If you go to Amazon.com and spend any time at all, you will find more books about mixing Christian ministry and business than you can likely read in a year. While that is a good thing for those of us learning how to do it, there is an even better source than Amazon – the Bible! Practicing the art of applying Scripture to business is a skill we all need!
Proverbs For Business!
When I started over 10 years ago trying to integrate my Christian faith and my business, there were not as many books available on the subject. Instead, one of the few books I could find – Business By The Book – recommended reading the book of Proverbs with “business glasses” on.
I had never thought of that and therefore thought it was a great idea. I was already a fan of Proverbs and its simple, but profound wisdom. I couldn’t wait to get started seeing what it would have to say about business!
I started with the first chapter and quickly realized it was going to take me longer than I originally thought. In fact, it took me over 18 months (that’s right, a year and a half) to make it past the first 19 verses in chapter one!
The reason for the delay was my determination in applying Scripture rather than just learning it. And it was in those very first 19 verses that I ran into the biggest hurdle I have had to clear in the entire 10+ years I have been doing business this way.
See, I am in the automobile business. It is the norm for car dealers to “play with the numbers” during the negotiation portion of the selling process. If you have ever purchased a vehicle at a dealer, then you likely know what I mean. It can be painful.
In addition to that norm, you might have certain (NOT ALL) salespeople that see huge opportunity for personal gain in the negotiation process. It is not uncommon for them to strategize with each other about how to “set-up” the next customer for maximum gain.
Proverbs On Business
Picture this setting and then read the following from the first chapter of Proverbs:
My son, if sinners entice you, don’t be persuaded. If they say—“Come with us! Let’s set an ambush and kill someone. Let’s attack some innocent person just for fun! […] We’ll find all kinds of valuable property and fill our houses with plunder. Throw in your lot with us, and we’ll all share our money”— my son, don’t travel that road with them or set foot on their path, […] Such are the paths of all who make profit dishonestly; it takes the lives of those who receive it.
Folks, I know better than anyone that there are honest car sales people out there. In fact, there are many professional sales people that would cringe at the conversations described above. I am not indicting all sales people.
To Delay Was To Disobey
The thoughts I had when I first read this passage with my business glasses on had more to do with the possibility of this ever going on in my business. I knew our pay plans and processes were set up in such a way as to at least make it possible, if not likely, that some would venture in this direction.
I knew at that moment that I could not go any further until I corrected this issue. To me, applying Scripture meant that I had to stop right then and take action. To delay was to disobey.
After I explained this vision to our key people, they acted “immediately” as much as a large business can. Within six months, we had completely rewritten our entire sales process and all sales-related compensation plans.
We went to a system that is commonly referred to as “one price” or “negotiation-free selling” at every location. The underlying intent was to eliminate any opportunities for our sales staff to ever take advantage of, or “ambush,” another customer. Their pay was no longer tied to anything that would incentivize them to behave outside of completely honorable standards.
As a result, we turned over 80% of our sales staff during the next 6 months. We experienced a drop in business over the next 18 months that I did not think we would survive. We watched long-time customers leave because they did not understand the new process. It was the toughest time I have ever experienced.
In fairness, our training failures caused much of this drop. In hindsight, we could have transitioned in a much less painful way. Unfortunately, that is hindsight. At the time, we simply knew we had to stick to our goal of applying Scripture to our business practices.
Fast forward more than a decade and we are still committed to this sales process. We have seen our ups and downs, but we have stayed true to the philosophy. Not at all perfect, we have fought through our mistakes. I believe we are now beginning a period of success we have long awaited.
I want you to understand that applying Scripture to your business may not be as extreme or as painful. You may see success sooner than I did. It might even take you longer. Who knows?
Would Do It Again!
What I can say without hesitation is that I would do it all over again. Sure, there are changes I would make to the transition process. There are pitfalls I would avoid if given another chance. But, without a doubt, I would make the same commitment to the direct application of Scripture as I did then.
As a result of this process, I have a process I want to share with you. In my next post, I will share the five steps I go through for applying Scripture in my business. I hope you will subscribe via email (if you haven’t) and make sure to catch that post. I think you will find it helpful!
Is applying Scripture to business something you struggle with?
What is your greatest challenge in applying Scripture to business?
What successes could you share to encourage other readers?