GOODENOUGH, Francis William



9th September 1872 to 11th January 1940

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Biographical Text

Goodenough was a salesman who spent his career with the Gas Light and Coke Company, and was involved with various industry bodies including the Federation of British Industry. He was also involved with several educational initiatives. 

Goodenough was born in Newton Abbot, Devon on 9 September 1872, the son of a currier. He was educated at Torquay Public College, then in 1888 joined the Gas Light and Coke Company as an office boy at the age of sixteen. The Gas Light and Coke Company was the oldest and largest provider gas company in Britain, with operations covering London and much of the Home Counties. However, the company did not have a monopoly of provision, and faced competition from other, smaller operators, including some which were municipally owned. 

Goodenough seems to have had an innate talent for sales, and quickly established himself as a salesman for the company. He visited Berlin in 1902 to study gas companies there. Possibly as a result of this visit, he returned to London convinced his own company needed a dedicated sales department. In 1903 persuaded his employers to establish such a department with himself as controller of gas sales, a post he held for the rest of his career. He married Ellen Rees in 1900. 

Goodenough realised that much advertising by gas companies was wasted effort. He began to urge the other gas companies to join forces and create a platform for co-operative advertising for the whole industry, which he believed would be cheaper and more effective. Under his leadership, the British Commercial Gas Association was founded in 1911, though some companies did not join until several years later. This association, founded to promote co-operative advertising, led in turn to the foundation of a formal industry body, the National Gas Council, in 1919. Goodenough went on to become chairman of the Associated Sales Managers Association in 1926, and for three years served as president of the Incorporated Society of British Advertisers. He was also a council member of the Federation of British Industry. 

During the 1920s Goodenough set in motion several training programmes for salespeople, some in conjunction with the Institution of Gas Engineers, another in conjunction with the Board of Education and the Board of Trade. Like Lyndall Urwick and Herbert Casson, he believed strongly that the principles of scientific management could and should be applied to marketing and selling, and urged that training programmes be structured along these lines. Goodall (2004) says that Goodenough regarded that the development of scientifically organised sales and marketing departments was even more important than the development of manufacturing capacity. 

Goodenough received the CBE in 1926 and was knighted as a knight bachelor in 1929retired from the Gas Light and Coke Company in 1931. He died at home in London on 11 January 1940. 

Goodall (2004) notes that throughout his career Goodenough insisted that advertising had to be factual, and opposed more aggressive forms of advertising. A scrupulous attention to fairness is one of the themes of his Rowntree paper, where he argues that ‘friendship and goodwill constitute the only true basis of a permanently successful business’. 

Goodenough’s thesis in this paper is simple: Britain is falling behind, the economy is declining and unemployment is rising, because businesses do not pay enough attention to sales and marketing (like many contemporaries, he sometimes uses the two terms interchangeably). This issue is, he says, ‘the most pressing and urgent question in Industry and Commerce today.’ The challenge of improving the practice of marketing is one that business must confront head on. Responsibility cannot be shifted to government: ‘it is a business problem, to be solved by business men; and in my person opinion, the less the politicians interfere with it, the more likely we are to find a speedy and adequate solution.’ 

The solution is twofold. There is, first, more and better training for sales people. Salesmanship can be taught; it is not an innate skill, though Goodenough does acknowledge that the people do have to have the right temperament to be good at sales. More important, though, is the need for businesses themselves to see marketing and sales as an integral part of the business.  

Goodenough makes this point repeatedly. ‘I regard as not merely a question of the salesman on the road or in the showroom’, he says, ‘but as a function of the business organisation.’ Elsewhere he argues that ‘salesmanship must be regarded as a question of principle and policy – that is, of the principle governing the policy of the whole business – and therefore as the primary consideration of the management.’ The customer is king, says Goodenough, and all the operations of the business ‘should be conducted with a view to the satisfaction of the customer, his resultant confidence, and ultimately his established goodwill.’ 

To reinforce his point, Goodenough describes a recent study which he had conducted with the help of the Board of Overseas Trade, investigating the methods used by British sales representatives when selling into export markets. The picture he paints is a bleak one, of overconfidence and arrogance, a ‘take it or leave it attitude’ on the part of both agents and firms, a belief that British quality will sell itself. Those days are gone, says Goodenough; salesmen face intense competition, and their methods need to reflect that: 

The brains of the British merchant adventurer to-day are as good as ever, his courage and his initiative are as great as in bygone days, and his goods are excellent goods. Our danger is that we are slow to change, slow to realise the need for change, and reluctant to start a new course. 

It is that realisation of the need for change that Goodenough seeks to stimulate in this lecture. 


Everard, S., A History of the Gas Light and Coke Company, 1812-1949, London: Ernest Benn, 1949. 

Goodall, F., ‘Goodenough, Sir Francis William’, in Oxford Dictionary of National Biography, Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2004. 

Presidents of the Illuminating Engineering Society,  


Original Source

‘Salesmanship’, 20 April 1929, Balliol College


“GOODENOUGH, Francis William,” The Rowntree Business Lectures and the Interwar British Management Movement, accessed August 5, 2020,