That statement has been the subject of this column in the past, and surely its principle is sorely needed today.
The quotation was the motto of one of the world’s great business leaders, Robert W. Woodruff, who was described by a longtime associate as having the ability “to see around the corner.” On that point, Woodruff made Coca-Cola known around the world at a nickel a bottle during and after World War II.
This Southern gentleman, who lived by his motto until his death in 1985, not only relished building his business but it seemed he enjoyed giving away his money even more — and for years he insisted that his gifts to charitable organizations, education and the arts be attributed to an anonymous donor. Indeed, when large anonymous gifts were made in Atlanta, it was well known who the donor was. Since Woodruff and his wife had no children, he adopted many worthy causes and left Atlanta the better for his giving.
Not nearly as well-known was this man’s great influence on Georgia and Atlanta during the 1960s, when racial violence wracked many other parts of the South. But thanks to the behind-the-scenes efforts of Woodruff, with the help of other good leaders like former Atlanta Mayor Ivan Allen Jr., our state was spared the worst of the racial violence.
Behind the “no limit” motto, there was a short essay supposedly written by the chairman of Macy’s about the time Woodruff became the head of The Coca-Cola Company in 1923. So highly did he esteem the essay that he had it printed in booklet form for all his associates. It was my good fortune to meet Mr. Woodruff in his later years and receive a copy of the booklet, “It’s Human Relations That Count.”
“Life is pretty much a selling job,” it says. “Whether we succeed or fail is largely a matter of how well we motivate the human beings with whom we deal to buy us and that which we have to offer.”
The No. one problem for businesses and individuals: Taking people for granted — customers, employees, family. The solution: “The basic rule of good human relations is to think and talk and act in terms of the interest of the other person.” Add three personality habits important for business and professional people in dealing with customers and clients: friendliness, helpfulness and dependability.
On the negative side, here are “tested rules of how to fail” in relationships with others:
“Strut your superiority. Don’t praise and say nice things to others. Don’t pay attention to your appearance. Don’t be friendly to others. Take all the credit.”
Finally, the Woodruff “creed” boils down to the Golden Rule given in the Sermon on the Mount: “Therefore, whatever you want men to do to you, do also to them.”