Forging Business Partnerships And The Earthquake of 1906

In 1906 an earthquake literally and figuratively shook San Francisco to its core. Surrounded by wreckage, A.P. Giannini famously put a plank over two barrels on a busy pier and declared that the Bank of Italy was open for business. He stood out not just for his modest teller counter, but also because other local bankers sought to declare a 6-month moratorium on lending as they reestablished themselves. Giannini wasn’t interested in waiting, he was going to help rebuild that city.

And build they did. His bank went from middling local institution to a nation-wide powerhouse, changing the name in the coming decades to the Bank of America. There’s a lot more history that followed the earthquake, but the origin story is worth remembering. Out of chaos comes opportunity.

Lest we think that we’re sunk without a tragedy of our own, we should remember that all partnerships forged on shared interest have these three elements in common with Giannini’s success (in no particular order): a desire to make forward progress, a vision that needs to be brought into focus, and the tools necessary to turn the vision to reality.

Giannini saw his client’s desires, helped to understand and define which opportunities they saw, and then used the tools he had available to bring their vision into reality. Maybe our jobs won’t be remembered so heroically, but the elements of partnerships between ourselves and our clients will still be present. When people are considering how to step into their future, we can help by bringing both clarity of thought and access to the tools required for success. That process is just as important as Giannini placing a plank over the two barrels.

We are open for business.

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