“Don’t bargain with God. Be direct. Ask for what you need. This isn’t a cat-and-mouse, hide-and-seek game we’re in. If your child asks for bread, do you trick him with sawdust? If he asks for fish, do you scare him with a live snake on his plate? As bad as you are, you wouldn’t think of such a thing. You’re at least decent to your own children. So don’t you think the God who conceived you in love will be even better?” Jesus of Nazareth, The Book
God is a giver. He’s put a little of Himself in us to be givers too. Many people think business is only an exchange of goods and services for money. However, I think there’s a gift in every business transaction. The seller is receiving an amount that exceeds its costs. That’s called ‘profit’ or ‘benefit’. The buyer is receiving something that is more valuable that the cost. That’s called ‘a good deal’. We know that as “Win-Win”. Or, in First Rate language, “Everyone’s a winner!”
Another aspect of giving for me is a grateful heart towards God. Our desire is to give back to God. Since First Rate was God’s idea, we have a practice of giving financially to faith communities and charities to honor God. We are ‘giving back’ to God. The practice reminds me that First Rate is God’s idea.
When Trina and I started First Rate, we had a vision. We knew God was calling us to this business and we wanted it to be successful. We committed to the Lord right away that we would give 10% of our revenue back to Him. The Lord put us to the test immediately, because we went quite awhile before bringing in any money.
Nine months after starting the business, we finally had a customer! The day finally arrived in January 1992 that we received our first check—thirty thousand dollars. We had many needs for that money—all that money—but we knew the plan and knew what we promised. So, without any hesitation, we wrote a check to our local church for three thousand dollars—ten percent of our first customer’s check.
I should add that when we talk about giving, most automatically think only of the giving of money. But that’s far too limiting. Everyone can give money, but we can also give other things, of equal value. Consider the giving of your wisdom, the knowledge you’ve gained over the years, seasoned by your experience. Another huge gift is the giving of your effort. You may not have a lot of money, but you can work! How about volunteering at the rescue mission, helping them help those less fortunate?
Our giving style at First Rate is not for everybody. We do things others do differently and I have no problem with that, as long as you are committed to the principle of giving.
For example, we give ten percent off the top. I know many great companies that give a percentage off the bottom—that’s fine. There are many different ways to be rich towards God.
We give ‘beyond the Temple’ meaning we give to charities beyond a church, synagogue or mosque, although we give to all three of those. We use a broad term we call ‘godly enterprises’ giving us the flexibility to reach out to a variety of communities of faith. Again, we know many wonderful businesses that limit their giving to a more specific focus and we salute them for their commitment to give.
To us, giving isn’t a legal thing. It’s a response thing. We don’t give because we feel like God requires it. We give because we want to acknowledge that First Rate is God’s idea and He has His hand on our enterprise. I believe God loves giving to His children. He’s given First Rate. We honor God with each gift from First Rate to a faith community or charity.
“You can always give without loving, but you can never love without giving”. Amy Carmichael
“You make a living by what you get. You make a life by what you give.” Winston Churchill
Another character trait of God is His generosity.
Giving to our co-workers may be best illustrated by the Ten Year Anniversary trip. When a co-worker at our company has worked with us for ten years, they have earned the right for us to give them something tangible as a way of saying thank you for all that faithful service. Giving is more than an intangible, abstract concept. We put flesh and blood and arms and legs to our giving and wrap it all up in the Anniversary Trip to someplace fun. Like Huntington Beach, CA.
Each year that we have five or more co-workers celebrating ten years with First Rate, Trina and I host a Ten Year Anniversary Trip. The way we see it, how can you truly celebrate a ten year commitment to First Rate if you have to leave your spouse home? So, the Anniversary Trip is for our co-worker and their spouse. Four days and nights of sun and fun at a beach front resort.
Co-workers don’t have to wait ten years to taste the generosity of God at First Rate. Being generous with our co-workers happens every day, every month and every year. Among many ways of giving to our co-workers, here’s a list that comes to my mind:
Our people love it! They really get what it means to be a giving person, a generous person. That’s the kind of message we not only preach at First Rate, it’s the kind of message we want to live out every day.
“Do for others what you would like them to do for you. This is a summary of all that is taught in the law and the prophets.” Jesus of Nazareth, The Book
Giving to the community is what we do at First Rate.
Every April we are part of a luncheon that we call The First Rate Living Luncheon. We hold it in conjunction with National
Youth Service Week and we do it to recognize organizations in our Arlington area who serve our youth. I have always believed the teaching in the Proverbs:
Refresh others and you will be refreshed. Proverbs 11:25
The intent of this luncheon is to refresh those who refresh the youth of Arlington. The awards portion of the luncheon is done in cooperation with the Arlington Alliance for Youth (AAY), an umbrella organization that coordinates services to our youth. Civic clubs, government departments, and businesses participate in this organization and the AAY coordinates the the youth service efforts. They want to make sure charities are spread around, not all focused on one particular issue or area.
The AAY chooses the individuals who will receive the awards that First Rate gives out. We give out three Professional Awards to employees of a youth service organizations and we give three Volunteer Awards to volunteers of an organization. The award includes a check of two thousand dollars, given to a charity in the name of the winner. In a typical luncheon we will give away at least twelve thousand dollars. In addition to the awards, we have a speaker share something specifically for the youth workers. With our whole company in attendance, we want the community service organizations to know how important their work is to us and Arlington. We want them to be refreshed.
How about giving to our community through a basketball game? We were challenged by another business in town to a friendly game of basketball at a local junior high school. The winner of the game would donate five thousand dollars to the school and the loser would donate ten thousand dollars. What a fun event that turned out to be. The afternoon of the game, many of the students and teachers were in the gym. Half rooted for us and the other half rooted for the other team. our First Rate team came to the gym ready to play. It came down to the last few minutes of the game but in the end we came out on top as the victors. (Do you really think I would have shared this story if we didn’t win the game?!) Our opponents wrote the check for ten thousand dollars without any complaint. Of course they were really good sports about the whole thing and it was a wonderful moment to see that money head to such a good cause in our community. Even though we weren’t required to do so, we wrote a check for ten thousand dollars as well.
We love giving to our community.
Here at First Rate, we have a Chaplain.
The role of Chaplain provides the opportunity for First Rate to give to its employees, as well as giving to our customers. And it also allows us opportunities to give to the greater community as well.
So, why would we have a Chaplain on the payroll of our company?
Since the beginning, First Rate has had an emphasis on spiritual growth. We don’t pound people with it. Rather, we ‘sneak up on it’ through relationships.
Yet, as committed as I was to spiritual growth, I didn’t want it led by ‘The Boss.’ It needed to come from someone else.
At a conference, I heard Norm Miller, the President of Interstate Battery. While speaking, he mentioned his company had a fulltime chaplain. He spoke enthusiastically of the value that position brought.
Growing up in a military family, I immediately remembered Chaplains as an important part of our life. If the military had Chaplains, why couldn’t businesses?
That’s how it began. So recently I had a talk with our Chaplain:
“Jud, what have you learned about doing your job?”
“In business it’s so much more about relationships than it is about words. I am here to serve.”
“What’s a typical day?” I asked.
“There is no typical day. Each day is different with a different set of demands and opportunities.”
“I plan and organize special events. I oversee the contribution program, so there are forms to fill out, communications to be made, a fair amount of office work.”
He paused. “Yet, there’s always someone who comes to my office, just to talk. And more often than not, the subject turns serious.”
“Give me an example,” I asked.
“We have an employee whose son plays football at a university in Massachusetts. Her son contacted her to report that his roommate—another football player—had just died. It was a profound shock and loss to that family. When she came to visit me, we simply talked and prayed. That’s what was required. Talking and praying.”
I asked one final question. “The role of Chaplain extends beyond the walls of First Rate. You also have impact on our customers, who in turn have impact on our community, correct?”
Jud nodded. “That’s true, Dave.”
And that’s the topic of our next blog.