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
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
"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
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.
"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
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
"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.