For surely I know the plans I have for you, says the Lord, plans for your welfare and not to harm, to give you a future with hope.

(Jer. 29:11)

 

ERASING WORTHLESSNESS

In my current business, Gideon Partners, I have clients who have lost their job and have come to me for advice. The most common thing I hear that connects all these individuals together is a sense of worthlessness. They all have suffered a loss and wonder how did they allow themselves to get into this situation. What could they have done differently? Many times the answer doesn’t lie with them, but with circumstances out of their control. Perhaps their company had to downsize, they had a conflict with their boss or their job wasn’t a good fit. Regardless of the reason they all have a sense of worthlessness that is overstated in their minds.

“This sense of worthlessness comes from a loss of identity.”

This sense of worthlessness comes from a loss of identity. Many times they are alone all day, while their friends go to work. They often are alone with their thoughts and take too much of the blame. They will hear things like, “It was probably for the best.” Or “Take advantage of the time off.” These statements will bring a momentary smile, but they still have bills to pay and worry about their future. They miss the camaraderie of the work place. They are alone.

“Like many of life’s problems, the only way out is to move forward and not stay behind.”

It is a terrible place to be, yet the vast majority of people will spend some portion of their life without a job. This sense of worthlessness is also debilitating. The very thing they want and need is finding a job, yet this worthlessness makes them lethargic in their search. The hardest thing to do is to stay positive and move forward in spite of this feeling of worthlessness. Like many of life’s problems, the only way out is to move forward and not stay behind.

“To claim our future, we must work with God.”

In today’s verse, God states He has plans for us and not to harm us. Plans that move us from worthlessness to hope. While this is an encouraging verse for those who believe, there are conditions to having a future with hope. There are things we must do in conjunction with God’s plans for us. Perhaps it is some soul searching of what we could have done better. Perhaps it is a very careful evaluation of what we should do next. For those without a job it means enthusiastically embracing the task of finding a new job. To claim our future, we must work with God.

Most new jobs are found through your personal network. Seventy to eighty percent of new jobs are obtained by using our networks. While difficult and sometimes embarrassing to ask for help and insight, our networks, many times are the source of a regained identity. They will know you and will mention you to other people, who might have a job. When we contact these people our goals should be to stay positive and demonstrate trustworthiness. While this seems obvious, becoming “riveted” on these two traits is paramount to finding a new job. We all have networks and when we approach them with a positive sense of mutuality, they will help.

Applying for jobs on-line can and will be frustrating. Many times there will be no reply back or rejection. In spite of this we all must continue to apply. While not as effective as our networks, we still must apply and ignore the repetition of negative feedback. Our goal is always to press forward when we work with God. To keep searching and pray. He will answer.

God does have plans for us, but God works “with” us and not for us. To claim the “future with hope,” we have to work hard. We have to rise up and even on the tough days. Smile when we are interviewing. To claim our future, we have to be honest with ourselves and others. God is there and will answer. God will give us this answer through our efforts of searching and personal reflection.

Blessings, until next time,
Bruce L. Hartman

 

PARTING THOUGHTS

What are the biggest obstacles to staying positive in the face of adversity?

In tough times, do we believe in ourselves or doubt ourselves?

How does God help us?

 

 

“As for the mystery of the seven stars that you saw in my right hand, and the seven golden lampstands: the seven stars are the angels of the church, and the seven lampstands are the seven churches.”

– Revelation 1:20

 

THE NUMBER SEVEN AND BUSINESS PLANNING

One of my favorite things in helping a business or a businessperson is to review the company’s or the individual’s strategic plan or purpose. How do they guide themselves? How do they think about their customers? What is important to them? It shows up in their strategic plan. Good businesses can articulate their mission crisply and quickly. Both their employees and their customers know the mission. Those that have a long, extensive strategic plan are usually unfocused. Those that have no plan or are unsure are rudderless. It almost always shows up in their results.

“In the Bible the number seven represents perfection and is considered divine.”

An exercise I do for businesses is to get them to write their mission in seven words. It forces them to be both concise and focused. Listing out the seven words is hard; it involves looking again at what the purpose of the business is. The next step is to list the seven actions a business needs to take to accomplish this mission. Are the seven action steps harmonious with the mission and are they consistent with how the business is being run? Would the employees and customers agree? In its simplicity, a focused approach makes us think beyond the seven words and seven actions, but it isn’t overbearing and doesn’t require massive committees. This also works for the rest of our lives. When looking for a job or trying to be more successful with your career, do we have a plan?

“In its simplicity, a focused approach makes us think…it isn’t overbearing and doesn’t require massive committees. This also works for the rest of our lives.”

In the Bible the number seven means perfection or completeness. It is tied to the creation of the world. While I am not a fan of numerology, we can see that the number seven is important to God, by the fact that throughout the Bible it is used 860 times. If we were taking a Bible test, the number seven would be on the test. The first act by God for humankind was the seven days of creation. Jesus performed seven miracles on the seventh day. In the Bible the number seven represents perfection and is considered divine.

When using the method of seven in our business or life plans, not only are we focused, but we are honoring our Christian values. In a sense we are asking God to bless our plan. The plan of seven doesn’t take long, but it requires thought and insight. It highlights where we have to get better and where we are doing well. The seven actions we need to take will awaken us to the state of our business. If we take out the business or life plan once a week, it becomes part of our daily thinking. We can hire high-priced consultants to tell us what we already know, but I am not sure it is any more effective than to follow the roadmap of God.

Blessings, until next time,
Bruce L. Hartman

 

PARTING THOUGHTS

Do we have a life or business plan?

How does it measure up to what our employees and customers think?

Do we have a life plan and are we following the plan?

 

sunrise over mountains

 

“But he looked at them and said, ‘What does this text mean: “The stone that the builders rejected has become the cornerstone”?’”

— Luke 20:17

JOE BONGIORNO THE CORNERSTONE

When I first started at Foot Locker, we needed to fix a lot of things. Much was broken or tied up in excessive rules. I discovered hidden away a person named Joe Bongiorno who could help. Whatever I needed, he figured it out and fixed it. Joe was a castoff, working for someone who hadn’t realized Joe knew everyone and could get anything. Tucked away where the pretty people couldn’t see him, he was a sled dog and not a poodle. But when I needed help from the masses, Joe stood in. When I needed a special project done, Joe completed the project. When it was review time, though, his managers wanted to give him an average review. You see, Joe didn’t graduate from Stanford and was plainspoken.

There was Joe at every critical juncture of our recovery from near bankruptcy, largely discarded but always standing on the wall defending his company. His company that he had worked for his entire career. He was always there. When we had an opening for the vice president of supply chain, we promoted Joe. Many of the elite scoffed at his promotion. But Joe performed well. He reorganized the system and allowed us to get products into our stores within three days. Our vendors loved working with Joe; he got right to the point and overcame their hurdles. Our stores became appreciative of Joe’s ability to listen. Through all this he was always better than budget. He made our company hum. 

“In today’s verse, Jesus is talking about himself as a cornerstone, but also many others like Joe.”

In today’s verse, Jesus is talking about himself as a cornerstone, but also many others like Joe. How often in our work lives do we see someone neglected, but who works hard? That person stays until the job is done. He or she remains committed to the team, even when shinier models get ahead. Do we always know who we are rejecting? Do we listen to what others say or do we discard them? How many hours do we put in that aren’t recognized? Buried in every company are those people who are the cornerstones. They labor without glory and just seem to get things done. They are the sled dogs of corporations. 

“Jesus liked people, who were sled dogs and not poodles. Consider his disciples, common people from the working class of an ancient Judean workplace.”

Joe went on to retire from Foot Locker, proud that he and his team had built a great supply chain to keep the stores stocked. Joe left with little fanfare, which was what he liked. He just “did his job.” Jesus liked people, who were sled dogs and not poodles. Consider his disciples, common people from the working class of an ancient Judean workplace. None were from the religious elite; they were tax collectors, fishermen, and everyday folk. With their help, Jesus accomplished his mission. Joe accomplished his, too, not in as dramatic a fashion, but silently and with little fanfare. 

Blessings, until next time,
Bruce L. Hartman

 

PARTING THOUGHTS

Who are the Joe’s in our lives?

Do we feel like Joe at times?

Who are our cornerstones?

 

Jesus the borrower

 

“Go into the village ahead of you, and as you enter it you will find tied there a colt that has never been ridden. Untie it and bring it here. If anyone asks you, ‘Why are you untying it?’ just say this, ‘The Lord needs it.’”

— Luke 19:30–31

JESUS THE BORROWER

The day I was made CFO of Foot Locker, our banks wanted to renegotiate our credit agreements. We were in a very difficult financial position, and this meeting on my first day was going to be tough. Our assistant treasurer at the time was an executive named Peter Brown. In my previous meetings with Peter, I had gained a great deal of trust in and respect for his abilities. He was a clear thinker and had established himself in the financial world as being exceedingly honest and smart. I put him in charge of negotiating the new agreement. On top of that I asked him to get a $25 million cushion, knowing full well that just getting the agreement done would be hard enough. Peter accomplished both. A new credit agreement and a $25 million cushion that we would desperately need in the future months. 

“But without that first meeting, where his reputation ruled, we would never have been successful.”

Peter didn’t get the new agreement because we were financially stable. Peter got the agreement because he was well respected by the banks. In the past he had lived up to his word. He had been unusually frank and sincere in all previous discussions. He hadn’t over committed. In fact, his favorite saying was “Under promise and over deliver.” The banks could gauge this and relied on his past. We had a tough year—my first year as a public company CFO—nearly falling countless times. Peter was there with me, guiding and helping. But without that first meeting, where his reputation ruled, we would never have been successful. 

“Jesus’ reputation allowed him to borrow without questions, even a prized colt.”

Imagine having the power to ask for a brand-new colt and then receiving it. In the ancient Judean world, livestock was precious. It was that world’s alternative form of currency. But Jesus was able to ask and receive. He needed a colt on which to ride into Jerusalem on the day we call Palm Sunday. A victory lap of sorts. Why would anyone give up a brand-new colt, a precious piece of their wealth? Because the Lord needed it for a few hours. Jesus had a great reputation among the working class. They flocked to hear him. They would gather for his sermons. They trusted Jesus. He was well known in this ancient marketplace. Jesus’ reputation allowed him to borrow without questions, even a prized colt. 

“Our reputation dictates our creditworthiness, not our net worth.”

While banks and accountants will do the figures and determine if we can borrow, it’s our reputation that dictates if we can. Consider the FICO score we all have with the credit reporting agencies, like Experian or TransUnion. The score is based on our behaviors not our wealth. A score below 700 and we will find it difficult to borrow. Above 800 and we could borrow most of what we need. When we don’t pay our bills, our score goes lower. When people have to chase us for money, it goes even lower. Our reputation dictates our creditworthiness, not our net worth. In my counseling activities, most of the time I am not surprised when I see someone’s credit score. Who they are is reflected in their score.

Blessings, until next time,
Bruce L. Hartman

 

PARTING THOUGHTS

What is our credit score?

Why is reputation more important than the numbers?

When did Jesus return the colt?