Tag Archives: Brian Engelland

Business heroes don’t tell us what to do – they show us

Business heroes are all around us. We recognize them in the little things they do that make a big impression. They teach, mentor, and inspire us to become better people. Their example in doing little things well makes them heroes in our lives. 

When I think of business heroes, three people come to mind: First, there’s the company president who demonstrated that individual performance “above and beyond the call of duty” doesn’t get you extra pay, just the opportunity to do it over again. Second, there’s the entrepreneur who showed me how to “turn the other cheek” when dealing with an irate customer; and third, there’s the sales manager who demonstrated how friendship in business can often overcome weaknesses in product or service. 

But my first important lesson in business ethics came from my father. He served in the Marine Corps during World War II, and applied much of that good Marine training to my development. Marines are intensely loyal. My dad demonstrated that loyalty by giving me, his first son, the first name of his commanding officer.

Dad owned a residential heating and cooling business, and I, an impressionable teenager, remember accompanying him on a service call. Dad examined the customer’s heater to determine what was wrong, then told him, “The thermocouple is shot. We’ll replace it and get your system back in order in no time.” 

The homeowner then asked how much Dad would charge for a new heating and cooling system. “But you don’t need a new one,” my dad said.

The man replied, “Well, I replace my car frequently, why shouldn’t I replace my furnace?” 

My dad explained that furnaces and air conditioners have fewer moving parts and are built to last much longer than a car. He assured him that buying a new system wouldn’t be cost effective. And he refused to give him a price.

 On the way home, I asked Dad why he wouldn’t sell the man a new system. “It’s not right to sell someone something they don’t need,” he explained. “That furnace of his will last another 15 years, and the money it would cost could be put to much better use now. He could save it for a rainy day, take his wife on vacation, or pay for his children’s education.” 

Whenever I tell this story, listeners often say that if a customer wants to buy something, that’s his or her business, not the seller’s, and that my dad was out of line in discouraging the transaction. 

But imagine if many townspeople spent their money foolishly on new furnaces every year. Buying un-needed products can impoverish consumers, and also the community in which they live.

My dad’s explanation impressed on me that a good business person should not pursue every opportunity that earns a profit, only those that make good sense for both buyer and seller. That’s the essence of “win-win.” By following this regimen, Dad earned a sterling reputation that helped him attract repeat business year after year. People knew he would give them a fair deal, and they knew he wouldn’t sell them something just so he could fatten his own wallet.

Pope Benedict XVI explored this idea in his apostolic letter, Caritas in Veritate. First, he noted that all businesses should focus on offering truly good products and services that not only help the purchaser, but improve the common good. Then he wrote, “But should profit become the exclusive goal of the enterprise, the business risks destroying true wealth and creating poverty for all concerned.” My dad was able to make this idea very memorable.

Business heroes don’t just tell us what to do. They demonstrate how to do it through witness of their lives.

BRIAN ENGELLAND is the Pryzbyla chair of business and economics in the Busch School of Business at The Catholic University of America. His latest book is Force for Good: The Catholic Guide to Business Integrity, published by Sophia Institute Press.

A Catholic take on endorsing a college major

We make a mistake when we try to steer others into business careers, if our rationale is focused strictly on practicality.

Sure, a business degree is one of the few undergraduate majors that leads to a good job upon graduation. And pay levels in business disciplines offer some of the most lucrative starting salaries. But when we convey practical considerations alone, we miss the central reason that Catholics should chose business as a major.

I tried to convey a practical rationale to my own kids without success.

When my eldest began to think about a college major, I was quick to point out that business has the good-paying jobs. Despite my mild protests, she ended up majoring in art and became a wonderful grade school teacher.

When my second came along, I tried to encourage him to follow in my footsteps as a business guy. But he chose philosophy as his major, and became a well-published college professor.

My third was a really organized child, so I tried to convince her that she would make an outstanding accountant. But she chose theology, and became a cloistered nun. What a blessing!

So, as you can see, I took three swings and missed each time. My kids all made great choices, but my advice wasn’t very helpful.

Here’s what I did wrong. Pope Francis has remarked on several occasions that business is a noble vocation. It is noble because it requires the practice of virtue, and it is a vocation because we are called to the profession through action of the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit uses our God-given talents, interests, and yearnings of the heart to encourage us to select a career of meaning that helps make the world a better place. Our choice of major helps each of us become the unique and irreplaceable person that God wants us to be.

When business is done well, it serves to make the goods of the earth more readily available for everyone. Businesses analyze the honest needs of real people, create high-quality products and services that meet those needs, and do it all at a price that makes sense in the marketplace. If business is a calling to serve in a virtuous way, then that’s what I should have been telling my children while they were making their college major choices.

One in every five people earns a business degree – that’s more than any other field. But many people chose business for the wrong reasons. If you chose business without discerning whether God is calling you to this profession, you will likely be disappointed with your choice.

So when children, friends, and relatives ask your advice on college majors, respond this way: First, tell them that they should seek to find a career that excites, challenges, and makes the best use of their talents, interests and yearnings of the heart. The world doesn’t need another person who is bored with their job!

Second, tell them that business is a noble vocation. It’s a calling from God that is discernable through prayer. Business can make the world a better place, and businessmen and women are called to use their many talents to make that happen.

Third, tell them about the excitement you feel going to work each day in living out your Christian commitment through your work. Tell them about your frustrations, but also tell them about your joys. Tell them that in your own small way, you are salt for the earth, providing a Christlike flavor to everyday life.

Finally, encourage them to pray for guidance, and remind them that you will be praying for them as well.

BRIAN ENGELLAND is the Pryzbyla chair of business and economics in the Busch School of Business and Economics at The Catholic University of America. His latest book is Force for Good: The Catholic Guide to Business Integrity, published by Sophia Institute Press.

Virtuous leadership is key to energizing workforce

According to Gallup’s World Poll, many people hate their job and especially their boss. Only 15 percent of employees worldwide are enthusiastically engaged in their work – the rest would rather be doing something else. If we could successfully engage the remaining 85 percent, imagine how much more effective businesses would be.

Brian Engelland

Here’s the problem. Bosses often treat employees as a cog in the wheel of production rather than as unique human beings created in the image of God. Bosses mistakenly look past the individual person and instead look at the job he or she is performing rather than the incredible potential that the employee can offer. Employees respond to this myopic view by giving minimal physical effort while parking their minds and hearts elsewhere.

But people, not equipment, are the lifeblood of any business. Some time ago, my company invested in an expensive state-of-the-art production line. We treated that equipment with great care, established shop rules and procedures for its protection, and doubled our maintenance efforts to keep it operating in pristine condition. That machinery was accorded better treatment than any employee! But in just three years, it was obsolete, and sold for scrap at the junkyard.

As Saint John Paul II taught, the worker is significantly more important than capital, and human labor is not merely one factor in production. The great untapped source of economic growth is not physical capital, but human capital leveraged by the creativity and dedication that workers can bring to work each day. Unlike capital equipment, employees can adapt to changing conditions and, through training, be continually refreshed. People really do count.

So, how can we reflect that difference in our businesses? Virtuous leadership has the ability to bring out the greatness in others. The secret to obtaining the faithful collaboration of employees is for the boss to exemplify the two most important leadership virtues, magnanimity and humility. Magnanimity is the realization that individual talents are a gift from God and are only valuable when they are used to help others become better at what they do. Humility is the conviction that everyone is important and Christ is present in the least of us.

Virtuous leadership creates enthusiastic followers. The teachings of Pope Paul VI explain why. When employees perceive that the boss is offering the opportunity to help them perfect their own individual capacities, to engage in work that is both useful and profitable, and to contribute according to their abilities to the service of the company, they respond favorably. Employees feel compelled to adopt some of the boss’s same energizing spirit.

A restaurant run by my “bring out employee greatness” friend doesn’t open on Sundays. Why? He explains that his restaurant concept requires a high degree of personal service, and that means hiring and retaining good employees. But none of his really good employees want to work on Sundays – they’d rather spend quality time at home with their families. By implementing his “closed-on-Sunday” policy, he helps bring out the greatness in his staff. His employees are happier, his service quality is higher, and his training and retention costs are lower than his 7-day-per week competition.

A boss who exemplifies magnanimity and humility can help employees understand that work is an essential expression of our human nature as created in the image and likeness of God. Be that virtuous boss! Understand the potential of each employee, and help each one reach their potential. Help them learn new skills, gain insights, make friends, enhance self-esteem, and become more than they were before the work began. Employees who experience this type of boss will engage, and become the outstanding workforce we all desire.

BRIAN ENGELLAND is the Pryzbyla chair of business and economics in the Busch School of Business and Economics at The Catholic University of America. His latest book is Force for Good: The Catholic Guide to Business Integrity, published by Sophia Institute Press.

Force for Good: The Catholic Guide to Business Integrity

Brian Engelland
Sophia Institute Press, 222 pages

The world of business is closely associated with turning a profit, and for good reason: A business whose earnings regularly fall short of its overhead probably won’t last long.

But Brian Engelland tells us the ultimate goal of business is not maximizing profits, but serving others, and that begins with the ethical treatment of employees and customers. He lays out how it is incumbent upon business leaders to embrace and possess sound moral character, infused with the virtues, in order to conduct their business relationships with integrity and apply ethical principles to every decision. His approach is grounded in Catholic social doctrine, but it’s commonsense counsel for all business leaders.