Table Speech


“Origin of Vocational Service”

January 17, 2007

Mr. Takeshi Tanaka,
Amagasaki West Rotary Club,
Past Governor of RI District 2680

The concept of Vocational Service in the Rotary Club was proposed by Mr. Arthur Frederick Sheldon. This concept does not exist in any other service organization other than the Rotary Club. Therefore any concept which is different from Mr. Sheldon’s can not be called concept of Vocational Service. Hence it is essential to study the writings and speeches of Mr. Sheldon in order to understand the concept of Vocational Service. Unfortunately, however, very few of Mr. Sheldon’s original writings are introduced in Japan and Vocational Service is explained mostly from materials written by Rotarians later interpreting Mr. Sheldon’s works.

Probably due to the influence of oriental philosophy, many Japanese Rotarians are keenly interested in Vocational Service and many leaders of Rotary Clubs preach Vocational Service. Unfortunately, many of these interpretations are quite different from the original concept of Vocational Service of Mr. Sheldon. Though many Rotarians preach Vocational Service quoting Buddhism, Christianity, or the concept of Divine Vocation, but these are their own ideas and are far different from the concept of Vocational Service of Mr. Sheldon.

The concept of “Vocational Service” was announced as a concept that can enhance the moral level of society, and at the same time, protect your own business enterprise. The background was Chicago, where capitalistic society with its harsh free competition was developing, and where businessmen were trying to earn profits to protect his business enterprise.

Mr. Sheldon explained his concept of Vocational Service at four National Conventions.

Namely, the speech at Chicago Convention of 1910, the speech “My Declaration” at Portland Convention of 1911, the speech “Philosophy and Business Ethics to succeed in Business” at Buffalo Convention of 1913, and the speech “Rotary Philosophy” at Edinburgh Convention of 1921.

All of these four speeches explain the motto of Vocational Service of “He profits most who serves best”. For your reference, I wish to mention that the Japanese translation of these speeches is on my internet website, “Rotary Internet Archives Fellowship”.

Mr. Arthur Frederick Sheldon was born in 1868 at Vernon, Michigan. He studied Salesmanship at a Master program of University of Michigan. In those days, Economics was the major field of study and study of Business Management was not popular. In such circumstances, he majored in Salesmanship. After graduation, he became successful as a sales manager of books and was asked to manage a publishing company in 1899.

In 1902, Mr. Sheldon opened a business school in Chicago and taught salesmanship, based upon the concept of Service. The advertisement of Sheldon Business School stated “Everything in life is decided not by fortune but by Law of Nature. A Successful salesman is not an exception.”

Mr. Sheldon joined the Chicago Rotary Club in 1908 and was immediately appointed as Chairman of the Information Development Committee. In 1910, he served as the first Chairman of the Committee on Business Method at the National Convention of The Rotary Clubs of America.

In 1910, at The First National Convention of The Rotary Clubs of America in Chicago, he introduced a sentence, “He profits most who serves his fellows best.” to which he initially added the words “his fellows”.

He criticized the selfish management method of the 19th century that praised those who made profits by whatever means. Mr. Sheldon stressed that to serve other people is the way to become successful in business, not to make profit only for yourself. He stressed that to share profits with other people is the way to be successful in business in 20th century and announced the motto “He profits most who serves his fellow best”. The words “his fellows” are in addition to the second motto used at present, which means “Those who serve most to the people related to his business will be rewarded the most”.

Unfortunately, few people understood the contents of his wonderful proposal regarding the concept of Service, therefore reaction to his speech was almost nil. In those days, the word “service” reminded people [service to the God・・・church] , [service to the country・・・ military service], [service to his master・・・servant.] and nobody could connect the word service to management.

In 1911, at the Second Convention at Portland, he announced the theme “He profits most who serves best”. He, then, explained what “Service” is. The contents of his speech gave a very strong impression to the audience therefore the full text of his speech was printed in the report of the Convention. The sentence “He profits most who serves best” was adopted as the concluding words of the Rotary Platform at the Convention unanimously. Thus these words became a formal slogan.

The followings are the summary of his speech titled “My Declaration”, at Portland Convention:

*To manage business is to practice the science of management.
*Success of business is to secure permanent and profitable patronage…Salesmanship.
*Success of human being will be obtained by harmonizing with Law of Nature.
*By unselfishly wishing others to succeed, you will make progress towards your own success.

His speech impressed the members and he was praised by a standing ovation.

At the Buffalo Convention of 1913, he explained the contents of his speech of 1911 further and spoke about his unique thinking on education. The title of his speech was “Philosophy and Business Ethics to succeed in business” and the contents were as follows:

*If you perform a large service, you will earn larger profits. Theory of Cause and Result
*The benefit for the people who perform service in the present world is profits.
*The Golden Rule applied in the business world is “He profits most who serves best”.

The speech he made at the Edinburgh Convention of 1921 is the last speech. The wonderful speech was titled “Rotary Philosophy”.

*Service is the basic rule of human relationship to obtain continuous profits.
*Vocational Service is a scientific and morally correct management method to obtain repeaters, (loyal customers).
*Business exists not as a means to obtain profit but to serve society.
*To change standard of ethics of businessmen to standard of ethics of specialized professions.
I believe the above can be applied to present day business.

He draws [Triangle of Happiness].
L: Love and Respect ( Love and Respect from friends)
C: Conscience (Conscience, Self-Respect)
M: Money (Material Wealth)
H: Happiness (Happiness, Satisfaction)

Triangle of Happiness


He said, if you perform vocational service, you can most certainly earn profits that match the service.

Practice of Vocational Service
・Profit
・Spiritual value obtained by Material wealth
・Love and respect from friends.
・Conscience, Self-respect

He also draws [Triangle of Service]
Bottom line is M. Left side is Q1 and right side is Q2.
Triangle placing S in the center.
Q1: Right Quality
Q2: Right Quantity
M: Mode of Conduct
S: Satisfactory Service

Triangle of Service

Mr. Sheldon never uses the word, God.
It is a mistake to explain Vocational Service of Rotary by Theory of Divine Vocation.
There were objections to Mr. Sheldon in England.

Regarding the management method to give satisfaction to the customers, he states that if the offices and stores are operating at reasonable prices, politeness to customers by management and employees, abundant selection of goods, proper advertisement, knowledge of merchandise, after-service, etc., they can obtain repeaters and new customers. He states that such companies will maintain high degree of business ethics.

From the stand point of human relationship in business, he states
*Not all of the profit you earn from your business is yours alone.
*Your business is supported by your employees, suppliers, customers, competitors.
*If you share your profit with those people properly, you will be able to prove that your business will continue to grow.
*By proving this, the business ethics of your industry will improve.

Namely, the profit you made in your business is not the profit you made by yourself.
You should appreciate that the profit was made by the cooperation of employees, customers, suppliers, sub-contractors, competitors, etc., who are related to your business. By managing the business to share the profit properly, you can prove the way to make highest profits, and then you must convey this method is the right way of managing business to all businessmen in your area.

First, Rotarian enterprises have to perform business based upon the spirit of Vocational Service and if you can prove that your business will continue to grow, then your business friends will emulate your business method. This will improve the ethical standard of your industry. This is what “He profits most who serves best” means and the conclusion of Vocational Services.
Business Ethics (Moral Ethics) was approved formally in1915 and was included in “A Talking Knowledge of Rotary”, in 1916 and distributed.

However it was mistakenly believed that the concept of Vocational Service was completed and the concept gradually faded. Finally the ranking of such a wonderful motto was lowered to Second motto, and it was proposed to suspend its use in 2001. Though the proposal was withdrawn, the motto was changed to “They profit most who serve best” in 2004.

At the end of my speech, I wish to summarize the concept of Vocational Service of Mr. Sheldon. If you discard the idea of working to make your own profit, and work to satisfy your customers and serve other people by your profession intending to maximum satisfaction of your customers, your customers will recognize your sincere attitude and he will visit your office many times as a loyal customer and introduce new customers to you. As result, you will be able to obtain larger profits and the business will grow continuously. This will lead to your business having a high standard of business ethics. Vocational Service is not to improve the business ethics but the practicing of vocational service will result in creating a high standard of business ethics as a result.

Every year, a proposal to abolish the motto “He profits most who serves best” and replace it with “Serve above self” is proposed at the Rules Committee. To abolish “He profits most who serves best” is to lose the concept of Vocational Service from Rotary.
We should not forget that it is the characteristics of Rotary to have both “He profits most who serves best” and “Service above self”.