Hundred-Year-Old List of Qualities Needed to Succeed in Business

17-year-old Helena Muffly wrote exactly 100 years ago today: 

Sunday, March 24, 1912:I haven’t much to write today.

Recent photo of two small businesses in McEwensville–a beauty/barber shop and a bicycle shop.

Her middle-aged granddaughter’s comments 100 years later:

Since Grandma didn’t write much today,  I’m going to go off on a tangent—

I happened upon a list of qualities needed to succeed in business in a 1912 magazine, and was surprised how relevant the list still seems today.

Qualities Needed to Succeed in Business

  1. Health
  2. Honesty
  3. Ability
  4. Initiative
  5. Knowledge of the Business
  6. Tact
  7. Sincerity
  8. Industry
  9. Open-Mindedness
  10. Enthusiasm
  11. Organization

The most important thing is to organize ourselves—make ourselves do the important work. We succeed only in proportion as we get the best work from other people. So I say let’s not drive tacks with a sledge hammer. Let the people who are carrying tack hammers do tack hammer work. If you are carrying a sledge hammer, do heavy work. Do the most important things in your business. Leave the details to other people.

Rural Manhood Magazine, Jan. 1912 (Published by the Young Men’s Christian Association (YMCA)

4 Responses

  1. It’s always interesting how many things haven’t really changed, isn’t it?

    • I’m continually surprised by which things change–and which things don’t. For example, the way we do laundry it totally different today from what it was like a hundred years ago.

  2. I was expecting ‘leadership” to be on the list. That’s a skill needed to inspire the tack hammerers to do do the tack hammering… Initiative is a big one – one would need big doses of that quality to get a new business off the ground.

    • I wonder if “leadership” wasn’t a commonly used term back then. I frequently saw the term “management” in the larger article that I got the list from. Even though management and leadership seem very different today, maybe they had similar meanings a hundred years ago.

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