When I asked Fred about the success of the bank and the development of his leadership, he was quick to deflect credit toward a former boss who had imparted the critical lessons of customer commitment, accounting accuracy, and encouraging employees to learn beyond the boundaries of their roles. He also mentioned the absence of loan defaults among the customers, many of them farming families of German ancestry who honored their financial obligations and taught their children to do the same.

If the story sounds a little too good to be true, trust me, it's true. Fred Chappelow is my father, and I was around to see most of this, including the lectures about financial responsibility. (The mother of all these lectures occurred when I was ...

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