by Yvonne DiVita
"I want three bedrooms, an updated kitchen, and character. Yes, a house with character."
That's a common phrase uttered on HGTV's popular show, House Hunters. Every time I hear someone ask for character, I wonder what they mean. Do they mean... older home with crown molding, hardwood floors, little nooks and crannies in the walls? Is that 'character'? Or, is character... that aged feeling of families having grown up there - complete with leftover memories? Do dents in the wall and scratches on the hardwood floors count as character?
And then, I wonder, do they believe nothing built after 1950 has character? It seems like the folks on HGTV acquaint character with age, each and every time.
I was built, so to speak, in the early 1950s. Does that mean I have...character? Or, that my 'age' makes me a 'character'? I wonder.
We did things differenlty back in 'the day', that's for sure. My childhood was not made up of hours in front of the TV. Yes, I watched Lassie and Rin Tin Tin and Lawrence Welk (how much does THAT age me?) but, the TV was not the draw it is today.
No electronics for me, either. Etch a sketch was about as high tech as you could get, back when I was young. Oh, the hours we would spend turning those dials, trying to create pictures someone would recognize.
"It's a dog, Mom, can't you tell it's a dog?" shooting lightning bolts with my eyes, as she backed off, and shrugged. A person laughing, honestly... how could you think it was a person laughing?
The places I lived... did not have character. They were houses that we either rented or, when I turned 12, owned... close to or in the city. Any character was lost in translation.
We didn't talk character when we talked houses, back then. We didn't even talk space.
The rental I remember most, before we moved to the house my Mom and step-Dad bought, was small by today's standards, but to a seven or eight year old, it was just fine. It had an eat in kitchen, a living room, three bedrooms and a small bath, upstairs. Outside, there was a big garage, not attached, and a big, wide open, green backyard. My step-dad had a garden in the yard. I don't rightly remember what was in the garden, I only remember playing freeze tag and hide and seek, in the yard, and needing to avoid the garden. There was 'hell' to pay if you ran through the garden!
By the time we moved to the house I lived in the longest, before moving on as an adult, I was a teenager and I wouldn't have recognized character if it stuck me in the eye. The house was a shelter, it was where I went to get out of the rain. I had a room by myself, for a short time, then I shared that room with my younger sister. Neither one of us was happy about that. We barely had room to move from one narrow bed to the dresser to the the door. Next door was my brother's room, as small as ours, but he got to have it all to himself. And, across the square but tiny hallway was my parent's room.
The thing I remember most is... spiders. That house had lots of spiders. I do not believe spiders are part of 'character', but maybe they are, to someone.
Character isn't something tangible, is my point. Much like the word integrity, which we apply to our business purposes these days, character was an individual sense of respect. My idea of character in a house might be the crown moldings, the scratched up but refinished hardwood floors, the woodwork throughout...and yours might be something else. We only agree on the concept of character, that it makes a house more inviting and valuable. That a house with character is more than a 'building'... it's a place to make a home.
And, like character, the concept of integrity, in business, makes a company more valuable and more acceptable. When we believe a brand has integrity, we are more likely to buy from that brand.
Back in the day, integirty was part of your reputation. People didn't wonder if a brand had integrity... it was an expected part of doing business. Today, we search for the integrity in a company or brand. We use our electronics to discover the truth of a company's integrity, and we share our results, good or bad. We refuse to buy from a company without integrity.
Maybe companies should try for character. Maybe that elusive butterfly has not flown so far away... maybe companies can build character the same way we expect them to build integrity. Maybe character is more important than integrity.
A company with character, after all, would be one that is established, trustworthy, and brings a sense of history with it. It would show a sense of business done for the people it serves, not the board of directors. And, along with having character, it would gain integrity.
I don't know. What do you think? Does your house have character? Is it important to you? Should the businesses you buy from have character? Can businessnesses share in this idea of 'character'?
Should we, the buying public, look for character and insist our brands show us their focus on character not only in the products they create, but the people they hire? If a business has character, like Tom's Shoes, for instance, does it then also have integrity?
I live in a house without character, now. At least, according to the folks who talk about such things on TV. My house's character will be created by myself and Tom, over time. And, we'll be proud to share it, when we can.
Our business... BlogPaws... has character by virtue of the pet community it works with. Anything with pets has character, wouldn't you agree?