Then you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free. 

John  [8:32] 

One of the most dangerous things for any business to get caught up in is a self-fulfilling prophecy. A self-fulfilling prophecy happens because you had feelings it will happen, and our subsequent action supports our beliefs. In other words, without the use of facts or truth, we feel something will happen, and then it does, mainly because the actions we take ensure our feelings happen.  

So how does this happen? During the Great Depression of the last century, many previously solid banks failed because their customers thought they would fail. The bank’s customers believed they would fail and withdrew all their money, resulting in a catastrophic capital loss. Thus, causing many banks to fail, sending the country deeper into an economic morass.  

Fortunately, in my business career, I worked with a number of great CEOs who were adept at gathering facts before deciding what to do next. For example, when people would gather to discuss a problem, these CEOs would insist on getting the hard evidence and push away guesses or feelings. The reason is facts aren’t based on feelings or opinions. Instead, they are based on concrete and well-researched information.  

For instance, someone might propose a solution based on just one incident out of very many and offer a solution. Ignoring the multiple times, the event hadn’t occurred. They were essentially selecting one isolated incident to support their feelings or opinion.  

This is dangerous because a solution based on feelings and opinions doesn’t solve the problem. The problem will still exist and likely get worse. The right solutions require the right facts.  

Sometimes, these feelings or opinions circulate and are accepted because people with alternative agendas push their agenda, regardless of whether it is suitable for the company. This makes it harder to get the facts. Instead, they will point to an isolated incident that supports their agenda and convince people their feelings are a universal truth.  

This behavior creates an uphill climb to convince an organization to take a different course for the person who knows the real truth and facts. In some cases, the person trying to give the facts will become isolated or beaten down. As a result, they will likely either go silent or go along.  

Jesus had this problem early in his ministry. Many of the religious leaders tried to change the minds of people about Jesus. They used skillfully crafted words to convince the local population to condemn Jesus. They weren’t interested in if Jesus was telling the truth. They were more interested in getting rid of a person that threatened their power base.  

The facts, in this case, were clearly on Jesus’ side. He was the Son of God and sent by God. He cured many. He spoke clearly and was always faithful to the words of God. He counseled the downtrodden and showed compassion. Certainly, no one knew the scriptures better than Jesus. Many times using the scriptures against the religious elite.  

The dilemma for Jesus was that even though he did what he said and said what he did, it went across the grain of those in power. Instead of using facts, his detractors used feelings and misguided opinions to prove him wrong. To them, it wasn’t a question if he was right or wrong. Instead, it became a quest to eliminate his influence.  

Jesus didn’t respond to the religious elite. He simply said to the masses, If you hold to my teaching, you are really my disciples.Then you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free. A simple message, stick with me, and you will discover what is real. And we all know Jesus did fulfill his mission. He was crucified and rose on the third day to save us from sin.  

To prove the point, not much is known today about Jesus’ detractors, but much is known about Jesus. That is the issue with feelings and opinions. They don’t last long but can cause a lot of problems. It is always the facts and the truth which survive.  

The same is true with our faith lives. Stick close to the message of Jesus. We should test everything we feel or hear against the words of Jesus. If it matches, likely, we are hearing or feeling the truth. Otherwise, we are reacting to either our misguided desires or falling for someone else’s agenda.  

The truth will always set us free.  

And whatever you do, whether in word or deed, do it all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him. 

Colossians [3:17] 

One of my favorite things to do is to give talks on college campuses. I especially like to hear the students’ points of view. Always unique and insightful conversations that belie the students’ relative inexperience in the business world. In these talks, I do two things. First, give the students real-life insight into what their future lives will look like. And secondly, talk extensively about Christian ethics. Both of these topics are designed to help arm them for the next step in their lives.  

After I have given my presentation, I always allow for an extensive question and answer period. Inevitably I will always be challenged about my too simple view of Christian business ethic. I tell the students that Christian Business ethics always boils down to; what ought I to do. And the answer of what I to do is found in Colossians [3:17], where it says, And whatever you do, whether in word or deed, do it all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him. 

The students believe my point of view is too simple and doesn’t consider the complications or dilemmas of ethics. Like, what about cultural differences? Or weighing truth versus loyalty. Next, they will ask what about long-term versus short-term decisions. Then there is always the question about the individual versus the community. And finally, what about justice versus mercy? These are great questions and represent the five classical ethical dilemmas taught in theirs or any ethics class.  

But the everyday world’s view of ethics is very different than Christian ethics. While similar in answering the question of what ought we to do?, Christian ethics uses the perspective of the Bible and, more specifically, what Jesus would do.  

There is a trap here as well. Many of these dilemmas exist as very minor exceptions and not the general rule. Indeed, the exceptions must be considered, but not at the expense of the broader issue of morality. In other words, too much time can be spent on the five percent versus genuinely understanding the overall point of ethics.  Many of these discussions of the exceptions can overwhelm the real value of ethics. Specifically, in Christian business ethics, knowing what Jesus would have us do is a far more critical question.  

The answer to knowing what Jesus would do is more straightforward than we might think. First, we have the ten commandments, which contain things like not stealing or committing murder. Secondly, Jesus tells us in Matthew 22: 37-40, Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself. All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments.  

So this seems pretty simple to understand, follow the ten commandments, and love God along with our neighbor. However, the more challenging test of Christian ethics isn’t just with this knowledge; it is in the execution. This is where more time should be spent than talking about the exceptions or dilemmas. Temptation is the hardest part of Christian Business ethics. Temptation is what breaks down our ability to execute great Christian business ethics.  

Throughout our careers, we will be tempted by money. We will perhaps stretch the truth to get our way or even a benefit we don’t deserve. We might even be tempted to spread rumors about a co-worker. So my advice to the crowd is to spend more time on two things, be clear about our understanding of what Jesus wants and giving in to temptation.  

However, the five dilemmas of ethics will still always pop up in these discussions. Take the dilemma of truth versus loyalty. Suppose we know of a corrupt situation in which a friend is involved. The dilemma is we expose the truth and hurt our loyalty to our friend. When we use Christian business ethics, this is really a question of truth and loving our neighbor 

First, Jesus always wants us to tell the truth; yes, always! But, secondlyJesus also wants us to love our neighbor. In this case, it means talking to the friend quickly and telling them you have to disclose the truth. And this is loving your neighboreven if it could be viewed as being disloyal. But, in reality, you are helping your neighbor not to get involved any deeper and perhaps helping them be part of the solution. So to allow a friend to continue down a crooked path is not really loving your neighbor.  

Dilemmas may be valuable in the discourse of understanding ethics. But for Christians, it is more important, as it says in Colossians, whether in word or deed, to do it all in the name of Jesus. And secondly, watch out for temptations. Dilemmas aren’t our real problem. It is with the ability and commitment to following the path of Jesus.    

He went to him and bandaged his wounds, pouring on oil and wine. 

Luke [10:34] 

Now it may seem a little strange, and over the top, for me to say, I love going to the DentistBut it is true and let me explain why. It is not fun to have a toothache or to need a root canal—all of which I have had to experience recently. And anyone who has had a toothache can attest it’s not a pleasant time. For me, I knew I would find a caring and compassionate answer at my Dentist’s office.  

As a person who studies businesses, I get great joy when I discover a company that is well run. I have found this with my Dentist, Dr. Heath Lefberg.  

A week before my youngest daughter’s wedding, I developed an infection in my front tooth, which had a root canal long ago. So, needless to say, this event was very untimely. On top of this, I was to be the minister at her wedding. So I called Dr. Lefberg’s office and was immediately and sympathetically given an appointment that day.  

Dr. Lefberg quickly assessed the problem and told me my situation was very complicated and would require a complex procedure to fix. He could not perform the procedure, and I would have to go to an endodontist specialist. But first, he wanted to get me comfortable and able to complete my daughter’s wedding. So his goal became to get me through the following week and my daughter’s wedding, which he did with a required course of anti-biotics and Advil.  

After a few difficult days, it worked. Finally, I was able to be pain-free and perform the wonderful task of marrying my daughter. In the meantime, Dr. Lefberg stayed close in following my progress, as did the office staff.  

When I returned from the wedding, I went to Dr. Lefberg’s office for a follow-up. As I entered the waiting area, the receptionist and office manager immediately asked how was I doing and how was the wedding? These questions weren’t superfluous. Instead, they were sincere expressions.  

I have found this whenever I call the office as well. They are people who care about their patients and go out of their way to make them as comfortable as possible. But, like any cultural attitude that exists in any business, it starts at the top.  

When I watch Dr. Lefberg interact with his employees, I find a person who cares about their opinions and talks to them respectfully.  In turn, it is reflected in how we, the customers/patients, are treated. Their efforts are always sincere and warm towards those of us who visit the office.  

Dr. Lefberg himself asks me about my work as a Christian author. To my surprise, I have found he is a great student of the bible and its history. Most of the time, during my appointments, we talk a little about my work during my visits.  

As I have thought about the business model for Dr. Lefberg’s dental practice, it’s centered on excellent customer service. And I have concluded that for any company to have excellent customer service, two things must be aligned; the leader’s desire to have a great customer service culture and have positive employees whose mindset matches the leader’s. Both must exist, or one side will doom the culture.  

Indeed, I find both sides working harmoniously in Dr. Lefberg’s office. When I think about the Good Samaritan story, I see an excellent example of two sides working together. We all know this story of a Samaritan person finding a person in need on the side of the road. Two religious people pass him by. While the Samaritan man stops his journey and tends to the person’s wounds. Then takes him to an inn to rest for a few days while he goes on his journey for a few days.  

Here is where the story takes an unusual twist. The Samaritan man asks the innkeeper to help out. Certainly, taken care of a person wasn’t on the innkeeper’s to-do list. But, likely, inspired by the compassion of the Samaritan man, the innkeeper takes on the role of helping out. Many miss this part of the story, but there are many times another person exists in most efforts to help out.  

Providing great customer service is similar. First, there has to be a leading example of being empathetic to customer needs to the point of stopping to help the customer out. Second, like the innkeeper,  positive employees must exist to carry on the task of helping the customer. To have excellent customer service, it starts at the top and is finished by the employees 

Jesus uses this example as a lesson on what loving thy neighbor means. It also applies to any business. It is a message of worrying about the customer first and not our scripted to-do list. Positive people always find a way to both provide excellent customer service and their to-do list. Like Dr. Lefberg’s office, they still get their job done and provide excellent customer service.  

And wherever he went—into villages, towns or countryside—they placed the sick in the marketplaces. They begged him to let them touch even the edge of his cloak, and all who touched it were healed. 

Mark [6:56] 

On Sunday, Connie and I go to a very small Methodist church. It is part of our Sunday ritual.  There are bigger churches in the area, certainly with more than twenty or thirty attendees at our church. These larger churches have lavish interiors,  powerful music, and far more resources. But this is our church, and we both feel the presence of God when we enter on Sunday 

The pastor of our church is a very compassionate and unassuming woman. When she delivers her sermon, she is always very crisp, and her research is thorough. I know this type of pastor. When she was at seminary, I am sure she got all A’s. She probably was the one who greeted everyone with a smile and dutifully did her homework. Likely, she was never the leader, just a competent student who took her studies very seriously.  

Her goals in life are being a good pastor for her flock and raising a healthy family. Likely she will stay a pastor for these smaller churches. She doesn’t have the outward desire to be powerful; instead, she desires to do her best every Sunday for her flock.  

But each week, she brings forth something that changes or helps me think through my ministry to the business world differently. Many times making we wonder ‘why hadn’t I thought or found her insight before.’  

This past Sunday, her verse (Mark [6:56]) mentions that Jesus healed the sickly in the marketplace. As soon as I heard this, I knew this was one of the missing links in helping people see Jesus was a marketplace minister.  

Previously to support my theory, I had scoured scholarly writings throughout the world. Discovering writings to support my hypothesis in interesting places, like Bible commentaries from centuries ago. I even found scholarly essays in Australia to support my viewpoint. I have studied ancient Hebrew and Greek to dissect words. And certainly used Matthew Henry’s commentaries from the 17th century to find answers.  

But here is this one simple verse, which was always there for me to see; I discovered the connection of non-circumstantial evidence; Jesus did some of his best work in the marketplace. It was as if my pastor was talking directly to me and telling me this is the important clue you have been seeking.   

The verse, Mark [6:56], explains that people brought the sickly from the local villages and towns to their marketplace to be healed by Jesus. To make sure I wasn’t delusional, I went to my library of commentaries once again to see if I could confirm I was right.  In doing this research, I discovered John Albert Bengel (1687-1752), the father of modern Biblical scholarship, who explained why. He explained if you wanted to meet someone very important in the first century, you went to the marketplace. It was the center of not only commerce but where people congregated. Certainly, Jesus as well would be where most of the people gathered.  

For us in the twentieth century, it would be hard to think Jesus would be on Wall Street, at a shopping mall, or any of our other commercial gathering spots. But in the 1st century, places of commerce were gathering spots. 

If you wanted to trade or sell products you had or made. The marketplace was where you went—a kind of clearinghouse or place for the everyday citizen. The reality was, giant corporations didn’t exist. Instead, commerce was done at the local and individual levels in a central place in every town.  

If you wanted to buy bread, candy, jewelry, or household products, you went to the town’s marketplace. It is likely that most days of the week, you physically had to go. There were no Amazon Prime delivery trucks, just good old fashion commerce by walking around.  

Naturally, as a former carpenter, Jesus had been there many times. And certainly, Jesus would know to go there to carry out his earthly ministerial mission for God. While some of Jesus’ ministry was completed in the local temples, it was often in the streets surrounding the central marketplace. Jesus was the original Street Minster. And not only that, he did his best work in the marketplace.   

Jesus went where the people were, as he does today. On any Sunday, statistically, half the people in any church have to be at work by [8:15] the following day. This is a missing piece of understanding by the church today. So maybe we should take Jesus’ lead and meet people where they are. Jesus is already there In the marketplace and waiting to help all who work. Jesus is even on Zoom! 

Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord, not for human masters. 

Colossians [3:23] 

The Epistle of Paul to the Colossians, or simply Colossians, is the twelfth book of the New testament. Likely written sometime between 55AD and 60AD, while the Apostle Paul sat in a Roman prison. Colossians is one of four letters Paul wrote while held as a prisoner. The other three are; Ephesians, Philemon, and Philippians. They are called as a group the Prison Epistles. Even in prison, Paul continued to write to many of the churches he started during his three missionary journeys.  

The letter to the Colossians was written to get these churches back on track in serving only Christ. But, unfortunately, it seems they had started taking shortcuts in their practices and introduced pagan rituals in worship services. One verse that hit home for me was in chapter 3, verse 23, which says, Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord, not for human masters. While a reminder not to take shortcuts in our relationship with Jesus or religious practices, it is also a reminder of how we conduct ourselves when we work. 

Paul is reminding us to work heartily and with quality in all that we do. And there is no better reminder than to always work with all your heart as if we are working for the Lord.  Wow, imagine the change in our efforts if we know whatever we do, we do for Jesus. This thought would undoubtedly make each effort we put into work more meaningful. So while this message was essential to the Colossians two thousand years ago, it is just as relevant today.  

As I was sitting one morning thinking about this message from Paul, it made me think about my brother-in-law Ken and my wife Connie, putting up a picture gallery of our relatives in our new home. There was a blank wall in one of the hallways that seemed to them to be a great place to put up pictures of our grandparents, our parents when they were younger, and even great-grandparents—a wonderful reminder of our roots.  

After visiting Lowes to get all the required material, Connie and Ken looked at the wall and discussed how to make the placements mean something and in what order. Then they began the laborious effort of measuring and rethinking each placement. Next, they carefully prepared each picture to be hung. A process that required exact precision to ensure each image hung evenly. I noticed how much time was spent preparing and thinking before they hung the pictures while wondering if I would have the same patience.  

Soon, they began hanging each picture while continuing to debate, measure, and assess each placement. This was no haphazard effort. So much thought went into each step; no shortcuts! I enjoyed listening to the banter and discussion, and it allowed me to feel the quality of their efforts.  

Then they proudly announced it was done. Both looking at their work, satisfied each picture hung properly. When I walked around the corner to see the gallery, I was stunned! Not just at the quality of the work, but seeing how the quality of preparation showed itself in the results. This is what the Apostle Paul was talking about with work as if working for the Lord. 

While this is a simple story, it is a reminder to be patient in our work. Not just do something to get it done, but to do it well. Sure it might seem it takes longer, but in actuality, it is a shorter and more sustainable effort.  

Sometimes, we might hurry to get something done only to be met with having to redo our work or end up with shoddy work. It is human nature to want to complete our to-do lists quickly. But Paul is telling us not to be expedient, instead to work as if working for the Lord.  

I can only imagine if a workplace had this mindset, what wonderful products would be produced. The decisions that would be made would always represent high Christian ethics, and customers would always be happy—by simply taking the time to work as if Jesus is standing next to us. 

He will show you a large room upstairs, all furnished. Make preparations there. 

Luke [22:12] 

When Ryan first came into my office eight years ago, I noticed something different about him. He was unusually polite and used words like; yes sir and thank you. He listened intently and would wait to insert his opinion politely. Quickly the conversation became a mutual exchange of ideas and methods.  

I had spotted him during my tours through his department and wondered about his skills. The visit to my office was for me to find out more about him, by giving him a project. We reviewed the project requirements and together established a timeline with expected outcomes.  

Before the project deadline, Ryan came into my office with his completed project, which also included extra materials. There were no mistakes in his work. He delivered his work earlier than expected with additional value.  

Naturally, I gave him more work with increasing responsibility and freedom. Again, he consistently exceeded expectations.  

As time went on, I got to know Ryan better. At twenty-five, he had earned his pilot’s license. In fact, he was a flight instructor at a small local airport. He had graduated from college with honors. A quiet person who read the room well and spoke when it was his time. Never insistent he was heard, but always clear with his facts.  

As time wore on, I tried to have lunch with Ryan periodically. Primarily to offer him my help and learn more about him. I heard the dreams about his life and his pending marriage to his girlfriend. I learned his parents and grandparents were influential in his life. He spoke about his family with pride. Ryan is a person who was grateful for what he has and not one to pick at slights in his life. He is a hopeful person.  

During these conversations, I started to sense he had another mission in life other than being a business person. Aviation was his passion. When he talked about aviation, this subdued person became animated.  

He had been dutiful in following his parents’ lead to pursue a career in business. And he was good at business. But the business world wasn’t his passion.  

At one point, I asked him what did he really want to do in his life? Stumbling with his words, he told me he always to be a pilot for a national airline. He wanted to fly people around the country. He loved flying and all the electronics associated with aviation. Flying was his real passion. 

We discussed this, and I told him, follow your passion. Knowing that passion produces excellence and joy in life. He was surprised I told him this, assuming I would try to talk him out of becoming a pilot. It was his dream, not mine.  

Ryan did leave the company to become a pilot. At first, he was a trainee and flew prop planes. Later rising up to being a regional co-pilot flying Jets. He moved from the area he grew up in to be closer to his work.  

I remember the day he called with pride to tell me he was now a pilot for a small regional airline and no longer the co-pilot. As time wore on, I wondered how he was doing. His name would come up here and there. But like all of us, our life’s paths cross here and there. Ryan was very supportive of my books and has bought everyone. He always gave me feedback on what he thought about my books. 

I don’t hear from Ryan every day or even every month. Maybe once or twice a year. When we talked, it became a time to connect the events from the last time we spoke. Sometimes he needed a reference, which I always eagerly provided.  

Then the day came; he was about to be given the pilot job he always wanted. He was being considered to be a pilot for a national airline. He texted me to see if I could be his reference. And of course, I said yes. My reference was only needed for the airline to verify everything they already knew about Ryan,   

Over the last eight years, Ryan had shared his life with me. I knew what he wanted in his life. I knew when Ryan was disappointed and when he was excited. But on this day, his dream was coming true, and he needed one more phone call from me.  

Ryan hadn’t called just once over the years, but frequently enough for me to know about and watch his life. So when the final request came in, I eagerly helped.  

Unwittingly, Ryan exhibited the real process of networking. Ryan didn’t set out with a plan to call me in exactly eight years and ask for a reference. Instead, he mutually involved me in his life—a relationship where there is both receiving and giving. 

When I speak to students on college campuses and talk about networking, I always tell them networking is a lifelong activity with a genuine effort to be mutual. Nurturing these relationships is vital to them having a solid network.  

In my career counseling work, where I help people find a new job, those with strong networks have an easier time. The statistics bear this out. At the professional level, sixty to eighty percent of all jobs are found through a person’s network.  

People love to help out people that have been positive and trustworthy associates. A person’s network contains people who are like bumblebees that spread the pollen of a person’s ability throughout the business and professional world.  

Even Jesus used his network to obtain what he needed during his three-year ministry on earth. On His last trip to Jerusalem, he needed a room to have one last supper with his disciples. Jesus sent the two Apostles Peter and John, ahead to secure a place for this supper. Jesus sent the two men to a man he knew from the past and told Peter and John. He will show you a large room upstairs, all furnished. Make preparations there. (Luke [22:12]) 

On the surface, this may seem a little odd for Jesus to assume someone would give Him a room. The owner was someone Jesus had met and helped in the past. Who was now more than willing to return the favor.  

So while this could be viewed as a supernatural event, it still contains the value of networking. Jesus spent considerable time during His ministry on earth building social networks. All done through mutual relationships, which included the two most important factors of networking, giving and receiving.  

Networks are built over a lifetime and always need to be nurtured. I know I am not the only one Ryan stayed in touch. He has other friends as well, some of who I know. Ryan will undoubtedly continue to be a great pilot, and he will need help from time to time. He will also, from time to time, help others. We, who know Ryan, know this.

Work as if working for the Lord Christ.

Colossians [3:23]-24

Recently I received an email promotion that said I had won a free airline ticket. Immediately I opened the email to see how I had won a free airline ticket. Suspicious, I scoured the fine print and discovered I really hadn’t won a ticket. It was just a request to read more about the company and had a minimal chance of winning the ticket. In return, I would have to fill out a lengthy form, which asked for things like a phone number, my address, and email address. Quickly, I deleted the email and thought to myself, why be so deceptive?

It probably seemed like a good idea to the company, hoping to land new customers. In reality, it likely turned off a lot of potential buyers. Why not just send an email that explained the benefits of doing business with the company. Or better yet, provide excellent customer service to the loyal customers and let word of mouth generate more sales.

Too often, we receive these suspicious emails, which do nothing more than clutter up our email. It makes me wonder, How would Jesus want businesses to create raving fans? I am pretty sure Jesus would want these businesses to take a different approach. He would like them to treat their customers as they wanted to be treated. Jesus would ask them to hire people committed to providing great customer service. These businesses should also produce a product as if they are working for the Lord. And finally, always be truthful. Four simple but essential business practices to attract lifelong customers and, in the process, create raving fans.

The Golden Rule

In Matthew [7:12], Jesus says, whatever you wish that others would do to you, do also to them, for this is the Law and the Prophets. This is wise advice. Before we put any marketing effort to work, we should ask ourselves, Is this the way we want to be treated? If our answer is no, then we shouldn’t. Deceptive methods in marketing will never produce raving fans of our business. Instead, our reputation will be sullied.

Loyal customers who are raving fans will create a firm foundation for any business. Not only that, they will provide repeat business and attract other customers. We should never forget that most purchases from new customers come from the reviews of the existing customers. Yes, Jesus is giving us wise customer service advice with the Golden Rule.

Hire Great People and Pay Them Well

In the Parable of the Talents, Jesus tells the story of a manager who had to leave for a while. The manager gave his three employees tasks to perform while he was gone. Two of the employees did their job and doubled their efforts. When the manager came back and saw the bounty created, he gave them a raise and more responsibility.

I am sure all current business managers would want these two people working in their company. These workers are the type of people who will also treat customers in the same manner by going the extra mile to make sure the customer is satisfied. Over time having workers like this changes culture and helps sales.

Continually seeking great employees and treating them well will always produce excellent results. And managers should be quick to reward, and these rewards will reinforce what is required.

Produce Products As If They Are For the Lord

Having the right attitude and the right employees is very important. Equally important is to produce quality products. Jesus has a simple mindset to accomplish this facet of business, work as if working for the Lord Christ. (Colossians [3:23]-24) What a great perspective! Simply work and produce products you would proud to give to Jesus.

All flaws in production would be attended to immediately. Saving money at the customer’s expense by not addressing product quality is a flawed strategy. Companies that employ this attitude will have people meet to collaborate to make sure everything has been properly thought through.

The company would quickly become a place that desires to create raving fans. A commitment to excellent customer service will replace a penny-wise, dollar foolish mindset. In turn, the company will become far more sustainable than one which cuts corners.

Never Deceive Customers or Employees

In business, there is always the temptation to stretch further than you should in generating sales or a better outcome. Perhaps the pressure of making sure you hit a certain sales number to make the month-end goals. We have all witnessed this in our business careers. And perhaps in the short term, these efforts produce the immediate desired results.

However, lurking in the future is a payback moment that will often be greater than short-term gains. Customers will sometimes complain about the deception. But most will avoid the confrontation and silently begin moving away. It will show up in reviews posted on the internet. Soon, the once-strong sales base will become weak.

Maintaining a strong sense of Christian ethics will help avoid this dilemma. It may sound corny, but if all our actions are connected to the often-used phrase; What would Jesus do, short-term decisions will be replaced with longer-term choices.

Customers are the life-blood of every business. Serving these customers well will ensure a great future for any company. Every company’s goals should start with making their customers raving fans. It doesn’t happen with deceitful marketing efforts. It happens with a company’s commitment to excellence, great employees, truthfulness, and empathy for the customer. We only need to turn to the lessons of Jesus to create an environment that, in turn, makes raving fans.

 

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?