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Excerpt from Oral History Interview with Caesar Cone, January 7, 1983. Interview C-0003. Southern Oral History Program Collection (#4007) See Entire Interview >>

Nepotism is not a good business plan

Nepotism did not serve businesses well, Cone believes, nor does extending the tenure of aging executives. He instituted policies at Cone Mills eliminating nepotism and imposing a mandatory retirement age of sixty-five, a policy which he feels allows younger employees to move the business forward. Strict policies may also prevent wasteful spending, a practice Cone rails against as the despised progeny of Franklin Delano Roosevelt.

Citing this Excerpt

Oral History Interview with Caesar Cone, January 7, 1983. Interview C-0003. Southern Oral History Program Collection (#4007) in the Southern Oral History Program Collection, Southern Historical Collection, Wilson Library, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.

Full Text of the Excerpt

HARRY WATSON:
Did that system work well?
CEASAR CONE:
I'd say no.
HARRY WATSON:
Why?
CEASAR CONE:
It probably worked well back before my time, but as government got involved, all kinds of legal problems, rights, etcetera, came along, and I'd say that that old system of nepotism was bad. It meant probably you were missing one or two real good people, but on the other hand you were upsetting a heck of a lot of people, and you were stuck with a lot of folks that weren't worth a damn.
HARRY WATSON:
Was it a hard decision to change the policy?
CEASAR CONE:
Not for me. We also instituted mandatory retirement at age sixty-five. Of course, we had put in a pension plan along the road which we didn't have in the beginning, of course; nobody else did. But mandatory retirement at age sixty-five was something that came along about my time. When I got sixty-five, I got out of there. I didn't want to. I think I could still be there. I'm seventy-five now. But I got out and got this office so that I've been up here ten years. Now some companies let their retired executives still have office space, etcetera, and I think that's bad.
HARRY WATSON:
Why do you think that's bad?
CEASAR CONE:
I'm afraid they get in the hair of the younger generation. Listen, if the younger people can't run things—I don't care whether it's a business or a college or a government—why, it's going down the drain. My only commercial job in business was with Cone, but I was active with our Airport Commission for many years in Greensboro; I was President of the Greensboro Chamber of Commerce; I was President for a while of the Moses Cone Hospital. Most everything I had anything to do with, when I see how it's run today, I'm upset.
HARRY WATSON:
Not as good, huh?
CEASAR CONE:
Well, it's not a question of not as good. They spend too much money on things.
HARRY WATSON:
Things?
CEASAR CONE:
I mean structures, buildings, and they borrow into the future. Spend more, and it'll be corrected. My feeling is that spending money is the last thing you ought to do. You want to be sure that your procedures are correct and that the goal that you're heading for is going to be met through procedures, and if you need to construct something to do that, okay. But it seems to me that today, even during this depression, that ever since Mr. Roosevelt the idea is throw more money at a project, whether it be a business project, a civic project, whatever, and all the future problems will be solved. The trouble is, we don't have that much money. We're loading the future generations to pay for it, plus the interest. In the old days, anybody that was fortunate enough to borrow money, whether it was a business or a civic need, a hospital or whatever, or as a home owner, he was so grateful, the first thing he wanted to do was tear up the mortgage, pay it back. Today it's a case of going out and borrowing, borrowing. The government makes it easy with guarantees in certain areas. Paying this kind of price for money the last few years is ridiculous. And to slow this thing down, why, we've got to decide that we're going to take it easy. For instance, look at the subways in New York. They were built at a time when we didn't have any inflation, and the people today have the benefit of those subways, that today would cost billions to build. Nobody realizes that. But think of the people a few years down the road. Those subways now and our roads are going to pot, and we're going to have to go to work now and borrow millions and millions and millions more just to maintain them. That's what inflation has done to us. And inflation has come about because we want more right now than we can afford, and so we figure, well, let the other guy down the road, the next generation, pay for it. That wasn't the way this country was built.