Many men fail because they undertake a business without considering whether or not there is room for it; others because they do not thoroughly establish themselves in the place, making no efforts to get constituency; and yet others because they do not keep the goods that are in demand, or do not renew the stock soon enough, or do not present their goods in an attractive way.

Here are the rules of an old merchant which he would take for his guidance were he to start anew in the business:

  • Enumerate the entire number of heads of the families in the town, village, ward, or neighborhood where you propose to begin business. Figure out the number of such persons you will require as a minimum basis in order to get on—that is, how many persons or families, spending each on the average, a certain amount per day or week at your place of business, you will require, in order to make a living.
  • Do not go blindly into your work, trusting your luck. Luck is always on the side of pluck and tact. Determine what percent of the peoples patronage is absolutely essential to your success. The first step is to ascertain if such percent is likely to come to you.
  • In opening a new business in a small town or village, make a personal canvas from house to house. Do not trust the work of your friend, relative or clerk. Nobody can help you so much as you can help yourself. Nobody has your interest as much at heart as you have.
  • Tell the people pleasantly that you are a new bidder for their patronage. Inform them what you propose to do. Make them understand that no man shall undersell you, or give them in any way a better bargain. If possible, take a sample of your choicest goods with you.
  • Also, you must consider what incursions are to be made by out of town dealers, and what prospect there is of others setting up a similar business in your town. But you should have an ideal trade toward which you steadily work.
  • Declare daily to yourself, “ My gross earning shall be $______per day”, or “_______(so many) persons shall be my patrons.” When you fall below the mark, bestir yourself in many ways.
  • Remember that you yourself, in contact with your customers, count for more than anything else.
  • Make your patrons feel that you are their friend.

Now uncle J.P. might be a bit old fashioned but I have always found his advice to be Very Sound. He is a man that has been at the ‘old game’, way before many of the readers of his advice where even alive. Perhaps you think that with the advent of the Internet, door to door canvassing is an art that is thankfully lost and gone, but let me tell you that uncle J.P. made a fortune at his trade. In a time when spam is the dreaded word of the decade and its becoming more and more difficult to hawk one’s wares without infringing on another’s Internet rights, there is nothing stopping you from making the rounds the old fashioned way. But remember that uncle J.P. admonishes that you must become a friend of the people, out to make an honest living, not the local pest. Also uncles J.P. lets you know that positive thinking is all fine and good, but for pities sake, crunch the numbers. If you don’t have the goods or the buyers, your business is doomed.