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Benjamin Franklin

American Statesman

1706-1790


ADVICE TO A YOUNG TRADESMAN, WRITTEN BY AN OLD ONE; AND RULES PROPER TO BE OBSERVED IN TRADE

Narrated by Dick Hill

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Advice to a Young Tradesman, Written by an Old One

As you have desired it of me, I write the following Hints, which have been of Service to me, and may, if observed, be so to you.

Remember that TIME is Money. He that can earn Ten Shillings a Day by his Labour, and goes abroad, or sits idle one half of that Day, tho' he spends but Sixpence during his Diversion or Idleness, ought not to reckon That the only Expence; he has really spent or rather thrown away Five Shillings besides.Remember that CREDIT is Money. If a Man lets his Money lie in my Hands after it is due, he gives me the Interest, or so much as I can make of it during that Time. This amounts to a considerable Sum where a Man has good and large Credit, and makes good Use of it.

Remember that Money is of a prolific generating Nature. Money can beget Money, and its Offspring can beget more, and so on. Five Shillings turn'd, is Six: Turn'd again, 'tis Seven and Three Pence; and so on 'til it becomes an Hundred Pound. The more there is of it, the more it produces every Turning, so that the Profits rise quicker and quicker. He that kills a breeding Sow, destroys all her Offspring to the thousandth Generation. He that murders a Crown, destroys all it might have produc'd, even Scores of Pounds.

Remember that Six Pounds a Year is but a Groat a Day. For this little Sum (which may be daily wasted either in Time or Expence unperceiv'd) a Man of Credit may on his own Security have the constant Possession and Use of an Hundred Pounds. So much in Stock briskly turn'd by an industrious Man, produces great Advantage.

Remember this Saying, That the good Paymaster is Lord of another Man's Purse. He that is known to pay punctually and exactly to the Time he promises, may at any Time, and on any Occasion, raise all the Money his Friends can spare. This is sometimes of great Use: Therefore never keep borrow'd Money an Hour beyond the Time you promis'd, lest a Disappointment shuts up your Friends Purse forever.

The most trifling Actions that affect a Man's Credit, are to be regarded. The Sound of your Hammer at Five in the Morning or Nine at Night, heard by a Creditor, makes him easy Six Months longer. But if he sees you at a Billiard Table, or hears your Voice in a Tavern, when you should be at Work, he sends for his Money the next Day. Finer Cloaths than he or his Wife wears, or greater Expence in any particular than he affords himself, shocks his Pride, and he duns you to humble you. Creditors are a kind of People, that have the sharpest Eyes and Ears, as well as the best Memories of any in the World.

Good-natur'd Creditors (and such one would always chuse to deal with if one could) feel Pain when they are oblig'd to ask for Money. Spare 'em that Pain, and they will love you. When you receive a Sum of Money, divide it among 'em in Proportion to your Debts. Don't be asham'd of paying a small Sum because you owe a greater. Money, more or less, is always welcome; and your Creditor had rather be at the Trouble of receiving Ten Pounds voluntarily brought him, tho' at ten different Times or Payments, than be oblig'd to go ten Times to demand it before he can receive it in a Lump. It shews, besides, that you are mindful of what you owe; it makes you appear a careful as well as an honest Man; and that still encreases your Credit.

Beware of thinking all your own that you possess, and of living accordingly. 'Tis a mistake that many People who have Credit fall into. To prevent this, keep an exact Account for some Time of both your Expences and your Incomes. If you take the Pains at first to mention Particulars, it will have this good Effect; you will discover how wonderfully small trifling Expences mount up to large Sums, and will discern what might have been, and may for the future be saved, without occasioning any great Inconvenience.

In short, the Way to Wealth, if you desire it, is as plain as the Way to Market. It depends chiefly on two Words, INDUSTRY and FRUGALITY; i. e. Waste neither Time nor Money, but make the best Use of both. He that gets all he can honestly, and saves all he gets (necessary Expences excepted) will certainly become RICH; If that Being who governs the World, to whom all should look for a Blessing on their Honest Endeavours, doth not in his wise Providence otherwise determine.

Rules Proper to be Observed in Trade

I. Endeavour to be perfect in the calling you are engaged in; and be assiduous in every part thereof; INDUSTRY being the natural means of acquiring wealth, honour, and reputation; as idleness is of poverty, shame, and disgrace.

II. Lay a good foundation in regard to principle: Be sure not wilfully to over-reach, or deceive your neighbour; but keep always in your eye the golden rule of doing as you would be done unto.

III. Be strict in discharging all legal debts: Do not evade your creditors by any shuffling arts, in giving notes under your hand, only to defer payment; but, if you have it in your power, discharge all debts when they become due. Above all, when you are straitened for want of money, be cautious of taking it up at an high interest. This has been the ruin of many, therefore endeavour to avoid it.

IV. Endeavour to be as much in your shop, or warehouse, or in whatever place your business properly lies, as possibly you can: Leave it not to servants to transact, for customers will not regard them as yourself; they generally think they shall not be so well served: Besides, mistakes may arise by the negligence, or inexperience, of servants; and therefore, your presence will prevent, probably, the loss of a good customer.

V. Be complaisant to the meanest, as well as greatest: You are as much obliged to use good manners for a farthing, as a pound; the one demands it from you, as well as the other.

VI. Be not too talkative, but speak as much as is necessary to recommend your goods, and always observe to keep within the rules of decency. If customers slight your goods, and undervalue them, endeavour to convince them of their mistake, if you can, but not affront them: Do not be pert in your answers, but with patience hear, and with meekness give an answer; for if you affront in a small matter, it may probably hinder you from a future good customer. They may think that you are dear in the articles they want; but, by going to another, may find it not so, and probably may return again; but if you behave rude and affronting, there is no hope either of returning, or their future custom.

VII. Take great care in keeping your accounts well: Enter every thing necessary in your books with neatness and exactness; often state your accounts, and examine whether you gain, or lose; and carefully survey your stock, and inspect into every particular of your affairs.

VIII. Take care, as much as you can, whom you trust: Neither take nor give long credit; but, at the farthest, annually settle your accounts. Deal at the fountain head for as many articles as you can; and, if it lies in your power, for ready money: This method you will find to be the most profitable in the end. Endeavour to keep a proper assortment in your way, but not over-stock yourself. Aim not at making a great figure in your shop, in unnecessary ornaments, but let it be neat and useful: Too great an appearance may rather prevent, than engage customers. Make your business your pleasure, and other entertainments will only appear necessary for relaxation therefrom.

IX. Strive to maintain a fair character in the world: That will be the best means for advancing your credit, gaining you the most flourishing trade, and enlarging your fortune. Condescend to no mean action, but add a lustre to trade, by keeping up to the dignity of your nature.

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