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Camp Baby: Business Is People

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By Margaret Gurowitz
Apr 08, 2008

My colleagues Marc and Lori recently posted about Camp Baby, a recent event in which the Company invited over 50 women who are mom bloggers to New Brunswick.  The purpose of the event was for them to get to know Johnson & Johnson a little bit better, and for us folks at Johnson & Johnson to get to know the bloggers a little bit better.  One of the most interesting things about Camp Baby from the perspective of this blog is that it’s the kind of direct conversation with the public that Johnson & Johnson used to have around 100 years ago.  Here’s an example of Johnson & Johnson doing just that in 1916…bringing a retail druggist who sold our products in for a visit.  And the druggist wrote about his experiences in a publication geared to other retail druggists. Our former chairman General Robert Wood Johnson (1893 – 1968), who grew up watching his father, his uncle and Scientific Director Fred Kilmer communicate directly with the community, was a believer in keeping up a direct dialogue.  In the 1940s, he gave a series of talks about various aspects of business to Company employees, which were later compiled into a book called Robert Johnson Talks It Over.  He mentioned the various things the Company was doing in the 1940s to talk to people, such as sending speakers to community organizations, inviting groups of people to Johnson & Johnson (like we did with Camp Baby), giving students and others the chance to see what it would be like to work at Johnson & Johnson, publishing articles about the Company, and encouraging employees to talk to their friends and neighbors and answer any questions they might have.  Here’s what he said about businesses and people: “Business Is People.”  He went on to explain: 

“Suppose you had to answer the question, What is Business?  Would you say it is buildings, machinery, or goods to be bought and sold?  Would you call it equipment that performs service…?…A corporation is just a name and a legal formula on a piece of paper.  It is useful and even important, but it doesn’t get ideas for machines.  People have to do that, and they also must turn those ideas into equipment which still other people will use.”  [Robert Johnson Talks It Over, Johnson & Johnson, New Brunswick, NJ, 1949, p. 10]

“For the present, our interest lies in the fact that our companies operate because men and women – people – do their jobs and do them together, using materials and equipment provided by other men and women.  As a team, they turn mere things into going concerns.  That’s still another way of saying that our business – all business – is people…”  [Robert Johnson Talks it Over, p. 13]

Throughout its history, Johnson & Johnson (or, I should say, the people at Johnson & Johnson) liked to hear from the patients and customers who used our products.  In fact, that’s how we got into the baby products business and how we made the first-ever First Aid kits in the first place.  Robert Wood Johnson felt that as citizens of their communities, businesses should have the understanding of their fellow citizens, and vice versa.  He wrote:  “Good community relations for business are just good neighborly relations on a large scale.”  [Robert Johnson Talks It Over, p. 80.]   At Camp Baby, we got to know some of our neighbors a little bit better.

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Bob Beardsley
APRIL 08, 2008 03:32 PM

Having grown up in Edison NJ, just a couple miles from J and J in New Brunswick, I have many memories of J and J in and around town. The company was always held in the highest regard by my parents and neighbors and was always a model citizen. The story above about the local comunity efforts above highlights why J and J is so well respected. Parents would tell their children that they would be lucky one day to work for such a company. I still have that same good opinion.

Lorraine Cheesmur
MAY 19, 2008 06:13 AM

I am trying to get hold of a picture of a Johnsons talcum powder bottle from the early 70's for a production of 'Once upon a time in Wigan'. The play is set in Wigan Casino in Northern Engalnd in the early 1970's where they used to use baby powder to make the floor more slippery to assist dancing. Do you have any images which might help with this?

Many Thanks

MAY 19, 2008 03:34 PM

Hi Lorraine,

I'm assuming you mean JOHNSON'S® Baby Powder when you said talcum powder. I don't have any images at the moment that I can specifically identify as being from the early 1970s, but I can tell you that the container was white plastic with a squared top (as opposed to the rounded top you would see on the current containers) and a rectangular shape to the container. If you're looking for an actual container from that time period, you can occasionally find them in vintage stores or online. Hope that helps!

Camping Love
SEPTEMBER 16, 2008 12:50 AM

That's great. For a company to actually speak to its users and get their take on things and their opinions is really the best way to go. Corporations these days get an idea and just run with it without putting a personal touch on it. I'm a fan of the Johnson & Johnson first aid kits. I bring one with me to every type of camping trip I take.

Anthony Sully
JULY 09, 2010 01:00 PM

I am writing a book on interior design and I would like your permission to use an image of 'A Peek Inside One of Our Offices in the Mid-1940s'. I do not have a publisher yet but credit will be given in the usual way.

JULY 09, 2010 03:03 PM

In reply to by Anthony Sully


I will need to get some more information before we can evaluate your request. Please email me through the blog: [email protected]