On Good Business

Mr. Coolidge recognized the essence of good business was in strengthening ties of service and collaboration with others. He never saw the validity of an adversarial system, such as Bentham and the socialist economists espoused. Profit was important, of course, but not the supreme purpose of good business relations. He understood that business was about more than “crushing the competition.” It was about building bridges, not burning them. That is why he demanded a meeting with an apprehensive editor one afternoon. The editor had not published the entire number of articles agreed upon and written by the former President. Still, Mr. Coolidge had been paid for the entire set. The editor, bracing for confrontation, was shocked to find the former president wanted to meet in order to return the balance of the money due for the articles not published. To Coolidge, if they were not “good enough” to warrant publication, it would not be right to take money for them. In this way, good business is preserved.

The former President, writing another article on June 17, 1931, observed the necessity for “good business” to continue, especially as folks struggled to keep commerce going,

“It is a very sound business principle to let the other fellow make a profit. That was the essence of the slogan we heard a few years ago about passing prosperity around. The same thought is involved in paying good wages and fair prices. Cutting prices calls for cutting wages in the end.

“This is often the basis of the complaint against large concerns. When they control a large percentage of production they control the prices of the raw and unfinished materials used in that trade. They become almost the sole market for them. Under this condition there is a strong tendency in the name of efficiency and good management to squeeze out the small concerns furnishing these materials. But it is not usually good business.

“We are all so much a part of a common system of life that the business world is not healthy unless we all have a chance. A profit made by squeezing some one else out of a livelihood will almost surely turn up later as a loss. The great asset in trade is good will. The best producer of good will is the profit which others make” (emphasis added).

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