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112 Keeping Commandments-Honoring Core Values

May 17, 2020

Jesus said, “If you love me, you will keep my commandments.” (Jn 14:15) But how do we do that and survive in the world of business where our competition isn’t playing by the same rules? How do we do this in a pandemic when all we can do is try to survive? In this episode of By Your Life, we’ll explore how loving God, keeping his commandments, and business profitability are not mutually exclusive.

Sixth Sunday of Easter – May 17, 2020

Happy Easter and welcome to the one hundred and twelfth episode of By Your Life. I’m Lisa Huetteman and I know that you have a hundred different things you could be doing right now, so I thank you for choosing By Your Life.

My goal is to inspire, empower, support, challenge, and encourage you to connect Sunday, with Monday-Friday, in a secular business world. It’s my desire to help you live our Catholic faith in the marketplace. I hope to offer you practical ways to go forth and glorify the Lord by your life.

In this edition, we’ll reflect on the readings for the Sixth Sunday of Easter. This Sunday’s Gospel begins with Jesus saying to his disciples, “If you love me, you will keep my commandments.” (Jn 14:15) Let’s read that again. “If you love me, you will keep my commandments.” (Jn 14:15) If you love me…

The ultimate question

That’s a huge question to ask yourself. It is the ultimate question. Do you love him? I think we all want to say “Yes Lord, you know that I love you.” (Jn 21:15) At least, I would want to say that. As much as we like to tell ourselves that we love him, do we really? Do we love him on his terms or ours? Because Jesus is clear the proof is in the pudding. If we love him, we will keep his commandments. We will love God and love our neighbor with agape, self-giving love.

How do we do that and survive in the world of business where our competition isn’t playing by the same rules? How do we do that when our industries’ common business practices are unethical? How do we do that in a culture where it is tough to find employees who even bother just to show up to work? And, how do we do that in a pandemic when all we can do is try to survive?

I get it. It can be tough. But, just asking these questions presumes that keeping his commandments is worse for business than not keeping his commandments. It assumes that being unethical is healthy for your business. It assumes that employees are a tool for your business to succeed instead of the other way around. And, it assumes that somehow not following his commandments will help you get through the Covid-19 crisis.

Core values are a necessity

Most of us want to lead moral, ethical lives at work. Doing so takes faith that we can do so and survive financially. It requires a belief that doing the right thing and doing it right, is good for business, even if no one else is playing by the same rules.

An article in the Gallup organization’s Workplace blog highlights this perspective. Pointing to Portillo’s Hot Dogs’ CEO, Michael Osanloo as an example, the authors emphasized that having a cultural “true north” is not optional. It is a business necessity. Portillo’s Hot Dogs has experienced a 20% drop in revenue because of the pandemic and according to the article, their CEO is proud of that number, considering the circumstances.

He said, “Our core values are family, greatness, energy, and funand those concepts have guided everything that we’ve done as an organization.” For example, when stores in certain markets weren’t required to close for dine-in customers, Portillo’s closed anyway because it was the right thing to do based on their values.

So, why is this good for business? First, your core values are a guide in difficult times that enable you to make tough decisions.  While this matters every day, it is especially important during times of disruption. The second reason is your customers and employees appreciate values-driven decisions. You attract and retain customers and employees who share your values.

Your core values are a guide in difficult times that enable you to make tough decisions and your customers and employees appreciate values-driven decisions. #leadership #corevaluesClick to Tweet

Competitive opportunity

Yet, in that same article by Gallup, it said, that “only 41% of U.S. employees strongly agree that they even know the values their company stands for, and only 27% strongly agree that they believe in their organization’s values.” In addition, according to Gallup research, only 26% of U.S. workers believe their organization always delivers on the promises it makes to customers.

Only 41% of U.S. employees know the values their company stands for and only 27% believe in their organization’s values. ~ Gallup #leadership #corevaluesClick to Tweet

So, people want to work for and buy from a values-centered organization, yet only ¼ to ½ of all companies can claim they are one. That means there is a huge opportunity for a competitive advantage that comes from being a moral, ethical, values-based business. But this competitive advantage doesn’t mean you’ll maximize profits. What it means is you’ll have sustainable profits because you’ll earn loyalty from employees and customers alike.

The case for profitability

So how does loyalty lead to sustainable profitability? Honoring core values increases trust, trust increases loyalty, and loyalty is good for business. Studies show that companies with high levels of customer loyalty typically grow revenues at twice the rate of their competitors. Customer loyalty increases profit margins. By some estimates, it costs five times as much to attract a new customer as it does to retain an existing one. So, companies with low customer turnover have more time and money to serve their current customers and grow by attracting new ones.

Honoring core values increases trust, trust increases loyalty, and loyalty is good for business.Click to Tweet

On the employee front, a company that retains loyal employees builds an experienced, dedicated, and productive workforce that can deliver the high level of service necessary to cultivate loyal and satisfied customers. On the other hand, a company with high employee turnover is at a competitive disadvantage because it’s estimated that replacing an employee can cost, on average, one to three times the annual salary of that employee. Disgruntled or disengaged employees that remain on the payroll are also expensive. They can curtail productivity, damage morale, and create personnel problems that consume management’s time and energy.

Even though this makes logical sense, it is still difficult when you have to make decisions in the face of economic pressures. Honoring your core values or keeping Jesus’ commandments is the easiest way to make these difficult decisions.

It’s not about money

One of the CEOs I interviewed for my book, The Value of Core Values, was Peter Cunzolo, owner and CEO of ExecuJet Charter Services, a provider of world-class charter flights. He told me about a customer who needed help in acquiring an aircraft and hired ExecuJet as consultants. This customer was gung-ho to buy a particular aircraft even though ExecuJet told him it was going to need a lot of work. He wouldn’t heed their advice. At the same time, ExecuJet was under pressure from the selling agent who offered them part of his commission as an incentive to do the deal. The agent admitted the aircraft had a big inspection coming up but dismissed the risk and pushed to close the sale.

In the end, Peter Cunzolo walked away. He said, “I don’t want to run into this guy somewhere down the road and hear him say, ‘You sold me this airplane and it cost me an extra $250,000 just to bring it up to compliance.’ It’s just not in my constitution to do the kind of deal that would result in that kind of dissatisfaction. I never want my employees to do it either. It’s not the example I want to set. The bottom line is it’s lying. Yes, we would’ve earned a great commission to complete that deal, but I would’ve lost a repeat customer because I wouldn’t have done right by him. I would go so far as to say that I would have sinned against him.”

The customer bought that airplane anyway through another broker. He came back to ExecuJet several years later and handed them the project again. ExecuJet was able to help him on the back end of the deal. They had to go back and make a lot of the necessary repairs required at the time of purchase, plus additional repairs his last management company failed to perform. They did the right thing and in the end, it was good for their business.

Interestingly, I interviewed Peter Cunzolo in 2009, at the height of the economic downturn and at a time when executives were being demonized for flying in private or chartered jets. The entire private jet industry came under fire as an icon of corporate greed. The economic pressure was great. But Peter had a sense of calm and peace because he knew where his strength was coming from. He knew who was protecting and providing for him, his employees, and their families.

This type A, hard-charging, get things done executive was not afraid to make tough decisions to maintain their profitability. But, he said, “It doesn’t have anything to do with money. It is about finding your inner spirit—your inner joy—that God really wants you to have. If I didn’t have my faith and I didn’t have the blessings that I have—my family, my health, the people I’ve been blessed to work with—nothing else would work. In this very competitive business, we have maintained our profitability. It’s God’s providence. In a day and age when people want God to go away, I’m glad to be able to tell this story.”

The reason for your hope

And that brings me to our second reading on Sunday, where St. Peter said “Always be ready to give an explanation to anyone who asks you for a reason for your hope.” (1 Pet 3:15) Peter Cunzolo knew the reason for his hope and he was glad to share it. His faith in God, his values-centered decisions, his business’s profitability, and his peace, calm, and inner joy were not mutually exclusive, and he was happy to let people know about it.

Always be ready to give an explanation to anyone who asks you for a reason for your hope. (1 Pet 3:15)Click to Tweet

Yes, it is true that sometimes you will suffer a loss of revenue or profits because you did the right thing. ExecuJet did, at least in the short term. But, St. Peter also wrote, “it is better to suffer for doing good, if that be the will of God, than for doing evil.” (1 Pet 3:17) So even in tough times, you should always be ready to give an explanation to anyone who asks you for a reason for your hope. (1 Pet 3:15)

Let’s ask the Holy Spirit to help us live according to Jesus’ commandments in a world that does not. Let’s ask him to help us be a sign to the world so others will want to know the reason for our hope. And, let’s ask him to help us give an explanation to anyone who asks for the reason for our hope.

Come Holy Spirit, Advocate, and Spirit of Truth. Lead us on the path to generously respond to Jesus’ call to keep his commandment. Always remind us of the commandment of love and help us to live it. Allow Jesus’ words to become life within us, become attitudes, choices, actions, and testimony so that others may also come to love him. We ask this through Christ our Lord. Amen

May God bless you abundantly with his grace this week and may you glorify the Lord by your life.

If you liked this episode, spread the word. You know what to do, forward, share, or click to post. Also, check out the Resources page where you can find a link to the books and other resources mentioned in this and other episodes of By Your Life. I’m always interested in what you think, so give me some feedback by leaving a comment.