The great majority of my associations were made so many years ago, that I have reached the age when hardly a month goes by (sometimes I think hardly a week) that I am not called upon to send some message of consolation to a family with whom we have been connected, and who have met with some fresh bereavement. Only recently I counted up the names of the early associates who have passed away. Before I had finished, I found the list numbered some sixty or more. They were faithful and earnest friends; we had worked together through many difficulties, and had gone through many severe trials together. We had discussed and argued and hammered away at questions until we came to agree, and it has always been a happiness to me to feel that we had been frank and aboveboard with each other. Without this, business associates cannot get the best out of their work.
It is not always the easiest of tasks to induce strong, forceful men to agree. It has always been our policy to hear patiently and discuss frankly until the last shred of evidence is on the table, before trying to reach a conclusion and to decide finally upon a course of action. In working with so many partners, the conservative ones are apt to be in the majority, and this is no doubt a desirable thing when the mere momentum of a large concern is certain to carry it forward. The men who have been very successful are correspondingly conservative, since they have much to lose in case of disaster. But fortunately there are also the aggressive and more daring ones, and they are usually the youngest in the company, perhaps few in number, but impetuous and convincing. They want to accomplish things and to move quickly, and they don’t mind any amount of work or responsibility. I remember in particular an experience when the conservative influence met the progressive—shall I say?—or the daring side. At all events, this was the side I represented in this case.
ARGUMENTS VERSUS CAPITAL
One of my partners, who had successfully built up a large and prosperous business, was resisting with all his force a plan that some of us favoured, to make some large improvements. The cost of extending the operations of this enterprise was estimated at quite a sum—three million dollars, I think it was. We had talked it over and over again, and with several other associates discussed all the pros and cons; and we had used every argument we could command to show why the plan would not only be profitable, but was indeed necessary to maintain the lead we had. Our old partner was obdurate, he had made up his mind not to yield, and I can see him standing up in his vigorous protest, with his hands in his pockets, his head thrown back, as he shouted “No.”
It’s a pity to get a man into a place in an argument where he is defending a position instead of considering the evidence. His calm judgment is apt to leave him, and his mind is for the time being closed, and only obstinacy remains. Now these improvements had to be made—as I said before, it was essential. Yet we could not quarrel with our old partner, but a minority of us had made up our minds that we must try to get him to yield, and we resolved to try another line of argument, and said to him: