Letters From Leton: Need A Pair Of Pants?

As a young banker, I had a wonderful mentor in Bill Clements, a progressive banker who in many ways was ahead of his times.

However, I was also blessed to have many other professional influences in my life, especially our Bank Board. William Kanto who was a great influencer on the establishment of Lenowisco and Mountain Empire Community College and served many other organizations. The incomparable Papa Joe Smith, first Chancellor of UVA-Wise. And Bob Isaac owner of Dave’s Department Store.

Bob’s family was Lebanese and had moved to Appalachia as part of the coal boom and related activities. (People, including many in SWVA, forget how diverse our population background is.) 

As a young man developing an interest in business and banking, I would spend time with Bob to pick his brain about the retail world. I recall one time asking Bob about his primary competitor in Norton. Wouldn’t he have benefited if they went out of business?

Bob’s response was an emphatic no, and he shared an example:

Say a fellow comes in and tries on a blazer. He likes the blazer, but he can’t find a pair of pants he likes. He puts the blazer back. He goes down the street to another department store and finds a pair of slacks he likes. He then returns to buy the blazer. Competitive businesses create a growing business environment. And a growing business environment is a virtuous cycle.

It is the same for banking. Good, well-run competitor banks make us a better bank.

Bob passed on Saturday, August 15th. Bob was involved in so many community, educational and business entities and was deeply appreciated by his fellow citizens.

He imparted many great lessons and words of wisdom, including the value of competition to a young banker.

Stay safe and get vaccinated if you haven’t.

– Leton


“Letters From Leton” is a blog series comprised of the weekly updates that Leton Harding – President, Chairman, and CEO of Powell Valley National Bank, shares with the Bank’s team members. These newsletters are full of uplifting anecdotes and intriguing insights that are applicable beyond the Bank, so we want to share them with you.