The marketplace is one of the most influential spaces in terms of its potential to impact leaders, employees, stakeholders, and customers. Because of this, it’s incredibly important for Christian business owners and CEOs to be practicing wise stewardship and generosity. 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. It’s my opinion that he 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.
Consider these 5 ways:
- 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 use winsome, Christ-like language in daily conversation, and our company mission and vision statements can communicate we are not the ultimate owners.
You may also consider setting a financial finish line and making it known to your employees that you believe everything belongs to God. This establishes accountability as you seek to keep a stewardship mindset. Business owner and NCF giver Alan Barnhart did this with his employees: “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,” he says. 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.
- Set giving goals – Giving is more than financial, it’s also relational. When encouraging employees, demonstrate a commitment to generosity by giving better-than-average health and employee benefits, profit percentages, and volunteer hours, and even consider matching employee giving. You may need to limit your own salary in order to do so.
- Treat employees fairly – Gravity Payments CEO, Dan Price, became well-known a few years ago when he cut his own salary in order to raise the minimum payroll of his employees to at least $70,000 a year. The company’s workforce grew, and its revenue tripled while its customer base doubled. Dan’s motto is simple: 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.”
Fair salaries are just one way to care for employees. There are many others, a few of which Christianity Today highlighted a few years ago.
- Be openly grateful – Companies are good at setting a goal, hitting it, 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. 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 came not to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.”
- Use your 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’s innovative solution, the charitable shareholder strategy, 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 is a great way to unlock more dollars for kingdom impact now. Check out 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 who experience how an owner or CEO runs his or her business. Every customer, stakeholder, and individual who encounters the company will either experience what God’s generosity looks like here on earth – or they won’t. Because of this, it’s incredibly important that Christian CEOs and entrepreneurs run their companies with kingdom-focused generosity. It tells the world what they truly believe about God, his ownership over everything they have and manage, and the character of the One they serve.
If we’re following Jesus in whatever roles we hold – including CEO or owner – we must ask ourselves, “How would Jesus run my company if he were me?” If we think about the value Jesus placed on people, on glorifying God, on building God’s kingdom, and on being generous with everything he had to give, it becomes clear there is much we can do.