The Handshake – May 14th, 2020 4

My grandfather Ollie taught me a number of things, but one has always been permanent in my life.

Ollie was a hard-working man, from a farmer in the foothills of Tennessee, to a roofing contractor, and a man who dealt with many others on various business and personal levels. One thing I always heard about my grandfather from others was that he was man of his word, and that his handshake was a binding contract to him. Therefore he was greatly trusted by others, in every way.

When I was only 7 years old, he started teaching me about handshakes and their meaning. He taught me many times over, and he was always easy about it and telling me what it meant. He told me, in my life ahead, that a handshake in business was a contract on my part and that no matter what, I should meet my obligations, even if it meant I lost money and lots of time in the process. He said to take the loss if you had to, but meet what you agreed to. He taught me that in the long run that would always be important, and that one’s integrity would open doors, or close them for lack of it. He said always keep you word. It certainly was his philosophy and it didn’t mean much to me until I became maybe 15 years old or so.

In my life, I have applied his concept of what a handshake meant. I have used his philosophy and my handshake has been a contract throughout my business and personal life.

I’ll give you two examples, with many, many more. (1) I had my own computer business when I was about 35 years old. I had a large staff of people and I worked for major companies, like Union Oil and large banks. With one of these large companies, I was doing a lot of work, along with three other competitors. In this process the Vice President (I was doing the work for) wanted to know if I wanted a contract to insure I kept doing the work for their company. He said my other competitors did get one. I declined the contract, and told him my handshake was the contract, and we shook hands on it. I said to him, “Your company can break any contract you want to, so there’s no reason for me to have one.”

Over the next year my competitors fell off, one by one. Each had their contract broken and they were dropped from doing the work. In the end, I was the only one left. The company President, no longer Vice President, was obviously still in charge and we became good friends. He told me more than once his company kept me doing their work while they dropped others because of our integrity and the fact that he personally signed my contract with a handshake. Of course, we had to do good work but they trusted us, and trust was critical for them and for good business.

(2) With work for another company, I agreed to a great deal of work for a given price, and I lost a lot of dollars because I held to that price. The company I was working for knew I lost money, and appreciated the fact that I didn’t complain about it. I kept my handshake contract. After the work was over, their manager said to me “Don, I know you lost dollars on that last job, but you met your agreement. Now I have a really good job for you and I’ll make sure we make up for any losses you’ve had before. We shook hands on it. He did exactly what he said.

Now this all may sound corny, and maybe a handshake today doesn’t mean the same, but I’m still doing business and I still shake hands on any work. If you’re dealing with men and women of integrity, I believe a handshake seals the deal. Integrity is very important in life.

Sure, contracts are nice but one’s word, from my viewpoint, lasts longer than a contract.

This is something for all of you to think about in your times ahead.

Thanks for reading all this.


  1. Love it.

  2. I’m really grateful that you shared this lesson about integrity and honoring your word. A good firm handshake and eye contact are respectable and commendable. I’m eager to read more and to keep learning from you.

  3. Absolutely, love your story sharing the huge importance of character – integrity, honesty, loyalty.

  4. What an important lesson to remember. The next time I have the opportunity for a handshake, I’ll remember this! Thanks for the story!

    James Robinson

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