“A good name is more desirable than great riches; to be esteemed is better than silver or gold” – Proverbs 22
Last week my son Kevin, knowing of my interest in entrepreneurship as the way forward, drew to my attention an article in the Jamaica Gleaner of March 15 entitled ‘Michael Lee Chinâ€¦ Man on a Mission’. The article, based on an interview with Lee Chin by Barbara Ellington, described the journey of this Jamaican bouncer turned billionaire. This article is excellent reading and should be motivational for many a young entrepreneur.
In response to the interviewer’s question ‘Is it more difficult to garner this next phase of your wealth than it was to garner the first?’ Lee Chin replied ‘It takes many years to build a reputation and once you do that things become easier; not necessarily linear, but it takes struggle, discipline, focus. Then growth becomes exponential. Most people don’t have the perseverance to stay with one philosophy and go through the gestation period. Once it’s built, it goes into exponential growth curve. I don’t think we are there yet’.
My other son Bevan, with whom the article was shared, responded to a further quote from Lee Chin ‘I intuitively knew that your reputation is your passport but I did not realise to what extent a good reputation could open doors, present opportunities, how far it would precede and lay the way for you’ by supporting it with the above biblical quotation.
The article began as follows: ‘The AIC Chairman Michael Lee Chin was a major player in the world of business and finance long before he inked the deal to purchase majority shares in the National Commercial Bank (NCB), formerly Barclays. But the eldest son of the founder of the Super Plus supermarket chain has burst on to the Jamaican scene like a breath of fresh air in his own unique style.
His critics grasp fodder from AIC’s corporate challenges while his admirers hang on to his every word. But he takes it all in his stride as he enables many to generate wealth through education.
In any serious business discussion with him, one gets the feeling that Lee Chin has grasped the big picture of what’s right for Jamaica and the Caribbean and is impatient to see it all come together. Among his leisure activities are reading, family time and doing more work. And he has no plans to retire any time soon. He packs a solid day’s work and lots of exercise in each day and loves to spend time with his children. He has walked with the world’s movers and shakers but retains the common touch’.
It is stories like these that cause us to reflect on life. The rat race that we find ourselves in today causes us to focus on success in terms of money. We get greedy and sometimes we try to short circuit the system, implicate others and get on the wrong side of the law. We do not focus on embracing the wider concept of holistic wealth where the inputs of intellectual property, reputation and integrity will inevitably lead to monetary wealth.
When an accountant values the assets of a firm, the focus tends to be on the physical assets, which can be sold for money and this may in some cases reflect a true position of the wealth of the company. However, it is becoming more recognized that, in the case say of the service industries, intellectual property and integrity are probably the most important characteristics of the business.
Intellectual property is derived from innate talent, education and experience. In a consulting firm, whether it is in management or design or what have you, the assets which reside as intellectual property in the brains of individuals, do not appear on the financial balance sheet and hence are often undervalued or ignored. When one adds reputation and integrity to the mix of assets, they too do not appear on the balance sheet, but I put it to you that the greater the reputation and integrity of the business champion, the greater is his holistic wealth.
I recall a bank manager once saying to me that the major characteristic that he looks for in a prospective borrower is his reputation and integrity which he translates into intention to repay the loan. Obviously, the business plan in support of the loan must make some sense, but the business plan alone, without the reputation and integrity of the champion, could result in business performance delinquency, bad debts and an ultimate increase in the loan loss provision which appears in the financial institution’s balance sheet and deleteriously affections the company’s bottom line.
Lee Chin talked about a guiding philosophy in spite of his critics. Many of us can relate to the ‘pull down society’ syndrome. The only way to combat this phenomenon is to hold one’s head high, believe in your vision, keep your reputation and integrity in tact and move persistently towards your goal. Remember that a good name is more desirable than great riches and to be esteemed is better than silver or gold.