There are many executives holding important positions and making a sad failure of them because they are, by natural aptitudes, excellent detail men but poor planners and executives. The following story illustrates, perhaps, as well as anything we could present, the qualities of these overworked, busy, busy executives who have no right to be executives, but ought to be carrying out the plans of someone else:
People sometimes bring their business troubles to a friend whom we shall call Socratic. And Socratic helps them out for a consideration. His time is valuable and he bought his wisdom at a high price.
Some months ago a pompous fellow dropped in. We recognized him as Brainerd, one of the leading business men of a small city. His story was this: He had built up a big enterprise during the pioneer boom days of easy money and negligible competition. Now, when margins were closer, the pace hotter, and a half dozen keen fellows were scrambling for their shares of a trade he had formerly controlled jointly with one other conservative house, he found sales falling off and his profits dwindling to a minus quantity.
Socratic heard him through; then said: “I’ll look your business over, tell you the troubles, and show you how to remedy them for one hundred dollars.”
“Oh, I couldn’t afford to pay that much, the way business is now,” Brainerd objected.
“How much, then, do you figure it would be worth to you to have your sales and profits climb back to high-water mark?”
“Oh, that would be worth thousands of dollars, of course. But can you guarantee me any such results?”
“Well, if you carefully study over what I tell you, and faithfully follow my advice, and the results are not satisfactory, you need pay me nothing. Is that agreeable?”
“Sure! If you can show me how to bring my profits back to normal, I’ll gladly pay you two hundred.”
“It’s a go!” said Socratic. “Have the contract drawn up ready to sign when I call to begin my examination. When shall that be?”
“Well, let’s see. I’m so all-fired busy it’s hard to find time for anything. Say early next week sometime.”
“All right. What day?”
“Oh, Tuesday or Wednesday.”
“Tuesday will be satisfactory. What hour?”
“Well, some time in the forenoon, I guess.”
“Ten o’clock be all right?”
“Yes, ten o’clock will do.”
“Very well, I’ll be there at ten sharp.”
Tuesday morning, at ten sharp, Socratic stood by Brainerd’s desk. Brainerd was working away like a busy little high-pressure hoisting-engine. He looked up with a bright smile.
“Oh, it’s you, is it? Sorry, but I can’t do anything for you to-day. I’m awfully up against it for time. Can’t you drop in a little later in the week?”