Character is the real foundation of all worthwhile success.
– John Hays Hammond
I recently finished reading, The House of Morgan: An American Banking Dynasty and the Rise of Modern Finance by Ron Chernow. Among the many interesting tid-bits about the Morgan bank, what struck me as most interesting is what J.P. Morgan Sr. said while under investigation as a “Money Trust.”
Morgan, while under examination, held to the principles his father taught him as the “gentleman’s banker code.” And what stood out to me was the highlight of character.
Q. Is not commercial credit based primarily upon money or property?
A. No sir, the first thing is character.
Q. Before money or property?
A. Before money or anything else. Money cannot buy it.
William M. Thayer wrote, “Character must not be confused with reputation. Character is what a man is; reputation may be what he is not. Character is one’s intrinsic value; reputation is what is thought of him – his value in the market of public opinion. Hence character is stable and enduring.”
In the end character is all we have. Even when reputation is taken from us or turned against our favor, the character is what remains.
In my day to day life I spend most of it talking to people at the farmer’s markets: dealing primarily in small, personal relationships. In such situations, it is those little things that we forget in more commercial life that make the difference: a warm smile, a firm handshake, and character.
When a farmer submits his paperwork to an Organic certifier, or sells to a customer, it is his character that is examined most. You can say the right things to anyone and not believe it. You may even appear to do those things, but will they submit to diligent scrutiny?
Whether in relationship banking, like Morgan’s, or relationship marketing, like me, so long as your transactions are determined on the relationship of the individual: character is the best capital to invest in.