Wayne Huizenga, Jr., Interview, Part 1

Blog / Produced by The High Calling
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Wayne Huizenga, Jr., is President of Huizenga Holdings, Inc., a diversified company that owns the Miami Dolphins of the National Football League and Dolphin Stadium in South Florida and manages billions of dollars of investments in real estate, marinas, and boat-related businesses.

Wayne, you came to know Jesus as Lord in 2001. How did that impact your life?

I had no idea what I was in for when I fell to my knees at this church I'd never been to. I was crying like one of my children! I used to go to a lot of parties, and often I would wake up with a hangover and heartache.

A wonderful mentor told me, "You feel that way because Christ wants to live inside you more fully through the Holy Spirit." After my conversion, when I became president of our holdings company, I remember him saying, "You have an incredible opportunity to start fresh with Christ. Let everybody know what you stand for and that you believe these are God's assets."

I was so scared! I said, "You have to be kidding! I should do what?"

With God's help, I told our employees how my heart had changed, that I believed God was our partner, and that there was no way we could go wrong. We were simply to listen to God's direction and be good stewards over what he had entrusted to us.

Your dad, who is the only person in history to build three Fortune 500 companies from scratch (Waste Management, Blockbuster Entertainment, and AutoNation), began to see changes in your life. He suggested since you were so enthusiastic about God, maybe you should go to seminary and become a pastor. What was that like?

That was a shock. A minister wisely counseled me that God had raised me up in business because there would be people who would never grace the steps of a church that would interact with me and see the new life that resides within me. So I smiled at Wayne Sr., "Dad, I've thought about this, and if it's okay with you, I'd like to remain as the president."

He said, "Of course, I thought since you were so excited about God, maybe that would be a wiser step for you."

I said, "I think I've been raised up to be a minister in business." He smiled at me, not necessarily fully understanding what that meant, but in fairness, neither did I.

You're saying you really didn't fully comprehend what you were saying yes to?

Absolutely not, and even six years later, I'm not sure I totally understand what it means to make this commitment to Christ and take it to business. We have a Bible study at work. I've talked to our folks when they have problems. I tell them I will pray for them. We've had a number of folks who have given their hearts to Christ at our workplace. But I look at all the challenges we face, and wonder how we're going to get this done.

You're talking about that marina business that you got into.

This is what we call one of our "God deals." A banker I'd never met called, "Hey, I see you're getting into the marina business in Ft. Lauderdale. We have a great opportunity. Could I introduce you to owners who have a nice piece of land—waterfront property?"

We met with the owners of this land across from Palm Beach—the high-end island—that had a nice marina ready. They've been in the yacht repair business since 1919, and they repair mega yachts up to 200+ feet. The owner said, "We've had developers come and look at this land. They always want to close down the boat yard. I'm attached to the people who have been here for 20, 30, even 40 years. If we sell it to you, will you try to keep the boat yard open?"

I remember looking him in the eye, "I'll do everything that I can for this business to be successful and keep those employees employed."

Once we took over, we began to realize how incredibly difficult it was to operate. We needed a new building, $25 million for capital improvement. Developers were calling saying, "We'd love to buy your waterfront property, including the new marina you're trying to permit." I was so frustrated that a number of times I said, "Let's just build condominiums here."

I could hear God nudging me, "Jr., remember what you said. That you would make your best effort to keep these people employed?" I began to realize I'd represented Christ when I made this business deal—all of us had prayed together. If I had just paid lip service and said, "Well, we tried," and closed it down and unemployed 150 people, it would have been the wrong thing. It wouldn't have honored God. I know now that I need to be very careful in the words I use in the heat of trying to negotiate a business deal to achieve what we want. God will remind me of my words.

It was an incredibly difficult process to get a permit for that new marina. How did God use that to teach you about patience and timing?

In Palm Beach, we went in to permit this large marina, which would be the second largest in the Southeast. Top consultants said, "This is a great design, but we don't think it will ever get permitted."

I told them that this is what God told me to draw, and that God was going to permit it. It took almost three years, but we finally got our permit from the Army Corp of Engineers in August 2007. We moved into our new building in mid-September. I felt such satisfaction, because it felt like we'd wandered around in the desert for a few years and finally were crossing over into this new facility.

So many times, when I doubted God, I'd cry out, "Lord, did I miss something here?" I knew the only way this boat repair side of the business would work was if we built the marina. Our faithfulness, our waiting for the permit, cost us millions of dollars in missed opportunities because of changing conditions in the real estate market and rising construction costs. One time, I remember having to put on strong faith for our employees, "I know it looks grim now, but it will happen because God says that it will happen." I'm still not sure why it had to take three years, other than to make sure God got all the credit. God had us all on the verge of giving up before, showing us that he is faithful to his Word. The difficult part for me is learning about God's timing instead of my timing. When I get frustrated or impatient, my tendency is to use the power and gifts God has given me to take over and try to make things happen quicker than God would have it happen.

>> Read Part 2, Understanding My Role in God's Plan