Tag Archives: business

Business and faith: A match made in heaven?

I recently served on A discussion panel where Catholic business leaders explored the degree of compatibility between faith and business practices, including corporate charitable giving. A distinct mix of opinions was expressed. In an era when it cannot be agreed that 2 + 2 = 4, can business people be as divided as the rest of the country? Or perceive that faith presents different dictates to different people? Is there no common denominator?

Probably not, but let’s try two ideas on for size.

My dad, a businessman and one of the most charitable people I’ve known, always spoke of “helping the least of our brethren.” Judging from our mailbox at home while growing up, it seemed that every mission around the world depended on his good will.

Try one more. “Children are a gift from God,” said Mother Teresa, whom my wife and I met many years ago while volunteering at Caligat, her “Home for the Destitute Dying” in Calcutta. She was remarkable in her approachability, energy, and good humor.

Perhaps not all readers would agree with my dad and Mother Teresa, though it’s hard to argue with the Gospels and a saint. Thus, in exploring the alignment between business and faith, it might be instructive to ask business people to assess their actions, processes, and charitable commitments through the lens of how well they are serving the least of our brethren, including children.

Looking through this lens, I would submit that in the sea of all the good things that businesses and their people do, there are two opportunities that are overlooked: improving education and addressing fatherlessness.

Improving education has many definitions. Many businesses donate books, provide reading tutors, and teach STEM classes. All good. But to me, real improvement will rely on market forces – yes, good ol’ competition – when poor kids and their parents are given the freedom to select from a menu of public, private, religious, cyber, and home educational options that fit their circumstances and preferences. But the forces of the public school monopoly are strong, vocal, and well funded. Some school choice advocates have declared this the civil rights issue of our day. But where are voices of business leaders, whose instincts I have to believe, despite divisions, lean toward free markets? I don’t hear them.

Nor do I hear business leaders weighing in on fatherlessness despite nearly 20 million kids in the U.S. living without their dads. Most are being raised by single mothers, nearly 50 percent of whom live in poverty. Too many families, the key building blocks of society, are shattered. Too many kids live desperate lives marked by loneliness, neglect, gangs, drugs, crime, pregnancy, hopelessness, failure in school, and lack of love. In the mid-1960s, the vast majority of children lived with both parents. To be sure, some were poor and faced enormous challenges.

But with two parents in their corner, they at least had the fighting chance that too many kids today lack. What happened? We could debate the causes forever. But sadly, and with tragic consequences, our culture seems to have concluded that dads are obsolete and unnecessary, to be tossed onto some 21st-century trash heap with other anachronisms. And so too many of our kids suffer without the love, hard work, protection, discipline, and guidance of their fathers – while we delude ourselves that mothers can do it all.

What can businesses do? Plenty. There are numerous agencies, non-profits, private groups, and individuals doing heroic work both to offer kids a better education and rebuild fatherhood. In supporting any of these initiatives with their drive, creativity, and intelligence, business leaders can help many of the least of our brethren while witnessing to what our faith prescribes.

BILL MCCUSKER is Founder & CEO of Fathers & Families, Inc., whose mission is improving the lives of children, mothers, and families by building awareness of the importance of fathers, and by helping fathers be better fathers. He is recently retired from the business world where he spent 36 years in executive and marketing leadership roles. www.fathersfamilies.com.

When Pro Athletes Evolve from Sports to Business

Every professional athlete knows his playing days will eventually come to an end. Most try to put that conclusion off as long as possible, but former Jacksonville Jaguars’ Pro-Bowl linebacker Paul Posluszny freely chose to retire in April of 2018. Despite the Jaguars nearly making it to the Super Bowl three months previously — they lost to the New England Patriots by four points in the AFC Championship — Posluszny knew his own playing days were over.

The 34-year-old father of two holds high standards—he has won many awards and was even named to the Pro Bowl in 2013—so he was not content with merely remaining on a roster. “After the conclusion of the 2017-18 season, I knew my career as a professional athlete was complete. I didn’t want that to be true, but my body had reached a point that I could no longer function at a level I would find acceptable to play in the NFL.”

Posluszny’s high standards, along with his longtime interest in aviation, led him to start flight training in 2013, long before his athletic career wound down. The Pittsburgh-area native knew he would have to move on from the game at some point, so started learning how to fly a plane even at the height of his personal success in football. It was at his flight training that he met the Malone family, who owns Malone Air Charter. The company, based in Jacksonville, Florida, is where Posluszny is currently being trained as an airplane mechanic.

STARTING AGAIN

“Aviation is my passion,” Posluszny said, “so I want to learn all aspects of the industry, starting with the planes themselves, and then moving into corporate management and decision-making skills.” He plans to pursue an MBA, starting in the fall of 2019, at one of three schools—the University of Michigan, the University of Florida, or Carnegie Mellon University—to add to his aviation experience and his undergraduate finance degree from Penn State University.

While Posluszny wants to make a positive impact in the aviation industry, he is not sure of the specifics once graduate school is completed. In the meantime, he is enjoying the learning process and using the same general philosophy that worked for him in football: faith in God, hard work, and servant leadership.

“Father Andy Blaszkowski, who offered Mass for the Jaguars’ players and other team personnel, would talk about servant leadership.” Posluszny said. Jesus, the greatest servant leader ever, did not come to be served, but to serve, and Posluszny recommends that contribution centered mentality in order to be successful in any endeavor.

Posluszny has found his current workplace to share the same values he heard Father Blaszkowski emphasize. “The corporate culture of the Malone family is deeply rooted in the principles of servant leadership, humility, and integrity. They are a truly outstanding family, and the Christian principles of hard work, honesty, and helping others is prevalent throughout the organization.” 

TENDING A NEW FIELD

Former professional baseball player Bobby Keppel has also been able to carry his Catholic faith and sports industry experience into a new field of work. What most players would consider a heartbreaking setback, Keppel took as a simple transition out of baseball and into landscaping. The ground work for his ability to peacefully accept the unforeseen event was laid many years previously, as he had been taught to put family before personal ambition.

In the year 2000 as a senior at De Smet Jesuit High School in St. Louis, Missouri, Keppel was selected by the New York Mets in the first round of the MLB draft. He worked his way through the minor leagues and made his MLB debut with the Kansas City Royals in 2006. He then played for the Colorado Rockies and Minnesota Twins before lending his skills to a Japanese team for four years. By the spring of 2014, he was more than ready to become a starting pitcher for the Cincinnati Reds.

Then the unexpected happened.

Bobby’s father, Curt, who was battling cancer, called and asked his son if he could come back to St. Louis to help run the family’s landscaping business, Mid-America Lawn Maintenance. Because the company’s contracts are year-to-year and most of its workers are seasonal, selling the business as a whole was not an option. The only other option was dismantling the business and selling off its equipment.

 RETURNING TO HELP DAD

Most players would have found it extremely difficult to choose between living their Major League dream and coming home to help the family business. However, Keppel was sure what he wanted to do. “I knew that family comes first, even before big career advancement that had taken years to secure. I wouldn’t have been in the position I was in for 2014 spring training had it not been for my father. He helped me out in countless ways through the years, so when he needed my help, I was happy to give it,” Keppel explained.

The right ordering of human interaction, or subsidiarity, is a big theme for Keppel, one that he recently addressed at a men’s conference at St. Joseph Church in Cottleville, Missouri. The father of seven emphasized to the men present that there is a distinct hierarchy that should determine who receives the most attention from them. He explained: “Of course, God is most deserving of our attention, but after Him, a man’s wife should be his first priority, followed by his children, other family members, neighbors, fellow parishioners, and then business associates.”

RUN BUSINESS BY PUTTING IT LAST 

Keppel does not think this order is detrimental to running a business well. On the contrary, he believes it is the proper philosophy for productivity and happiness. “These days you sometimes hear people say their jobs do not ‘fulfill’ them. I think they have it backward. We shouldn’t look to our jobs for obtaining happiness; we should bring the happiness we have found in the Church into our jobs. It’s a mindset of contribution rather than extraction.”

 Continuing on the theme of putting value into the work, Keppel uses baseball analogies with his father in the landscaping business. The elder Keppel is seen as the general manager of the team who makes the big decisions about contracts and personnel, while the younger Keppel is the manager who makes day-to-day decisions about which “players to put in the lineup on the field.” 

Although Bobby Keppel studied business at the University of Notre Dame during three off-seasons early in his playing career, he has not used much of what he learned. “Maybe if I were in another business, the schooling would come in handy, but in landscaping, it’s a matter of common sense. You treat others as you would want to be treated, charge a reasonable price for the work, pay a reasonable wage to the workers, and so forth. No advanced training is needed; you just need to have the resolve to do the job well.”

 KEEPING THE LORD’S DAY

Some of the basic values Keppel has found to be essential for doing the job well are showing up for work on time and giving one’s best effort every day—except Sunday. Keppel keeps the traditional understanding of the Sabbath as a time of rest.

There have been Sundays on which the company has been open because of weather-induced maintenance backups, but it is nearly always a time of rest from work and reverence toward God. “God makes the Commandments of relating to Him and others,” Keppel said, also noting that “There will always be challenges to deal with, but If we follow God’s commands, things go more smoothly at home and at work.”

TRENT BEATTIE is a Legatus magazine contributing write

For better or worse –in business and marriage

“Married couples who work together to build and maintain a business assume broad responsibilities,” said Melissa Bean, now a vice chairman for JP Morgan Chase, from the floor of Congress during her years as a U.S. representative from Illinois. “Not only is their work important to our local and national economies, but their success is central to the well-being of their families.”

Husbands and wives who manage businesses together while raising their families can experience special challenges as well as joys. A few entrepreneurial Legate couples recently shared a bit about what that’s like and how their Catholic faith helps them succeed at work and at home.

Keeping work and marriage ever well

Dr. Chris Zubiate was in the behavioral health field when he met his future wife, Leah, who then worked in private equity. She became involved in behavior health through a volunteer opportunity and had her “eyes opened to a new world I had never been exposed to or really thought about,” Leah recalled.

Now married with two young children, the San Francisco Legates operate Ever Well Health Systems, a network of residential treatment facilities for adults with serious mental and emotional problems. Chris is Ever Well’s president and CEO, while Leah serves as an administrator with broad oversight of the flagship facility.

In the early years, Chris and Leah commuted two hours to their first facility – sometimes separately, sometimes together. “Initially, we weren’t covering our bills, and the time away from the family filled us with doubts,” Leah remembered. “Now, looking back, our commitment to the work was never more tested.”

On the days they commuted together “our commitment to each other was strengthened,” she added. “It allowed us to be together as a couple and reflect on our purpose and our faith.”

Work-life balance remains difficult, but having two little ones keeps the home life in the forefront. “Having the flexibility to start our work days at different times, the ability to work from home, or being able to alternate ‘late days’ is incredible at this stage and a real gift,” said Leah.

The company is open 24/7, she explained, so “it’s easy to become engulfed. We have to set boundaries with ourselves to not always be talking about work. Or for me, to not get so emotionally invested.”

Competition and compromise

Drs. Frank and Cheryl Mueller met as undergrads in the pre-med program at St. Mary’s University in San Antonio, Texas. “I was attracted to Cheryl not only because she was pretty and smart, but also because she came from a Catholic family with strong work ethics and strong family ties,” Frank recalled. They were married shortly before entering medical school.

Cheryl planned to go into pediatrics, but Frank convinced her to join him in family medicine. Sharing a practice, he reasoned, would facilitate coordinating parental responsibilities.

“We have been practicing family medicine together in the same office for over 30 years,” said Cheryl. “We each have our own patients, but we cover for one another and are business partners as well as life partners.”

The San Antonio Legates’ three sons are grown now, but the Muellers remember the challenges during those child-raising years. Cheryl said she and Frank agreed that at least one of them should attend every important event in their kids’ lives.

“Even though our jobs required being ‘on call’ and responsive to our patients 24/7, we sincerely tried to be the best and most involved parents we possibly could be,” she recalled. “We both are so grateful to God and our families for providing the ability to accomplish this goal.”

Frank noted Cheryl and he have a “natural competitiveness” as to who brings in more patients or income, or who makes final decisions on managing staff or redecorating offices. “However, armed with Christian ethics and compromise, the problems get solved, and our relationship stays intact,” he said.

Passions and priorities

“For me, the challenge of being in business together is having to intuitively navigate two great passions of my life,” said Charlie Domen, president and CEO of DisplayMax Inc., a retail merchandising firm he founded in southeastern Michigan around 1993 with his wife, Susan, who is vice president. The Ann Arbor Legates admit “it is only through the foundation of faith that we are able to balance the peaks and valleys of managing business and family life.”

Charlie worked in sales and Susan was in office administration in the early 1990s when they each took side jobs merchandising products in grocery stores. That experience and their respective skill sets inspired them to start their own company offering services including inventory resets, retail fixtures, and store remodels

“Faith and our family are absolutely our priority,” Susan agreed. “However, as entrepreneurs, our business is certainly our passion. We are always open to looking at ways to improve our organization, to better serve our clients, improve processes and communication, and looking at better ways to integrate systems and software.”

Ensuring that their drive for entrepreneurial success doesn’t compromise family needs – the Domens have three daughters, ages 11 to 18 — is a key concern in addition to simply weathering the ups and downs of business.

Susan recalled a lean December when cash was tight and credit was thin. After a long-awaited receivables check finally arrived on Christmas Eve, jubilation turned to desperation when the bank placed a five-day hold on the funds. A generous bank manager came to the rescue and waived the hold. “That was our Christmas miracle,” remembered Susan. “We went out, got our tree and a few presents, and had one of our best Christmases ever!”

Faith as a guide

These couples have in common a strong faith that permeates their lives both at work and at home.

“Our Catholic faith doesn’t only inform and impact our business, it forms and impacts our hearts, our families, our schools, parishes, and workplaces,” said Charlie Domen.

“One of the more practical and basic ways our faith has impacted our business is it allows us to see each person for who they are, the way Jesus sees them, not as a human resource, but as a human person,” he explained. That translates into generous wages and benefits for employees, prayer before meals, sponsorship of charitable events, and a culture that promotes trust and teamwork.

At Ever Well, Chris and Leah Zubiate echo that perspective.

“Our Catholic faith helps us steward our employees and resources to affirm the dignity of the vulnerable people we serve,” Leah said. “A lot of what guides us is opening ourselves to the Holy Spirit and following God’s will. We try to be open with our employees, residents, and customers about the strength of our Catholic faith and frequently make connections between what we do for work and our personal mission to serve the mentally ill.”

That principle is reflected in the company tagline: “Everything. For everlasting change.”

The Muellers rely on faith to guide their marriage as well as their medical practice.

“Our faith has always been extremely important to both of us,” said Cheryl Mueller. “It is important to be compassionate and understanding to patients who may be discouraged or irritable because of serious health problems. Both of us feel that spirituality is an important part of healing, and we try to include this in the way that we minister to our patients and our employees.”

Frank told of how Mass, prayer, the sacraments, and even Legatus gatherings help them decompress and “enjoy life again as a married couple.”

The Muellers will celebrate 40 years together in 2019, “and God-willing, we will work together another 10 years or so before retiring,” said Frank. “It has, in all aspects, really become a family practice.”

GERALD KORSON is a Legatus magazine staff writer.

Occupational hazards – persevering with grace

Married couples know it takes “work” to make a marriage thrive.

Some spouses work not just on nurturing their relationship, but on maintaining their business.

Two Legatus couples who own and operate companies shared their experiences and lessons learned from working together in business.

Mike and Judy Thompson, members of Legatus’ Rockford, Illinois Chapter, are co-owners of Ultrasonic Power Corporation, a leading global ultrasonic cleaning equipment company.

Andrew and Eva Berney, members of Legatus’ Phoenix, Arizona Chapter, for 18 years have together been running Titan Power Inc., a privately held for-profit specialty contracting business that employs 19 people.

Both couples navigated early difficulties to build businesses now thriving in competitive marketplaces. The Thompsons and Berneys also lead their respective companies with unapologetic Catholic worldviews. Both couples credit God for sustaining them in difficult times, and with blessing their businesses.

Mike and Judy Thompson – Rebuilding neglected family business

Any visitor walking through the corporate headquarters of Ultrasonic Power Corporation in northwestern Illinois will see numerous crucifixes at various entryways, and may spot Mike and Judy Thompson praying together before a meeting.

“It’s about witnessing and evangelizing. We don’t park our Catholic faith at the door. It’s a part of us and our business,” said Mike, 61, who along with Judy, his wife of 38 years and business partner, are co-CEOs of Ultrasonic Power Corporation, a company they bought from Judy’s father in November 2011.

Mike and Judy were living in Houston, Texas, when they decided to purchase the company from Judy’s ailing, elderly dad. As a young married couple in the 1980s, they had previously worked for the company until Mike took a job in the oil and gas industry.

When they returned to Illinois, they found a struggling business that suffered from a lack of top-level leadership.

“Whenever the primary owner becomes ill, no matter where you are, a company might run on momentum for a time, but ownership discussions and strategic decisions about the future get delayed,” Mike said.

For more than two years, Mike and Judy worked long hours at the office to stabilize the company’s financial footing and reposition it for growth.

“In the beginning, there was a lot of taking work home,” Judy said. “There were long days trying to understand the ins and outs of the business. Eventually, we made the rule that the work stayed at work and we separated that. Because otherwise, it would be all-consuming.”

Under Mike and Judy’s leadership, Ultrasonic Power Corporation has grown its bottom line and doubled its workforce from 15 to 30 employees. The Thompsons said they strive to establish a work culture that understands that family comes first.

“We’re not resting on our laurels,” Mike said. “We know we’re blessed, but we also know we’ve been put through trials. Had it not been for our faith in God, or even our association with other like-minded CEOS through the Legatus organization, I think we would have been less happy and given in somewhat to despair.” “This was definitely a learning experience for the both of us,” Judy said. “But I can’t imagine doing this with anybody else. I wouldn’t have been able to do this without him.”

Mike compared growing a business “in phases” to developing a marriage over many years.

“We’ve gone through a lot of those learning curves, the ups and downs, the frustrations, the feelings of despair and thinking, ‘Why the heck did we do this?’” said Mike, adding that he and Judy feel the responsibility for the well-being of their employees.

“I think Jesus was the first and greatest servantleader,” Mike said. “If we’re not serving our people and helping them to get their jobs done, tearing down any barriers and encouraging them, then we really are not going to be a successful business.”

Judy said she and Mike have also learned to complement each other for a job well done. They have grown in their faith, gotten more involved in their parish, and last year both went on a pilgrimage to Rome.

“Even on the most difficult of days,” Judy said, “We remind ourselves it is our job to get each other to heaven.”

Andrew and Eva Berney – Recognizing skill sets, faith priorities

Like any successful management team, Andrew and Eva Berney have an organizational chart.

“One of the things we discovered when we started working together as husband and wife was that there was a tendency to not know which areas you should step your foot in or not,” said Eva, who is the vice president and director of finance and administration for Titan Power, Inc.

“One of the things we did early on that helped was we created an organizational chart so that we would really be aware of what his responsibilities were and what my responsibilities were, and communicating that to the rest of our team,” Eva said.

Andrew worked at Titan Power, Inc., for seven years before he purchased the company in 1997. Eva, who had a background in property management, joined the business shortly after she and Andrew married in 2000.

“I brought a different set of skills than Andy had,” Eva said. “He’s more on the technical side of the business and I’m more of the management, HR, and accounting side.” The organizational chart helped Andy and Eva, as well as their employees, to better understand their roles in the company.

“It really helped us respect each other, and it also helped communicate to the employees who was responsible for what,” Eva said.

There were some early financial difficulties. Andy and Eva often worried about making payroll.

“We dealt with it together,” Eva said. “Both of us realized how important it was to seek counsel, so we sought counsel from professionals such as CPAs, attorneys, and people we knew who were already in business. We both realized that we don’t know everything.”

Both also relied on their Catholic faith to establish an ethical business culture. They pray everyday before work and tithe ten percent of their business earnings and personal income. They say that God has rewarded their faith with amazing growth in the company.

“We’ve seen that the more we give, the bigger the company gets,” Andrew said. “We see God working in that. And as we grow, our charitable donations grow too. He has blessed us in that area.”

“We’re very aware of how our faith and the decisions we make affect our employees,” Eva added. “We really feel that God has put them with us and we’re supposed to take care of them. We do that through our prayers and making good decisions for the company so they can have a stable environment and go home at the end of the day and be with their families.”

Andrew and Eva are already thinking about their lives after Titan Power. They recently brought their son, Stephen, aboard, and he has already shown good business instincts. Andy and Eva joke that he is their retirement plan.

“Our goal is when we retire to do more ministry work,” Eva said. “We don’t envision ourselves retiring and sitting around. We know the rewards that come from doing God’s work that He is calling us to do.”

BRIAN FRAGA is a Legatus magazine staff writer

Business meets faith – and they get along well

“Don’t let the collar fool you,” our executive director (and Legatus member) Janet Morana tells the new employees of Priests for Life, as she speaks about my role as national director.

She helps our staff – which consists of approximately 50 people in various branch offices — to avoid a common misconception people have about the connection between their work and their faith.

The misconception is that somehow, conducting business in the context of faith means being less business-like, or exempting oneself or one’s company from the very best practices and highest standards of the profession with which one is associated.

Faith does not justify being less qualified, less disciplined, less professional, less precise, or less determined to succeed. If anything, conducting business as believers means we are more compelled to strive for excellence.

Why? Because we know that our work not only means earthly progress but heavenly progress, and by our professional excellence we seek to give God the glory, as His sons and daughters.

Indeed, the Church teaches that the good we bring into the world by our professional work endures into the world to come! (see Vatican II, Gaudium et Spes, n. 36-39).

Janet tells our Priests for Life employees, therefore, that the priest who is also their employer is going to be no less demanding than any other employer.

Let’s take a practical example that often arises: the need for good planning. As people of faith, we believe in the Holy Spirit and rely on his inspirations. But it would be silly, and indeed contrary to faith, to think that this stance of faith exempts us from board meetings, rigorous business plans, training sessions, and accountability to deadlines.

On the contrary, the intelligence we exercise in strategic planning, the wisdom to consult our own experience and that of others, and the discipline to set and keep deadlines, are in themselves gifts of that same Holy Spirit. Planning should never be divorced from prayer, but neither should prayer replace planning.

Another aspect of the relationship between faith and the business environment is that one’s place of business should be a place where the religious freedom of the employees and the employer can live nicely together.

A Christian business is not a religious community; the employees can be of different faith backgrounds. And Christian employers want their employees – whatever their faith may be – to feel free to express and practice it.

And the same goes for the employer. His or her practice of the faith is not at all an imposition of religion on the employees. This was made clear in the whole battle over the Obama HHS Mandate, which sought to force employers to cover abortion-inducing drugs in the health insurance offered to their employees. Priests for Life, as well as Legatus and many others, challenged this mandate in court. We ultimately prevailed.

But one of the arguments the other side made – and a common misconception – was that we were forcing our employees to adopt our religious beliefs and practices. Not at all. Rather, the legal argument was that the government could not force us to violate our faith as we conduct our business.

My friend Joe Brinck told me long ago that on his business stationery he had the motto, “We Defend Life from Fertilization to Natural Death” – a simple, powerful example of being God’s witness in the workplace.

The Christian faith is based on the Incarnation. God really does get mixed in with human flesh and blood, relationships, families, businesses and nations. We can, indeed, each be a faithful believer and a top-notch professional.

FRANK PAVONE is national director for Priests for Life – the largest ministry in the Catholic Church focused exclusively on ending abortion. Learn more at www.ProLifeCentral.com

Live your Catholic faith confidently in business

“Dividing the demands of one’s faith from one’s work in business is a fundamental error which contributes to much of the damage done by businesses in our world today.” So said the Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace in its Vocation of the Business Leader. This sentiment will come as no surprise to Legates, who have committed themselves to learn, live, and spread the Catholic Faith. But living one’s faith in the business world raises two fundamental questions: What does our faith say about how we practice business? And how can we protect our businesses when we make the decision to live our faith in the workplace?

The answer to the first question flows from the Church’s teachings that all human life is sacred, and that the dignity of the human person is the foundation of a moral version for society. We are called to treat our employees, coworkers, customers, and even competitors as brothers and sisters in Christ, because that is what they are. As a Catholic business owner or executive, you will never look into someone’s eyes without seeing someone whom God loved into being

That sounds like a great principle. But the implementation can be difficult. Is there a specific level of benefits that we’re called to offer employees? Should an employee’s immoral conduct outside of work affect his or her hiring? Are there moral obligations that run with our advertising? How about with the quality of the goods and services we offer?

Fortunately — and surprisingly for some — the Church addresses these and many other practical business questions in Papal Encyclicals (e.g., Rerum Novarum), writings of pontifical councils, papal addresses, and other materials. An excellent compendium of these resources is A Catechism for Business, edited by Andrew Abela and Joseph Capizzi. The source materials may not tell you what is a “just wage” for a software engineer at a high-tech company in 2019. But they will provide the Catholic Church’s teachings for thinking about and making such a determination.

The trickier question is how to protect your business from attack when using faith to run your business. Following Christ’s law in the public square is increasingly dangerous in a culture seeking to stamp out religious exercise. Just ask Hobby Lobby, Masterpiece Cakeshop, and many other businesses that have been forced to defend their religious practices in court, sometimes all the way to the Supreme Court.

Here, too, there is guidance in An Employers Guide to Faith in the Workplace, published by Alliance Defending Freedom. (A free copy is available at ADFlegal.org/campaigns/faithin-the-workplace, with an updated version coming in early 2019.) The Guide provides advice regarding the sharing of religious information and literature in the workplace, characteristics that may be considered when making hiring and promotion decisions, and how to support marriage and family in your business without violating federal law.

Helpfully, the more religiously you run your business, the greater your legal protection. For example, in Hobby Lobby’s litigation involving the ACA’s contraceptives mandate, the Supreme Court cited Hobby Lobby’s owners’ written statements of religious faith and purpose in ruling in the company’s favor. Such a statement not only expresses a business owner’s core religious beliefs, it serves as clear evidence of those beliefs should an employee or customer ever question them in a lawsuit.

JOHN BURSCH owns Bursch Law PLLC and serves as vice president of appellate advocacy at Alliance Defending Freedom. He has argued 11 cases in the U.S. Supreme Court and frequently represents companies and business owners exercising their religious faith in the public square. He is a past president of the Grand Rapids Chapter.

Confusing ownership with stewardship

The concept of a steward is a sensibility badly needed in today’s business world. For several years, business news has been rife with reports of men (yes, they have all been males) who were charged with looking after the welfare of public corporations but who behaved like robber barons, brutalizing millions of stakeholders by raiding and robbing the assets of the very corporations they were entrusted to protect and grow.

What is the problem? At the obvious level, it involves greed. These men’s lives are models of insatiable appetites gone wild. At another level, these crimes are rooted in pride, for as some of the culprits have admitted, accumulating personal riches and indulging themselves in unspeakable extravagance was how they kept score in the game of success – which they mistook for the purpose of life.

But at a deeper level, their wanton criminal self- indulgence seems to be the natural expression of a flawed understanding of reality. They handled the assets with which they were entrusted as if the assets were their own. That is, after all, the prevailing metaphor we use to describe the very top officer in a public corporation. The company is his. He has the power to make its final decisions. We regard him – and he comes to regard himself – as the sole owner of the corporation.

If that were really the case, CEOs would wallow in self-indulgence until either their assets or their hearts gave out. But because this is not the case, many end up having to hide their skewed view of reality by cooking the books or otherwise lying to investors and other stakeholders. Eventually, reality bites: they have to forfeit their power, fortunes, reputations, and in some instances, even their freedom.

The reality is that the power the top official has in a corporation has been given to him by its rightful owners, who hold the company’s stock. They are free to take away the power they have given him if they decide it is in their best interests to do so. With that in mind, perhaps we will find a newfound emphasis in business schools on the notions of steward and stewardship at all levels of the corporate ladder.

Excerpt by Owen Phelps, Ph.D., from Chapter 9, “Called to be a Steward,” of his book The Catholic Vision for Leading Like Jesus (Huntington, Indiana: Our Sunday Visitor, 2009), pp. 107-08 – “Guys Gone Wild! Confusing Ownership with Stewardship.”

OWEN PHELPS, PH.D., a writer, college professor, master catechist, and trainer, is director of the Yeshua Catholic International Leadership Institute (Durand, IL). Likewise, he is author of three other books: The Believer’s Edge, The Secret of Wealth, and A Steward’s Journey: The Early Years.

…With a ‘Grit’ for Business

“The apple doesn’t fall far from the tree,” is a saying expressing the power of family influence. For three Legate families, both intentional formation and the osmosis of shared lives brought forth a new generation looking very familiar indeed.

Home-court advantage

Matthew Pinto and his wife, Maryanne, parents of six children, are members of the Philadelphia Chapter. Matt is president and founder of Ascension Press, a Catholic media and faith formation company specializing in small group studies for Catholic adults and teens. And two of their sons own and operate a young company—Home Court Advantage®. It is 15-year-old James who started it two years ago, to paint lines for basketball courts in local area.

James, a sophomore at Archmere Academy High School, thought it would be cool to paint court lines under the family’s basketball hoop. “I have five brothers and we love playing basketball,” he said. “I found a stencil kit and painted it myself.”

The results so impressed a neighbor that he asked James to do the same for his court. When other neighbors started calling, James thought of making it a business. He went to his dad who offered advice and helped to create a single business model as well as one for a franchise.

“Even if it never becomes a franchise, I explained it is smart to have standard operating procedures, and to run a single location with the efficiencies of a franchise,” Matt said. “The boys are keen on the idea of a national franchise and hope to present their ideas to the producers of ABC’s “Shark Tank.”

Talking about business was something he began with his sons when they were all as young as seven or eight. “I heard that if you introduce your kids more intimately to your work—where fathers are often at their best from 9-5—the respect they give you will increase,” Matt said.

Michael, the oldest, is a junior finance major at Ave Maria University in Ave Maria, Florida and is president and co-owner of Home Court Advantage®. “When James painted our family court, it made playing basketball at home more fun,” he said.

Requests for painted courts began to pour in. “James and my dad called to see if I could help,” Michael said. “I was a freshman at Ave at the time. I had interned before at my Dad’s company and was looking for another internship, but the chance to run our own company was too big an opportunity to pass up. Plus, I wanted to help my brother.”

Their younger brother Andrew was brought in as a manager and painter along with other friends as painters. Working with their uncle, who specialized in the tradeshow fabricating business, they built a “puzzle-like” stencil, that folds into small pieces and allows for quick assembly at the job site and reduced painting time from five to two hours.

“My dad’s example made the idea of running a business plausible,” James said. He explained that owning his own business has given him a lot of confidence, while he has also learned to juggle sports and academics, not “letting other important things suffer.”

One of those important things, according to Matt, is God. “I have talked to them about tithing and giving back to God,” he said. “Ultimately this is God’s money and resources to use for good.”

Penchant for planning

Wayne Kandas and his wife Kay, parents of four children, are members of the Phoenix, Arizona Chapter. Wayne is the managing director and certified financial planner of Kandas Financial Group, which is a practice of Ameriprise Financial Services, Inc., a financial advisory company. Their son Christopher came on board while the firm was at MetLife and helped transition it to Ameriprise in June 2016. He graduated in 2015 with a business degree and minor in Catholic theology and immediately started working for the firm full time.

Wayne has always had an aptitude for finances. In grade school, he sold Grit magazine door to door in Plentywood, Montana, and saved $1,000 to help his parents buy a house.

Wayne became a baker from seventh grade through high school. “I made donuts before school so everyone smelled me coming down the hall,” he said. After high school, he attended DeVry University in Phoenix, Arizona for engineering and worked at a donut shop. Wayne had admired the tie pin of a customer who worked for Metropolitan Life Insurance Company and struck up a conversation.

Later that day, Wayne got a call and was offered a job with the company. He worked there for 29 years and was the top producing financial planner for nine years straight and is number one in their Hall of Fame. In 1991, Wayne started the financial talk radio show Your Financial Plan and became known across the country.

When his oldest son Chris was a high school junior, he came to watch his dad at work one day. “I was the VP of my school’s debate club and a member of the National Forensics League,” Chris said. “As I sat in on my dad’s appointments, I noticed he presented tailored recommendations and defended investment decisions. It was a lot like speech and debate. I knew it was something that I could be good at as well as enjoy.”

The following summer, Chris came into the office every day. “He never asked for pay and did whatever I asked—all the grunt work,” Wayne said. “He was a natural.” Chris got married last year and now runs his dad’s practice. “I love being around him,” Wayne said. “I love the fact that my clients love him, too.”

Outside of work, Wayne leads music at his parish and Chris sings harmony with him. “We’re about more than money,” Wayne said. “I know Chris will carry the Catholic baton in a big way. Catholicism is a deep way of life for us.”

“I’m blessed beyond words to have so knowledgeable a mentor,” Chris said of his dad. As for work, Chris likens it to the parable of the talents. “We are entrusted with much and will be held accountable for how we exercise our dominion over others’ resources.”

At home in housing

William “Bill” Orosz and his wife, Jody, have three sons and are members of the Orlando, Florida Chapter. In 2007, Bill formed Hanover Capital Partners and its subsidiary, Hanover Land Company, as private real estate investment and development companies. His sons Stephen, Andrew, and Matthew work as vice presidents and also formed Hanover Family Builders.

“Currently, the family manages the development of 3,000 residential lots and have completed more than 2,500 homes over the past five years, with plans to continue that pace for years to come,” Bill explained. His own dad worked in real estate and they also occasionally worked together on fixer-uppers.

“It was always a great time with my dad, so housing became a family tradition,” Bill said. “By the time the boys were in college, I had built a significant home-building company (1,000+ homes per year) and they all worked summers doing manual labor and learning about the construction process.”

Andrew: “Although we all started down different paths after college — all with a tangential link to real estate — we were ultimately drawn to the family business. The three of us have very complementary skill sets that allow us to work well together. The positives are getting to work with people you trust and care for and who have your best interests at heart also.”

Steve: “Coming out of school with an accounting degree, I started in public accounting performing audits for all different industries. To me, real estate development and construction was an exciting field. But in general, buying land, completing site work and infrastructure improvements, monitoring home construction, and seeing a happy homeowner is a rewarding career.”

Matt: “Obviously the family experience in real estate made my career path more logical, but the real driver was the tangible and scalable ability to create value.”

Bill said he enjoys being “mentor-in-chief” and has complete confidence in his sons. “They run a top-notch company that is well respected,” he said. “It’s very rewarding for a dad to be able to work together with his children.”

PATTI MAGUIRE ARMSTRONG, who wrote the newly published book, Legatus @ 30, is an award-winning author and Catholic journalist, TV and radio commentator, and mother of 10.

Coming out of the dark

Surviving storms of recession and crisis

The late 2000s saw the most significant decline in the U.S. economy since the Great Depression. Sparked by the bursting of the “housing bubble” in 2007 and a calamitous drop in the value of mortgage-based securities, the Great Recession created a devastating ripple effect on the economy: The stock market plunged, unemployment spiked, banks began to fail, and consumers had far less money to spend.

We talked with two Legates whose businesses faced particular challenges during this time. One suffered a catastrophic loss and was forced to rebuild; the other rode the real-estate market through its darkest days and resurfaced with a dynamic business model that drew from lessons gleaned from the process.

Trial by fire

Ralph Chappano’s company emerged from its major crisis in a blaze of glory —and it all started with a blaze, too.

In December 2009, the corporate headquarters and regional distribution center of Office Furniture Rental Alliance in East Hartford, Connecticut, was gutted by fire.

“It happened first thing on a Monday morning,” recalled Chappano, a Legate of the Hartford Chapter and the company’s co-founder and president. He had just finished a meeting offsite when he received the phone message and immediately drove to the scene. Cresting a ridge ten miles outside the city, he was startled to see a plume of smoke rising to the sky. “My hands started shaking,” he recalled. “I froze, and almost wrecked, because obviously at that point I knew it was serious.”

A five-alarm fire that started in a warehouse heating unit had engulfed the 50,000-square-foot facility, and nearly a hundred firefighters were on the scene. Fortunately, the couple dozen employees who had arrived that morning made it out safely.

By the time the fire was under control, the building was a complete loss. Several million dollars of inventory had gone up in smoke.

Chappano remembers the mayhem and confusion. Misinformation spread by word of mouth and in the media. “One of the real takeaways is that there is no substitute for good communication,” he said. “That’s one of the most important things we have at our disposal on a good day, but it becomes so much more magnified during a crisis.”

Good communication began with his employees. Chappano and his team gathered them offsite to explain the situation and the plan going forward. They offered counseling and encouraged employees to take whatever time they needed to recover from the trauma. There would be no layoffs, but everyone was asked to be willing to perform tasks outside their regular duties as necessary to get the business back on its feet.

“We committed to them, and they committed to us,” Chappano said. “We didn’t lose a single employee.”

Next was keeping the dealers and customers informed and getting systems running again. From temporary quarters, Chappano and staff contacted the other regional distribution centers across the country and discussed logistics for fulfilling orders. A message on the corporate website assured of continued operations. Much of the company’s documentation had previously been transitioned to the cloud, so most vital records were accessible.

“I don’t think we lost any customers as a result,” Chappano said. “It cost us a little money to respond, but that wasn’t even a consideration. Our focus was to take care of folks and to do what we needed to do.”

Rebuilding the physical plant went relatively quickly, with operations and inventory moving into the new facility about nine months later. Still, it was a difficult transition. “That whole first year amounted to a blur,” Chappano admitted. “But things just kicked in. We had great employees, and they all stepped up.”

From the first day of the crisis, Chappano found strength in his Catholic faith. “I found myself praying for help, for guidance, for calm,” he said. “The Lord tests us in different ways, but it’s all in how we respond.”

Chappano said his wife, Mary, “was an absolute rock through this process. I was under a lot of stress, but she was incredibly patient, supportive, and encouraging.” He credits Mary with helping their three children cope as the rebuilding process inevitably required more of his attention.

“If I had not had my faith and my family, I’m not sure what would have transpired,” he said. “That’s clearly what got me through this.”

Passing the cycle test

In 2005, Robert Reynolds and his brother Pete pooled their savings and invested in residential real estate. What immediately followed is what Robert calls a “five-year-long intense learning experience.”

The first years were “blissful,” but the recession years “were quite the opposite,” said Reynolds, a Legate of the Tampa Chapter. Had he known the recession was coming, “I don’t think I’d elect the extreme struggle that ensued.”

To be “cycle-tested” by the Great Recession presented special challenges for the Reynolds brothers. Their options were clear: success or bankruptcy. They knew the markets would turn and improve again someday, but not when. The strategy for survival required flexibility and instinct, and there was little margin for error.

They found themselves overextended in their investments. They had trouble with unreliable service technicians and foremen. Many residents defaulted on rent payments; to fill vacancies quickly, they accepted new renters without upholding high background and credit standards, which only exacerbated their troubles. “A short-term fix and a long-term headache,” is how Reynolds described that strategy. “We learned not to compromise on integrity of both employees and renters.”

To enter the real-estate market in 2005 was not a bold move, he noted, but to fight and succeed during the recession years certainly was. “Perhaps we were hard-headed,” Reynolds mused. “But it worked out. We persevered because we believed in the value we were creating in business and for society through owning and managing apartment homes.”

Fruits of perseverance

That spirit of perseverance was buoyed by realizing the impact of their efforts on the residents they served. “It was very important to us to not just collect rent from tenants, but to acknowledge the dignity and humanity of our residents and their families and seek to understand how we can improve their home and community,” he said. Treated with dignity, the residents took greater ownership in their homes and communities. “This is value creation on many levels, and certainly proved to be critical in maximizing our profits.”

The fruit of this experience was the emergence of Avesta Communities in 2010, just as the recession was winding down. With headquarters in Tampa, Dallas and Austin, Avesta is invested in some 11,000 apartments serving 30,000 residents. Robert and Pete are managing directors.

Avesta continues the vision the Reynolds brothers honed during those recession years. It is guided by a set of core virtues: namely love, faith, hope, humility, servant leadership, stewardship and hard work. “They’re a guideline for creating value in society through business in pursuit of the common good using Christian moral principles and ethics,” Reynolds explained.

Employees, or “teammates” — of which there are currently more than 300 — must commit to the Avesta vision. Hiring virtue over talent, he said, is critical: “You couldn’t bribe me enough to hire someone I didn’t trust after the hardknocks lessons of those recession years.”

Faith is at the foundation of Reynolds’ life, in business and beyond. His wife, Marya, and their five young daughters provide purpose and inspiration.

“My ultimate goal in life is to spend eternity with my family in heaven and to inspire as many other people as possible to seek truth, knowing that doing so will lead them closer to ultimate joy and fulfillment,” he said.

The Franciscan University of Steubenville graduate signs his emails AMDG (Ad Majorem Dei Gloriam — “For the Greater Glory of God”) as a way of keeping himself accountable, he said.

“I want to glorify God in everything I do, and I want my life to be a guide for others that points to something and someone far greater than myself,” Reynolds said. “Many Catholics hesitate thinking you can’t do this in business.

“They’re wrong. You can.”

GERALD KORSON is a Legatus magazine staff writer.

Business’ Hollywood image opposes Christian reality

Al Kresta

Hollywood’s 2014 box-office smash, “The Lego Movie,” opens with the villainous “Lord Business” plotting mass destruction. The movie, inspired by a consumer product, cleverly introduces that product to a wider audience. Ironically, it then presents itself as a warning on consumerism and business. “Only in Hollywood” mused CNBC columnist Jake Novak.

“Hollywood” is a business. It produces commercial products and movies. Nevertheless, movie scripts portray business executives as enemies of the good. They exploit workers, decimate forests, desecrate Native American cemeteries, cheat clients, sabotage rivals, bribe senators, market unsafe toys on children’s networks. And worse, they do so without moral anguish or pangs of conscience. “If the securities business were an individual… it could sue for defamation,” joked one trader. In Hollywood films, business people are bad people.

Why? Critic Michael Fumento suggested “that somebody has to play the bad guy, and it’s getting tougher and tougher to find bad guys who don’t have lobbying organizations.” Producer Barney Rosenwieg speculated that “Blacks, women, Italians, Hispanics, [add LGBTQ and Muslim activists] everyone, really … writes letters complaining about how they’re portrayed on television. That’s why I love businessmen — they don’t write me letters.”

Investor’s Business Daily quotes a screenwriter: “It’s a closed shop policed very strictly through the Department of Labor. Scripts that are pro-business are seen as anti-labor.” Many producers maintain faith that socialism will triumph over capitalism. “It’s impossible for a screenwriter who doesn’t profess…these things to become very successful. You can’t use my name,” he added. “I’ve got a family to feed.”

Catholics see business through a different lens. Business is a divine calling to serve one’s neighbor. Ideally, the Catholic businessman is a quietly heroic, even godly figure engaged in a deeply humane enterprise. Properly understood, it can be a highway to heaven even with the
inevitable speed bumps.

St. John Paul II’s “civilization of love” depends more on business people than politicians, environmental activists, entertainers or leftwing antifa revolutionaries. Why? Because only
business creates wealth. Without businesses creating wealth, politicians would have nothing to redistribute! Environmental activists would lack donors. Entertainers would have no box-office receipts and left-wing antifa revolutionaries would have to move out of their parents’ basement.

According to the Catechism for Business and The Compendium of Catholic Social Doctrine (CCSD), business efficiently and creatively responds to consumer demands by producing useful goods and services. This creates wealth not just for the owners but for all of society (CCSD, 338).

Profit is a necessary indicator of a healthy business. By pursuing profit, business achieves broader social and moral goals like employment, cooperation, problem solving and a corporate culture in which workers enhance their skills. Business also cultivates personal virtues like accountability, punctuality, leadership, organization, patience, trustworthiness, honesty, good stewardship of time, money and materials (CCSD, 340).

Why, then, are movies so anti-business? Because the businessman recognizes limits. He prizes prudence, practicality, efficiency and thrift. These bourgeois virtues cramp Hollywood’s grand style. To succeed, Hollywood must appear larger than life, haloed with magnificence, transcending our conventional, petty concerns. But it’s all a mirage. Hollywood’s “fantasy factories” are subject to the same mundane business realities as the shoe manufacturer. Studios are businesses. The Hollywood ethos denies this. It enchants as it whispers: “We are real wizards. Pay no attention to that little mercenary business man behind the curtain.” Screenwriters and filmmakers traffic in fantasy, dreams, limitless possibilities. They resent those who remind us that we are mere mortals with material and moral boundaries, finite and fallen creatures.

“Lord Business” is ugly because his twisted desires respect no moral boundaries. In reality, however, businesses flourish best within moral limits. Let’s bear witness to that truth. St. Paul exhorts Catholics to be “living epistles” read by all men. People will read us. The only question is “What’s our message?” Has the Catholic faith, has Christ motivated, inspired, healed, guided, sustained, disciplined, consoled you in this moral drama of growing your business while not losing your soul? If so, share the good news. Our nation’s most powerful storytellers don’t seem to know that you can do well even when you are, first of all, committed to doing good.

AL KRESTA is president and CEO of Ave Maria Radio, author, and host of “Kresta in the Afternoon” heard on the EWTN Global Catholic Radio Network.