$25,000 Jobs That Go Begging
Baron Von Dewitz in Smith s Magazine
THE mining-camps in the Nome District were somewhat flabbergasted—so far as this is possible among gents who pay a dollar for a shave—when Conrad, the Alaskan mining king, posted his famous offer for a smelting superintendent at $25,000 a year.
There were actually people around Nome who thought their presence could be spared long enough from local barrooms to admit of looking into this, with the result that all the noble citizens of the district, who had nothing better to do, waylaid Conrad for the big job. Some threatened, some argued, some buttonholed him, but nobody had the right kind of surplus experience. All the good men were busy working somebody else’s smelters.
In order to save himself from the mob, Conrad made it a condition that all applicants were to show proof of having earned at least $15,000 salary. That thinned the field down from a round thousand to just three men, who were all immediately raised on fiveyear contracts as against Conrad’s one-year term ! The difference between his princely offer and the renewed salaries held by these men was still large, but' not important enough for them to take the jump. That $25,000 job actually went begging for months until the mining king secured the right man from a distance of some two thousand miles. Because he bids against talent the same as a man will bid at auction against another for possession of a certain object, Conrad has done more to jump salaries in Alaska than any other man.
“I can get ten thousand men who are capable of earning every cent of a $1,500 a year salary, and I can get
them without the least trouble,” said one of the leading men of finance with whom I was discussing the subject. “But it seems to be impossible to locate five men who are actually worth from $15,000 to $25,000 to assist me in conducting my business.”
The core of the matter seems to be that as soon as a man can write his annual earnings in five figures he is laid siege to by capital. The climb up to this point, which must be reached before capital will notice, is usually a heart-breaking one. It transforms a man from a capability into a capacity. He was just as good before, only now we know just how good he is. This is the kind of certainty employers are glad to pay big money for, nowadays more than ever, and goes a long way to explain the enormous salary premiums paid for demonstrated efficiency.
Guesswork is being rapidly eliminated from business these days. The employer cannot afford to gamble, and in a perfectly organized business he will not be called upon to take any chances. It has been found expensive to put a $5,000 man where only a $10,000 talent could produce results, and men are cheap at $50,000 in some positions. When a man does rise above the $10,000 limit he is a prospective claimant for almost any of the great portfolios of this workaday age, and the men in control begin to bid for his brains. And so it happens that several kings of finance may be bidding for the same man, and some big jobs will go begging.
There is a newspaper proprietor in New York who came out some .time ago during a business meeting of his stockholders with a standing offer to pay the salary of the President of the United States to any man who could
write for his paper “just three scoops a week.” He figured that any large paper could well afford to pay, and did pay, an average of one thousand dollars for a first-class “scoop,” or special of vital importance appearing exclusively. At that rate, provided he succeeds in finding a man able to write three good “scoops” a week, his paper would be getting the benefit of a $156,000 service for a paltry $50,000 annual salary—a very economical arrangement.
The president of a large manufacturing company in Chicago has been scouring the country for the last two years in a vain search for the proper sort of an assistant to himself, a sort of under-study. He is willing to pay almost any salary to any man whom he thinks good enough to merit a trial, but prefers to leave the salary and choice of work entirely to the applicant, as that is in itself a pretty good test. He wants a man who can assume the executive responsibility in his absence, a man able to grasp the prodigious detail of a large manufacturing business and able to handle the men entrusted with the detail.
As soon as it became known that he was in the market for an understudy his friends and associates began to deluge him with “good word” letters for hopeful applicants, never stopping to think, apparently, how particular this employer must be, since in his own vast enterprise, employing several thousand men, he found no one good enough to suit the part of his second-self.
In every case, whenever he accorded an applicant an interview, he would put this inquiry:
“Suppose I should start you in here, and leave things pretty much to your own judgment, what kind of work would you expect to do?”
It seldom failed but what the applicant thought himself entirely able to take hold where the president would leave oil", to do his work, without trying to earn his experience.
“I haven’t had the right answer given me as yet,” explained this cmplover to a friend of mine, from whom I have these facts; “and yet
the right answer is so simple that a fool or a genius would think of it. This job of mine is worth at least half of what I am worth in salary alone to the corporation, and I shall think myself lucky if I can secure a man for $30,000 who will be my own successful second-self.”
What this man wants is just a private secretary able to master the whole business from the bottom up, and when you consider the salary he has in mind to pay his offer is certainly unique.
The great scarcity of executives who can actually “make good”—men with a talent for extracting maximum efficiency from every employe—is the real cause for the tremendous rise in salaries for managerial posts.
There is a national bank in a large Western city that has found it necessary to change its president thrice and its stafif of officers four times in a decade, searching for men who can put the bank to the front and keep it there. During that time the official salaries were increased by thirty per cent., and the last president got $18,000 as against the first one’s $10,000.
This raise of pay brought no rise in business. It seemed well-nigh impossible to properly officer that bank. A board of governors was appointed from the chief stockholders, and whereas all the former officers had been local men, fresh blood from other cities was now brought into the vacant places. A jocular young man, who had made a record for himself as president of a microscopic Mississippi bank, was elected “president pro tern,” at $5,000, with the understanding that if he could fill the difficult position he should be elected “full president,” with maximum salary. That young chap literally mowed down competition right and left, put the bank on a firm basis, and trebled its business in little more than a year’s time. He was voted the full $18,000, and a premium of $2,000 for his first year’s reorganization work, but instead of accepting this gratuity he had it turned over to those of his stalt who had supported him most efficiently.
During the board meeting he was
asked by a director to what quality his instant success had been due.
“Three things,” laughed the youthful president. “You hang up a big purse before my nose. I was a stranger here, and nobody had any claim on me, nor was I under anybody’s obligations. I went to work regardless of consequences, horns down and tails up, and the rest of the office had to follow the pace I set.”
Most of the big salary earners nowadays are men who either have risen from the bottom to the top in a certain business, or men who have suddenly been “discovered” and as suddenly promoted by their explorers.
The president of the match trust is a believer in taking in outside talent for leading positions. He is continually hunting for men to fit into some big job without “rattling.” He is tickled beside himself when he spots the right man—especially if the man has been hard to stalk—but does not evince all the enthusiasm he is capable of when the right man just happens to develop in his own office. He must have his game clearing fences in front of him, must this man-hunting magnate, who hangs up purses of five figures as carelessly as millionaires serve hunt-breakfasts !
“I once had a company on my hands that cost me over one hundred thousand dollars a year to keep going, and I didn’t dare to drop it,” he declared. “I skinned all the salaries down to the bare bone, and came out in meeting and said that any man who could relieve me of that $100,000 tax on my treasury could have one-third of it in salary.”
Here was a possum well worth the climbing of trees and risking of breeches to capture. All hands turned to scheming out new ways and means, and the president’s waste-basket did its noblest to keep up with the waste brains !
Then, one fine day, the office was treated to the spectacle of its chief lugging in a new “bag of game”—a young chemist whom he had fished out of a technical school in Boston. The bean-eater was given a careful training in the various departments,
and turned out a clean-cut success. The boss turned over the factory to him. He started with annual sales of $240,000, a pay-roll of 120 men, and a deficit of about $100,000. In less than a year’s time he had entirely wiped out the deficit. He was promptly given a salary, as agreed, of $33,300. In eight years he increased his force to 2.700 men and his sales to $12,000,000. By the end of that time he had saved nearly $200,000 in salary, and owned stock in this concern worth close to $100,000, besides being on the board of directors of several other companies controlled by the trust.
What attracted the president to this young man, in the first place, was that he had made his way through college on his own resources and after the manner of a born organizer. His first venture was to amalgamate all the laundries catering to the college men into one unit capitalized at $30,000. He cleaned up a round one thousand dollars by this deal, whereby he obtained for his classmates lower charges and for the laundries in the combine a monopoly.
When Lyman J. Gage was secretary of the treasury he was not infrequently asked by prominent bankers to suggest men for positions worth $25,000 and more. The bankers themselves could not find the right men. In many instances these princely positions were never filled. In one instance the ex-secretary is said to have supplied a $25,000 man whom he had never even seen, and who turned out to be worth every cent of it.
One winter when call money fetched as high as 30 per cent, for several weeks, a large financial institution sent one of its officers to some of the big bond houses offering to advance the required funds if any of their banks should actually call their loans. Of course, the bond houses, in appreciation of this courtesy, in cases where their loans fell due, paid a somewhat higher rate of interest and were glad to pay it.
Mr. Gage saw at a glance that a
master stroke had been made, and in-
quired the name of the man who did it.
“That’s the man you need,” he wrote to a Western banker anxious to have somebody take a $20,000 salary. “I do not know the man, but I know him by his works.”
The banker immediately wired the young genius, who turned out to be an assistant auditor earning $8,000, and who as promptly wired his polite refusal. In the short space of a few days his value to the interest of the “Street” had risen so highly that he was in a position to choose between better offers.
When two $18,000 jobs have to stand out in the cold, in the same city, on the same day, even a busy little village like Chicago will take notice, especially when the jobs are refused, as they actually were, by more than a dozen men who were approached. The fact that two competing roads were willing to pay $18,000 for a good freight manager happened, of course, to attract everybody’s attention except the men whom the road thought should be interested—and they were doing as well, or better.
Besides President Corey, of the U. S. Steel Corporation, there is one other officer of the company who also draws $100,000 salary, namely, Judge Gary, who aired the opinion recently ffiat the president of the Mutual Life Insurance Company, granting that he is the best available man for the place, would be a rather underpaid employe at $150,000 a year! This free-spoken judge ought to know something about salaries with four officials under him earning $30,000 each, and twelve managers getting $25,000.
In the forty-odd different corporations controlled by the big trust there are continually vacancies worth fortunes occurring that are difficult, and sometimes impossible, to fill, because the big-salaried men must be promoted constantly or they will be snapped up by outside concerns.
“We are not seeking for men who will accept low pay,” said the judge recently, “but wc arc ever on the lookout for men who arc worth high salaries.”
The policy formed by this trust for high pay for high-pressure effort obtains in every progressive establishment in the country. It amounts to a national truism that failure or success may be expected according to whether the men selected are wrong or right. Consequently, the question of salaries is secondary compared to the question of right men for right places.
There are close to seventy positions within the great trust yielding $10,000 salaries, and Judge Gary has all he can do to get the proper brains for these jobs, where vacancies often go begging with temporary substitutes on part pay. The trust would like to recruit all its $25,000 men, and officers higher up, from the $10,000 aggregation, but is frequently forced to go outside and peddle these lordly jobs from door to door until a fit taker is found.
Even among the professions the high-salaried vacant post is not uncommon. In New York City there are just three physicians who make $100,000 and over a year; five who range from $50,000 to $60,000 ; fifty who average about $30,000 ; 150 who average $12,000, and 300 who make about $5,000. One of the fifty who made less than $25,000 a year gave up his fashionable place on Central Park South to become house doctor to several members of the smart set. He is making almost double his former average now, but the doctor who took his former place on Central Park South is unable to fill it, and makes little more than his rent. Here is a chance for a fashionable saw-bones with the social instinct!
The rather eccentric magnate of the Tobacco Trust has been in the brains market for years to find a man who m relieve him of his active duties . ^ managing head. He has tried several. He has paid as high as $5,000 a month to some while trying them out. If he ever discovers the right man it is safe to say that that man can practically dictate his own salary.
Since 1901 there has been a $75,000 vacancy with the New York Life Insurance Company. After George W. Perkins resigned his post as second
vice-president no one has been found able to fill it, though Mr. Perkins still retains a $25,000 salary from the company in an advisory capacity. Not a few agency directors of this company earn $15,000 or more, and though there are thousands of applicants every time a vacancy occurs, the company often hesitates a long while before a final choice is made.
A post in an Eastern city was recently filled by a new, outside man, not in “line for promotion,” who made such a splendid record for himself that the company, rather than lose him to a rival firm, shook this plum into his lap, worth easily $20,000 with salary and commission.
The mild-mannered and courteous president of the New Tork, New Haven & Hartford Railroad was once hired to the $40,000 presidency of the Northern Pacific without even a mention as to salary. The president, then identified as manager of one of the J.
Pierpont Morgan roads, sat in his office when an ofifer came over the longdistance phone for him to go at once to St. Paul as president of the Northern Pacific.
“Who’s in control?” was the only question asked by the future president.
“J. P. Morgan & Co.” was the reply.
“I accept,” said the New Haven man, who saw only a great work before him—a work of converting “two grease streaks across the prairie,” into a dividend-earning road—and who left the salary to take care of itself.
“No first-class road in this country,” says this man, “can truthfully say that it has no need for extra help in the $25,000 class. I kïK/sr where I could make good use of a half dozen of them right away, if I could only lay my hands on them/'
Make a Bluff
If there isn’t any pleasure Waits for you beside the way.
If there’s not a thing to grin at In your journey day by day,
If you’ve got excuse for kicking And for stirring up a row,
Don’t you do it ! Don’t you do it ! Just be happy, anyhow.
Just be happy, just be happy;
Take the fiddle and the bow, Snuggle it against your shoulder, Limber up and let her go.
Till the world is full of music And there’s joy in every string. Till you get all outdoors laughing And you make the echoes sing.
It’s a duty you are owing To the world to shake your feet,
And to lift your voice in singin’ Till the music fills the street;
If the world is dark and gloomy And you haven’t got a friend,
It’s your duty to dissemble,
It’s your duty to pretend.
If you meet the world a-grinnin’, Then the world will grin at you—
You can laugh the clouds to flinders Till the blue sky glimmers through ;
If you just pretend you’re happy, With your whole heart in the bluff,
When almost before you know it, You’ll be happy, sure enough!