Monday, October 7, 2013

The Gold Standard

"We make a living by what we get. We make a life by what we give." - Winston Churchill
Should our living and our life be different? How can we integrate them?

I grew up in a household which was supported by a family business. My father founded his own manufacturer's representative agency (Philip J. Boren, Inc.) when he was 40 years old. It was a huge leap of faith, and an adventure for him and our family.

As the business grew, so did our involvement with it. My father always discussed the events of his day with us over dinner. When his territory expanded to five states, he had to spend time away from home. This was the worst aspect of the job, for him; when the highway speed limit was lowered due to a national energy crisis, Dad decided to earn a pilot's license. Traveling to serve his clients was no longer a long haul; it was an opportunity to enjoy his hobby, while taking care of business - and arrive home in time for dinner with the family.
Dad drafted us to work for him at wholesale and retail trade shows, as well as on the road. He trained each one of his children in the art of sales, which he perceived as knowing your product, understanding and caring about your client's needs, and doing your best to explain to the buyer how your product could benefit their business. He actually used to pray silently, before making a presentation, that his client would be led to make the right decision to bless their business. He trusted that what was right for the client would in the end benefit our family's business. He cared about doing right, not just doing well - and he did both.

I am certain that the buyers he served felt his genuine caring and integrity, and he was very successful in sales and income, as well as his standing in the field. He won many sales awards and helped his customers - and the factories he represented - to prosper. His example made a lifelong impression on me of the highest aim in business: to bless everyone involved - not just to "make a living."

He faced industry-related problems, including disagreeable mandates from factories, demanding clients, service issues, rivalry, and even the occasional swindling by someone he had trusted. He held onto his integrity through it all, even if that integrity threatened to cut his income. He is still, at 86, the most honest person I have ever met.

Do we "make a living by what we get," or "by what we give?" What should our primary motivation be? What will lead to fulfillment and truly satisfying relationships over a lifetime? Will we be able to live with honor, according to the way we make our living? My father's example is the gold standard, for me - and I am thankful for it.

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