“Whoever does not love does not know God, because God is love. … No one has ever seen God; but if we love one another, God lives in us and his love is made complete in us.” The Book
What single word best describes the value your business brings to the world? For me, the one word description for where I work is love.
To fully comprehend why it had to be love, a little background is in order. Most significantly, it is vital for you to understand why and how the company where I work came into being in the first place.
It was 1990.
I was working at SEI, living in Arlington, Texas, driving 30 minutes on I-30 into Dallas every day to and from work, dreaming of another locale—Wayne, Pennsylvania. I wanted to be transferred to that little town just outside of Philadelphia, in the area known as the Main Line, where the corporate headquarters of SEI was located. It was where I needed to go for me to keep moving up in the company. It was logical. It made good business sense. But the Lord had other ideas.
On a hot Saturday morning in July 1990, I was driving on I-30 back to north Arlington from a neighboring city. I exited the interstate highway onto the elevated Collins Street exit. I could see a panoramic view highlighting all of Arlington north of I-30. As I approached the end of the exit, I had a truly extraordinary experience.
“This part of Arlington is where you will have a company that will be the best expression of Who I am.”
It was a voice. But it was more than a voice. I could see Who was speaking. It was God. And He was on the hood of my car.
Believe me, a visual, audible encounter with God is not the stuff of a typical day. But this was no ordinary day. God Himself was directing me to start a business that would become First Rate. 1
Amazing, yes? God gave me a vision that there was a new business coming my way. That business was supposed be an expression of His character in the world. And that business was to be an expression not just to its coworkers and customers, but to its communities as well.
Nine months later in April 1991, I was let go by SEI. Not the way I imagined starting a business. “Are You kidding me?! This is Your way of leading me and my family?” was my first response to God that day. Trina and I spent the next 48 hours huddled up with God and two other couples. I needed Trina’s confirmation about the vision. And we needed help understanding the journey God was taking us. We were clueless about what was coming, but we were certain God’s hand was on us: create a business to be an expression of God’s character! We incorporated First Rate to be that business.
What’s the first characteristic of God that comes to your mind? For me, it’s LOVE. ‘God is love’ rings the most frequently in my mind. Can anyone be an expression of God’s love? Can a group of people be an expression of God’s love? Can a business be an expression of God’s love? I believe the answers are YES! It may not be easy, but it is possible. And for this world, I believe it’s necessary.
If First Rate is famous for only one thing, I hope it’s the way our business loves our co-worker, our customers and our communities. First Rate is an attempt to be an expression of God’s love. That’s why a company called First Rate exists. That’s why the first value for First Rate Living is love .
1. Stone, David A., First Rate Living: In God’s Company. (Arlington, TX: First Rate Publishing, 2011), p. 43.
Not too long ago, I was visiting First Rate Afghanistan. One morning we closed up shop early—right before lunch. We took all our co-workers out to an enjoyable lunch. Then the fun really began.
We went bowling. In Kabul, Afghanistan! Guess how many of the fifteen had ever been bowling before that afternoon? (Hint: it’s very familiar in Afghanistan.) Zero. Not one had ever held a bowling ball, slipped on multicolored shoes, or tried making a strike or a spare.
They loved it. And we loved providing it for them.
That’s how love works.
Everyone has their own stories, all equally powerful in their own unique way. Recently I sent out an email, asking my co-workers if they wanted to share what First Rate meant to them, just hit the reply button. Here is part of what Steve Schneider shared:
It was a month after I started my new career at First Rate. I received a chilling phone call from my mother at work. She was very upset and crying uncontrollably. She said that my grandmother had just been stabbed more than 60 times by a man from her retirement community and she was barely clinging to life in the hospital.
I was stunned in disbelief. I spoke with my manager, Craig Weitz and he told me to take as much time as I needed to help with my grandmother. The outpouring of sympathy and support I received from everyone in the company was truly unbelievable.
I flew down to be with my family and my grandmother. Upon entering the hospital room, my eyes were immediately drawn to a very beautiful flower arrangement that somebody had sent my grandmother. As I looked at the card that was attached, my heart started racing. The flowers were from First Rate, my new company!
In all the years I had worked I had never encountered such compassion and love like I received. This is the culture of First Rate, Inc. Caring and loving and ready to help in any situation. I am proud to be part of something so great.
First Rate is committed to showing love to our co-workers. And we want it to be a love that is tangible, practical, and seen through a demonstrative expression.
“Love the Lord your God with all your passion and prayer and muscle and intelligence—and that you love your neighbor as well as you do yourself. But just how would you define ‘neighbor’?”
Jesus answered by telling a story. “There was once a man attacked by robbers. They took his clothes, beat him up, and went off leaving him half-dead.
Luckily, a priest was on his way down the same road, but when he saw him he angled across to the other side. Then a religious man showed up; he also avoided the injured man.
A man of different ethnic background traveling the road came on him. When he saw the man’s condition, his heart went out to him. He gave him first aid, disinfecting and bandaging his wounds. Then he lifted him into his car, took him to a hospital, and made him comfortable. He took out his money and gave it to the hospital, saying, ‘Take good care of him. If it costs any more, put it on my bill—I’ll pay you on my way back.’ “What do you think? Which of the three became a neighbor to the man attacked by robbers?”
“The one who treated him kindly,” the religion scholar responded.
Jesus said, “Go and do the same.”
In 2010, Tod Robberson wrote an article about a friend of mine in The Dallas Morning News. An excerpt will introduce this amazing man who helps us love our community in a very tangible manner.
Nothing focuses an audience’s attention like the voice of authority, and there is no question that John Carter, a coach at Lincoln High School in South Dallas, has it when he calls together students and parents alike for the monthly meeting of his Turner 12 group.
He asks everyone to stand, and with minimal prompting, parents and students alike recite the group’s mantra in unison:
“Whatever you can visibly imagine, whatever you can sincerely believe, whatever you can ardently desire, whatever you can enthusiastically act upon, it will inevitably come to pass.”
Carter founded the Turner 12 a decade ago with an eye toward guiding parents and children to work as a team, focusing on excellent grades and college graduation. The program started with 12 middle school students from the 294-unit Turner Courts public housing project in South Dallas. It was an environment with precious few examples of success. Carter says he checked statistics and found that, in the entire decade before he began the program, only six kids from Turner Courts had attended college.
All the original Turner 12 graduated from high school and 11 went to college. Over the years, Carter has gradually raised the performance bar…
The love John Carter gives that group is extraordinary. I meet John monthly—we talk sports, family, and life. He calls me ‘Uncle Dave’ and I call him ‘Coach.’ Recently I met up with him.
“I just saw The Dallas Morning News article, so I wanted to love on you.”
“I know for certain you love me, because you and Trina love people. That’s the key. There’s so much about our lives that’s different but not that. We both love people. We see it in the life of Jesus. He came to show His love for people. I love you. You love me. First Rate loves the Turner 12. You know how I know that, Uncle Dave?”
“By the way you love. First Rate demonstrates its love by the cheerfulness in which you love the Turner 12. You connect. You listen. You touch. And it’s all because of love.”
At one of our annual customer conferences, one of our co-workers, Kate Baird, became aware that one of our customers, Donna, was going through an agonizing divorce. Kate decided we needed to love on her and take some action. A few weeks later, Kate gathered a couple other First Rate women to have a “Women’s Retreat”. Donna needed a place to get away from the continual stress and strain going on due to the pending divorce.
“We didn’t even ask her if she wanted to join us,” Kate recalls with a chuckle. “We just sent her a plane ticket and told her to show up.”
The ladies chose to retreat on the shore of the beautiful Texas lake. They found a Resort and Spa that had all the good stuff they were looking for.
“It wasn’t a big gathering,” Kate reflected. “There were four women besides Donna. We enjoyed the spa. We ate good food. We rested. We rode four-wheelers. We even participated in a champagne tasting.
“But mainly we talked,” Kate continued. “All of us got to share with Donna about the imperfections in our own lives. That meant a great deal to her at that time in her life.”
As a result of the retreat, a bond occurred. “We forged a nice community as a result of the retreat,” Kate remembered. “We started meeting together regularly, although some of the meetings were ‘virtual’ online. We reached out to her through Facebook as well. Every time she posted something on Facebook, it was a member of the First Rate family who would be the first to respond.
“We developed a deep and meaningful relationship of love that all started through business. It wasn’t motivated by getting more business, either–it was reciprocal.”
Time has passed and Donna has gone through a great deal of healing. But if you ask her about the days of crisis, she will point to those wonderful women at First Rate as a real lifesaver in the days of her deep waters.
“The story of how we were able to help Donna is a model of what is going on here at First Rate,” Kate says today. “If we have a client who says to us ‘I am going through a really rough time’ they don’t need to worry about First Rate writing them off. No way.”