Last week I listened to an interview of David Green, the founder of Hobby Lobby. Not only is his a remarkable story but he has lessons to teach those of us who are on this Christian journey. First some background.
In the 1970’s David Green borrowed $600 to start a picture framing business with his family. His first “store” was 300 square feet and his employees were his wife and two kids. He paid his kids 7 cents per picture frame. Today he owns 10 million square feet of warehouse space and has 35,000 employees. He credits his success on following the principles he learned from Holy Scripture.
STEWARDSHIP. David is firmly convinced that he is a steward and not an owner. He has a post it note under the glass on his desk that reads, “I own Hobby Lobby signed God.” This principle is so deeply rooted in him that he is not leaving the business to his children because it is not his to give away. They have formed a trust so that the family cannot touch the company.
SERVANTHOOD. Jesus said that the greatest is to be the servant of all so David trains his managers that they are servants of the employees. They pay their employees well, they own their own health clinics and they even have their own MRI machine which saves the employees $1,500 in health costs. This approach creates loyal employees which in turn greatly benefits the company.
GENEROSITY. David meets with his family once a month to decide where they will donate their money. He receives over 300 requests per month and so they use two criterion to guide their giving. “God’s Word and man’s soul.” They require that the orphanages and water projects and other good works that they support be accompanied with clear presentations of the Gospel of Jesus Christ.
CONVICTION. Hobby Lobby provided health insurance that included 16 forms of contraception but when Obamacare required that they add 4 more that led to abortions, David said no. The Obama administration took them to court and they faced fines of $1.3 million per day! They realized that this could be the end of the business and so they met as a family, three generations of them, to make a decision. David said the decision was easy. All three generations agreed. It was pretty black and white. “Do we take life or do we not?” His conviction and courage was rooted in his understanding of stewardship. It was God’s company and so God would have to save it. But he would not compromise. As he put it, “It is never a right time to do the wrong thing.” The Obama administration lost at the Supreme Court.
HUMILITY. One thing that stood out to me in the interview was his humility. David has a net worth of $5.1 billion (he did not announce that, I looked it up on the internet….so it must be true.) and yet he is as down home as you can imagine. When he was asked how he teaches servanthood to his employees he said, “I’m not really sure we do that well. I’m working for that in my life.” Nothing about him comes across as a man who has arrived. He’s just a guy trying to follow Jesus. As we sing in church “..and I want to be one too.”