The Practice of Management

By Peter F. Drucker | Go to book overview

CHAPTER 4
THE SEARS STORY

What is a business and how it is managed--Unexplored territory --Sears, Roebuck as an illustration--How Sears became a business --Rosenwald's innovations--Inventing the mail-order plant-- GeneralWood and Sears's second phase--Merchandise planning and manager development--T. V. Houser and the challenges ahead.

How to manage a business would seem to be of such importance as to insure a veritable flood of books on the subject. Actually there are almost none.

There are hundreds, if not thousands, of books on the management of the various functions of a business: production and marketing, finance and engineering, purchasing, personnel, public relations and so forth. But what it is to manage a business, what it requires, what management is supposed to do and how it should be doing it, have so far been neglected.1

This oversight is no accident. It reflects the absence of any tenable economic theory of business enterprise. Rather than start out theorizing ourselves, we shall therefore first take a good look at the conduct and behavior of an actual business enterprise. And there is no better illustration of what a business is and what managing it means, that one of America's most successful enterprises: Sears, Roebuck and Company.2

____________________
1
The only exception I know of is the short essay by Oswald Knauth: "Managerial Enterprise" ( New York: Norton, 1948). See also Joel Dean Managerial Economics ( New York: Prentice-Hall, 1951). Though Dean is concerned mainly with the adaptation of the economist's theoretical concepts and tools to business management, the book, especially its earlier, general parts, is required reading for any manager.
2
For the data on Sears I have drawn heavily on Emmet & Jeuck Catalogues and Counters; a History of Sears, Roebuck & Co. ( Chicago: University of Chicago

-27-

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