Camp Baby: Business Is People
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.