The Book of Business Success | Podcasts for Entrepreneurs

Podcast Transcript: Welcome to the Inspirational Living podcast, brought to you in part by Book of Zen, makers of inspirational fashion and gift ideas. Visit them online at Today’s podcast has been edited and adapted from The Book of Business by Elbert Hubbard, published in 1913.

Genius is only the power of making continuous effort. The line between failure and success is so fine that we scarcely know when we pass it— so fine that we are often on the line and do not know it. How many a person has thrown up their hands at a time when a little more effort, a little more patience, would have achieved success. As the tide goes clear out, so it comes clear in. In business, sometimes, prospects may seem darkest when really they are on the turn.

A little more persistence, a little more effort, and what seemed hopeless failure may turn to glorious success. There is no failure except in no longer trying. There is no defeat except from within, no really insurmountable barrier save our own inherent weakness of purpose.

Humankind is under the domain of Natural Law as much as bees. We succeed only by working with others and for others. Success lies in mutual service. This great truth concerning the solidarity of humanity marks a mental epoch in the onward and the upward march. It was hinted at pretty strongly in 1776, and carried into business as an experiment about 1876. It is no longer an experiment.

The Spirit of the Times — the Zeitgeist, to borrow a word from our German friends — is a constantly progressing entity. The present Spirit of the Times is of a kind unequaled in history. We have thousands upon thousands of men and women who are thinking great and noble thoughts and doing great and splendid work.  Increasing numbers of entrepreneurs regard themselves as public servants. Our Zeitgeist is sensitive, restless, alert, impressionable, progressive, and is making for a better future.

The entrepreneur who can imagine a better future than now exists is able to throw their vision on computer screens around the world, and the individual who can formulate a better government than we now have is not hanged for their pains, but is allowed to express their dreams.

Public opinion rules. No law that is contrary to the Zeitgeist can be enforced. Judges construe, translate, and interpret the laws to suit the Spirit of the Times. Every person who speaks out loud and clear is impacting the Zeitgeist. Every person who expresses what they honestly think is true is changing the Spirit of the Times.

Thinkers help other people think, for they formulate what others are thinking. No person writes or thinks alone: thought is in the air; but its expression is necessary to create a tangible Spirit of the Times. The value of a thinker who writes, or a writer who thinks, or an entrepreneur who acts, is that they supply arguments for the people, and confirm all who share their opinions, often before unexpressed.

The Brotherhood and Sisterhood of Humanity is an idea now fully appreciated in business. Commerce today stands for Mutuality — Reciprocity. Technology has increased efficiency, and given the people better goods at a lower price. It has been inevitable, because it does the greatest good for the greatest number of people. It has worked for economy and productivity.

In today’s business, every purchaser should be pleased. The customer should be made to feel that they are at home, that they are with strong and influential friends, that their interests are safeguarded. This matter of faith between buyer and seller is a new thing in the world. But to give the people the things they want is not enough. You must show them what they want.

The great 21st century retailer must be a leader in taste. They are an educator. They stand for economy, color, proportion, harmony and increased happiness. They inspire the imagination by bringing from the far comers of the earth the products of the loom, work-shop, farm, mine, and studio. They display these goods so that the public may examine them — compare, weigh, analyze, sift, decide and make them their own if they wish.

Employees who plot and plan for private gain are conniving against their future success. Owners who run a business but to make money, neither make money, nor do they last. Merchants cannot make money on one transaction. Every sale must pave the way for further sales. We make our money from serving our friends, for our enemies will not deal with us. A transaction where both sides are not benefited is immoral.

The most successful business people of the modern age have taught us five things: First, the value of honesty as a business asset. Second, the excellence of commerce as a civilizing influence. Third, hat the interests of proprietor, public, and employee are mutual. Fourth, that art, ethics, economics, and education can and should move forward hand in hand. Fifth, that business ethics is simply a form of commonsense, a move toward self-preservation.

The successful worker in the world of business lives by the following creed:

I believe in the things I am handing out, in the firm I am working for; and in my ability to get results. I believe that honest things can be passed out to honest people by honest methods. I believe in working, not weeping; in boosting, not knocking; and in the pleasure of my job.

I believe that a person gets what they go after, that one deed done today is worth two deeds tomorrow, and that no person is down and out until they have lost faith in themselves. I believe in today and the work I am doing, in tomorrow and the work I hope to do, and in the sure reward which the future holds. I believe in courtesy, in kindness, in generosity, in good-cheer, in friendship and in honest competition.

I believe there is something doing, somewhere, for every person ready to do it. I believe I’m ready— RIGHT NOW — to get busy, to surmount difficulties, to endure hardship, to solve problems, to overcome the inertia of our own nature: to turn chaos into cosmos with the aid of others.

In our present age, we often forget that the most important business in the world is agriculture. Food is the primal need. Next in importance is transportation, because a thing has to be at a certain place at a certain time in order for it to possess value. If a person is in the desert three days from the nearest water, their diamonds are absolutely valueless, their gold of no avail. Food separated by distance from human bodies does not command a price. Famine has been in the world’s history a common thing, often for lack of transportation.

The third most important business is manufacturing, which is the combination of raw products in useful form. The fourth most useful thing in commerce is the business of the storekeeper, that is, the business of the distributer. The cities are all great warehouses where the products of the farm, the factory, the mine, and the sea are brought together and from said cities distributed to the consumer.

The fifth most important factor in business is advertising, and advertising is simply announcing to the world in an effective way where you are, who you are and what you have to offer in the way of human service or commodity. All living individuals are advertisers, and the only person who should not advertise is the person who has nothing to offer the world in the way of human service, and such an individual is a dead one, whether they know it or not.

Advertising is a legitimate and ethical proposition. Life is too short for you to hide yourself away, mantled in your modesty, and let the world hunt you out. Even the dead are advertisers, for on visiting a beautiful cemetery we often find on nearly every marble slab a list of the virtues, talents, and beautiful qualities which the dead person was supposed to have carried in stock. This is what you call non-productive advertising or advertising from an emotional standpoint.

Personally, I do not endorse it. Advertise while you are alive, and send flowers to the person when they can appreciate them. We need help to live, but we can die with-out assistance. Death is merely succumbing to inertia. When the law of gravity gets the better of you, you are a dead one. What we need is levitation, which is the upward pull, not the downward.

Death is no problem, but life is a great and important one. I plead for the religion of service; a religion which understands that the only way an individual can help themselves is to work for the good of the hive. The world can be redeemed by the science of business done right, business founded on reciprocity and co-operation. Any other plan spells bankruptcy.

The successful business has a heart and a soul. Good business people do not defame their competitors — it is a foolish policy. In business we realize that only honesty goes. We have tried everything else but Truth; now we are testing this, and Truth will be our last stand. Doctor Eliot, of Harvard, calls Truth the “New Virtue.” Emerson said that to cheat another is really to cheat oneself. Each individual is a part of the whole. And this brings us up to the philosophy of Ernst Haeckel: the philosophy of Monism, or the religion of the One. There is only one thing in the world, and that is Divine Energy. Herbert Spencer defined dirt as useful matter in the wrong place, and so we may say that the bad person is a good person who has misdirected their energies.

When we once acknowledge that this is God’s world, and that we are God’s children, there is no high, or low in human service. We will pity, but we will not blame. Business is eminently a divine calling. We do not differentiate it from any other calling, no matter how noble, how beautiful, how altruistic.

Lastly, let me remind you that in one way or another, we are salespeople in this life, and as such, here is the salesperson’s creed, which we all could do well to live by:

I believe in myself, and I believe in the goods I sell. I believe in the firm for which I work. I believe in my colleagues and helpers. I believe in producers, creators, manufacturers, distributors, and in all industrial workers of the world who have a job and hold it down. I believe that truth is an asset.

I believe in good-cheer and in good health; and I recognize the fact that the first requisite of success is not to achieve a dollar, but to confer a benefit, and that the reward will come automatically and as a matter of course.

I believe in sunshine, fresh air, spinach, applesauce, laughter, buttermilk, babies, flannel, and chiffon, always remembering that the greatest word in the English language is “Sufficiency.”

I believe that when I make a sale I must make a friend. And I believe that when I part with someone I must do it in such a way that when they see me again they will be glad — and so will I. I believe in the hands that work, in the brains that think, and in the hearts that love. Amen, and Amen!

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