The words caught my wandering mind off guard and I tried to focus on what I’d just heard. I’d never heard anyone say from a pulpit that God could make a difference in business.
In today’s world, the notion that anything religious could influence the ability of a business to thrive would seem ludicrous to most people. But I was curious.
In 2014, I wanted to look at spirituality in business as the project for my MBA program. I wondered if spirituality makes any difference to the bottom line. Are businesses that incorporate spirituality more successful? Are owners who incorporate spirituality into their daily lives happier?
I went to my supervisor and unfortunately was dissuaded. But my interest hasn’t wavered – in fact it has grown.
Over the years while working with business owners, I’ve noticed that Americans seem to be less hesitant about discussing their religious beliefs in a work context than Canadians and Europeans. They seem to place a greater emphasis on the role that God plays in business success and are more open to discussion than Canadians. When I’m working with U.S. owners, I’m not surprised when they mention God. I am surprised when I come across Canadian or European business owners who reference their religious beliefs.
Recently I was at a talk given by the owner of a large Canadian company. He was talking about being environmentally conscious, and said that nature seemed to have order and that this order was not created by the sun. However, he stopped there even though I know that he has deep religious roots. It would have seemed natural to me that he would have given reference to God as the creator of nature. I’m not sure if he thought he would offend his audience but more likely he figured he shouldn’t be mixing his religious beliefs with business.
But should we be afraid to discuss our religious beliefs in business? Will we offend people? Will it harm our sales? Our production? Our profits?
I once owned a thriving business with a religious name, Ave Maria Specialties, a health food store with an interdenominational division. I can tell you from that experience that if we know our customers’ needs and offer great products and services to fill those needs, our religious connections will be overlooked by those who might disagree with those beliefs. These people buy from us in order to benefit from the value that we offer them.
Yes, there might be a trivial percentage of people who will not shop somewhere because of a perceived religious connection. However, I know from experience that when an owner places emphasis on one of their religious values, even if I might not fully understand or even disagree with their particular religious beliefs, I have respect for them. I’m thinking of the Seventh-day Adventist who shuts his business on Saturday or the Buddhist who has a big Buddha in his restaurant, or the practising Hindu or Sikh who makes a great product or service. Do we avoid buying from those businesses? Of course not.
Perhaps we’re called to be more religious in our business practices. Most of the world religions are based on love. What would happen if there was more love in our business relationships and functions?
Clinical studies show that owners who incorporate prayer or mediation into their daily routines are less stressed. Aren’t we all looking for more love and less stress?
If what the pastor was saying is correct, the mere fact that we have a relationship with God and allow God to operate in our lives will transpire into greater success in business. Perhaps it should be looked at with empirical evidence. I can honestly say that I’ve seen great things happen in business that I can’t account for by human hands alone.
I believe businesses really can thrive when believers ask for God’s assistance within the business.
Troy Media columnist David Fuller, MBA, is a certified professional business coach and author who helps business leaders ensure that their companies are successful. David is author of the book Profit Yourself Healthy.
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