The Business of the Salvation Army

General Booth in American Business Man January 1 1908

The Business of the Salvation Army

General Booth in American Business Man January 1 1908

"NO, no," I said when the editor came. "I'm too busy, really too busy. I've made twenty speeches this week. I’m an old man, and the tax has been great. I’m tired out. You mustn’t ask me for an article.”

But the editor protested. He flattered me. He said the big business men among whom his magazine circulates are interested in me and in my army, that they want to know the story of the Salvation Army from a strictly business standpoint. Now we think the Salvation Army is the greatest business proposition in the world, and we think our methods are such that a good many merchants and manufacturing houses could well copy them. If there is a flaw in our business methods we want to know it, if there is a better system we want to adopt it. So I gave in to the editor, consenting to write this article, which probably is the only one I shall write during my visit in America. I am getting old ; this may be the last article I shall ever pen, and if so, God grant that it shall continue to interest you good-hearted, broad-gauged business men in the salvation of many persons after I am gone.

I am going to take you into my confidence, completely, without reserve. I trust you with my secrets. How is the Salvation Army run, what do we do with the money, how do we guard against dishonesty or what you term “graft,” where do we get our brains, our heads of departments, our “salesmen” and “salesmanagers,” so to speak, and how do we train them? I shall tell you all, and, after reading, if any of you men of big commercial activities see a lurking danger in our system or have a suggestion for a better, please in all kindness write me personally, or my officers. That the Salvation Army shall be so established on good religion and good business that all the world and the devil cannot budge it is the autumnal ambition of its founder.

The Salvation Army is a business proposition. That our business is not to manufacture engines or sell merchandise, but to change the hearts of men, makes no difference. We have our working staff to manage, our territory to canvass and to till and our “prospects” to interest, the same as has the manufacturer or merchant. I do not know really that there is any great difference between running the Salvation Army and running one of your big business houses over here in this wonderful America—except that there is most Christ with us and more Mammon with you.

That’s the great trouble with you business men of America, you think too much of the almighty dollar. Why, I am told the heads of some of your insurance companies live in palaces and are paid princely salaries. The Salvation Army has an insurance company, too—a good, fine, healthy concern doing a business up in the millions—and how much do you suppose its head gets? Twenty dollars a week, and there isn’t a better insurance man in Great Britain or 'the Americas ! Then we have a large bank, and its manager doesn’t get as much as twenty dollars a week. And Commissioner Nicol, that fine and learned gentleman who is with me on this trip, is the editor of four of our weekly newspapers and seven magazines, and he gets twenty dollars a week. One New York publisher, I understand, pays a certain editor $50,000 a year for editing just one newspaper, and I venture to say that the editor who draws the $50,000 is not more capable than Commissioner Nicol.

I think any employer will agree with me that the success of his business depends on the men who do the work. To create an atmosphere among employes of good-fellowship and of eternal willingness to do the duties required of them in the best manner of which they are capable is the problem always before the man of business. In short it is necessary that the employe give his employers the best that is in him at all times, and in the best spirit. Various methods are adopted to bring this about, gradual promotions with increases of salary being the usual stimulus. The Salvation Army rewards its workers with promotions, but when you think that the pay of a captain at the Chicago headquarters is $10 a week and that of the editor-in-chief of our publications and of the manager of our insurance company is but twice as much, you will realize that there is not much salary stimulus held out to our young men. But there is no business house in the world where a better spirit prevails among the members of the working staff than is to be found at any of the headquarters of the Salvation Army.

Let me cite an incident : During my visit in Chicago I was resting one day in the commissioner’s office. In a room adjacent a young woman stenographer, who was not a member of the army, was at work on her typewriter. She was very busy, had a great many letters to be written and posted that day. Still, when another young woman entered, a young woman whose duty it was to wash the dishes, the stenographer at once volunteered to help in the dish washing.

“There are too many for you to do alone,” said the stenographer, pleasantly. “I’m going to help.”

The second young woman protested mildly that the stenographer was not paid for washing dishes, and that if she insisted on it she would be kept late in the evening finishing her typewriting.

“You aren’t even a member of the army,” was the final protest.

“No,” laughed the young stenographer, “but there’s so much charity around this place I cannot get away from it. My system’s full of it. Come on, I’m going to help wash those dishes.” And the two locked arms and walked away.

Now, to understand the business methods of the Salvation Army, this incident is important. If I were to go into your manufactory or your store and witnessed such a spirit among your workers I should know at once one very vital secret of your success. But such a spirit does not come forth uncultivated. It requires study. However closely the labor of the Master may bring the officer of the Salvation Army in touch with the divine, he is always human, naturally susceptible to the influences that sway workmen in the business world. So in our methods of cultivating the spirit of charity and of willingness among workers may be many a hint for commercial employers.

Let us go back to the foundation. The Salvation Army was organized thirty-two years ago. To-day it is established in fifty-two countries. Its territory is the world. It has a million members, it collects and expends annually a million and a quarter of dollars and all the work is done by 20,000 persons—its uniformed officers. These officers are ranked according to their ability, their term of servitude and their consecration. Lieutenant is the lowest commissioned officer. Then follow captain, cadet, ensign, adjutant, staff captain, major, brigadier, lieutenant-colonel, colonel and commissioner.

This force is recruited from the membership of the army. Officers are continually on the look-out for men and women of consecration and ability, and as these are found they are induced to enter our training schools. In America we have two such schools, one in New York and one in Chicago. The course extends for six months, and includes instruction in the history of religion and of the Salvation Army, in the Bible and in administration, the purpose being to turn out young men and women well-versed in their Bibles, in the doctrines of the Army, and in the methods of tact and resourcefulness that constitute the foundation of executive ability. Or graduation the students are commissioned as full-fledged lieutenants and captains.

This training corresponds to the training the young man receives in the business house preparatory to going on the road as a salesman. #It prepares our young people to go into the slums and the highways and byways of sin and change the hearts of men.

“Now, at the outset, we seek to promote the sense of responsibility, to fire the ambition, to instill the desire to do something to-day, and tomorrow to do something bigger, in our graduates. It is taken for granted that they go into their work with love for it deep-seated in their hearts. What material stimulus is needed is furnished by the system of promotions and I may say that no system built up on a basis of big salaries could possibly succeed so well. I have seen men in various nations and in various walks of life rejoicing over their prosperity, but I have never seen one as happy as an officer of the Salvation Army on receiving a promotion to a higher rank. Promotion means something to that officer, not the least of which is the knowledge that he is a success in his chosen line of endeavor.

The international headquarters of the army are situated in London. Here we have large publishing plants, a bank, an insurance company and a foreign office as thoroughly organized as your department of state at Washington. This foreign office might, in a business sense, be styled the head of our foreign sales department. It keeps in touch with the national headquarters in each and everyone of the fifty-two countries where the Salvation Army is active. It knows, for instance, everything that the army is doing in Chicago; more than this, it knows just what are the conditions and possibilities in Chicago. When the army is doing good work here, the foreign office knows it, and when less is being accomplished than might be expected, the foreign office likewise is alive to the falling-off. Thus, everything that it done in every city of fifty-two nations is checked off monthly with everything that should have been done. The foreign office never permits a lag in Chicago, in Berlin, in Manila, in Capetown, in Rio Janeiro, in Tokyo, to go long unremedied, nor an especially brilliant effort to go uncommended.

The accumulated experience at the centre is always at the disposal of the men at the extremities. New York may ask the foreign office in London for advice and the foreign office will answer intelligently, because close study of the monthly reports from New York has made the men in London thoroughly familiar with the situation at New York, and they have their wide experience in other fields for guidance.

If there is one feature of our system more than another that business men may copy with profit, it is the wonderful organization of this foreign department. I doubt very much if any business house has men in its foreign sales department who so thoroughly understand the varying needs and the varying natures of the peoples of the world as do the men in our foreign office at London. We have men there who speak every language in Christendom. It will be interesting, doubtless, to my readers to learn that an American, Col. Edward Higgins, is the assistant foreign secretary.

This same organization characterizes our work everywhere. To begin with, our field, which is the world, is divided into territories, each in charge of a sub-general, who is invested with full executive powers in his department. This sub-general is expected to do things. If he does not, he is soon removed. In his sphere this sub-general is an autocrat, and in this connection I wish to defend the system of autocracy as an efficient agency in business organization. When one considers how the Salvation Army goes down to the very lowest depths and lifts men and women up, no one can accuse us of not being democratic, and yet in our organization we are autocratic. My powers, as general, for instance, are absolute. If I err in my judgment or in my personal deportment, I may be removed from office ; but while I do reign I must be obeyed. So must the colonel or the commissioner in charge of a department be obeyed. In the same way, there must be prompt compliance with the commands of major to captain, of captain to lieutenant, of lieutenant to soldier. There is no occasion for a command to be questioned; it must not. Now, obviously this is autocracy, but I insist it is quite necessary to the conduct of any successful organization.

Now, to prevent stagnation and to halt a possible tendency to get too conservative, the term of command is limited to five years. New blood is coming to the front all the time. Something must be done by the man in power, or at the end of the five years he will find himself supplanted by a younger man of fresher ideas. So here is the stimulus to constant endeavor. The department commander realizes that there is never to be a period of let-up; he must be doing his best, and a little better than he did yesterday, all the time. Meanwhile he is training men, drilling them, inspiring them; making and keeping his department a live wire.

Commissioner Kilbey is in charge of the western department of the army, with headquarters in Chicago. A man named French is in charge in California. If there are two harder working business men in America I have not heard of them. They are heads of departments. Their departments, in turn, are sub-divided into provinces, the provinces into divisions, and the divisions into separate offices. It is all a great system. Kilbey and French keep in touch with the sub-divisions of their departments and the foreign office at London keeps in touch with them.

The Salvation Army is also divided into two general departments—a social department, attending to the charitable and philanthropical duties of the army, and a spiritual or religious department. Each department is conducted separately. Each does its own booking, its own banking and its own financing, so that contributions to advance the spiritual side of our work do not go to advance the charitable side, and vice versa.

We collect and expend, as I have said, something like a million and a quarter dollars annually. This is a vast sum, and it is imperative that it should be carefully handled and, above all, that there should be no suspicion of our honesty. Our financial system is based on the most up-to-date methods with which we are familiar. We are regulated by the budget principle. Each spending department has to present to the board of experts a statement, compiled from carefully ascertained data, of the probable income and expenditure during the coming twelve months. This statement is submitted to, and passed upon by experts who are called the budget board. If approved by this board, the expenditure allowed cannot be carried out until the scheme or schemes under consideration are submitted to the finance council. Suppose, for instance, that Commissioner Kilbey decided upon erecting a new training school at Chicago to cost $100,000, and the expenditure should be passed upon by the budget board, it would still be necessary, before a single cent could be paid out, for the finance council to give its approval.

The financial council is composed of leading financial men attached to headquarters who have no interest in the particular scheme under consideration and whose decision must be arrived at in harmony with the fundamental principles of economy and utility. The council must have positive evidence of the value of the land upon which the school is to be built and must know beyond any possibility of error that the scheme offers no pitfall into which the funds of the army will be sunk.

Well, the finance council, we will say, approves of the proposition. What then? The sum desired must be requisitioned for and vouchers must be produced showing that the money has been spent or is necessary. Then begins the inquiry all over again.

In all this, you may say, there is much red tape. Admitted ; and oftentimes this rigid auditing and re-auditing is most tantalizing, almost maddening to the live, enthusiastic officers who are chafing to go ahead. But it is necessary, I insist. The army must be above suspicion.

In addition to our internal audit, there is an external one. Knox, Burridge & Cropper, an eminent firm of chartered accountants of the city of London, are employed to go over our books regularly each month. It is their duty to find leakages and extravagances, if any exist, and by revealing them force us to make correction at once.

Take a collection at one of our meetings. First, it must be counted by two persons, one checking the other. Then the money is passed into the hands of the local treasurer and in time is reported, abstractly, in the monthly statement to London. There is no opportunity open for what in America you call “graft.”

Some business houses, I am told, make a failure of foreign trade by attempting to use in all countries the methods that are successful in one. The Salvation Army does not make this mistake. Our methods vary as the countries in which they are employed vary. Thus in Paris and Berlin there are no street processions, such as we have in this country and in England. The drum and the horn are not appreciated on the boulevards of France as they are opposite one of your American saloons, for instance. We take heed of this, and map our campaign accordingly. If the drum and horn will win men from sin, we will keep everlastingly beating and tooting away; if the drum and the horn are not effective, then we will seek everlastingly for something that is. This is good religion, and I think it is good business.

In Japan, that wonderful little nation in the far east, the Salvation Army has got in very close touch with the people by adopting native manners and ways insofar as has been possible. We have been peculiarly successful there in working up public sentiment with respect to the women of the yoshi wara, a district corresponding to your so-called “red-light” districts. We entered into a semi-political agitation, which resulted in the passing of an act by which a woman under contract to serve as a prostitute could free herself from the same if she desired to do so. Within a few weeks after this law went into force, 12,500 women applied for and received their liberty. I cite this merely as an illustration of the success of our methods in even a pagan land.

In looking back now over the thirty-two years that have passed since the blessed day upon which I entered into the service of my Master and founded this Salvation Army, I realize clearly that no small factor in the success of the movement has been the consecration and marvelous ability of the officers of the army. I say marvelous ability advisedly ; they are remarkable men, many of these officers, men with whom, for brains and manhood, you could scarcely compare officers from any business concern. An old man, almost eighty years of age, I am just completing a tour of many thousands of miles around the globe, and in every nation I find these officers of our army, these men of powers and consecration, and as I meet them in Japan, in South Africa, in America, my heart beats with gladness and I think that now, indeed, may I die in peace—in such hands the work of the Salvation Army will go on forever. It is a glorious thought. I wonder if you, whose hair also is gray and whose shadow long has fallen to the westward, feel this same security in the future of your firm after you are gone.

Within a few weeks I will have concluded my sojourn in your great America and will have sailed for England, perhaps never to return. When I board my ship and we clear the harbor, I shall watch your retreating shores with moist eyes, I am afraid. America, what a wonderful country, what a wonderful field for the Salvation Army to work in the changing of men’s hearts ! If you only could forget the almighty dollar, if you could do that, you Americans would be almost perfect!

Now, in ending, a sentence sermon that business men will understand: No officer of the Salvation Army smokes, drinks, swears or uses injurious drugs such as morphine or cocaine’. We think this is one of the reasons they are, as a class, so clearheaded and mentally active. How about the men who are working for you? Would they be better employes, could they serve your interests better if they did not drink nor smoke nor otherwise abuse themselves?

With this question I will leave you. Until we meet again, good-bye, good-bye, God bless you.