REVIEW of REVIEWS

Get Into a Rut—Then Get Out!

Novel Recipe for Success Is Enunciated by Oscar L. Smith, Who Is Now a "Notions King.”

WILLIAM A. McGARRY January 1 1924
REVIEW of REVIEWS

Get Into a Rut—Then Get Out!

Novel Recipe for Success Is Enunciated by Oscar L. Smith, Who Is Now a "Notions King.”

WILLIAM A. McGARRY January 1 1924

Get Into a Rut—Then Get Out!

Novel Recipe for Success Is Enunciated by Oscar L. Smith, Who Is Now a "Notions King.”

WILLIAM A. McGARRY

RECIPES for success are by no means wanting these days when several United States magazines devote most of their space to observations by successful business and professional men on how they achieved money and position. There are at least two things on which most of these men agree, and these are that to succeed one must be prepared to accept hard work and concentrate every talent in a given direction. Otherwise, their methods are seldom alike. An altogether new ruse for whipping one’s talents to do the best for him is suggested by Oscar L. Smith, whose life story is told in Forbes by William A. McGariy. As a matter of fact, Mr. Smith contends that, consciously or otherwise, all successful men have used the same method as the first step toward progress.

“Get yourself into a rut,” says Mr. Smith, in describing that first step. “Then get out. It is easier to get out than it is to get in. To me it seems a lot of wisdom is wasted in telling people how to solve the secondary problems of life when they have not grasped the elemental fact that you can’t have an obstacle race without obstacles—and they must be real, not imaginary. Methods of getting over them will vary with the individual, but the initial momentum always boils down to hard work, once the obstacles have been set up.”

Among other things in the business world, Mr. Smith just now is a sort of “notions king.” Dealing in units so small that they are stamped out in millions and figured in fractions of a cent, he has built up a business that requires and has a credit rating of three to five hundred thousand dollars. Running that business, which has more than thirty thousand customers, is a job calling for infinite detail work on one end and wide vision on the other. If Smith had nothing to back up his opinions but his experience in selling notions, they would be of proved value. But he has more.

Beginning as an illustrator for magazines after a period of art training that kept him in the Philadelphia Institute of Industrial Art for eleven years and completely shut out any knowledge of business, Smith became in turn a specialist in making wash drawings for architects (pictures of buildings before they are built); the ¡»art owner and operating head of a wood mill; inventor of a show case that changed the methods of marketing men’s and women’s garments; a building contractor; executive in a big furniture corporation manufacturing his invention; salesmanager for the same; manufacturer of rivets, and finally, the inventor of a bargain idea that has put volume into the notions business. In addition to all that, he has found time to invent scores of mechanical devices, and he holds many patents on the intricate machines now in use in his factories.

In the twenty-five years since his graduation from the Art Institute, Smith

has had to solve problems in every division of business—production, financial, distribution. At times he had a market waiting to be developed. At other times there wasn’t any market in sight. In each instance of that kind he found one. Judging by the summary of his manifold business activities he skipped about a great deal, defying all the copy-book maxims about sticking to one line. But when his record is examined in detail it is found that he stuck like grim death when the going was difficult and only let go of his various enterprises after success had been achieved. Once safely out of the rut with one business he lost interest and began to look around for another one.

Improvements of one kind or another have furnished the basis for each of the commercial and industrial successes achieved by Mr. Smith He is still constantly inventing or jotting down ideas for improvements. According to his experience, however, the development of an improvement is only a first step, and the easiest one He holds that except in rare instances nobody ever makes a profit out of an idea until it is sold to the public.

“Anybody with a good mind who will set himself to the task can get an idea a night,” he says. “All he needs to start is the knowledge that the place to begin is wherever he happens to be.

“Any business success is perhaps ten per cent, ideas and ninety per cent. work. In the long run it is easier for the inventor or the man with the idea to learn all those things for himself than to waste his time trying to sell his invention to some manufacturer. In all probability the latter has more schemes than he can handle. I get suggestions in every mail and turn them down just as regularly because I can visualize the hard work and expense necessary to sell them to the public. I get others that it takes a severe wrench to reject, because they are out of my present line and I am too busy to undertake the work.

“I would not like to leave the impression in anybody’s mind that it is an easy matter to manufacture a new or improved article or put it on the market. At the same time there is nothing complex about it. Given a certain amount of judgment and common sense, it calls mainly for hard work. If I went broke to morrow I would get a job, save and scrimp until I had a few hundred dollars and start manufacturing something again. It is necessary to forget about the time clock and to convince yourself that there is a solution to every problem, no matter how difficult it may appear. If it doesn’t turn up to-day it may be approached from a new angle to-morrow. The problems of business are very much like the mechanical problems of finding improvements. The greater they are the simpler the solution. Even in some of the most complicated of modern machines, _ the basic principle is nearly always simplicity itself.”