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John MacKintosh
Chapter VIII - 'Goodwill toward Men'


Despite all assertions to the contrary, character is a great asset in business. Sincerity and truth have secured more solid success than all the shady tricks of men without principle. "Good Will" is also of great importance in business. It has a real cash value, and it is charged for as- a solid asset when the business is sold. It is true that some business men are mere Shylocks;. but what great commercial house exists to-day that was built up by such methods? Given natural ability, integrity and good-will are the best equipment a business man can possess. The selfishness that would grasp all often ends in the loss of all.

"Good-will toward men" was the guiding principle of John Mackintosh's life, and it permeated all his business relationships as buyer and seller, manufacturer and employer of labour. When he was asked how he had secured his great success he replied :-

"By giving people something they want and making it what I claim it is, and trying to treat everyone in a human and friendly way. People like homely manners as well as homely goods. Study your customers as if they were your family and you were catering for them. Make friends for your business. Make friends of your employees; have courage; work hard; do not try to grow too fast."

His relations with his employees were most cordial and intimate. He was of the old school of employers, who kept in personal touch with their workpeople. He shared their joys and sorrows, and fostered the family feeling between himself and them. He was regarded by the great majority of them as a father, and was mourned as such at his passing. It is comparatively easy to have this personal link when a business is small, but it is quite a different thing to maintain it when the employees number many hundreds and are scattered all over the country and in distant lands. His personal charm and fatherly manner won the hearts of all his fellow-workers, and they felt that they could safely leave themselves in his hands. They knew he would do what was right and fair towards them in all circumstances. Evidence of this confidence is found in the long service of very many of his work-people, of which he was justly proud.

He did not put much faith in high sounding schemes, but he believed in paying good wages, and in not waiting to be asked when an increase had been earned and was due. He said that:-

"What the working man wants is not a fancy scheme, but a decent wage that he can rely on." When he was elected a member of the Government Wage Board for governing minimum wages in the confectionery trade he frequently found himself on the side of the workers, and they came to regard him almost as one of themselves.

It was owing to his good-will toward all men and his consequent personal and friendly interest in all his workpeople, that in the thirty years of his business life he never experienced a strike, nor even the threat of one. When the chief is in sympathy with his subordinates and is always approachable, the fear of serious trouble is largely discounted. He insisted on the freedom of personal access to himself being accorded to every worker, and to their credit it must be stated that the workers never abused this privilege. Another factor which contributed largely to the smooth working of his huge organisation, was his habit of looking ahead and noting signs of approaching trouble. "To foresee trouble," said he, "is better than meeting it when it comes."

To travellers and business representatives he showed a kindly courtesy that was rare, and to them refreshing. One of his maxims was, "Never treat another firm's representative other than you would wish your own to be treated."

The labour he did in writing so many hundreds of autograph letters to those associated with him in business was immense. It is a mystery how he found, time for a tithe of them, but these communications did much to bring all the members of his vast business organisation into unison. No sorrow or affliction befell an old employee, no matter how lowly his position, but he was comforted by a personal letter of sympathy in the chief's own hand-writing. Here is a sketch of Mr. Mackintosh, bearing the sorrows of his fellow-workers during War time:-

"My last interview with him," wrote a Halifax minister, "was at his office, and he showed himself the most kindly and brotherly of men. He generously offered to enable my church to send a large quantity of toffee to France for our soldier lads at less than half the usual cost. At the moment he was doing this the sad news of the death in France of one of his staff had plunged the whole office into sorrow. His manner and speech were so sympathetic that one felt the whole atmosphere to be that of a home, rather than a place of business."

Mr. Mackintosh could be very stern if necessity demanded; there was the iron hand in the velvet glove. But if there was any doubt in an accusation, the worker got the benefit of it. He demanded that his assistants should look at every question from the worker's point of view. His own experience of their difficulties helped him to understand their attitude. He assumed no airs of superiority and aloofness where workers were concerned, and he declined to prolong any dispute to preserve his dignity. If he saw that he was wrong he would quickly and frankly own it, and give up his point forthwith. He was satisfied to share, and never wanted the whole of anything for himself. Often he said with a smile, "You cannot have both your halfpenny and the toffee."

He knew personally and by name a surprising number of his workers, and when their numbers grew until it was impossible to remember them all, he kept in touch with them by frequently calling them together for a personal talk. He cordially hated any system by which a man became a mere part of the machinery or a number. When distributing monetary gifts in connection with his "Bounty Scheme" to celebrate the advent of peace, he was asked to call out the numbers of the workpeople, in order to save time and get through the distribution quickly. After calling out two or three, he said to the assembled company:- "Oh, I hate numbers; let us have names if it takes all day."

In proposing a resolution of thanks to the staff of a local bank of which he was a director he said :-

"Some people ask, 'Why say 'Thank you' to people who are paid for their services?' I take it to be an outward sign that those who say 'Thank you' are kindly disposed to those who serve them. You cannot pay human beings altogether in cash. They want and ought to have something on the top, and that something is a kind and appreciative word for services rendered, and a word of sympathy in times of adversity, in these days (during the War) one cannot go far wrong in combining with a 'Thank you' our hearty sympathy with those who have lost friends in the War, and especially do we tender our sympathy with the relatives of those of our staff who have gone under in the great struggle through which we as a country are passing. All are deserving of our hearty thanks for services rendered through another year."

In this closing chapter of his Business Life it will not be out of place to print the "Appreciation" by the editor of a trade journal, which appeared shortly after Mr. Mackintosh's death.

"He worked as hard as his employees. He was never extravagant, he lived quietly and well. Luxuriousness was to him unknown. His optimism cheered him on. Well do I remember his first batch of goods for the wholesale trade. I saw them in Leeds. They were not an encouraging success. Many said they could not sell it, but all the time Mr. Mackintosh sold it in his own name for good or ill. It was 'Mackintosh's ' not 'Crown,' nor 'Triumph, nor any other trade label. At one time he was nearly down and under, but John had faith, if but little money. In those days he was obstinate, self-reliant, persevering. He kept on and won through. It was a great struggle. There were some who thought he would not succeed. Many times we talked together over these perilous days. He never gloated over his triumph. He was not built that way, he was just thankful that he had got through. Disaster would have broken his heart. The loss of capital would not have hurt him half so much as the knowlede that he had been beaten. He was a Yorkshirem.an, a man of grit and tenacity. Had Mr. Mackintosh been spared to live the allotted time of three score years and ten, we should have had him with us another twenty years. Who can say what might have happened in that time? What he would have accomplished? He was the founder of his trade in this country. Its 'King' when he died."

It is given to few men to create; it is given to fewer still to see the child of their brain grow to manhood. Of the few was John Mackintosh, who was not only an architect but a builder. Menaced for years by the fate which eventually overtook him, he never let go the reins, but he taught others how to drive. He beat out a road, and took care that it was such a road as those who came after him could follow and not some secret jungle path.

Success never spoiled him; behind all was the simple, unaffected man, unpretentious, sympathetic to the end. It says much for his character that, although his name was known the wide world over, in no place was he held in higher esteem than in his native town. Had his life been simply a business life, however successful he might have been, he would never have captured the hearts of his fellow-townsmen as he did, nor would they have manifested such grief at his passing.

In the month of June, 1919, Mr. Mackintosh gave a great "Victory Ball" to celebrate the return of most of his men from, the War, and to rejoice over the blessing of peace. This event was a public manifestation of that good-will which had stood the test of the strenuous years of war, and which still made his band of workers a happy family. The Victoria Hall was crowded to overflowing with over twelve hundred guests. It was a red-letter day to the staff and to their chief. Never was there a happier reunion. Never had employer and employed met in a better and kindlier spirit, to give thanks for the sheathing of the sword, and to look forward with hope and confidence to the days of peaceful endeavour that were in prospect.

It proved to be the last time that Mr. Mackintosh was to meet all his employees in a social manner, and to those privileged to be present it will ever remain a cherished memory. During the evening, for a short time, the gaiety was suspended while Mr. Mackintosh addressed the large audience. He spoke of his own and his fellow-workers' sorrow, "For those who are feeling very lonely through the loss of loved ones." The audience then stood in reverent silence as a tribute to the dead, and an expression of sympathy with the bereaved. Mr. Mackintosh unveiled a Roll of Honour, and a permanent photograph of the members of the staff who had died that others might live. But there were still some boys away on the various fronts, and three cheers were given for them, and afterwards three cheers for those who had returned in safety. Of the wounded men Mr. Mackintosh said, "We must all do what we can to help them. I notice some of them are picking up nice little girls to go into partnership with them. I wish them luck." He also stated that nearly 10,000 had been paid by the firm to the wives and families of soldiers on active service.

It was on this occasion that he outlined the Bounty Scheme, which had long been in his mind, and which he had determined to introduce immediately the war was over. By this scheme all employees, both men and women, received 1 for each year's service with the firm, and the amount was doubled to the relatives of those who had fallen. A similar distribution was made six months later, after his death, in accordance with a bequest in his will.

Before the close of the proceedings, Mr. Mackintosh had a pleasant surprise, in receiving from his workers a beautifully illuminated address. It was in volume form, and it contained the signatures of all the employees, together with the following inscription :-

"To Councillor John Mackintosh, J.P.

"We, the workpeople of John Mackintosh, Limited, desire to put on record the appreciation we feel of the magnificent way the firm has treated our men who have had to serve in the Army and Navy during the Great War, and also to thank him personally for his latest endeavour to help the workers; and to express the hope that it may turn out to our mutual benefit.

"We remember always the kindly way you deal with anything that concerns our welfare, and we sincerely hope you may be spared for many years to lead the firm of John Mackintosh, Limited, to greater success.

"We ask your acceptance of this mark of our esteem and loyalty."

13th June, 1919."

To Mrs. Mackintosh a diamond brooch was presented, with expressions of sincere regard.

Considering that this was the last gathering of the kind that Mr. Mackintosh ever attended, it was singularly appropriate that he should have received such a final testimony of goodwill from those most closely associated with him in his business. Besides the head of the firm, there were four others, all holding important positions in the firm, who took part in this ceremony, and who were called to their final rest within the next few months. But the traditions Mr. Mackintosh left behind, and the good-will he inspired, are a priceless heritage both to the staff and to the firm.

It is refreshing in these days of industrial unrest to read the affectionate terms in which his employees expressed their sorrow for his passing. The following is a copy of the resolution passed at a meeting of all his workers on January 27th, 1920 :-

"The sudden death of a well-known local manufacturer, whose name is familiar through all the world, has removed from us one who ever had the welfare of all those associated with him at heart, and the loss is keenly felt by every individual employee. Mr. Mackintosh was a man of great generosity in thought and deed. Deeply religious and sincere, he was one who did much for his fellow-men. His kindliness and good-will permeated every branch of the organisation of John Mackintosh, Limited, and his life leaves to us all a memory that will be sweet and lasting."

Such is the verdict of his own work-people and he would have wished for nothing better from this world than to have earned such an eulegy.


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