Good-will and Friendship
BUSINESS is built on confidence—the faith men have in one another. This faith is usually the result of the long-established integrity of the firm or one or more men associated with it. In the formation of new companies, the rule is to place in office and prominence those men whose “reputation” has been won for ability and honesty. “Bright young men” may carry the burden, but the name belongs to maturity and experience. One of the greatest assets of age is the standardization of capacity and also of friendship. In government and politics as a rule we find only the older men because they alone have built up the necessary associations, friendship, and established credits of personality.
In recent times we have seen a great deal of recapitalization of old firms going on, firms who have been manufacturing high-class products through the past fifty years or more. These firms have not only built up physical assets, in land, plants, goods, and so on, but they have great intangible assets, or what is termed good-will. The public believes in them. The name carries reliability. These assets cannot be spread on the books of the company, but they are paid for nevertheless. Scheming capitalists often buy an old
company for the purpose of exploiting the name or goodwill of the firm. They reorganize, recapitalize, and sell up to fifty million dollars or more above the purchase price. The public invests on the “reputation” and integrity of the old firm, not knowing that the new one hasn’t any. The profits of the concern must now be spread over the fifty millions of “watered stock” as well as the original twenty-five, so that the returns or dividends are only a fraction of what they were.
This illustrates the selling value of good-will, and while it carries with it a sacred responsibility so that no recapitalization should be allowed to take place except in the interests of an expanding concern, still we must see that the “good-will” is a commercial asset.
The art of creating good-will toward the firm by which one is employed and friendship toward oneself is one of the finest qualities of business and personal life. It carries its reward with it, for “a man’s life consists not in the abundance of the things he possesses.”24
In the acquirement of it some principles should be borne in mind:
24 Luke 12:15 .
- Honesty is an essential to good-will. When John Wanamaker began his career, he found that the custom of retail merchants was to set a price on an article well above the amount they really expected to obtain. Then a series of bargaining was carried on with the customer and after the necessary amount of haggling, the garment was sold. But this often left the buyer very much dissatisfied. Wanamaker determined to tag everything with the exact price and to sell at that price and no other. Other merchants thought it the part of folly. But as soon as the public became used to it, they appreciated uniformity and, having bought, they felt satisfied. The success of the plan needs no comment.
- Courtesy. Few people can resist the charm of courteous consideration. The buyer has a right to expect it but he does not always get it. The rich demand it, and the poor appreciate it, if it is not mere condescension. It warms up human life and many a great man owes his greatness to the appreciation of those who have been charmed by his “human kindness.” It puts people at their ease and many appreciate it without knowing just why they feel the pleasant glow that warms them.
Nothing alienates more than the feeling that one is being “put in the wrong,” suspected of false motives, and so on. Marshall Field established it as a principle of good business that “the customer is always right.” Even
though occasional loss might be suffered, still, in the long run, the increase of good-will more than repaid the deficit.
In the ordinary affairs of vocation, profession, or social life, it will be found a good principle to acquire the art of putting people at their ease, physically and mentally. Nothing shows a greater charm of personality than the ability to meet men and women of every walk of life and be one with them. In the language of Paul, “I am all things to all men.” This does not mean either to talk up or to talk down; it means to take the mental position that we are all equal on the plane of humanity; we are all men and women, and we take each other on the level of man to man.
- The cultivation of memory of faces and names. This observation is hoary with age but is eternally true— people feel complimented if you remember them, doubly so if you recall their names. To give them title is to raise them at once above the dead level of the unknown and inconspicuous. One’s name has a great charm to him. It is his distinguishing mark, his title, his claim to individuality. With what romance he himself endows it; what depth of meaning there is to it. He is not Smith, he is Smythe. He is not O’Toole, he is O’Doole. The O’Tooles are a common lot, they are low in the social scale, but his name is famous in the annals
of the clans. “There was a Sir James O’Doole in the army of King Richard,” and——
And you must pronounce the name right even if its owner pronounces it wrong. Respect a man’s name and he will respect you.
- The necessity of friendship. Friendship does not thrive on an empty stomach. It has appetite. It needs feeding. One must be always a friend. Fair-weather friendship is no friendship. Convenience never enters into it. It is not a profession, it is a principle. It is not an accountant and it never carries a balance sheet. It accepts gain or loss with equal grace. It demands nothing. It endures everything. It is blind in the right eye.
The spirit of friendship is genuine liking for “folks.” Not merely our folks but your folks. It has nothing to do with the dinner grace of the man who prayed,
“Lord, bless me and my wife, My son John and his wife, Us four and no more.”
If you like people, they will know it. You will not need to advertise it, nor write a letter about it. If there is enough love in the heart, it will appear of its own self on the face. It cannot be painted on or “made up.”
If you lack friends, it is because you lack the spirit of friendship, which is nothing less than a hearty interest in others, an instinctive desire for their welfare, and a sincere pleasure in becoming one of those who contribute to it.
In my psychology lecture tours I am constantly approached by those who claim that they have no friends, that those whom they have won have shortly been lost and that they cannot make new ones. Such a situation is incredible. It is not due to the neglect of the world, but to the lack of some quality in those who make the complaint.
I have seen aged women, left alone in the world, without material possessions, without beauty, faced by hardship, whose lives are beautiful when viewed in the light of friendship. They draw it, they hold it, they radiate it. So we see that it is not a material quality that is necessary. It is not the ability to confer a benefit. It is an understanding spirit. It is an unselfish heart.
A study of the psychology of those who lose their friends and are unable to attract others, reveals the fact that there is a flaw in the fundamental character.
Claims have been made on the ground of friendship— demands, censure, gossip, judgment, criticism, claws. Friendship does not thrive on these. It is not the
province of friendship to pick out the vices but the virtues.
“But,” someone objects, “is it not the part of honest friendship to point out our friends’ mistakes?” “Well,” I answer, “what results have you obtained by your method? Did your friend change his habits or his friend? Who profited by your frankness, you or he, or neither?”
“Then should we let our friends get themselves into trouble when a word from us might save them?”
“The question is, ‘Does it?’ ”
It is true that there are some who can correct their friends and “get away with it,” but if you have found you do not belong in that rarified atmosphere of friendship, leave advice to those who are qualified to give it.
The real trouble, however, lies in the subconscious mental attitude, which is that of unacknowledged jealousy of one’s friends or a heathen “I told you so” feeling when they go wrong or get into trouble, or an unexpressed but real spirit of censure.
Can your love and friendship bear up under the scrutiny of those subtle qualities which St. Paul declares are the demand of real love? “Love suffereth
long and is kind: love envieth not; love vaunteth not itself, is not puffed up, doth not behave itself unseemly, seeketh not its own, is not provoked, taketh not account of evil; rejoiceth not in unrighteousness, but rejoiceth in the truth; beareth all things, believeth all things, hopeth all things, endureth all things. Love never faileth.”25
The solution of the problem of friendship can be found by a careful and honest analysis of oneself in the light of what has just been said. Take each suggestion and meditate upon it. “Do I mentally pass judgment upon my friends?” “Do I suffer long and remain kind,” or am I rather in the habit of giving people a “piece of my mind?” And if I do can I spare it? “Do I take no account of evil?” Is my interest in friendship without a “string to it”?
Then carefully eradicate from the mind all the negative characteristics. Pull out all the old weeds. Clean the mind up. Make yourself fit for friendship. Then use counter autosuggestions. “I am filled with the spirit of friendship and good-will. I love ‘folks.’ I am friendly. I have friends. I am in the midst of friendship.”
25 I Corinthians, 13:4-8
Mentally picture yourself as surrounded by companions, as enjoying the fellowship of others, as having confidants. Make yourself a mental magnet which draws others to you.
Then go out to the world of people around you who are just as hungry for love and friendship as you are and, without strain, in perfect naturalness, without self-consciousness, and in the sense of freedom from the necessity of any effort or any need, give yourself heartily to social contacts. Soon you will find yourself under the sweet sway of another’s charm. Accept it, admire it, imitate it, respond to it and to all advances, and presently you will find that others are drawn to you as you are drawn to them.
- Avoidance of antagonisms. It is very easy and very fatal both to friendship and good-will to put others on the defensive either by arguing too much, asserting too much, or claiming to know too much. The man who has knowledge is often tempted to use it where it is unnecessary. He is inclined to force it upon another, colored with his own opinion. “The know-it-all” and the “smarty” is actually offensive, even though his knowledge is genuine. There is a natural combativeness in every man or woman and it is easily aroused by over-strong assertions. And it is not easy to allay it once it is aroused. In innumerable instances salesmen have been found actually arguing with their
customers, the latter even taking the defense of the goods of a competitor, not from any preference for the goods, but with the firm determination not to get the worst of the argument. I have often seen men and women in just this situation in social and business life and even noted the woman dissolving into tears immediately after because she had been forced into the position of putting up a defense for something in which she did not herself believe. What a fatal mistake for both parties! How destructive to good-will and understanding! To win an argument is an empty victory when it leaves the goods unsold, the friend irritated, and the seeds of further friction already sown.
Let us not forget that we are all engaged in the business of living and that what we have said applies to it as definitely as to trade.
- This spirit of helpfulness is essential to the creation of good-will. We cannot rate this too high for after all salesmanship itself is a form of service. The object is to present something that will be of real value to the purchaser, and contribute to his well-being and happiness. Salesmanship is merely the method of helping him to a decision. Anyone can take an order or pull the goods off the shelf, but it is a fine art to enter sympathetically into the life of another in such a way as to feel his needs, desire to satisfy them; and honestly to help to their gratification, without exercising
compulsion or interfering with the freedom of his personality. If the idea of service is held above everything else, the man who lives by it will win, in the long run, over all so-called competitors, because he will have established a reputation for reliability—and it is this reputation which we have denominated goodwill. Goodwill is an undistributed dividend. It is not cash but it is potential cash and it is wealth. Friendship is wealth.