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Paths to Entrepreneurial Success: A Banker’s Advice (1884)

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If I were in your position, I would take advantage of this opportunity; I would do practical work soon and gather plenty of experience – always with the underlying motive of joining up with a scientifically trained technician, perhaps a financier as well, and forming your own enterprise.

For this type of work, you have two avenues: either Schuckert* in Nuremberg or the Edison Company in Berlin – if the latter is capable of sending you to America beforehand so that you get to see everything for six months. [ . . . ]

Since I was in America [during the autumn of 1883] I attach great importance to a lengthier stay there for pedagogical reasons. There is no doubt in my mind that the tone in which business is carried out in America is far superior to ours. People are ruthless robbers there, but they know how to think big, and over there you have none of the petty, shady theft that is so rampant in this country. Specifically, one can learn to focus on a particular goal and to scorn aimless dithering, which I would call a glib, dilettantish business practice. It won’t be long before these people will have beaten us in our very own fields, including painting and other arts; over there you get to know many more hardworking people than here.

* An eletronics company – ed.

Source: Karl Helfferich, Georg von Siemens. Ein Lebensbild aus Deutschlands großer Zeit [Georg von Siemens: A Picture of Life During Germany's Heyday]. 3 vols. 2nd ed. Berlin, 1923, vol. 2, pp. 66-67.

Original German text reprinted in Gerhard A. Ritter and Jürgen Kocka, eds., Deutsche Sozialgeschichte 1870-1914. Dokumente und Skizzen [German Social History 1870-1914. Documents and Sketches], 3rd ed. Munich: C.H. Beck, 1982, pp. 327-28.

Translation: Erwin Fink

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