A Scottish Handshake: Just Do It


My late father-in-law Jack Mitchell was a wool-broker who bought wool from all over the world and sold it onto the many woollen mills in the Scottish Borders.

Jack was an incredible man, in so many ways, but one of his defining traits was that he never signed contracts but simply shook hands on a deal – and went on to build a successful lifetime in business based upon the strength of his word.

And so it was this week that I listened with great interest to an uplifting story about two modern Scottish leaders.

I was honoured to be visiting the amazing Archerfield House and Golf Links this morning, nestled by the beautiful East Lothian coastline, just adjacent to the famous Muirfield Links.

Ceannas are exploring the possibility of using the exceptional Archerfield facilities with international clients and in the course of our visit we met the Chief Executive, Tom Younger.

Tom has been at Archerfield since its opening and his leadership and commitment to quality is tangible in everything we experienced. His ‘secret ‘ is to look at everything through his members and guests eyes – and believe me when I say that nothing escapes his eye. I loved the strapline he uses to define the Archerfield approach – “We play a different game” and they certainly live up to that aspiration in so many ways.

Over a cup of coffee Tom told us about the development of the Nike Performance Fitting Centre, the first of its kind in the world. The Centre applies missile tracking technology to golfers’ swings and putting strokes. Rory, Tiger, Michael Jordan to name but three legendary figures have benefitted from the unique facility. As a small aside, I always judge a place by the enthusiasm of its staff, and if Ross Leeds, is anything to go by, the Centre has everything going for it.

But back to the story. When Nike were looking to establish the Centre they had the choice of almost every top golf club in the world. Nevertheless, such a venture carried with it significant financial risk for the partner facility, and this proved to be a challenge for many other venues.

Nevertheless, Tom Younger and his team saw the potential in the development and engaged in formal negotiations with Nike, who happened to be represented by another Scot, an Aberdonian named Angus Moir.

As ever, such negotiations involve complex legal, financial, design and construction issues. It was during one of these interminable meetings that Tom and Angus demonstrated a classic feature of Scottish leadership behaviour.

Frustrated by the need from their advisors to tie down every detail into a ‘nailed down’ business case Angus looked Tom in the eye and asked “What will it take to get this done?” to which Tom replied, “A Handshake” and leaned across the table and proffered his hand to Angus. Without hesitation Angus shook his hand and the deal was sealed.

A simple handshake, underpinned by faith in a fellow human being, and driven by a deep personal commitment – characterised by “my word is my bond” – captured a traditional Scottish leadership value in a 21st century business powerplay.

Courageous, honest, trusting and built upon the great tradition of Scottish Leadership values.

I came away inspired!


‘Just do it’ is a registered trademark for Nike Inc.