Why Men Fail—Luck on the side of Pluck—Marking the Day’s Profits Before they Begin—No Diamond-Like the Eye—The Man Who Takes His Bank to Bed With Him—The Two Hands of Fortune.
Many men fail because they undertake a business without considering whether there is room for it; others because they do not thoroughly establish themselves in the place, making no effort to get a constituency; and yet others because they do not keep the goods that are in demand, or do not renew the stock sufficiently quick, or do not attractively present their goods. Such causes of success or failure as are in the line of this work will now be considered. Here are the rules of an old merchant which he would take for his guidance were he to start anew in business:
The Minimum Basis.—Enumerate the entire number of heads of families in the town, village, ward, or neighborhood where you purpose to begin a business. Figure out the number of such persons you will require as a minimum basis that is, how many persons or families, spending each on an average a certain amount per day or week at your place of business, you will require to make a living. Do not go blindly into your work, trusting to luck. Luck is always on the side of pluck and tact. Determine what percent. of the people’s patronage is essential to your success. The first step is to ascertain if such percent. is likely to come to you.
The House to House Canvass.—Make a personal canvass from house to house. Do not trust the work to your friend, relative, or clerk. Nobody can help you so much as you can help yourself. Nobody has your interests so much at heart as you have. Tell people pleasantly that you are a new bidder for their patronage. Inform them what you propose to do. Make them understand that no man shall undersell you, or give them in any way a better bargain. If possible, take a few samples of your choicest goods with you.
The Choice Location.—If you become popular, the people will come to you; but at first you must go to them. Your place need not be central or on a corner, but it must be where many people pass. Step out largely and conspicuously. You could make no greater mistake than to rent a shabby place on a back street. Have out all manner of signs, curious, newsy, and alluring. Do not think to sustain yourself by people’s sympathies. Men will trade most where they can do best.
The Maximum Basis.—The maximum basis is the high-water mark. It is the number of persons or families that under the most favorable state of things can be your patrons. All you cannot expect. Kindred, religion, politics, friendships, and secret fraternities, will hold a portion of the community to the old traders. The sharpest rivalry will meet you. Also, you must consider what incursions are likely to be made by out-of-town dealers, and what prospect there is of others setting up business in the place. But you should have an ideal trade toward which you steadily work. Declare daily to yourself, “my gross earnings shall be $—per day,” or “—— (so many) persons shall be my patrons.” When you fall below the mark, bestir yourself in many ways.
The Personal Equation.—Remember that you in contact with your customers count for more than anything else. The weather of the face, the temperature of the hand, the color of the voice, will win customers where other means fail. Make your patrons feel that you are their friend. Inquire about members of their family. Be exceedingly polite. Recommend your goods. Mention anything of an especially attractive or meritorious nature you may have. Join the church, the regiment, the fire company, and the secret society. Become “all things to all men, if by any means you can sell to some.” Be everywhere in your place of business. Oversee the smallest details. Trust as little as possible to your clerks. The diamond of success is the master’s eye. Remember there is no fate. There are opportunity, purpose, grit, push, pluck, but no fate. If you fail, do not lay the blame upon circumstances, but upon yourself. Enthusiasm moves stones. You must carry your business in your brain. “A bank never gets to be very successful,” says a noted financier, “until it gets a president who takes it to bed with him.” There was an angel in Michael Angelo’s muddy stone, and there is a fortune in your humdrum store. Hard work and close thought are the hands that carve it out.