Good stewardship is greater than success, according to David Green, the founder of Hobby Lobby, who in an Op-Ed for Fox News recounts that he came to a decision point in which he needed to determine who really was in charge of his business.
Referencing on Fox News other CEOs who decided to give away ownership for the sake of the vision guiding their companies, he wrote, “I experienced a similar decision-making process with my ownership of Hobby Lobby; I chose God.”
As noted by Forbes and Hobby Lobby’s website, Green still serves as CEO of Hobby Lobby, an arts-and-crafts retailer with over 43,000 employees. But he said he has made a deliberate determination to give away control based on what is most pleasing to God.
Green, 80, a preacher’s son from a poor background, has a net worth of over $13 billion, according to Forbes.
In comments at Liberty University this month, David Green’s son, Steve – now the president of Hobby Lobby – tried to explain the company’s sense of ownership.
“This isn’t our business; this is God’s business,” Steve Green said. “We are only stewards of what God has entrusted to us. And that is really a foundational principle for all of life. All that we have is a gift from God. And if we understand that it is His, and we are responsible to steward it for His good and glory, it will serve us well.”
In his Op-Ed on Friday, David Green acknowledged there was a time when he was blinded by his own success.
“In the mid-1980s I went through a period where I’d grown proud thinking that I had the Midas touch – and I nearly lost the business. God had to show me that He was the one who granted success. The Bible says in Deuteronomy 8.18 that it’s God who gives us the power to make wealth,” he wrote.
Green then challenged other leaders to look at “their source of truth.”
“For me, my source of truth has always been prayer and the Bible. I truly believe that if leaders pray and seek truth from the Bible that their businesses will be revolutionized,” he wrote.
Green raised the provocative question of whether business owners are just that – rulers of all they have built – or stewards who are given care of a business to pass it along.
“As an owner, there are certain rights and responsibilities, including the right to sell the company and keep the profits for yourself and your family. As our company grew, that idea began to bother me more and more,” he wrote.
“Well-meaning attorneys and accountants advised me to simply pass ownership down to my children and grandchildren. It didn’t seem fair to me that I might change or even ruin the future of grandchildren who had not even been born yet.”
For Green, faith was his guide.
“As I considered my path, I realized that all my success had come from God,” he wrote. “My wife, Barbara, and I had started this business with a $600 loan and I don’t think anyone would have bet on us to become successful.
“But from the very beginning our purpose was to honor God in all that we did. We worked hard and God gave the results. As we were blessed by God, we saw it as a great privilege to give back.”
“That bigger mission and purpose helped me realize that I was just a steward, a manager of what God had entrusted me. God was the true owner of my business,” Green wrote.
That, he said, shed a different light on corporate culture.
“That stewardship gave me a greater responsibility. I wasn’t supposed to take the profits of the business and use them for myself. I also had a responsibility to the employees that God had put in my charge. This is why our company pays a minimum wage of $18.50 per hour, why we close on Sunday (which had been our most profitable day of business), and why we close by 8 p.m. every day,” Green wrote.
He wrote that success does not come from the face a CEO sees in the mirror.
“I believe that God is the one who grants success, and with it the responsibility to be a good manager,” he wrote. “Best of all, when I made the decision to give away my ownership … it allowed us to sustain our mission and purpose. It gives me a bigger purpose than just making money.”
Looking forward, he offered a breathtaking scope of what could be possible, the “idea of building a business to last 200 years – a business that would continue to honor God, reward employees with meaningful work and compensation, and be great contributors to hope and healing around the world.”
“The responsibility to steward that kind of culture is powerful. Truly, that is noble work,” he wrote.
This article appeared originally on The Western Journal.