Marshall Field was an American entrepreneur who played a pioneering role that revolutionalised the world of retail business. In an era of wishy-washy and unfair trade practices, Field stood head and shoulders above others advocating for quality service and customer satisfaction. He introduced the idea of product refunds, liberal credit, one-price system, in-store restaurants for shoppers and as a result transformed the shopping experience.
Born on a farm in the summer of 1834 and at the age of 16 started his career as an errand boy in a local dry-goods store in Pittsfield, Massachusetts where for 4 years, he learned the rudiments of commerce. Soon after in 1856, he moved on to the West (Chicago) to become a clerk in another dry-goods store named Cooley, Woodsworth & Co. There, he quickly rose to become a partner in the business and eventually in 1867, took full ownership of the enterprise. Marshall Field & Co. went on to become the largest departmental store in the world at the time.
Notably, during the great Chicago fire, Field’s business was one of the many that were razed to ruins. But despite the huge setback, Marshall Field displayed an unstoppable attitude worthy of emulation. On the morning after the fire, a meeting of all merchants was held to decide whether to rebuild or leave Chicago and start all over in a more promising part of the country. Field rose up, pointing a finger at the remains of his store and said,
“Gentlemen on that very spot I will build the world’s greatest store, no matter how many times it may burn down.”
That was almost a century ago and indeed the store was built.
Here are the 6 pieces of advice gleaned from the life and times of Marshall Field (August 18, 1834 – January 16, 1906);
#1. HAVE A DESIRE FOR SOMETHING GREAT
I had a leaning toward business and I always thought I would be a merchant. Hence, I pursued it as early as possible. Therefore, have a desire for something great and back-up the desire with action (work).
#2. BE DETERMINED TO SUCCEED
In those days, all the people were poor and my father’s farm was located on the rocky hills of Conway Massachusetts. It wasn’t that fertile but being a man of good judgement, he made a success out of the farming business. So, I followed suit. Be determined not to be or remain poor.
#3. ALWAYS SAVE SOME OF WHAT YOU EARN
I was naturally of a saving disposition. A dollar looked very big to us boys and girls in those days and as we had difficult labour in earning it, we did not quickly spend it. More so, the turning point of my career was noticeably when I saved the first $5,000 I ever had. I might just as well have spent the moderate salary I made but possessing that sum, once I had it, gave me the ability to meet opportunities.
#4. MAKE LEARNING A PRIORITY
I attended the common and high schools at home but not for long. I had no college training and I cannot say that I had much of any public school education. I had but few books and scarcely any to speak of. There was not much time for literature and such books as we had I made use of. Also, I found out that there’s a lot to learn in business, and the man or woman who learned the quickest fared the best.
#5. BE OF GOOD CHARACTER
Personally, I practiced honesty, slow-growing business methods and tried to back them with energy and good system. The qualities of honesty, energy, frugality and integrity are more necessary today than ever. And I believe there is no success without them.
#6. LEAVE A GOOD LEGACY
Interest yourself in public affairs. For there is no happiness in more dollars, after they are acquired, one can only use but a moderate amount. It is only in the wider public affairs where money is a moving force toward the general welfare that the possessor of it can possibly find pleasure, and that only constantly doing more. The greatest good a man can do is to cultivate himself, develop his powers, in order that he may be of greater use to humanity.
Credits: How They Succeeded by Orison Swett Marden