Service Is Our Business chapter 13

Operation Rotary Club

at the beginning of this book, vocational service was deemed as an obligation of each member of a Rotary club to SHARE the ideal of Rotary with non-Rotarians he meets or contacts in his business or profession. Viewed in this light, the opportunities for practical, down to earth activities in vocational service are legion. Many of the ways in which the individual Rotarian is challenged to share Rotary in his own business and professional life have already been illustrated. It remains to suggest the scope for club and committee work.

Recommendations by the program planning committee of Rotary International for the observance of the Golden Anniversary in 1955 contained no less than fifty specific and distinct activities for clubs to undertake in vocational service. These by no means exhaust the possibilities. The experience and procedures of many successful vocational service projects are available on request from the secretariat of Rotary International, 1600 Ridge Avenue, Evanston, Illinois, U.S.A. With these resources, any club anywhere can expect its vocational service committee to develop a thorough plan that will stimulate each and every member to fulfill his obligation of sharing Rotary in his business or profession.

The club meeting is a natural setting for this plan. Programs by the vocational service chairmen responsible for employee, competitor, buyer-seller, trade associations, and Four-Way Test activities can point out to members their opportunities for sharing in these fields. The “classification talk” traditional in Rotary only fulfills its purpose if the member making it explains just how he is making the influence of Rotary felt in his business or profession. Sometimes that purpose is achieved by having the talk made by a fellow member who has made an investigation of his practices. Several short dramatizations of vocational service problems are available to spark discussion at the club meeting.

Experience proves, however, that coming to grips with these problems requires more time than the program at the club meeting affords. The leisurely and informal gathering of a small group in the home of a member is better for exchanging ideas about actual situations and for formulating plans of action. Some two hundred vocational service committees in the British Isles, for instance, have been studying how Rotary can help to increase productivity in factory and office. An alternative supplement to the club program is the club forum on vocational service. Typical was the experience of a district governor in Argentina who designated host clubs and leaders, issued invitations and outlined topics for discussion. A number of these forums were so successful that their practical results were recorded in a widely distributed pamphlet.

Another stimulating experience developed sometimes on the district level or by groups of clubs is the Rotary Business Relations Conference. Leaders in different fields of vocational service interest give expert advice, both publicly and privately, to large gatherings of Rotarians. So valuable have these conferences proved that one district has continued to hold them for fifteen years. Three such conferences dealing particularly with the situation of the aging worker were presented by another district governor.

So far the types of sharing considered have been the kind that inform and stimulate Rotarians to action in their individual business and professional lives. The Rotary club can also provide direct assistance to such actions. This book and The Four-Way Test are tools for sharing the concept that “service is my business” with non-Rotarians in all the relationships of business or profession. They provide bridges that the Rotarian can use in communicating to employees, competitors, customers or suppliers his desire for a new understanding and the standards by which he would like all transactions to be measured. Translated in many languages, The Four-Way Test is available in several styles for distribution. Small folders telling its story can be circularized to customers. Posters proclaim it as the measurement “of the things we think, say or do” in office or mill. Desk plaques remind executives or professional men to govern each decision by what they know in their own hearts is right.

Some clubs make a survey of the vocational service activities and problems of their members by means of a questionnaire. A vocational service clinic is then established to extend in new directions the practices which local experience has approved. A great number of club meetings are designated as competitor and employee days to help members improve these relationships. One club in Australia holds an annual picnic for members, employees and their families. Reminiscent of the practice which gave Rotary its name are visits by clubs to the plants, stores or offices of members. A vivid impression of Rotary can be given to employees of these concerns on such “Rotation Days.”

Still another sphere of operation for the Rotary club and its vocational service committee is the sharing of the Rotary ideal with the community at large. There is no home town so blessed that its people cannot be inspired to better living by the vision of “service is my business.” It may be that a labor-management group or a courtesy contest as described earlier would fill a need. Or perhaps the sights of local salespeople could be raised by the sponsoring of a school for salesmanship. To dramatize the worthiness of all useful occupations, Rotary clubs in Japan and elsewhere have featured periodic tributes to postal employees, telephone operators and street-cleaners. Wider public understanding of Rotary aims in business and profession can be developed by a town-meeting or a discussion by members over the radio or television.

“Service,” as has been said, “is always a contribution to the future.” There is no more universal opportunity for vocational service than the early training of youth, the new generation of employees and leaders, to habits of right thinking and doing. What more glorious accomplishment could any vocational service committee hope to achieve than a thorough job of persuading the young people of their town to use The Four-Way Test?

A survey of vocational service around the world shows it assuming a variety of forms adapted to local needs. In one country, Rotarians may be found corn-batting the black market with personal approaches to leading dealers requesting them to display prices and price-lists. Here, the Rotary club organized an exhibit of thirty-five local industries. There, a code of practices is drawn up and adopted by local merchants or the vocational service committee is instrumental in bringing about an amicable settlement of labor trouble in local factories.

Important is the reference of vocational service projects to an actual need of the local situation. Equally important is the keenness of the local Rotarians who recognize the need and their own obligation to do something about it. In every club that deserves the name of Rotary, there must be some members prepared to take this initiative, for without vocational service in active operation Rotary has lost its meaning and mission. It may be the chairman of the vocational service committee whose enthusiasm provides the spark, or it may be someone else.

Just how this happens is illustrated in the account of one committee meeting in South Africa. “The discussion had drifted into abstract generalities,” the chairman recalled, “when a member burst forth with the demand that we get down to cases. He then proceeded to outline an actual problem that he was facing in his own business. Here in the friendly atmosphere of Rotary was a man ready to open his heart, to put all his cards on the table, and to seek advice and counsel from his friends. In a flash, the committee saw the meaning of vocational service. The exchange of experiences that followed sounded the keynote for a year’s program.”

Perhaps the consideration of “Service is My Business” by a group in your club would provoke this en­tanglement of Rotary aspirations with the reality of conditions in your town. One thing suggests another. The actual experiences recorded here may not exactly duplicate your experience, but they may bring to mind the opportunities for sharing Rotary that exist in your town as they do everywhere.

Which project in vocational service would prompt members of your club to put Rotary to work where they work?