“When all is said and done this business is nothing but a symbol, and when we translate this we find that it means a great many people think well of its products and that a great multitude has faith in the integrity of the people who make the product.In a very short time, the machines that are now so lively will soon become obsolete and the big buildings for all their solidity must some day be replaced.
But a business which symbolizes can live so long as there are human beings alive, for it is not built of such flimsy materials as steel and concrete, it is built of human opinions, which may be made to live forever.
The good will of people is the only enduring thing in any business.
It is the sole substance.
The rest is shadow!”
The previous quote is from Herbert Fisk Johnson, Sr. (President, SC Johnson Wax 1919-1928). It was given during a SC Johnson Was 1927 profit sharing meeting.
This quote is hanging on a large plaque in one of the buildings of the Cornell Business School. As I was visiting Cornell, I sat nearby and watched 100’s of business school students walk right by this quote (and probably have hundreds of times) without even noticing it.
How many companies today think (or act) with this level of understanding?