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A Company Values Speech that Changed SC Johnson Forever: "The Rest is Shadow"

Our company history includes many memorable moments — from mixing our first wax product in a bathtub, to exploring the Amazon, to launching innovations from Glade® to OFF!®. But of many pivotal events, a speech our second-generation leader, Herbert F. Johnson, Sr., gave just months before the end of his life is among the most enduring.
The goodwill of people is the only enduring thing in any business. It is the sole substance. The rest is shadow.

Herbert F. Johnson, Sr.

A Values Statement to Remember

Each year on Profit Sharing Day, the Johnson family shares with employees not just the state of the business, but its aspirations for the future. On Christmas Eve in 1927, Herbert gave such a poetic, beautifully measured speech about the company’s philosophy, it has become a mantra for generations. 

Here’s a portion of what he said: 

When all is said and done,
this business is nothing but a symbol.
And when we translate this, we find
that it means a great many people
think well of its products, and that
a great multitude has faith in the integrity 
of the men who make this product.

In a very short time,
the machines that are now so lively
will soon become obsolete.
And the big buildings, for all their solidity, 
must some day be replaced.

But a business which symbolizes
can live so long as there are human beings alive…
for it is not built of such flimsy materials
as steel and concrete.
It is built of human opinions,
which may be made to live forever.

The goodwill of people
is the only enduring thing in any business.
It is the sole substance. The rest is shadow. 

Herbert F. Johnson, Sr.

An Enduring Legacy of Guiding Principles

Herbert’s words have inspired us for generations. In 1976, we formally stated our guiding principles in This We Believe, with Herbert’s philosophy at its heart. It continues to be our compass to this day, directing the company’s behavior through both good and challenging times.
It inspires our principles around the globe as work to expand and grow. We prioritize the long-term in how we treat the planet and each other. We work tirelessly to bring goodwill to life across our world community. We never compromise on integrity or respect. 

Over 90 years ago, Herbert not only inspired this company with  words, he made a commitment from which SC Johnson has never wavered. Goodwill is never negotiable, in family, in business or in products.