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In China, conversation between strangers after introduction is always opened by the question: "And how old are you?" "How far are you in your pilgrimage in life?" The San Quentin and Sing Sing convict asks of the new arrival: "What have you brought?" There is a certain human touch in these acknowledgments which our usual conversations lack and so Stephen Leacock claims that there is an art of opening a conversation and that all of us should study that art.
If this is true, then certainly there is an art of opening a speech . . . a rather elusive art at that. If I were to attempt to interpret that art today in this talk "The Value of Organization", I should do it in this way.
After acknowledging Mr. Eubank's very gracious introduction, I should call for an immediate adjournment of this meeting, turn to a tele¬phone here on the desk by which I should be connected by direct wire into the Sunday morning homes of those men in your business who are not members of this organization and to whom (aptly on Sunday morn¬ing) should come reasons for belonging to the American Association of Cemetery Owners.
As long as we are here, though, let's review the value of organization. John M. F. Donovan, Jr., Trade Association Counselor, said recently: "American Businessmen are finding it increasingly difficult and decidedly to their disadvantage to attempt to conduct their respective enterprises with an attitude of complete isolation or semi-detachment from the in¬terests of their competitors who comprise their immediate business spheres.
"The fundamental reason for the existence and growth of trade asso¬ciations has been this inability of individual businessmen to cope with the economic and commercial problems which arise from the .constantly in¬creasing complexities of American business."
A. P. Richardson speaking before a group of accountants, (which you will admit are the most cold blooded group in the country) said: "In the sphere of' industry and merchandising, many fine things are being done and those who would succeed today are finding it essential to conduct their enterprises in accordance with an enlightened altruism ... it is known now that what is good for one is good for all and injurious to one, injurious to all".
And speaking of non-conformists he said: "Some men wander from the common path because of ignorance, others from sheer obstinacy and a yearning to appear independent".
So much for outside viewpoints . . . let's examine the values of organ¬ization as we see them . . . as we see them in terms of the American Association of Cemetery Owners.
Yesterday, the head of a prominent trade association was with me in Cleveland and I told him about your organization and about my subject today. I asked him what he thought, in general, were the values of organ¬ization.
He gave three values . . . primary values . . . and he said that they would hold good for any organization. Without them, no organization could be completely successful.
Here are the values as he gave them: A trade association is for the purpose of:
I. Protection. Protection of the individual member from external forces . . . forces which will be detrimental to the industry . . . forces which must be fought collectively ... "In Union There is Strength".
II. A trade association is for the purpose of developing higher standards in a particular industry ... better methods for running the busi¬ness . . . better merchandising methods . . . an exchange of ideas which when thus refined become more valuable to all concerned.
AND III. A trade association is for the purpose of fostering better public relations . . . education of the public in the aims and ideals and problems of that particular industry or profession or business.
Just three main points but a program nevertheless. Not a long, com¬plicated program incapable of realization, but a concise, succinct set of objectives which answer the needs of all. AND if a trade association's program isn't built along lines which answer the needs of all concerned, then it is just a program full of "sound and fury signifying nothing".
The first point ... that the value of organization lies in the protection of the individual which the group affords, is a fairly obvious one. It has been demonstrated in the past with the American Association of Cemetery Owners, as it has been demonstrated with many other groups, that mass action . . . mass appeal . . . association appeal is the only really effective method to gain one's end. Mass statistics, mass information of any sort which an association develops for ammunition is mighty effective in pro¬tecting the individual member from encroachment by government, encroachment by other individuals attempting to dry up his markets.
The second point ... that the value of organization lies in the develop¬ment of higher standards in the industry or business which that associa¬tion represents is an important one.
This association has developed, and will develop, better and better methods for operating cemeteries . . . better business methods.
But the true meat of this point lies in the exchange of ideas which members beget. As Dickens said: "An idea, like a ghost, according to the common notion of ghosts, must be spoken to a little before it will explain itself"
You all know that you will secure many new ideas this week; that you will polish and refine many of your old ideas as a result of your con¬tact with each other. Not only ideas for correct business procedure and better maintenance of parks, but merchandising ideas ... ideas which will serve as keys to unlock more and more sales for you.
There are always new merchandising ideas for those who are creative enough to seek them. I ran across a pretty good one the other day.
A young married couple who had just settled down in their new home got a pleasant surprise in their mail one morning . . . . a couple of tickets to one of the best shows in town. But the donor had omitted to send his name, and for the rest of the day the question was: "Wonder who it was?" They enjoyed the show; but when they reached home, they found that all their wedding presents had been taken. There was a note from the burglar, saying: "Now you know".
The exchange of new ideas of all sorts . . . not only during the con¬vention, but throughout the year . . . the further development of sales programs and sales clinics and sales tips ... these will make organization really worthwhile for the individual member.
And the last point, but to me, the greatest point of all . . . The value of organization lies in its purpose of fostering better public relations. Public relations . . . public education . . . what is it?”
One man said: "Public relations, is the art of creating through action, speech, and the printed word or visible symbol .... a favorable public opinion of an individual, a company, product or service.”
If we are to believe in such a definition, then the carrying out of such a program calls for a proper, studied, collective .interpretation of our product and service to the public by means of the visual, by means of the spoken and written word.
The captain of a ship once wrote in his log, “Mate was drunk today”. When the mate became normal, he was terribly chagrined and angry; he pleaded with the captain to strike out the record; he declared that he had never been drunk before, that he would never drink again. But the captain said: "In this log we write the exact truth".
The next week the mate kept the log, and in it he wrote, “Captain was sober today".
A splendid example of deft use of the written word!
A short time ago, I read an excellent paper given by one of the mem¬bers of this Association before the last convention of Cemetery Superin¬tendants entitled: "A cemetery's responsibility to its community". It was a splendid manual of public relations. I have thought for a long time that along this same line you might enlarge your field of public education by developing in your own home town the subject also: "The Commu¬nity's responsibility to its cemeteries". Here is a real problem in related excellence. It might be said that a community gets no better cemetery than it deserves; likewise, no cemetery gets any better community than it deserves.
On wrong story; one wrong advertisement; one wrong speech . . . especially in your business . . . and irreparable harm is done to your sales picture.
But the right sort of public relations....the right sort of public edu¬cation....the right sort of sales promotion and you "will make the public want to do business with you”. And that, after all, is what you are after.
Of course, some have to do business with you, but it seems to me that we can speed up our merchandising program and public relations program so that people will do business with us before that time of need actually comes.
Organization . . . this Association . . . is essential to that sort of pro¬gram.
Three great values of organization: Protection for the individual member; second, the development of higher standards; and third, a strong program of public education. Don’t you agree that they do justify organization?
As the editor of American Business put it recently: "Right now in these baffling, puzzling; indeed frightening times, we need to pull to¬gether. It is not a time for fights between individuals for some petty and temporary advantage, but a time for each and every business man to hook up with his fellows and push and pull together for the common good".
“1940-1941 Cemetery Handbook & Buyers’ Guide”
ACOA 11th Annual Convention & Exposition
Hotel Statler, Buffalo, New York
September 8-11, 1940