At the age of 14, Scott Mooney was bitten by the entrepreneur bug. He started selling horse equipment out of his father's barn, then from a rented location on a main street of his hometown, Ottumwa, Iowa. He loved running his store so much that he convinced the administration of his high school that they should let him go to night school for troubled kids, many of which had drug dependency issues, so he could keep his store open during normal business hours.
He married Marthalee, and together they grew the business into a catalog company with a mailing list of over 500,000 customers generating over $17 million in annual sales. By the time they were 42 years old, they sold the business for enough money so that they would never have to work again unless they chose to.
How did they do it? Scott said,
We both grew up going to church but the thought of taking what we were taught in church on Sunday to work with us on Monday was not ingrained in us. For the most part, we had to rediscover many biblical principals through trial and error.
I think that a major contributor to our success was our efforts in being of service to our customers and employees. We always had respect for our customers' hard earned dollars. We knew how hard each customer had to work to earn what they had in their wallet so when they decided to exchange their money for our products, we were grateful. We worked hard to offer the best quality products at the best price.
Knowing that every person who worked for us had their unique talents and abilities, we always tried to get each person in the right job for them and allowed them to develop. We decided early on that our best way to teach would be by example. We didn't talk much about the Bible. Mainly, we tried instilling our beliefs into the people around us by walking the walk.
As illustrated in the Bible, Scott and Marthalee learned to be confident yet humble with customers and employees.
Just as Jesus taught not to worry, Scott said that he never really worried about money. He focused on taking care of customers.
I knew that if we gave customers more than they paid for that they would become repeat customers. Repeat business is what causes companies to grow and be successful. It might sound trite but, 'Do unto others as you would have them do unto you' works on all levels of life. We have had employees who lacked the strong moral foundations that are a by-product of a Christian upbringing, but we always strived to have a workplace which adhered to a culture of kindness.
Scott told us,
When the business was going through a major growth period, I signed up for a management course. One exercise required me to come up with my 'personal prime directive.' I was quite perplexed over this and struggled with the question for days. After writing dozens and dozens of 'personal prime directives' I concluded that the major motivation of my life has always been, 'To Serve Others.'
Money was never the primary concern for the pair because they knew that they had had found their calling of being entrepreneurs with a desire to be of service.
Serve the Low Profile Segment (2:55)
Watch the video clip.
Refer to the video clip as you answer these questions:
Q: Did growing up in a small town affect the kind of work Scott chose to pursue?
A: Sure. Especially since he started working and earning money when he was 14, all the things he could do were right in front of him. This was before the Internet and when long-distance phone calls were expensive.
Q: Have you decided what kind of work you want to devote your life to?
Q: Do you know what kinds of things you do well?
Q: Have you had jobs you loved? Have you had jobs you didn't like? What did you do with the job you didn't like?
Q: Just by watching Scott with a customer, does it look like he is having fun at his work?
A: Yes. He listened, came up with a creative solution on the spot and he laughed with the customer.
Q: What does Scott's joyful spirit communicate to the customer?
A: First of all, everyone wants to hang around happy people. Second, joy is or should be what all of us as Christians are supposed to be carrying around and passing along to others. Even if you don't like your work, as long as you are receiving a paycheck for that work, Jesus is expecting you to be joyful while you are on duty. Joy is one of those fruits of the spirit we are promised in Galatians 5:22-23. The NIV reads: “But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control.”
Q: If you can't be joyful at work, what do you think you need to do?
A: Ask Jesus to help you and work on your heart? Get some new training for a different kind of work? Ask your boss to discuss what opportunities the company might have for you to change jobs?
Prayer: Father God, you are our creator and the creator of work. Help us to claim the joy you promise and take that joy with us into our work. Amen.
Scott and Marthlee Mooney, founders of Country Supply as they appeared on the made-for-PBS television series, Small Business School.
Live Like Your Customers Live (1:15)
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From the first clip we learned that Scott Mooney is a joyful person. This is a quality that as Jesus-followers we are to have all of the time. Some of you might think, 'I'll be joyful when I am doing things I like to do but I don't have to be joyful at work.' Wrong. We are called to joy regardless of circumstances. Now we see how he got started.
Q: How did Scott get the idea for his business?
A: He had a horse himself and he had to buy equipment for his horse, so he figured he could find enough customers like him who would buy from him.
Q: Not everyone wants to start or own a business, but what can we all learn from Scott about how to find the work we are called by God to do?
A: God would not call us to do work that we are not suited to or not interested in!
Q: Can those of you who love your work tell us how you discovered your talents and how you matched those to the work you do?
Q: If you haven't started to work yet, what kinds of work are you thinking about? What draws you to that work? Do you have family members who do the kind of work that interests you? If not, do you know anyone who is doing what you want to do?
Let's look at I Peter 4:10. “Each one should use whatever gift he has received to serve others, faithfully administering God's grace in its various forms.”
Q: Do you think this verse applies to how we earn a living?
A: Of course. All work is about service. That's simply the way the economy works. When a company provides a product or a service that fills a need and customers pay a fair price for that product or service, work is created.
Q: If you are working now, what service do you deliver to your customers?
A: For example, if you are a carpenter you might say that you help your customers get organized because you primarily build cabinets and shelving.
Are you serving the customer? Does what you do make their life easier? Do you have lots of customers? The more customers you have the more job security you have because a job only exists as a result of serving customers.
Q: Since Jesus was a carpenter is it the best kind of work any person could ever do?
A: Of course not. Go back to I Peter. We all have our own calling to work and God gives us hints by giving us unique family histories, talents, interests, inclinations, education and even geographies. Some argue that had Steve Jobs been raised in Miami, Florida he never would have built his first computer. He happened to grow up in Silicon Valley close to Lockheed and Hewlett-Packard so there were engineers close by to encourage him.
Q: Have you thought hard about the power of your uniqueness to be of service to God and others?
Q: Have you ever thought that as a Jesus-follower, all work is service?
Jesus said to every one of us who call him Savior, our job-our work-is to love God and love others as we love ourselves.
How do we show love? By being of service. How do we serve God? Primarily through serving our fellow man.
When Scott was challenged to figure out why he was doing what he was doing, he realized: he had a desire to be of service.
Q: What was Scott doing the night of his senior prom?
A: Working in his store.
Q: Do you think his parents were so mean that they told him he had to skip the prom?
A: No. Scott chose to go to school at night so that he could work in the store during the day. It seems like he was doing it because it was fun for him.
Q: How can work be fun?
A: Work will be and can be fun when you find the right work, the right place to work, and the right people with whom to work. Until you reach that point, you may have to work at things that don't seem fun. Your real challenge as a follower of Jesus is to look for the good in the work.
Prayer: Father God, we need you in our work. Thank you that we have so many choices and help us match the gifts you have given us to the right work. For some of us who don't enjoy our work, help us to find the good in it. And, help us see what we can and should do to move ourselves into your highest and greatest will for our lives. We claim your promise that you are with us always and that means when we are under pressures to find work or to do our best in the work we have now.
We're trusting you for every breath, every light to our path and every opportunity to serve you and our fellow man. We offer this prayer in the mighty name of Jesus, the One who saved us and sustains us. Amen.
Do the Tedious Work to Target (2:16)
Watch the video clip.
Many people dream of having thousands of customers but only a few do the work that must be done to find and win them. In the book, Good to Great, Jim Collins writes that great companies pay attention to details and no task is too tedious. Scott and Marthalee used the good-to-great strategy and didn't even realize it. They wanted to build a list and no task was too small.
Q: What was Scott's vision?
A: Build a catalog company to grow his sales because he didn't want to move to a city. He wanted to stay in his small town and at the same time he wanted more customers.
Q: What did Scott have to do first to grow past the constraints of his hometown?
A: He had to dream. He had to get a vision of what he wanted his business to look like in the future. He did not want his future to look like his present so he had to paint a mental picture of an imaginary future. He had happy local customers so he had to think about making a lot more customers happy.
Let's turn to Proverbs 29:18. It says, “Where there is no vision, the people perish; but he that keeps the law is happy." Another translation says, “Where there is no vision, the people cast off restraint, but he that keeps the law, happy is he."
Q: Think now about your work. Can you see yourself in this job in the future? If in the same profession, would you like to be doing more? Have more responsibility? Have accomplished something unique in your field, such as a breakthrough technology or process?
If you don't have work right now, what kind of work are you interested in? Are you going to school to prepare to work? Do you have a dream profession chosen? If not, what can you do to learn more about yourself and more about various industries and work opportunities?
Q: Do you think Scott was naive to spend every evening after running his store all day in the tedious task of finding names for a mailing list?
A: Scott was only 22 years old when he started the process of building a mailing list, and he just did what made sense to him at the time. He did what he could afford. Eventually he thought of buying lists from magazines and over time he learned how to find qualified names with less effort. Of course he was naive in 1984 -- but not now. Scott is a perfect example of a person who eventually learns by trial and error and he is perfectly happy with this technique. In fact, he would probably argue it is the only real way to learn. We know he eventually built the list to 500,000 names.
Q: What tedious task needs to be done for you to move ahead in your career or in your pursuit of work that fits your God-given talents?
Q: What does vision have to do with tedious tasks?
A: It's the vision of achieving a result that gives us the motivation to do the tedious. Without the vision, you will quit because the tiny steps will seem so slow you will tend to drift away from your original intent.
Q: One of the Proverbs translations says that without vision, we will "cast off restraint." What is the implication for us when we do this?
A: Think of a wild horse being broken. Early in the process when the horse is released from the bit, it runs wild. Your vision can be the bit. It holds your head in the direction of your dream. Without it you'll run wild, off course and chase activities that won't help you reach the goal. After a long day at his retail store, Scott went to the library to gather more names. He could have been watching TV, riding his horse or going to the movies, right? His vision of hundreds of thousands of customers restrained him and focused him.
Q: Did Scott look happy to tell this story?
A: Yes, because it certainly had a good ending.
Q: Does hard work pay off?
A: Proverbs 14:23 says, "All hard work pays off; mere talk puts no bread on the table."
Prayer: Dear Jesus. It's me again. I need a vision and the discipline to keep it in focus. I want to do the work you have made me to do. Sometimes I'm lazy and procrastinate and sometimes I'm sloppy and not proud of my results. I confess this is wrong and ask you to forgive me and help me now to concentrate on the work before me. Amen.
Ask Vendors to be Your Bank (2:04)
Watch the video clip.
The biggest benefit of "bloom where you are planted" is when you need help there are people around who know you. Scott's grandfather and father each had a good reputation in Ottumwa. They were hard working, honest men who could be trusted. When Scott had the dream to publish a catalog, he didn't have an extra $1,000 to pay for the printing. Because the printer knew Scott's family, the printer became Scott's banker.
Q: Why do business owners need a wide network of funding sources?
A: Because the dreams are always bigger than our pocketbook, especially if you're only 14 years old. As far as we know, Scott ran his business from the age of 14 until he was 22 without any outside funding sources. He did what most of us do: run the business from retained earnings. This means that after 8 years he had not been able to gather together enough cash to launch the catalog.
Later Scott says that money is not the solution to most problems, and we agree. However, we can learn from Scott's story that all of us probably have relationships that we can depend upon when the next idea hits. And, if you don't have vendors, suppliers and/or customers who would either loan you cash or delay your payments or provide some type of assistance to help you grow, it is time to start working on establishing those relationships.
The traditional banker is a fine place to start, but we know the banker will be too conservative unless you have a pile of cash in her bank to secure a loan for a new project.
- Can a good reputation translate into cash, or loans or even getting a job?
- If your parents are known for being good people, is that one of your best assets?
- If you don't have parents or older people in your life that will vouch for you, would it help you to ask someone in the church family to help you?
- How does someone get known for being a good person?
Take a look at the Ten Commandments:
- No other Gods, only me.
- Make nothing of any size, shape or form--money, ideas, position, possessions, obsessions-- more important than me.
- No using the name of God, your God, in curses or silly banter.
- Work six days a week then rest, and observe the Sabbath and keep it holy.
- Honor your father and mother.
- No murder.
- No adultery.
- No stealing.
- No lies.
- No lusting.
Keeping these laws, or trying to keep them, is how people get known for having a good reputation.
Now look at Leviticus 19:11-18. The short version is, "Don't steal, don't lie, don't deceive, don't swear falsely, don't exploit others, don't withhold wages, don't treat rich people better than poor people, don't spread gossip and rumors, don't stand by when your neighbor's life is in danger."
- Do the Ten Commandments and these additional rules in Leviticus apply to your work?
- How would others view you if you tried to keep these laws? Would you be thought of as trustworthy?
- Would your co-workers call you a goody-two shoes?
- Would they think you are trying to butter up the boss if you told the truth when others were being deceitful?
- How do we stay obedient without coming off arrogant? Hint: Scott would say, "walk it don't talk it."
Q: Why does Roxanne, the customer, enjoy buying from Country Supply?
A: She said, "The service is excellent."
Didn’t we learn that being of service is God's call on each of our lives? We've also learned that Scott's particular call is to serve the people who love horses.
Think hard about the story. Scott had worked his retail store for eight years. His father had probably been working for at least 30 years. When it was time for Scott to expand and he needed $1,000 Scott didn't have the savings, and we can guess that his father didn't have it either. This tells us that being faithful to God doesn't always put extra cash in our pockets. We do have many promises from God though, and we know that if we stick with the rules laid out in the Bible, "He will never leave us." We also know that in 2005, nearly 30 years after the first catalog printing, Scott and Marthalee did receive a very large cash reward when they sold their business. They were patient and faithful and it all came in God's time.
Prayer: Father God, these laws are hard to keep day-in-and-day-out. And, at work, they are even harder. We are in situations where others don't know your Word and we need you to be our vision, our focus, our strength, our guide and our guard. We want others to say about us, 'There is a trustworthy person.' Or, 'There's one we can depend upon.' Come Holy Spirit, fill us freshly to do your work in this world. Thank you for hearing our prayer that we offer in the name, Jesus, the one who saves us to serve. Amen.
Learn from Your Customers (2:08)
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Scott said from the beginning he figured out that what he wanted to do with his life is to be of service to others. We know that the people he serves love horses, most of them own horses and all of them want to take good care of them.
Q: How does Scott know that he is taking care of his customers?
A: He goes and talks to them even if he has to travel hundreds of miles to get to some customers.
Q: What did he learn from this customer on this particular day?
A: That his customer has a fly control system that he ordered from a competitor.
A: What questions did Scott ask about the product the customer is using?
Q: If you could design a fly spray system what would it look like? How much are you paying now?
- How does it make you feel when a person genuinely asks you what you think of things?
- What qualities do you see when you watch Scott interact with this customer?
- Do you see humility? Respect? Even, love?
Taking time to learn from thousands of people so that you can improve your service to them can be a humbling experience. Scott found out that he wasn't even selling something that is very important to Don.
Turn to Numbers 12:3. It says, "Now the man Moses was a quietly humble man, more so than anyone living on Earth."
Q: Who was Moses and why do you know his name?
A: He was the baby in the basket on the Nile River, he was raised by Pharaoh's daughter, in anger and loyalty to his tribe, the Jews, he murdered an Egyptian. Knowing he had done wrong, he gave up his status and left Egypt to live as a simple shepherd. Tim Groves, in an article called, "What Made Moses the Meekest Man on Earth?" writes, "Moses was great in the things he said he wasn't."
Q: Did God leave Moses tending sheep the rest of his life? What happened next?
A: God called Moses to lead the Jews out of captivity. The group was about two million in number, so try to wrap your head around the logistics and the hard work that God set before Moses. Exodus 33:11 says, "The Lord would speak to Moses face to face, as a man speaks with his friend." This is so breath-taking we might want to think about that for a minute.
- Why does humility seem counterintuitive at work?
- Do you think to compete for the best jobs, the bigger title, the better schedule, the most money that you have to blow your own horn and call attention to yourself?
- Do you think that no one will notice you if you work quietly at the job you have been assigned by your boss?
- Or, if you are the boss do you think you have to know everything about everything?
- Do you think you are smarter than your customers?
- Do you have ways of finding out what your customers think of the product or service they buy from you?
- Have you ever heard the expression, "The customer is king?" If that is true, what does that make you? Hint: the servant.
- Does thinking of yourself as a servant make you feel uncomfortable?
In John 13:1-17, you can read the story of Jesus washing the feet of his team. For three years he had been the boss and for three years they watched him work long, hard hours. He worked as a physician a lot of the time and always as a teacher. It was all exhausting. In this scene he demonstrates how we are to interact with the people with whom we work.
What would humble behavior look like in your work environment?
Let's go back to Scott. It took almost 30 years for Scott to see what God would do with his humility. Moses spent 40 years as a shepherd before God moved him into a CEO position. God is clear: he loves the humble and he blesses those who are.
I Peter 5:6 says, "Therefore humble yourselves under the mighty hand of God, that He may exalt you in due time."
To explore more about what I Peter 5:6 says about humility in the workplace, go to "Instructions for Leaders and Followers (1 Peter 5)" in The General Epistles and Work.
Prayer: Father God, we confess that much of the time we are arrogant and self-absorbed. We do think we're right and we want other people to admire us and think that we are right. Help us to recognize that every talent we have is a gift from you, that every creative spark we have is a gift from you and that without you, we cannot even breathe. We can see that Scott has been your humble servant while he serves his customers, and help us always remember that without customers we won't have work. Give us the spirit of Moses, that humble attitude that can make us ready for your next assignment. In the name of Jesus, the one who taught us how to humble ourselves. Amen.
Price to Turn (2:31)
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Q: Why would Scott or any small business set out to be the price leader when historically only big companies can make this work?
A: Remember that Scott's goal is to serve customers who live as he does. His passion has always been to find the best prices for himself, and every horse lover who has to be on a budget. Scott was never lured into serving the high-end users, although we heard Roxanne Wojan ask Scott to carry more English riding gear. Our guess is that if Scott can find the gear at low prices, Roxanne will see it in the catalog.
According to Marketing, the textbook by Charles Lamb, Joseph Hair and Carl McDaniel, "The three basic strategies for setting a price on a good or service are price skimming, penetration pricing and status quo pricing."
They go on to explain that price skimming is what innovators often do when they bring a new product to the marketplace. Today's headlines are full of discussions about new drug prices which are high because the pharmaceutical companies have to recoup the costs associated with research and development. Any high-priced item must justify the price with some amazing benefit. For example, "this exercise equipment does the work for you. You lose weight with no effort." If the maker of this equipment could actually document this claim, he could probably launch with a price skimming strategy.
Lamb, Hair and McDaniel explain that penetration pricing is the "opposite of skimming." Penetration pricing is Scott's strategy and it works according to these authors because Scott is operating in a price-sensitive market. The company that made this strategy famous is Southwest Airlines. The wonderful aspect of penetration pricing is that it will increase the market. People who at one time could not afford to fly would take a bus or drive their cars.
Q: What does price have to do with Scott and Marthalee's faith and trust in God?
A: Price is about fairness and treating customers with integrity and respect. Price is about providing a good deal to your customers. Scott and Marthalee believe this is what God expects of them.
Look at Philippians 2:4. It says, "don't be obsessed with getting your own advantage. Forget yourself long enough to lend a helping hand."
Scott has never been obsessed with getting more money. He is, however, obsessed with serving customers. This mindset keeps him in harmony with this passage. The low prices he offers are interpreted by his customers as Country Supply lending them a "helping hand."
To explore more about what Philippians 2:4 says about work, go to "Do Your Work in a Worthy Manner (Phil. 1:27-2:11)" in Galatians, Ephesians, Philippians, and Work.
- What could you do for your customers that you are not now doing that might cause them to come back to buy from you more often?
- Offer more products? Reduce your price? Add a service that makes your company unique?
Look at Proverbs 11:1. It says, "God hates cheating in the marketplace; he loves it when business is aboveboard."
Is over-charging cheating? Hint: sure, and this happens in situations where a monopoly exists. If there was only one place to buy vitamins for horses, that place could charge more.
What helps customers today shop to find the best price? Hint: the Internet.
- Was there ever a time when you thought you paid too much for a product or a service?
- How did that make you feel about the people you bought from?
If you own your own business, do customers tell you they enjoy buying from you? Do you have lots of repeat customers? If you said "no" to either of these questions, could it have something to do with your pricing?
If you are the person in your company who actually sells and services customers directly, do you hear positive feedback from them? If "no," do you think it has something to do with price?
If you work in part of the organization that does not deal directly with customers, do you think you have other kinds of "customers" you are to serve? Hint: your boss and your peers.
Every person in the room today who has a job has set a price for your service. You are paid a set wage for a set amount of work each day or week, and, if you waste time, use work time to do personal things, arrive late or leave early, doesn't that mean you are over-charging for your service to the company? As a follower of Jesus, is this really OK?
Have you ever heard the adage, "Under charge and over deliver?” What do you think this means? What does a customer think of you when you do this? What would your boss think of you if you did more for the company that you promised to do?
Q: Why does pricing have to include a margin for profit?
A: Every business needs to make a profit. If there are no profits, there is no cash-flow for growth, for improvements, for increases in wages, to hire more people, to send employees to training or to provide a return on investment to investors. Profit is what keeps the company solid and sustainable and positioned for the future.
Christian entrepreneur and author, Ken Eldred writes in his book, The Integrated Life,
The greater the benefit of the product or service to the recipient, the greater potential for profit. So don't think your work would have more meaning if it were conducted in a nonprofit setting. There is no direct correlation between an absence of profit and benefit to society.
Scott and Marthalee, year in and year out, delivered great benefit to their customers, generated profits and were able to create work and wealth for themselves and many others.
Prayer: Search us, oh God and know our hearts. Help us see ourselves clearly. Help us find ways to do more for our customers, bosses and peers. Help us to recognize where we might be cheating by being caught up in ourselves at work and not caught up in serving those around us. Point out our weaknesses and show us how we can improve and therefore increase the value of our service to every person we touch. This is hard and we need your help. We offer this prayer in the name of Jesus, the one who taught us how to pray and how to serve. Amen.
Help People Find Their Gifts (1:03)
Watch the video clip.
We already looked at I Peter 4:10 when we were talking about how Scott found his calling. He found his life work, the thing that he loved to do and that kept him serving customers for 30 years. Remember that verse that says, "Each one should use whatever gift he has received to serve others, faithfully administering God's grace in its various forms."
Q: What is Scott's philosophy about employee training?
A: He said you can't teach every person to be good on the telephone. Therefore, you can't teach every person to be good at any one thing. People have natural talents and abilities and should be allowed to shine by spending their time on doing what is naturally easy for them. Yes, we said easy. Work should not be so hard that a person is constantly stressed. This doesn't mean employees shouldn't learn and stretch and grow to learn more. It simply means, people excel by polishing their strengths not by worrying about their weaknesses.
In dire circumstances, each of us could probably do any job that we had to do to put food on the table. But, for the long term, no one should be stuck in a job that doesn't have a natural flow for them. Scott had as many as 80 employees at one time and they thanked him for helping them find the job for which they were most suited. This philosophy is not understood deeply enough, especially in big business.
- Who in this group has found the work they love?
- Can you share the story of how you got to this point?
- Did your parents, school counselors or employers help you discover your gifts and interests?
- How many jobs did you go through before you hit on the right industry, the right company, the right assignments?
- Who in this group is working at a job you dread going to?
- What steps do you think you can take to change this situation? More education? Introductions to people in the field you want to try? An internship? An apprentice program?
- Can you save some money every week to prepare for a transition? Can you talk with your boss about other opportunities in the company?
- Does the company have a human resource department that could test you to give you and them insight into the best place for you?
What can be learned while you struggle with the not-so-perfect work?
- To depend on God to keep your heart right.
- To learn to look for the good.
- To learn to focus on your customers including your peers and boss, and not think so much about yourself.
- To remember every day that your purpose is to serve God by serving others.
- To remember that serving others means loving them even if you don't like the specific tasks of your job too much.
- To prove to myself that, "I can do all things through Christ who gives me strength."
- To show your family that they can depend upon you to provide.
Q: If we love or dread our work, how do we execute on it?
A: With enthusiasm! You should never complain to a peer at work. Problems should be taken to your boss in confidence. No one watching you at work should think anything other than, "Wow, she is really working hard today."
Let's look at Ecclesiastics 9:10. It says, "Whatever your hand finds to do, do it with all your might."
Q: Do all of us have to work?
A: Yes. You might not work for money, you might cook, clean and rear children. You might grow a garden to feed your family and neighbors. You might volunteer to repair homes for the elderly. The Bible is clear, though, that we are to take care of ourselves and not become a drag on others.
Paul writes to the church members in Thessalonia in II Thessalonians 3:10-13,
Don't you remember the rules we had when we lived with you? If you don't work, you don't eat. And now we're getting reports that a bunch of lazy good-for-nothings are taking advantage of you. This must not be tolerated. We command them to get to work immediately--no excuses, no arguments--and earn their own keep. Friends, don't slack off in doing your duty.
God's first work assignment was given in Genesis 1:26-28. The Message translation reads like this:
God spoke: Let us make human beings in our image, make them reflecting our nature so they can be responsible for the fish in the sea, the birds in the air, the cattle and, yes, Earth itself and every animal that mows on the face of Earth.
God created human beings; he created them godlike, reflecting God's nature. He created them male and female. God blessed them: "Prosper! Reproduce! Take Charge! Be responsible for fish in the sea and birds in the air, for every living thing that moves on the face of Earth."
Genesis 2:15 says, "God took the Man and set him down in the Garden of Eden to work the ground and keep it in order."
God works and we are created in God's image so we must work. And we must, like Scott, work hard and with joy.
If you have the work you love, or, if you are still looking for it, this verse is a powerful promise to hold on to. Ephesians 2:10: "For we are God's handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do."
To explore more about what Genesis says about how we are designed to work, go to "People are Created in God's Image (Genesis 1:26, 27; 5:1)" in Genesis 1-11 and Work.
Prayer: Dear Jesus, we are calling out for help. We need insight to discover the gifts you have given us and the right place where we are to serve you and our fellow human beings. We can see that there is work to be done. There are roads to build, children to teach, software to write, planes to fly, medical breakthroughs to achieve. Show us each your great will, not just the things we think up, but your greatest plan for each of us. In your holy name we pray. Amen.
Change Tactics As You Grow (1:55)
Turn Bad News into Good News (2:01)
Watch the video clips.
Q: What discovery did Scott and Marthalee make in 1999?
A: Scott said they were spending so much time taking orders, manufacturing, packing and shipping orders that they had, "lost the focus on the customer."
Q: How did they solve their problem?
A: They outsourced every function except for marketing. It is very smart to do what you do the best and outsource the rest. In urban areas we often see small business owners start and grow a business with this strategy as there are plenty of resources handy. We feel that Scott thought, as he grew, that he couldn't control the supply chain from Ottumwa, and all the resources were not so readily available. And remember, this was before email! Did you know that shipping from a small town is more expensive than shipping from a big town? This is due to the volume, so when the shipping task went to a big fulfillment center, the cost of each package dropped. This helped keep the prices low for customers.
The dot-com boom and build up created what soon became a glut of fulfillment houses because thought leaders were saying consumers were going to buy everything from toilet paper to garden hoses online. This means that goods would have to be stored and shipped from some type of place other than the retail store. Call centers and warehouses to handle these potential orders and shipping popped up everywhere. We know the rest of the story. Most consumers still buy most of what they buy the old fashioned way. We go to a store and walk down the aisles and put what we want in a basket.
Q: When Scott set out to find a fulfillment house to take on the work of receiving and fulfilling orders, what did he discover?
A: There were so many fulfillment companies begging and bidding for his business.
Q: What was Scott looking for from a fulfillment house?
A: The warm, friendly service he and Marthalee had used themselves to build the business. He found that at Starks Brothers Fulfillment in Louisiana, Missouri. It is a two-hour drive from Ottumwa to Starks Brothers, and Scott finds he rarely has to make the trip. He is in constant communication with the leadership, and so far he is very happy to be back to just five employees working side-by-side a few hundred feet from his home.
- Can you bring back more joy in your work by getting rid of the tasks you and your team are not well-suited to?
- Can you find a new technology to make your work more efficient?
- What could have happened if Scott had not gotten so burned out that he looked for a better way to get things done? Hint: he would have been stuck with old business practices that cost more than the new ones he found. He may have had to raise prices which could give a competitor an opening to go after his customers.
Q: Are we supposed to work so hard that we are tired all of the time?
A: No. Remember the 4th Commandment says to work six days and then rest! Today, working more than 8-10 hours a day could have a negative affect on how we rear our children or take care of our homes and elderly family members.
Matthew 11:29-30 says, "Take my yoke upon you, and learn of me; for I am meek and lowly in heart: and ye shall find rest unto your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light."
What do you think Jesus means by this?
A yoke is used to hook two animals up to the same piece of equipment. Rather than one animal pulling, the two pull and share the load. However, the best part about this promise is that Jesus is the maker of the universe. Jesus is all powerful and He is offering to be yoked to us, and that means if we let him, He will do the heavy work. That doesn't mean you don't put forth effort, it doesn't mean you call in sick and say, "Don't worry, Jesus is coming to cover my desk."
This means that if you are sticking close to Jesus, daily trusting in him, then you are going in the right direction and many bumps in the road will become smoother. Jesus won't give you more than you can handle, physically or emotionally. Think about how light your attitude is when you are able to turn over every single problem to Him. You are not burdened with worry, guilt, envy, fear, perfectionism, regret, shame, or anger.
Remember that Scott said he never worried about money. He only focused on customer service and the sales always came in.
- How much more could you accomplish in a day if you turn your problems over to Jesus? If you rid yourself of all those negative emotions?
- Do you need a mental makeover? A work re-work? An attitude adjustment about your work?
Psalm 55:22 says, “Cast your burden upon the Lord and He will sustain you; He will never let the righteous to be shaken.” I Peter 5:7 says, “Cast all of your anxiety on him because he cares for you.”
When Scott had a problem he went to work on it. He didn't let it bring down the business. He re-thought everything, he prayed, he was open to God's direction, and over a multi-month period of time the change was implemented, and Scott felt like he had a new lease on life!
Prayer: Father, Son and Holy Spirit, we want you to be our partner in our work. While we might ask for help with our family, or other relationships we tend to leave you on Sunday and don't manage to take you to work with us on Monday. We want to yoke ourselves to you and walk in your will and your way. Some of us are tired of being tired. We know we are tired because we're not trusting you with our lives. We don't know your promises well enough to claim them as they clearly provide the solution to every problem. Help us grasp you and hold on tight, every single day of the week. We humbly make these requests in the name of Jesus, the one who made us and sustains us. Amen.
Grow With Retained Earnings (1:44)
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Q: Why did Scott say it was good that he couldn't borrow from a bank at the beginning?
A: From 1996-1999, during the dot-com boom, millions of dollars were thrown at ideas that did not turn into viable businesses. This is Scott's point: an idea is not a business. On our program, Bill Tobin said the idea for a business is just two percent. As Scott looks back, he sees all his mistakes and realizes they were made with his own small amount of money and big time commitment. He is confessing that if he had had more money at the start, he would have wasted it.
Retained earnings are the dollars you have in a business at the end of the month after all of your bills have been paid. The fact that Scott ran his business without borrowing from a bank would be like you running your personal budget without using credit cards.
Proverbs 22:7 says, "The rich rule over the poor and the borrower is servant to the lender."
Just maybe the real reason Scott never worried about money is that he believes this.
Philippians 4:19 says, "And my God will meet all your needs according to his glorious riches in Christ Jesus."
- Many Christian business owners are more conservative about borrowing because of this Proverb.
- Do you realize that you are borrowing money when you use a credit card and if you don't pay the credit card balance each month, you are charged interest?
- Could you run your life without credit cards?
- If not now, what changes can you make so you can stop adding to your personal debt?
- Have you ever thought that your boss is cheap?
- Have you ever asked for a bigger budget at work and been turned down?
- If you own a business, can you share with the group how hard it is to achieve positive cash flow month after month and year after year?
- Have you ever been asked to cut your budget, or come up with ways to save money in your department?
- What would your boss think if you brought him/her an idea that would save money?
Q: Why is there so much talk at work about money, profits, cash flow, the balance sheet, sales, cost of sales, financial statements, bottom-line, etc.?
A: These are the ways owners and managers keep score in business. Just like football fans demand to know on a second-by-second basis the score, yards-per-carry, total completed passes, minutes on the clock, yards lost due to penalties, and on and on, excellent leaders in business must measure performance with profit being the holy grail. The more profit, the more opportunity for growth and wealth creation. If you worked for Country Supply you are confident that profits are fairly earned by serving customers. You are serving hundreds of thousands of customers and helping them enjoy and care for their horses.
Ken Eldred, Christian entrepreneur and author writes in his book, The Integrated Life, "In a competitive world, profits can be viewed as the sign that others are being served in a way that creates an aggregate benefit and grows aggregate wealth." You want your company to make profits and if you are not the owner, your best way to get the attention of the owners/managers would be to come up with ways the company can save money or increase sales. In the right spirit, you might want to ask how your performance is measured and if there are no specific metrics for your job, try coming up with some. Having numbers to chase is motivating. Why do you think so many millions of people, world-wide, pay to watch great sports teams? Everyone on the team is scored and they each know at all times if they are winning or losing. Numbers are exciting!
Watch the video clip.
Hire a CFO Sooner Than Later (1:20)
Most business owners can keep up to about $3 million in annual revenue in their heads. Meaning, they can understand where the sales are coming from and where the expenses are when they are dealing with $3 million or less.
Q: What was Scott's revenue when he decided to hire a Chief Financial Officer for his operation?
A: He said he was probably at about $8 million in annual sales when he hired a CFO and now admits he should have done it sooner. We business owners tend to have marketing, sales or product development as our background, so we neglect the accounting and financial infrastructure. Perhaps we think of a CFO as a high-paid CPA and that is not at all correct. While most of us depend upon a CPA for accounting systems, a CFO is more engaged in cash management and is an integral part of the visioning team.
After spending some time with Scott and Marthalee Mooney, can you guess why they waited so late to hire a CFO?
We don't know for sure but we do know that they built the business with their own bare hands. That's a way of saying that from the beginning, they did everything themselves because there was not enough cash to hire someone. They probably just got in the habit of shouldering all of the work. With their God-given health and energy, they managed to get things done without a CFO.
Number crunching is key to all work, even work you do at home. Money must be earned by serving others and the entire process is hard. By being conscientious and keeping tabs on all of your costs, you hold on to the cash longer and put it to its highest and best use. Money matters because it happens to be the way our culture functions. There were times when people didn't need money much because they raised all of their own food, cut the wood from the forest to build a home, raised animals, sewed their own clothing. Next they started trading with each other. A rancher and farmer might trade a horse for loads of hay. That just won't work today. It is impractical and inefficient.
You may not want to think about money but you have to: you have to earn some and your are to be a good steward of what God puts in your hands.
Proverbs 3:10 says, "Honor God with everything you own; give him the first and the best. Your barns will burst, your wine vats will brim over."
In Malachi 3:10, we are told "Bring the whole tithe into the storehouse, that there may be food in my house. Test me in this says the Lord Almighty, and see if I will not throw open the floodgates of heaven and pour out so much blessing that you will not have room enough for it."
There's a popular phrase, "you are blessed to be a blessing." God blessed Scott and Marthalee and they have always been and continue to be a blessing to others.
When we follow God's clear laws, we will have everything we need to live in dignity as we serve God and serve others.
To explore more about what the Book of Proverbs says about financial responsibility, go to "A Trustworthy Worker is Faithful to His or Her Fiduciary Responsibilities" in Proverbs and Work.
Prayer: Dear Lord. Help us see what we can do in our work that will improve the financial condition of our company. We want to be on a winning team, we want to be part of something that is serving you by serving others even if the bosses don't see it that way. Help each of us not just survive at work but thrive. Let us give more than we get back, let us be generous with our time and our ideas. Let us be part of any and all positive changes that bring goodness to everyone touched. In your name we pray. Amen.
Wrap up with Scott and Marthalee Mooney of Country Supply.
Watch the video clip.
Generate Energy Naturally (1:39)
Do what you do best and just be yourself. With Scott, what you see is what you get. If you spend any time with him, what you hear is from the heart. He has no hidden agendas, no pretensions and no ambition that is not fully displayed for all to see.
Q: Why is authenticity hard to achieve?
A: Most people are swept up in concern about what other people think and what other people are doing. Too much time is spent posturing, maneuvering and spinning. All of this activity drains off energy, but Scott is simply not deflected by others off of his own path. We find that many small business owners are like Scott, which is why they are able to create so much wealth and work.
Some might argue that Scott is hard-headed. To those who aren't clear about what is important to them, a person who is clear can seem narrow and naive. There's that word again: naive. Scott would agree that he knows what is important to him, and if others think he's uninformed or unsophisticated, that's fine with him.
Let's look at Romans 2:5. It says, "God pays no attention to what others say about you."
At work, especially, we get caught up in making the right impression. However, that goal can take us off track. If we please God, we have nothing to fear at work.
Pleasing God means we are humble, honest, respectful, and fully committed to our work. We come to it each day with joy and enthusiasm, and we are not afraid of the problems.
- What is robbing you of energy?
- Do you feel your actions and words align with what is truly important to you?
- Are you concerned with being popular or getting promoted or getting all the credit for your group's achievements?
- Are you thinking more about how to get ahead than how to do the hard work it will require?
Proverbs 21:21 says, “Be kind and honest and you will live a long life; others will respect you and treat you fairly.”
- Why does this sound so easy but most often turns out to be difficult?
- What does "kind" look like in your workplace? What does "honest" look like?
Proverbs 15:27 reminds us, “If you try to make a profit dishonestly, you will get your family into trouble.”
- If God really means this, why do bad guys get rich and famous and seem to get whatever they want?
- What happened to Bernie Madoff, Allen Stanford and Bernie Ebbers? They all went to jail. Check out the Web site of the television show that airs on CNBC called, American Greed. Many of the big crooks get caught but the ones we worry about are the one who just keep lying, cheating, and stealing.
God promises us over and over and over that He will handle the bad guys. Psalm 112 says that God blesses those who trust him and he ruins those who don't. Moses says in Numbers 32:23, "your sins will find you out."
In Proverbs 28:1, “The wicked run when no one is chasing them, but an honest person is as brave as a lion.”
Q: Are Scott and Marthalee brave?
A: Absolutely. They have never had a paycheck that they did not write themselves, never had a benefits package, never had a chance to lie low and do the safe thing. Don't feel sorry for them because it is the life of every small business owner and they certainly made the choice themselves. Living out the instructions provided in the Bible year after year proved to them that God can be trusted. This verse about honesty is core and instilled deep in them. With consistent honest dealings, and watching consistent results from their honest dealings, they have gotten stronger and braver with every year that passes. Now that Country Supply is owned by someone else, they are working on their next venture. Scott and their son, their middle child, are developing computer games that can be played by a family. This is proving difficult to get at least four players together around one game, but they hope to crack the code soon.
- How does being honest give us courage?
- Have you done the honest thing then stepped back and watched what God did with your actions?
- What keeps us from being honest at work?
- Could your honesty fly in the face of bosses and get you fired?
- Have you been asked to do things in your work (like cook the books) that are not honest?
Watch the video clip.
Make Work Your Play (1:48)
Think back. Why is it than when kids are sitting in a classroom studying a subject they don't like, the time drags? When the bell rings to dismiss the class, the kids shoot for the door with an incredible force of energy that has been building up during the course of the 50-minute class. On the playground, the same kid that was nearly asleep in class is running to dodge a ball or put one over home plate.
Topic for discussion: Why do adults get so confused between work and play when kids can so clearly define the two?
Possible answer: We're not psychologists, but we know what we see and how we feel. Kids are honest; they don't fake it. The saddest thing in the workforce is a person who actually thinks work is work. The right thing is to have Scott's attitude that work is play.
I've read child psychologists who say that play is the work of children. So, why can't work be the play of adults? At Small Business School we say that a job is something you are doing when you would rather be doing something else. Fortunately, excellent small business owners have positioned themselves to play 24 hours a day, seven days a week. People who don't understand this concept actually think small business owners have it easy because it seems as if we can do what we want when they want to do it.
We arrived at our position through putting forth years and years of effort. And all along the way, we actually thought what looked like to others to be work was play.
Q: Why can't our work be our play?
A: It's not play when we see it as a drag on our very being. This happens when we are doing the wrong work, when we are working in the wrong organization, when we feel stuck, when we are self-absorbed, when we forget that our only goal as Jesus followers is to love him and love others by serving. Any work can be re-framed but Jesus doesn't expect you to live your life doing the wrong work. Turn any work into play by turning your thoughts to the needs of others. At the same time, dig deep and pray for direction if you need to change jobs or industries.
To wrap up our study of Scott and Marthalee let's re-cap what we saw them do as people of faith.
- They found something they love to do that fits with their God-given talents and abilities.
- They see work as service and their particular service is to horse owners.
- They take joy to work with them.
- They don't mind working long, hard hours.
- While they do many tedious tasks, they have a vision that keeps them inspired.
- They proved to be trustworthy.
- They applied the 10 Commandments to their work.
- They respect each other, their employees and their customers.
- They earn profits by providing great products at great prices.
- They keep striving for excellence in business processes.
- They are excellent stewards of what God blessed them with.
- Even though they can, they have not retired.
Our work will never be done because things keep breaking and we, as the ones who say we follow Jesus, are the ones to do the fixing.
What work is before you now? How can you serve others? What needs fixing that you can apply your talents to?
Prayer: Lord Jesus, thank you for Scott and Marthalee and the positive impact that they have had on their customers, employees, community and family. Help us to to see that it is only by serving others that we can truly prosper in our work. Give us joy and passion for serving others, help us to see the good in our co-workers and continue to bless the business with customers and profits so we can grow. Help each of us do our very best each and every day, and we will be quick to give you the glory for any success we accomplish. In your holy name we offer this prayer. Amen.
This study guide and associated video was produced by Small Business School. Used by permission. If you have questions or suggestions on how to improve this study, please contact [email protected].
Watch this entire made-for-PBS television show about Country Supply in a single video.