The Great Watchwords


1914. In the most extraordinary migration in American business history, the bumpkins from the West got on trains and moved the J. C. Penney Company to offices seven walk-up flights above 34th Street. Before that historic event, but after the company stationery was redesigned to read:

J. C. Penney Company Incorporated
"36 busy stores"

Penney had an important event to manage. It was the landmark 1913 convention in Salt Lake City's big Hotel Utah, which included the introduction of "The Body of Doctrine." Written by a colleague and later called "The Penney Idea," the founder introduced the precepts in a solemn and uplifting ceremony. Printed on fancy paper and distributed to every store manager- attendee , they were then narrated by Penney himself:

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The Body of Doctrine
  1. To serve the public, as nearly as we can, to its complete satisfaction.

  2. To expect from the service we render a fair remuneration and not all the profits the traffic will bear.

  3. To do all in our power to pack the customer's dollar full of value, quality and satisfaction.

  4. To continue to train ourselves and our associates so that the service we give will be more and more intelligently performed.

  5. To improve constantly the human factor in our business.

  6. To reward the men and women of our organization through participation in what the business produces.

  7. To test our every policy, method, and act in this wise: Does it square with what is right and just?

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Finally, after the business of the convention had been concluded, Penney returned to the podium and, in his best preacher mode, added another written expression of values to the company lore. These were to balance The Penney Idea, framing the company's internal behavior. "Henceforth," he declared, "this company shall be in the embrace of another unshakable, everlasting tradition signified by four letters ." He paused dramatically. "H ”C ”S ”C." Another pause.

"I now ask each and every one of you to look beyond our business here and see your working life in light of four guiding principles. H ”to stand for Honor , which bespeaks worth. C ”to stand for Confidence , which begets trust. S ”to stand for Service , which brings satisfaction. And C ”to stand for Cooperation , which proves the quality of leadership.

"H. C. S. C. Honor, Confidence, Service, and Cooperation. Let those be our four watchwords from this day forward." He then asked each man to stand and affirm his dedication to those principles by saying, "I will."

Thirty-six men stood and thirty-six voices somberly replied, "I will."

Penney then concluded by saying, "Our company will be strong, but no stronger than we are as individuals; our company will be big, but no bigger than we are as individuals; and our company will be solid, but no more solid than we are as individuals. Then let us, you and I, be strong be big and be solid! "

In due course an "HCSC" lapel pin was designed. It was worn proudly by all initiates (eventually it was presented on the occasion of being vested in profit sharing). Thus, with The Penney Idea and HCSC, the J. C. Penney Company would grow into the only great American company whose business credo emphasized ethics.




Celebration of Fools. An Inside Look at the Rise and Fall of JCPenney
Celebration of Fools: An Inside Look at the Rise and Fall of JCPenney
ISBN: 0814471595
EAN: 2147483647
Year: 2003
Pages: 177
Authors: Bill Hare

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