5 ways business owners can become more generous every day
by Matt Farmer
The marketplace is one of the most influential spaces in terms of the potential it has to make a Kingdom impact on its leaders, employees, stakeholders, and customers. Because of this, it’s incredibly important for business owners and CEOs to be driven by biblical generosity and stewardship. Leading in this way communicates Who they serve, Who owns the company (hint: it’s not any of us), and Who they ultimately work for.
As entrepreneurs and influencers, we have many opportunities to shape the marketplace in ways that model how Jesus (if He were physically on earth today) would run a company. In my opinion, Jesus would be the most generous CEO possible. He would give of everything He had while being shrewd as a snake and innocent as a dove (Matthew 10:16), especially in light of today’s competing and oppositional cultural forces.
5 Ways to Think More Generously as a CEO
Jesus was one-of-a-kind and generosity led His every decision. As mere human business owners and CEOs, we must intentionally work to become more generous every day. Consider these 5 ways:
1. Think stewardship over ownership: As business leaders, we must be vigilant about using stewardship language. Even if the company we lead isn’t outwardly Christian in its messaging, we can winsomely use Christ-like language in daily conversation, and our company mission and vision statements that communicate we are not the ultimate owners.
Business owner and NCF giver Alan Barnhart previously shared his belief that God owns everything and his commitment to setting a financial finish line to the employees he recruited so they would hold him accountable. “I told them that the fruits of their labor would not go to increase my lifestyle. Once you’ve told two or three people you’ve hired that, you’re locked in.” Business is not just about the bottom line, it’s about caring for its stakeholders so they feel they’re a part of something bigger than themselves, like building the Kingdom.
2. Set giving goals: Giving is more than financial, it’s relational, too. When encouraging employees, show a commitment to generosity by giving better-than
average health and employee benefits, profit percentages, and volunteer hours, and even consider matching employee giving. That may mean limiting your own salary in order to do so.
Dan Price is an entrepreneur who became famous a few years ago when he cut his own salary to be able to raise the minimum payroll of his employees to at least $70,000 a year. He says that the company’s workforce grew 70 percent, its revenue tripled, and its customer base doubled. Dan’s motto is to always invest in people. “I want the scorecard we have as business leaders to be not about money, but about purpose, impact, and service,” he says. “I want those to be the things that we judge ourselves on.”
3. Be generous with your time: CEOs and entrepreneurs are busy – there’s no doubt about that. However, simply being available (or showing that you’re willing to make time) when your employees and clients need you is an act of generosity. Stewardship is not limited to just the tangible resources God gives us, but our time, too. Creating a work culture that prioritizes time management for the team and the personal and family lives of employees communicates that we don’t own our days, our hours, or our minutes – our Maker does. It’s for Him to show us how He wants them spent.
4. Be openly grateful: Companies are good at setting goals, hitting them, and then moving on to the next one. Take the time to publicly celebrate company, team, and individual successes where you see them. Be generous with words – as a mentor of mine says, “Words make worlds.” What you say and how you say it matters. Demonstrate how important people are to the overall mission of the company through humble servant leadership. Sharing with someone how they’ve made an impact can be one of the most meaningful gifts. As Mark 10:45 says, “For even the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give His life as a ransom for many.”
5. Use business as an engine to fund charity: Many business owners have a heart to give charitably, but feel hindered by limited cash flow and growing taxation. NCF has an innovative solution called the “Charitable Shareholder” strategy, which allows business owners to donate a partial interest in the business to us, receiving a substantial tax deduction as the business continues to operate and generate value. This strategy is a great way to unlock more dollars for Kingdom impact now. Check out NCF giver Jeff Rutt’s story for a real-life example of an owner using his business as a giving engine through this strategy.
It’s not just the people within a company that experience how an owner or CEO runs their business. Every customer, stakeholder, and individual that encounters the company either will experience what God’s generosity looks like here on earth … or they won’t. Because of this, it’s incredibly important that as Christian CEO’s and entrepreneurs we run our companies with Kingdom-focused generosity. It tells the world what we truly believe about God, His ownership over everything we have and manage, and the character of the One we serve.
If we’re following Jesus in whatever roles we hold, including CEO and Owner, we must ask ourselves, “How would Jesus run my company if He were me?” Considering generosity was foundational in His life, we believe it would also be foundational if He were leading a company.