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Robert Owen - Success and BusinessRobert Owen - Success and Business


Robert Owen (1771-1858)

Welsh businessman (pictured right) who treated his employees incredibly well at his cotton mill in New Lanark, near Glasgow, Scotland



Why was he successful?


Robert Owen - Success and Business

1. Compassion

When he arrived at New Lanark (pictured right) in 1800 as manager and part owner, he was determined to improve mill workers’ terrible working conditions.

500 of the 2,000 workforce were children brought at the age of five or six from the poorhouses and charities of Edinburgh and Glasgow.

Sanitation was poor, and most families lived in only one room.

So Owen:

  • greatly improved their houses, and the treatment of children, particularly their education (see point 4).
  • dramatically reduced people’s daily hours to eight, because “every person is entitled to education, recreation and sleep”, he said.


2. Profit through people

He proved that treating employees well will increase profits by encouraging them to work harder.

“Happiness is achieved by the union and co-operation of all for the benefit of each”, he said.


3. The father of the co-operative movement

When he was at New Lanark, many other employers paid their workers in part, or totally, by tokens which they had to spend at the factory owner’s ‘truck’ shop with high prices and low quality (eventually banned by the Truck Acts).

Instead Owen founded the first co-operative shop which sold to his employees goods of good quality at little more than cost, passing on the price discounts from bulk purchases.

 Robert Owen - Success and Business

4. Education

“Man is the creature of circumstances”, he said i.e. people’s lives and health are determined by their wealth, upbringing and state of mind.

So he valued education very highly, particularly of children. He was:

  • the founder of infant schools in Britain.
  • keen to improve people’s moral education and personal responsibility, closely supervising the sale of alcohol in his shop .

 Robert Owen - Success and Business

5. Equal rights for everyone

Owen (pictured right in 1845) believed that everyone should have the same rights to liberty, education and health, including women, who should no longer be “the slaves of, or dependent upon, men”, he said.


6. Visionary

He has inspired future generations by his compassion for working people, despite leaving New Lanark in 1825 after disagreements with the other owners.

His communes in Orbiston, near Glasgow, and New Harmony, Indiana (USA), also failed due to the lack of private property and individual freedom.

“I have been ahead of my time”, he said on his deathbed.


Key quote on workers

The lowest stage of humanity is explained when the individual must labour for a small pittance of wages from others.


Key quotes on teams

Happiness is achieved by the union and co-operation of all for the benefit of each


Key quote on society

Man is the creature of circumstances.


Key quote on education and training

To train and educate the rising generation will at all times be the first object of society, to which every other will be subordinate.


Key quote on the past, present and future

 I have been ahead of my time.


Key quote on health

To preserve permanent good health, the state of mind must be taken into consideration.

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