Originally created 07/06/99

Satchels define the business



Jim Courson has a saying about the size of a professional's briefcase: It matters.

"What kind of briefcase a person carries depends on how successful they are," Mr. Courson said. "The more successful they are, the more stuff they accumulate."

And the more stuff, the bigger the bag, of course.

Leather or nylon, locks or zippers, hard or soft. There are so many varieties of the business accessory that some professionals say they view them as a small extension of their workplaces.

Mr. Courson, who owns a Coldwell Banker Realty branch in Columbia County, is an admitted briefcase extremist. He carries three satchels with him to most meetings outside the office.

"I used to carry all my files in a Tide box," he said. Mr. Courson was the No. 1 real estate salesman in the nation in 1979.

"It was real big and open where I could read everything," he said.

After wearing out more than 40 detergent boxes that were ruined by rain, overuse or mishap, Mr. Courson said a fellow real estate agent finally gave him a briefcase, which he still uses today.

There is just one problem: "It is so big it looks like I'm carrying a body around in it."

Cheryl Young, Manager of Mori Luggage and Gifts in Augusta Mall, says the type of briefcase one carries depends more on one's job than personal style.

And the latest trends in satchel styles are those that accommodate today's technology, Ms. Young said.

"Years ago, people carried hard, boxy-type briefcases," she said. "Today they have to do a lot more business travel. They have to carry laptop (computers), phones and pagers.

"That requires certain types of briefcases."

Some of the best-selling items at Mori are called computer cases, which are bags with extra sleeves for electronic components.

Travel-friendly totes that accommodate both business and personal belongings also are big sellers, Ms. Young said.

Briefcases with wheels and extensible handles also are increasingly popular, especially with female customers, she said.

The breifcase one local attorney uses is older than her law career.

Lee H. Little, a 29-year-old attorney with Burnside, Wall, Daniel, Ellison & Revell, got her briefcase before she even passed the bar. Her mother gave it to her as a Christmas present.

She keeps mundane things in there: pens, pencils, file folders. And, of course, what's a lawyer without a legal pad?

And then there's Steve Carew, a Des Moines, Iowa-based insurance agent with Guide One Insurance. He says he seldom uses his briefcase anymore because so much of his business now is done out of his office by computer.

His expensive leather satchel has been collecting dust under his desk for months.

Prompted to open it, he discovered a 700-page printout of the Starr Report.

"I didn't want to leave it on my desk," he said, remembering the day he tucked the large document away. "And my wife wanted to read it."

Then there's Mr. Courson, who says he relies on his briefcases, which contain an assortment of items, to keep him prepared for the unexpected.

He always has checkbooks to four bank accounts on hand so he can pay bills whenever he finds a spare moment. He keeps a bottle of aspirin, in case a client gets a headache.

He also carries candy and gum, a jar of change for soda machines, a calculator, pens, pencils, cologne, deodorant, rubber bands, maps, contracts, listing agreements, lots of business cards and, for those times he is stuck in the car without a hard surface to write on, a miniature desk that folds out.

"If you don't bring that image of professionalism, it could cost you a sale," Mr. Courson said.

Heidi Coryell covers business for The Augusta Chronicle. She can be reached at (706) 823-3215.