them blame for our failures. A gentleman is "lord of his own actions." He balances his own account, and whether there is a debit or a credit is a matter squarely up to him.

The pivot upon which all right-thinking conduct involving relations with other people turns is the Golden Rule, "Whatsoever ye would that men should do to you, do ye even so to them." It is to the moral what the sun is to the physical world, and just as we have never made full use of the heat and light which we derive from the sun but could not live without that which we do use, so we have never realized more than a small part of the possibilities of the Golden Rule, but at the same time could not get along together in the world without the meagre part of it that we do make use of. The principle is older than the Christian Era, older than the sequoias of California, older than the Pyramids, older than Chinese civilization. It is the most precious abstract truth that man has yet discovered. It contains the germ of all that has been said and written about human brotherhood and all that has been done toward making it an accomplished fact. And if to-morrow it were to vanish from the earth we should miss it almost, if not quite, as much as we should the sun if it were to go hurtling off into space so far away that we could neither see nor feel it. In the one case there would be no life at all on earth, in the other there would be none worth living.

The Golden Rule amounts to no more than putting yourself into another person's place. It is not always easy to do. Half of the people in the United States have very little idea of what the lives of the other half are like and have no special interest in knowing.

"What," we asked the manager of a bookshop which caters to a large high-grade clientele, "do you find your greatest trouble?"

"Lack of imagination on the part of our customers," he answered promptly, "a total inability to put themselves into our place, to realize that we have our lives to live just as they have theirs. If we haven't a book in stock they want to know why. If we don't drop everything to attend to them they want to know why. If anything goes wrong they want to know why, but they won't listen to explanations and won't accept them when they do. They simply can't see our side of it. And they make such unreasonable demands. Why, last year during the Christmas rush when the shop was fairly jammed to the door and we were all in a perfect frenzy trying to wait on them all, a man called up to know if his wife was here!"

It is not always easy to see life, or even a small section of life, from another person's point of view. A man very often thinks housework practically no work at all (the drudgery of it he has never realized because he has never had to do it) and a woman very often underestimates the wear and tear and strain of working in an office and getting a living out of it in competition with hundreds of other men. Marie Antoinette had no conception of what it meant when the French people cried for bread. It seemed impossible to her that a person could actually be hungry. "Why, give them cake!" she exclaimed. It may be pretty hard for a man who is making $10,000 a year to sympathize with the stenographer he hires for $600 or $700 a year, or for her to see his side of things. But it is not impossible.

Very few of us could honestly go as far as the novelist who recently advocated the motto: "My neighbor is perfect" or the governor who set aside a day for the people in his state to put it into practice. We happen to know that our neighbors are, like ourselves, astonishing compounds of vice and virtue in whom any number of improvements might be made. It is not necessary to think them perfect, only to remember that each one of us, each one of them, is entitled to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. In other words, that every man has a right to a square deal.

In the ancient world there were four cardinal virtues: justice, prudence, temperance, and discretion. In the modern world of business there are only two. Others may follow, but these two must come first. Justice, we mean, and kindness. No man was ever really a gentleman who was not just and kind, and we think it would be almost impossible for one who is, whatever his minor shortcomings may be, not to be a gentleman. Just to his employees (or to his employer), to his customers, to his friends, to himself, and this justice always tempered with kindness, the one quality giving the firmness necessary in dealing with people, the other the gentleness which is no less necessary.

In the first place, and this is one of the corner stones of justice, industrial life must be made safe for the worker. And it is a job in which he has as large a part as the man who hires him. Under present conditions one workman out of every eight is injured during the year and the accident is as often his fault as it is that of his employer. In some instances efficient safety devices are not provided, in others they are not made use of.

Special kinds of work, such as that in which the laborer is exposed to poisonous fumes, to sand blasts, dangerous chemicals or mineral dusts, need special protective devices and men with sense enough to use them. The employer cannot do his share unless the worker does his, and the worker is too quick to take a chance. The apprentice is usually cautious enough, but the old hand grows unwary. Ninety-nine times he thrusts his arm in among belts whirling at lightning speed and escapes, but the hundredth time the arm is caught and mangled. And there is nothing to blame but his own carelessness.


I am more powerful than the combined armies of the world.

I have destroyed more men than all the wars of the nations.

I am more deadly than bullets, and I have wrecked more homes than the mightiest of siege guns.

I steal, in the United States, alone, over $300,000,000 each year.

I spare no one, and I find my victims among the rich and poor alike, the young and old, the strong and weak. Widows and orphans know me.

I loom up to such proportions that I cast my shadow over every field of labor, from the turning of the grindstone to the moving of every railroad train.

I massacre thousands upon thousands of wage earners a year.

I lurk in unseen places and do most of my work silently. You are warned against me but you heed not.

I am relentless.

I am everywhere--in the house, on the streets, in the factory, at the railroad crossings, and on the sea.

I bring sickness, degradation and death, and yet few seek to avoid me.

I destroy, crush or maim; I give nothing but take all.

I am your worst enemy.


Any kind of carelessness which results in injury (or is likely to result in it), whether the injury is mental or physical, is criminal. No plea can justify building a theatre which cannot stand a snowstorm, a school which cannot give a maximum of safety to the children who are in it, a factory which does not provide comfortable working conditions for the people employed there, or allowing any unsafe building or part of a building to stand.

There is a factory (this story is true) which places the lives of the majority of its employees in jeopardy twice a day. There are two sets of elevators, one at the front of the building for the executives and their secretaries and visitors, one at the rear for the rank and file of the employees. Since there are several hundred of the latter the advantages of the division are too obvious to need discussion. We have no quarrel with it. But the apparatus upon which the elevators in the rear run is so old and so rotten and so rusty that there is constant danger of its breaking down. Three times already there have been serious accidents. The men who are hired to operate the cars rarely stay more than a week or so. Protests have been sent in but nothing has been done. The management knows what the conditions are but they have never stopped to realize the horror of it. It is not that they value a few dollars more than they do human life, but that they simply do not stop to think or to imagine what it would be like to have to ride in the ramshackle elevator themselves. In the offices of this factory there is an atmosphere of courtesy and good breeding far beyond the ordinary--in justice to the people there it must be said that they do not know the conditions in the rear, but the management does. And the management is polite in most of its dealings, both with its employees and outside, but polish laid over a cancerous growth like this is not courtesy.

There are three essentials for good work: good lighting (it must be remembered that a light that is too glaring is as bad as one that is too dim), fresh air (air that is hot and damp or dry and dusty is not fresh), and cleanliness (clean workrooms--and workers--clean drinking water with individual drinking cups, and in places where the work is unusually dirty, plenty of clean water for bathing purposes.) In the matter of salaries--economically one of the most important questions in the world--the employer should pay, not as little, but as much as he can afford. No man has a right to hire a girl (or a boy either) at less than a living wage and expect her to live on it. The pitiless publicity which was given the evil of hiring girls at starvation wages some years ago (in particular through the short stories of O. Henry, "the little shop-girl's knight" which, according to Colonel Roosevelt, suggested all the reforms which he undertook in behalf of the working girls of New York) did much in the way of reform, but there is much yet to be done.

Money has been called the root of all evil. It is not money, but greed. Greed and thoughtlessness. Sir James Barrie says stupidity and jealousy, but both these might be included under thoughtlessness. Men who are generous almost to a fault when a case of individual need is brought before them will hire girls at less than any one could exist on in decency. When they meet these same girls in the hall or when they come directly into contact with them in their work they may be polite enough, but their politeness is not worth a tinker's curse. Justice must come first. Only if the employer pays a fair day's wage can he expect a fair day's work. "Even then," he protests, "I can't get it." And this is, unfortunately, in large measure true. As Kipling said some few years ago, and it still holds, From forge and farm and mine and bench Deck, altar, outpost lone-- Mill, school, battalion, counter, trench, Rail, senate, sheepfold, throne-- Creation's cry goes up on high From age to cheated age: "Send us the men who do the work For which they draw the wage."

"I can't even get them here on time," the employer's wail continues. The employee may respond that the employer is not there, but this has nothing to do with it. Most people are paid to get to their work at a certain hour. They have a daily appointment with their business at a specified time. It is wise and honorable to keep it. Tardiness is a habit, and, like most others, considerably harder to break than to form, but punctuality also is a habit, not quite so easy to establish as tardiness because it is based on strength while the other is based on weakness. Most of us hate to get up in the morning, but it is good discipline for the soul, and we have the words of poets as well as of business men that Early to bed and early to rise Is the way to be healthy, wealthy, and wise.

Time is one of the most valuable of commodities. More people are discharged for coming in late than for any other reason, not excepting (we believe this no exaggeration) "lay-offs" during dull seasons. Slipping out before the regular time and soldiering on the job fall into the same classification with tardiness. Such practices the employee too often looks upon as a smart way of getting around authority, blithely ignoring the fact which has so many times been called to our attention: that what a man does to a job is not half so important as what the job does to him. The material loss which comes from it is the least of its harms.

All work and no play makes Jack a dull boy, but he is duller yet if he tries to mix them. Intense concentration during working hours followed by complete rest is the only way to make a contented workman, and it is the happy workman (just as it is the happy warrior), in spite of all that is said about divine discontent, who counts for most both to himself and to his community. There is a gladness about earnest eager work which is hard to find in anything else. "I know what pleasure is," declared Robert Louis Stevenson, "because I have done good work."

Gossiping, idling, smoking, writing personal letters during working hours (these usually on the firm's stationery), and a thousand and one other petty acts of dishonesty are ruinous, not so much to the house which tolerates them (because it cannot help itself) as to the person who commits them. Telephones are the cause of a good deal of disturbance during business hours in places where employees spend an appreciable amount of time on personal calls. In some organizations they are prohibited altogether; but in most they are allowed if not carried to excess. It is not business people who need education in this so much as their friends who have never been in business and seem unable to realize that personal calls are not only annoying, but time-killing and distracting.

Part of the unrest and unhappiness among employees is due to the fact that vast numbers of them are working not at what they want to do but at what they have to do, marking time until they can get something better. It is very commendable for a man to be constantly watching out to improve himself, but it does not in the meanwhile excuse him from doing his best at the job for which he is drawing pay. It is dishonest. It is unsportsmanlike. It is unmanly.

The question of salary is, from whatever angle it is approached, a delicate one. "My experience is," observed David Harum, "that most men's hearts is located ruther closter to their britchis pockets than they are to their vest pockets." It is a tender subject, and one that causes more trouble than almost any other in the world. Employees who are trusted with the payroll should not divulge figures and employees who are on the payroll should not discuss and compare salaries. Jones cannot understand why Brown gets more than he does when he knows that Brown's work is not so good, Brown cannot see why Smith gets as much as he does when he is out two or three days in the week, and Smith cannot see why he has not been made an executive after all the years he has worked in the place. There are many sides to the matter of salary adjustment and they all have to be taken into consideration. And the petty jealousies that employees arouse by matching salaries against one another only serve to make a complex problem more difficult.

There is only one base upon which a man should rest his plea for an increase in salary, and that is good work. The fact that he has a family dependent upon him, that he is ill or hard up may be ample reason for giving him financial help or offering him a loan, but it is no reason why his salary should be increased unless his work deserves it. Paternalism is more unfair than most systems of reward, and the man who comes whimpering with a tale of hard luck is usually (but not always) not worth coddling. Years of experience, even though they stretch out to three score and ten, are not in themselves sufficient argument for promotion. Sometimes the mere fact that a man has been content to stay in one place year after year shows that he has too little initiative to rise in that particular kind of work and is too timid to try something else.

Another big cause of trouble among men working in the same organization is rigid class distinction. When a man hires others to work for him he invites discontent; when he hires them to work with him there may be dissatisfaction, but the chances of it are lessened. A business well knit together is like any other group, an army or a football team, bound into a unit to achieve a result. At its best each person in it feels a responsibility toward each one of the others; each realizes that who a man is is not half so important as what he does, and that ... the game is more than the player of the game And the ship is more than the crew, or, as another poet with a Kiplingesque turn of mind and phrase has it, It is not the guns or armament Or the money they can pay. It's the close cooperation That makes them win the day. It is not the individual Or the army as a whole, But the everlastin' team work Of every blooming soul.

Each man is directly responsible to his immediate superior. He should never, unless the circumstances are unusual, go over his head and he should never do so without letting him know. It should be impossible, and is, in a well-organized house, for men coming from the outside to appeal over a member of a firm. Responsible men should be placed in the contact positions and their responsibility should be respected. Salesmen are warned not to bother with the little fellow but to go straight to the head of a firm. Like most general advice, it is dangerous to put into universal practice. The heads of most firms have men to take care of visitors, and in a good many instances, the salesman helps his cause by going to the proper subordinate in the first place. It is all very well to go to the head of a firm but to do it at the expense of the dignity of one of the smaller executives is doubtful business policy and doubtful ethics.

"Passing the buck" is a gentle vice practised in certain loosely hung together concerns. It is a strong temptation to shift the accountability for a mistake to the shoulders of the person on the step below, but it is to be remembered that temptations, like obstacles, are things to be overcome. The "buck," as has been pointed out, always passes down and not up, a fact which makes a detestable practice all the more odious. One of the first laws of knighthood was to defend the weak and to protect the poor and helpless; it still holds, though knighthood has passed out of existence; and the creature (he is not even good red herring) who blames some one else for a fault of his, or allows him to take the blame, is beneath contempt.

When a mistake has been made and the responsibility fixed on the right person the penalty may be inflicted. If it is a scolding or a "bawling out" it should be done quietly. Good managers do not shout their reprimands. They do not need to. The reproof for a fault is a matter between the offender and the "boss." No one else has any concern with it, and there is no reason why the instinct for gossip or the appetite for malicious reports on the part of the other employees should be satisfied. The world would be happier and business would be infinitely more harmonious if each person in it could realize that his chief aim in life should be to mind his own business or, at least, to let other people's alone.

Private secretaries and other people in more or less confidential positions are many times tempted to give away secret information, not so much for the benefit of the person to whom it is given as to show how much they themselves are trusted. Nearly every one who holds a responsible business position receives items of information which are best not repeated, and if common sense does not teach him what should be kept private and what should be told, nothing will. It should not be necessary for the superior to preface each of his remarks with, "Now, this must go no further."

Matters concerning salaries should always be confidential, and so should personal items such as health reports, character references, and so on, credit reports, blacklists, and other information of a similar nature. It is compiled for a definite purpose and for the use of a limited group of people. It is unethical to use it in any other way.

The reason for dismissing a person from a business organization should be kept private, especially if it is something that reflects unfavorably on his character. But the reason should always be given to the employee himself. He may not listen, and most of the men who have had experience in hiring and firing say that he will not, but that is his own responsibility. The employer has no right to let him go without letting him know why. And the employee should listen--it may not be his fault but he should check up honestly with himself and find out. The same thing that lost him this place may lose him another, and a good many times all that he can get out of being discharged is a purification of soul. It is a pity if he misses that.

Discharging a person is a serious matter, serious from both sides, and it is not a thing to be done lightly. Most houses try to obviate it in so far as possible by hiring only the kind of people they want to keep. "Our efforts toward efficiency" (we quote from one manager who is typical of thousands) "begin at the front door. We try to eliminate the unfit there. We do not employ any one who happens to come along. We try by means of an interview and references and psychological tests to get the very highest type of employee." No human test is perfect, however, and there are times, even in the best regulated houses, when it becomes necessary to dismiss persons who have shown themselves unfit.

It is not always a disgrace to be discharged and it is not always a step downward. It may be because of business depression or it may be because the man is a square peg in a round hole. Sometimes it is the only experience that will reduce a man's, especially a young man's, idea of his own importance to something like normal proportions, the only one that will clear his mind of the delusion that he is himself the only person who is keeping off the rocks the business for which he is working, in which case it is one of the best things that could have happened to him.

A roll call of famous or successful men who were fired would take up several reams of paper, and it is a pretty rash personnel manager (not to say brutal and unfair) who will throw a man out like a rotten potato and declare that he is absolutely no good. Besides, he does not know. All that he can be sure of is that the man was not qualified for the job he was holding. And he should think twice before giving a man a bad name even if he feels certain that he deserves it. At the same time he must protect himself and other business men from incompetent, weak, or vicious employees. If after his dismissal a man sends back to his former employer for a recommendation, the recommendation should be as favorable as possible without sacrificing the truth.

When a man breaks his connection with a business house, whether he does so voluntarily or involuntarily, his departure should be pleasant, or at the least dignified. It is childish to take advantage of the fact that you are going away to tell all of the people you have grudges against how you feel about them, and it is worse than a mere breach of good manners to abuse the house that has asked you to leave. If it has done some one else an injustice, talk about that all you please, but on your own account be silent. Even if the fault has been altogether with the house it does not help to call it names. Self-respect should come to the rescue here. This is the time when it is right to be too proud to fight.

For a long time it has been held bad ethics for the members of one trade or profession to speak disparagingly of their competitors, and we have grown accustomed to say that you can judge a man by the way he speaks of his rivals. This has limits, however, and in some instances a mistaken idea of loyalty to one's calling has led to the glossing over of certain evils which could have been cured much earlier if they had been made public. It is all very well to be generous and courteous toward one's competitors but the finest courtesy in any business consists of doing whatever tends to elevate the standard of that business.

Every man likes his business to be well thought of, and most businesses have organized for the promotion of a high standard of ethics as well as for the development of more efficient methods. Notable among these, to mention one of the most recent ones, is the Advertisers' Association. There was a time when the whole profession was menaced by the swindlers who were exploiting fraudulent schemes by means of advertising in magazines and newspapers, but to-day no reputable periodical will accept an advertisement without investigating its source and most of them will back up the guarantee of the advertiser that his goods are what he represents them to be with a guarantee of their own. No publication which intends to keep alive can afford a reputation of dishonesty, and the efforts of the publishers toward cleaning up have been seconded by the association to such an extent that any person or corporation that issues a deceptive advertisement, whether or not there was intent to deceive, will be prosecuted and punished.

There was a time when a man could do almost anything within the law in a commercial transaction and excuse himself by saying "business is business." Happily this is no longer true. Business men have not grown perfect but they have raised their standards of business morality as high as their standards of personal morality. They have learned that business and life are one, that our lives cannot--and this has a number of disadvantages--be separated into compartments like so many tightly corked bottles on a shelf. We have only one vessel and whatever goes into it colors what is already there. And it is significant to remember that muddy water poured into clean water will make it muddy, but that clean water poured into muddy water will not make it clean. It takes very little ink in a pail of milk to color the whole of it, but it takes an enormous amount of milk to have any effect on a bottle of ink.

Business men have also learned that the only way to build a business that will last is to lay its foundation on the Golden Rule, and many a man who might otherwise sidetrack the principles of integrity holds by them for this reason. "Honesty," declared one of the most insufferable prigs America ever produced, "is the best policy." He was right. Prigs usually are. It is only because they are so sure of it themselves that they irritate us.

It is a fact, in spite of the difficulty Diogenes had when he took up his lantern and set out to find an honest man, that most people like to pay their way as they go, and the business men who recognize this are the ones who come out on top. They do not say that the customer is always right nor that he is perfect, but they assume that he is honest and trust him until he has proved himself otherwise. The biggest mail order house in America never questions a check. As soon as an order is received they fill it and attend to the check afterward. Their percentage of loss is extraordinarily small. Distrust begets distrust, and the perversity of human nature is such that even an honest man will be tempted to cheat if he knows another suspects him of it. The converse is equally true. There are, of course, exceptions. But the only rule in the world to which there are no exceptions is that there is no rule that holds good under all conditions.




In the preceding pages we have looked over the field of etiquette in business in a general way, and have come to the only conclusion possible, namely, that the basis of courtesy in business is common sense, and that whatever rules may be given must not be followed slavishly, but must simply be used as guide posts. In the pages which follow we shall go into detail and watch courtesy at work among certain groups and individuals.

Let us take, for example, a big concern which employs a thousand or more people. We shall begin with the president.

President of a Big Organization. Here is a man who bears a heavy responsibility. He has not only his own welfare to look after but that of the men and women who work with (we like this word better than for) him. His first duty is to them. How can he best perform it?

It is a matter of fact that few men rise to such positions who are not innately courteous. It is one of the qualities which enable them to rise. For this reason we shall take it for granted that the president needs no instructions. Already he has learned the great value of courtesy. But this does not protect him always from discourtesy in other people.

Every man who holds a high position in a big organization is besieged with visitors, but no one so much as the president. He is a target for cranks and idlers and freaks as well as for earnest business men who want to help him or to get help from him. Thousands during the course of a year come to call on him. If he saw them all he would have to turn over the presidency to some one else and devote himself to entertaining visitors. Many of those who come ask for him when he is not at all the man they want to see, but they have been taught in the schools of salesmanship or they have read in a magazine that it never pays to bother with the little fellow, but that they should go straight to the top.

Every minute of the time of the president of a big company is valuable (all time is valuable, as far as that goes), and it must be protected from the people who have no right to infringe upon it.

You would think that the vice-presidents and the managers and the various executives would be his best protection. They are not. It is the person who is placed at the front door to receive visitors. We shall consider him next.

The Man at the Door. As a matter of fact, this person is usually a girl, many times a very young and irresponsible one, because great numbers of business men have not yet realized the importance of the position. A well-poised girl or a woman who has had wide experience in handling people can fill the place quite as efficiently as a man, and a great deal more so if the man has not been chosen because he has the quick sympathy and ready tact so necessary in taking care of the needs of a miscellaneous assortment of callers.

In the house we are observing the person at the door is a young man who began as a messenger boy, and who, because he did what he was asked to do cheerfully instead of sullenly, with a "Certainly, sir," and a smile instead of a "That's Bob's business" and a frown, was made manager of the messengers, and then first assistant of the man at the door, and later, when that man was given another position, was promoted to his place. The job commands a good salary and offers chances of promotion. The young man likes it.

A visitor comes, a young salesman, let us say, who has had little experience. This is only the second or third time he has tried to storm the doors of big business. He asks at once for the president. He does not give his card because the school where he learned his trade cautioned him against doing so. (He is perfectly correct, and he would have been equally correct if he had given it. The more formal style is to send in the card.) The man at the door sees at once what kind of man he has to deal with.

"The president is busy," he answers--a safe remark always, because if he is not he should be; "maybe I can do something for you."

The salesman explains that he has an attachment to increase efficiency of typewriters. He would like to show the president how it works.

"Oh, you don't want Mr. President," the host answers. "You want Mr. Jones. He attends to all such things for us. Will you be seated here in the reception room," motioning toward the door which is at one side of his desk, "while I find out if he is busy?"

This concern is very conservative about buying new attachments and new machinery of any kind, but it is ever on the alert to discover means of increasing its output and saving its manpower. Almost any new idea is worth a demonstration.

If the man at the desk has an intelligent messenger boy--and he should have--he sends him in to Mr. Jones. The boy finds Mr. Jones busy. He will be free in about fifteen minutes and then will be glad to see the salesman. The man reports to the visitor and asks if he cares to wait. He does. The host offers him a magazine and asks him to make himself comfortable while he goes back to his desk to attend to the next visitor.

This one also wants to see the president.

"The president is in conference just now," the young man replies. "Perhaps there is something I can do for you in the meanwhile if you will tell me what you want."

"It's none of your business," he answers rudely. "I want the president."

The chances are against a man of this sort. He may be a person the president wants to see, but the odds are ten to one that he is not.

"I'm sorry but you cannot possibly see him now. He is busy."

"When will he be free?"

"It is hard to tell. These conferences sometimes last an hour or two, and I am sure he will not see you even then unless you tell him why you want to see him. He is a very busy man."

Chapter end

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