Seven Christian Values Every Business Could Use
On our many travels this summer, my wife and I stayed in a number of hotels in small-town America. On a recent stay in Great Barrington, a hamlet in the Berkshires of Massachusetts, I was greeted early in the morning and offered coffee by the manager of the Fairfield Inn. In itself, this may not appear to be all that unusual, but when connected with the consistent friendliness of the staff it made me say to myself, “now I understand why everyone at this hotel is so friendly.”
I also noticed that the hotel was full, while another hotel next door was only half full. Over the course of the summer, I have had mostly good experiences at hotels. But along with a few of the other businesses that I frequent as a writer, I’ve noticed a disturbing trend of profit-seeking being put ahead of genuine customer service.
In one case, a vendor wanted me to sign up for a subscription service that provided little value. In another case, I was given a report that was really just a dump of information pulled from an internet search, leaving me to decipher its purpose and message. In both cases, I was charged well above their service was worth.
As for the hotel in Great Barrington, I was always met with smiles and simple accommodating efforts. Like the manager, there was a genuine interest in serving and not in taking.
In my book Jesus & Co., I point out the connectedness of good business values with the ways of the Gospel. Essentially, there are seven sure-fire ways to improve business results while staying true to Christian ideals. All involve valuing your customers as your neighbor.
Sell What Your Customer Needs
The best small businesses rely on referrals to generate traffic. Today in America, 80 percent of all visits to a business are made based on past customer reviews. Above four stars and you get new customers; below four, ugh! Could you imagine Jesus selling a product that wasn’t what the customer needed? But sometimes in the pursuit of sales, business leaders will contrive products and services that will generate extra profits but are not of value to their customers. In other words, sell the customer what they need. Customer reviews will improve greatly with this attitude, and so will your profits.
Follow the Golden Rule
In the Sermon on the Mount—Jesus’s primer on how to live—he says, “So whatever you wish that others would do to you, do also for them.” (Matthew [7:12]) Over the years, it has been simplified to “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you.” This seems simple and a very a fair way to conduct business. But two things always stand in the way: selfishness on the part of the business, to get all that they can; or vengeful actions to get back at someone for a perceived offense. Neither of these options are good long-term business strategies, and they will only serve to corrode an enterprise’s reputation, both internally and externally.
Be a Good Example with High Moral Character
Employees, customers, and fellow associates all watch what we do as opposed to what we say. During a recent conversation with Jack Pattie, the long-serving radio host on WVLK AM in Lexington, Kentucky, he told me about a company in the northeast that he was always impressed with. He always felt they were a Christian-based business even though they didn’t advertise as such. However, over time he discovered they were, indeed, Christian-based. It was through the simple and consistent actions of doing the right thing that Jack observed their Christian values. The company didn’t demand that all their hires be Christians, but they did insist that they follow Christian ideals in their work. They are successful not based on what they say but on what they do.
Be a Faithful Employee
Jesus famously said, “The Son is not able to do anything himself; he is able to do only what he sees the Father doing; whatever the Father does the Son does it in the same way.” (John [5:19]) It is a remarkable statement considering the great leadership ability of Jesus and a humble lesson for all of us. Jesus was completely committed to the mission and to the ways of God, not to himself. In my career, I saw many good employees stray from a path of alignment with the corporate mission or their boss. This is both unhelpful to a successful business and to the individual’s career. Sure, there may be times when the mission is wrong or the boss is misguided, but in those times, open protest won’t work. Informed and humble private conversations will.
Lead with Conviction and Compassion
Great leaders have a strong sense of conviction and know where they want to go. Without compassion for others, not many will follow them. There are times employees or customers need a break or a little extra kindness. Great leaders know when those times occur. The ability to balance the mission with the needs of employees and customers is a paramount leadership quality. Being committed only to the mission will create an apathetic following. Conversely, only being compassionate will lead to weak results. It is the ability to balance both that is critical to the success of a leader.
Great Businesses and Leaders are Great Servants
Any business or leader that doesn’t serve is bound to fail. Neither will survive if it is all about them. For a moment or two, they may find success, but ultimately they will be dragged down through their own self-interest. People and customers follow those who serve others as well as lead. Businesses and leaders who are willing to serve and respect the needs of their employees and customers engender loyalty.
Be a Great Communicator
Jesus was a preeminent communicator. His favorite vehicle was through the use of parables—stories with value but that also inspired imaginative thought. Businesses and leaders that communicate through vivid and clear messages inspire their followers to be great. One of the single most important leadership characteristics is letting everyone know where you are going. Not simply by telling but by inspiring. Telling stories that spark imaginative thought strengthens the listener’s memory and builds greater emotional attachment.
There are many great businesses and leaders, each with their own unique gifts. Those who embody Christian values strengthen their chances of success. Many will say that Christianity and business don’t mix. This is a myth. They are easily combined when one leads with Christian actions and when their words are justified by their good deeds. In other words, “Be the Gospel; don’t just say the Gospel.”
Dr. Bruce L Hartman, Christian Author, and Story Teller. A former Fortune 500 CFO who left the corporate world to engage in a ministry of “Connecting The Lessons of the Gospels to Modern Life.” His life mission is “Helping People Walk into a Brighter Future.”
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Blessings, until next time,
Bruce L. Hartman
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