Going into Business with Him was a Gamble
2003 Boaz Rauchwerger
It's interesting to note on what a thin thread the universe sometimes weaves an amazing path that defines our future. It's also interesting what can happen when people cooperate in a spirit of harmony.
Case in point: A father with two daughters in Cincinnati, Ohio, a man in England and a man in Ireland. Their paths would eventually cross and create a worldwide business venture with which you're quite familiar.
The year was 1837 and, at that time, Cincinnati was known as the Queen City of the West. Commerce and industry were thriving there, which is more than could be said for the rest of the country.
The United States was experiencing its first depression. The nation was gripped by financial panic. Hundreds of banks were closing their doors and there was widespread concern that the United States was bankrupt. Not exactly the best time to start a new business.
Entering into the picture is Alexander Norris, a Cincinnati candle maker. He had two daughters, Elizabeth and Olive. Across the ocean, we find James in Ireland. In order to escape that country's economic depression, his family immigrated to the US in 1819. William, who resided in England, came to the US in 1832 after a fire in his newly opened London woolens shop left him penniless.
The two immigrants did not know each other. Both of them intended to head further west in their new country in order to seek their fortunes. Eventhough they never meant to settle there, they both ended up in Cincinnati. William took care of his ailing wife Martha, who soon died, and James sought medical attention for himself.
We move ahead to 1833. James had become a soap maker and did well financially. He meets and marries Elizabeth Ann Norris, one of Alexander Norris' daughters. William, upon his arrival in Cincinnati, started a new career as a candle maker. He meets Alexander's other daughter Olive and, within a few months of her sister's wedding, she becomes William's wife.
It was in 1837 that Alexander persuaded his new sons-in-law to become business partners, to join forces and cooperate in a spirit of harmony. At that time, William was 36-years old and James was 34. On April 12, 1837, as a result of Alexander Norris' suggestion, a bold new enterprise was born as William and James began making and selling their soap and candles.
It was on August 22nd of that year that they formalized their business relationship by each investing $3,596.47 in the new enterprise. The formal partnership agreement was signed on October 31, 1837. Although the country was going through financial difficulties, the two partners were more concerned with competition from the 14 other soap and candle makers in the city of Cincinnati.
A hallmark of their early growth was the fact that the two were able to stay calm in the midst of an economic storm. They had a forward-looking approach to the business, a definiteness of purpose. They focused on what could be rather than what was. What a valuable lesson for all of us!
By 1859, twenty-two years after the partnership was formed, the sales of the enterprise reached $1 million and the Company had 80 employees. The company would later pioneer one of the nation's first profit-sharing programs. Instituted by a grandson of one of the founders, this program gave employees a stake in the Company. He wanted to help workers realize their vital role in the Company's success. The Company was also innovative in being the first in American history to invest in research laboratories.
With several contracts to supply soap and candles to the Union armies, the Company flourished during the Civil War. Its factory was kept busy day and night. Its reputation was building as the Union soldiers returned home with the company's products.
James' son was a trained chemist. In 1879 he developed an inexpensive white soap equal to high-quality, imported castiles. Inspiration for the name of the soap came to the founder's son, Harley, as he read the following words in the Bible one Sunday in church: "out of ivory palaces." The soap had a white purity, mildness, and long-lasting qualities.
This soap was manufactured by the Company in a new Cincinnati plant that incorporated the latest technical advances and a pleasant work environment for the employees. This was a progressive approach for the time.
By 1890, the Company was manufacturing more than 30 different types of soap. Coupled with innovative advertising, including full-color ads in national magazines, the Company experienced an ever-increasing demand for its products by the nation's consumers. More plants were built in the United States as well as Canada.
Over the years the invention of the electric light bulb diminished the popularity of candles and, in the 1920s, the Company discontinued candle manufacturing.
Meanwhile, its research labs continued to create innovative new products: soaps for washing dishes and clothes, the first soap for washing machines, the first synthetic household detergent, and the first all-vegetable shortening. These developments were all based on a pioneering approach to market research. The various products were also marketed in innovative ways, including radio (and eventually television) "soap operas," product sampling and promotional premiums.
By now you may have guessed the name of the soap that was inspired by that Bible passage: Ivory Soap. Other recognizable brands by this company include Crisco shortening, Pampers Diapers, and Metamucil. In fact, there are now over 300 brands produced by this Company.
The results of the cooperation between two brothers-in-law, William Procter and James Gamble, (yes, Procter and Gamble), are simply amazing. Perhaps there are some special people in your future with whom you could cooperate and, in a spirit of harmony, create something amazing.
A Daily Affirmation of Cooperation
I seek special people with whom I can cooperate to create a great future.
Article reproduced with permission from Boaz Rauchwerger. You may reprint any of these articles in any publication or Web site so long as you credit Boaz Rauchwerger as the author and include this Web site address, www.Boazpower.com.