“You say that we do not need to spend this money?”
“No,” he replied, “it will probably prove to be many years before such a sum must be spent. There is no present need for these facilities you want to create, and the works are doing well as they are—let’s let well enough alone.”
Now our partner was a very wise and experienced man, older and more familiar with the subject than some of us, and all this we admitted to him; but we had made up our minds, as I have said, to carry out this idea if we could possibly get his approval, and we were willing to wait until then. As soon as the argument had calmed down, and when the heat of our discussion had passed, the subject was brought up again. I had thought of a new way to approach it. I said:
“I’ll take it, and supply this capital myself. If the expenditure turns out to be profitable the company can repay me; and, if it goes wrong, I’ll stand the loss.”
That was the argument that touched him. All his reserve disappeared and the matter was settled when he said:
“If that’s the way you feel about it, we’ll go it together. I guess I can take the risk if you can.”
It is always, I presume, a question in every business just how fast it is wise to go, and we went pretty rapidly in those days, building and expanding in all directions. We were being confronted with fresh emergencies constantly. A new oil field would be discovered, tanks for storage had to be built almost over night, and this was going on when old fields were being exhausted, so we were therefore often under the double strain of losing the facilities in one place where we were fully equipped, and having to build up a plant for storing and transporting in a new field where we were totally unprepared. These are some of the things which make the whole oil trade a perilous one, but we had with us a group of courageous men who recognized the great principle that a business cannot be a great success that does not fully and efficiently accept and take advantage of its opportunities.
How often we discussed those trying questions! Some of us wanted to jump at once into big expenditures, and others to keep to more moderate ones. It was usually a compromise, but one at a time we took these matters up and settled them, never going as fast as the most progressive ones wished, nor quite so carefully as the conservatives desired, but always made the vote unanimous in the end.
The part played by one of my earliest partners, Mr. H.M. Flagler, was always an inspiration to me. He invariably wanted to go ahead and accomplish great projects of all kinds, he was always on the active side of every question, and to his wonderful energy is due much of the rapid progress of the company in the early days.