Character - Your Most Bankable Asset

Character - Your Most Bankable Asset

W hat is the cornerstone of success in life? Is it education? Income? Family background? Although all of those elements can help propel someone in the right direction, success ultimately hinges on a person’s character. Character is truly bankable asset.


One major element in success is the ability gain people’s trust. All relationships – business and personal – depend on honesty and trust, and people of good character earn trust through their integrity and behavior. Individuals who “walk the talk” are infinitely more credible than those who never keep promises, make excuses for not honoring obligations, are inconsiderate of others and behave as though life is one big entitlement program created just for them. If this were not the case, employers would never ask for references; they would base their hiring decisions on SAT scores and grade point alone. However, businesses have become more dependent on measures of character such as lie detector testing, psychological testing that measures a person’s propensity to lie, cheat, belittle others or leave jobs undone, and background and credit checks as aids in hiring. No employer wants to hire a potential Jeff Skilling (one of Enron’s top executives.) A lack of character may appear to pay off during the interview stage – after all, sociopaths lie without regard to consequences and do so quite well – but over the long haul, these individuals are found out, and their reputation precedes them wherever they go.

Would you lend someone money if they paid their bills when they felt like it? It’s not likely, although there are lenders who specialize in just this kind of high-risk credit. These lenders also charge the highest interest rates allowable under the law, and aren’t the most polite people to deal with if there is a default.  Many economists believe that a lack of money creates the opportunity for these lenders to “prey” on people, but the reality is that a lack of character, rather than money, creates the market for predatory lenders.

Does this imply that the poor all lack character? Not at all; many poor people still honor their obligations, make sacrifices to pay what they owe (such as taking on second jobs, moving in with family members, etc.), and if things really get tough, are proactive in contacting their creditors, renegotiating their contracts, and then honoring their new commitments to the letter.  Many people who ultimately became millionaires and billionaires went through times of financial difficulty. Andrew Carnegie, for instance, went bankrupt and had to close many of his steel mills during a major recession. His bankers and his employees were willing to work with him through these difficulties, because Mr. Carnegie had always honored promises he had made in the past. Andrew Carnegie ultimately recouped his millions with interest, and the company, US Steel, was one of the United States’ largest employers for three generations.

Honoring commitments to clients and customers creates loyalty, and customers are loathe to quit doing business with sales people and service technicians who do what they say they will do. This level of loyalty is worth more to any business than the price of a glitzy marketing campaign. Once again, the presence of character within the business environment translates into an ongoing revenue stream.

One definition of character is “how you behave when no one is watching.” People of good character don’t need a babysitter, nor do they need to be micromanaged. They understand that they are accountable to their employer, to the customer or client, to themselves, and in most cases, to a Higher Power. A department filled with good people leaves a manager free to develop and pursue more and higher goals; they have the assurance that the immediate needs are being taken care of.  Character in this case translates directly into corporate profits and long-term growth. For the employee, character can be a ticket to job security. Given the choice, employers would rather have an employee who is average (or better) at their job and able to work independently than to have a genius at the job who needs to be prodded every fifteen minutes.

In summary, character isn’t just a buzzword that gets bandied around during election years by the political parties; it is an attribute that is in high demand in the business world. Working to develop one’s character may not have the immediate gratification of working out at the gym and in certain circles may even garner disdain, but the long-term benefits of being a quality person outweigh any short-term judgments by mental midgets that character isn’t “cool.” After all, how cool are divorce, unemployment, bad credit and not having any real friends? Without character, you create chaos, and that’s not cool at all.  



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