I hope everyone had a great Christmas, I know I did. My girlfriend B. and I got snowed in this year while spending time with my family in the Texas Panhandle. Amidst blizzard conditions and 10’ snow drifts we became closer as a family and ended up having a very memorable Christmas 2015.
My father has always been an industrious man with an affinity for agriculture, big business, and hard work. He has had the same briefcase for as long as I can remember and is not the type of burly denim clad warrior that you could ever picture carrying such an item. Having seen it all my life I can assure you that it is an odd sight. His briefcase is your typical rectangular job. It is covered in glossy mahogany stained leather and outfitted with a padded handle made of the same material. All of the corner plates, locks, and trimmings have that warm golden glow that only shined brass provides. I had always imagined that my father, in preparation for a big meeting, looked at all the different varieties and styles and selected his briefcase based upon visual appearance alone. Although now out of style and worse for wear his briefcase is still a remarkable piece of craftsmanship. It is carried to every meeting of importance and contains who knows what. I have never seen what’s inside or even cared to.
My father gave me a briefcase for Christmas this year. It is a beautiful piece of work. I can tell that he took into account my preferences and style when selecting it. That makes this gift all the more significant. It is constructed of thick chestnut colored saddle leather. Its matte appearance shows every nick and scrape and will wear into a fine patina of endurance and triumph. It is outfitted with heavy D-rings, buckles, and keepers the likes of which I have used in constructing bridals, chaps, and saddlebags. It is an amazing feat of craftsmanship that I could only dream of replicating in my leather shop. After receiving this gift and giving thanks I approached my father late Christmas day to ask him a little more about it. After picking his brain for a while about why he chose this particular one and what he found most impressive I asked him, “When did you get your briefcase?” His answer was not what I expected. He said that he got his briefcase as a gift, just like I have received mine.
My grandfather gave my father his briefcase several years after he graduated from college in the early 80’s. When my father received the gift he said my grandfather told him plainly that if he’s going into business he needed to be able to look the part. This was the same exact thing my dad told me on Christmas day. My father then told me how he remembered being my age and gave me a few pieces of advice. He concluded the thought by saying “Well now you’ve got a briefcase so there’s no excuse not to close a deal.” This confused me a little but I continued on with the conversation making a mental note to come back and ask him to clarify. I asked him what he used to carry in his briefcase in those early years in an attempt to figure out what I needed to put into mine. He said he had never really had a use for a briefcase and mostly he just carried a calculator, some legal pads, business cards, and any documentation he happened to need. Looking back now its contents should have been obvious but my father’s briefcase always seemed to have a bit of mysticism around it when I was young and I had never given it any thought. I always knew that if I saw him carrying that burgundy briefcase something important was going to happen.
After asking these questions my father followed my own logic uncannily. He then said, “Son, it doesn’t matter what is in the briefcase, sure it’s sort of useful to keep things in one spot, but the main purpose is to get your point across.” He then told me how to use a briefcase properly: When a deal is being done (1) show up with a briefcase, (2) firmly put it on the table, (3) open it up (away from whomever you are meeting), (4) reach inside, (5) grab something (doesn’t matter what), (6) close and place the briefcase on the floor. He went on to say that if I did this while everyone was watching it would put all involved in the state of mind necessary for making a deal. To further clarify his point he said:
“Just how many people carry a briefcase to a meeting? Not very many right? When you do carry one you exude confidence and command respect. They might not know who they are dealing with, but they will know that he means business. When you carry a briefcase and use it properly everything goes much smoother, I’m not exactly sure why.”
Now I realize that this mindset or idea when it comes to business dealings might be dated. It might just be a remnant of the business practices of my grandfather’s time. In fact I am sure that this tactic can be witnessed in every 80’s business movie ever made. This does not change the fact that my father has embraced this process and has been met with success. Considering this I have decided to adopt the same method when entering negotiations or meetings. All in all if there is nothing to this process so be it. That’s fine, all I know is I’ve got a badass briefcase and I intend to use it for all it’s worth. Carrying a briefcase with authority might just be my family’s way of conducting business. Effective or not it doesn’t matter; I plan to carry on the tradition.