A Voice to Be Heard
eBook - ePub

A Voice to Be Heard

Christian Entrepreneurs Living Out Their Faith

Richard Higginson, Kina Robertshaw

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eBook - ePub

A Voice to Be Heard

Christian Entrepreneurs Living Out Their Faith

Richard Higginson, Kina Robertshaw

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About This Book

Christian entrepreneurs are at the heart of the church's mission.They are dynamic, innovative followers of Christ who are making a major contribution to our society through the companies they run, the products they make and the people they influence. A Voice to Be Heard explains and celebrates their work, mostly through their own words.Theological educator Richard Higginson and former retail entrepreneur Kina Robertshaw have worked together on this ground-breaking study, based on interviews with fifty entrepreneurs. Exploring issues of vision, creativity, relationships, stewardship, integrity, prayer and perseverance, they show how people running their own businesses are exercising crucial roles in building God's kingdom. With the church's encouragement, they have the potential to do even more.'Practical, biblical, informative... this book conveys vividly the voices of Christian entrepreneurs.' Lord Griffiths of Fforestfach'This book is a treasure. From car dealerships to toy stores, A Voice to Be Heard visits particular entrepreneurs at work and reveals their leadership lessons for us all.' Eve Poole 'This book has truth with flesh on. It is a delicious mixture of story and biblical reflection... a truly inspiring read.' Dr R. Paul Stevens

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Gary Grant (Chief Executive, The Entertainer; toy retail)

The Entertainer was founded by Gary Grant and his wife Catherine in 1981, in their home town of Amersham in Buckinghamshire. In 1985 they purchased their second toy shop in nearby Beaconsfield, and in 1991 they opened their third shop in Slough. That was the year in which something very important happened to Gary. He became a Christian. It was a life-changing event.
Gary wondered whether he should remain in his job. He said to an accountant Christian friend, ‘I don’t think being in business and being a Christian are compatible. Is that right?’
His friend replied, ‘They are, but being a Christian and running the business the way that you are may not be compatible.’
In addition, a customer took Gary to task for selling products that were related to Hallowe’en. These conversations led Gary to radically review the way he ran his business. The Entertainer stopped selling Hallowe’en products on the grounds that they celebrated a pagan ritual connected with the occult.
At a time when Sunday trading laws were being relaxed, Gary also took the bold decision not to open on Sundays. He wanted his staff to be free on Sundays to spend time with their families – and he still does. He now says that The Entertainer sells so many products from Mondays to Saturdays that it does not need to open on Sundays. His staff appreciate the regular rest day and so are motivated to work energetically and enthusiastically.
Gary says that decisions that might look as if they would cost the company money have had the opposite effect. ‘In October 1991, when we stopped selling Hallowe’en, we had the most amazing October business that we’ve ever had. God showed me that he could be trusted.’ In 2006–8, when business everywhere was reeling, all of The Entertainer’s major competitors – even those that traded seven days a week – went bust. The Entertainer survived, but it was a very close call. Gary called a company prayer meeting to ask for God’s help; some of the staff who attended each week were not even Christians.
Gary took no pleasure in competitors’ discomfort, but as the upturn came he found himself able to offer jobs to excellent staff who had been made redundant by other companies. Employees ranging from Saturday staff to the accountancy team share bonuses from corporate profits. In addition they receive financial awards for completing various training challenges or giving good customer service.
Gary delights in the joy that the retail sector can bring to people’s lives. ‘I love crazes, when there is a massive demand for things that really get the adrenalin going. Sometimes I go outside and study the expression on people’s faces. I love seeing the delight and pleasure on young children’s faces when there is something they really get excited about.’
Consistent with the biblical principle of tithing, The Entertainer donates 10% of its net annual profits to charity each year. It encourages its 1,000 employees to donate a portion of their salary to charity through Workplace Giving, and 42% of the staff do so. The retailer is also a member of the Pennies scheme, whereby customers are given the option to donate a few pence to charity at the till. So if a customer spends £9.75 they typically round the figure up to £10. On average this generates £5,000 of donations each week and The Entertainer has now raised £1 million for charity, much of it for children’s hospitals.
The Entertainer is now one of the fastest-growing companies in the UK. In 2015 it opened eighteen new stores, rocketing from 100 to 118. At the time of publication, the latest tally was 136, along with six international stores. The Entertainer has also been named as one of The Sunday Times 100 Best Companies to Work For.

David Ball (Chairman, David Ball Group; construction)

Cement plays a vital role in construction as a substance that binds other materials together, notably in the making of concrete. Its manufacture and use have many negative impacts on the environment, producing airborne pollution in the form of dust, gases, noise, vibration and about 5% of global man-made carbon dioxide emissions. But there is now a new concrete available that has been designed with zero cement. Appropriately called Cemfree, it meets the demands of sustainable structural concrete, which are that it should drastically reduce concrete’s carbon dioxide legacy, provide greater durability, require less steel reinforcement and demand less water.
The company that has invented and pioneered Cemfree is the David Ball Group, situated at Bourn, a small village nine miles outside Cambridge. It employs just over sixty people and has an annual turnover of £5.5 million, currently growing at 20% a year. The company was founded in 1970 by David Ball, then a young engineering graduate from Northern Ireland. David started his career with another cement company but fell foul of the managing director because of his confidence in proposing solutions to technical problems. Finding himself out of a job, but continuing to experiment with ingredients and making product samples in his kitchen sink, David set up his own company and won a contract with cement manufacturer Blue Circle. He has never really looked back.
Throughout its history, the company has been at the forefront of technological improvements. In the 1990s, the David Ball Group took the performance of integrally waterproof concrete to a new level as it reformulated PUDLO, the world’s first commercial concrete waterproofing mixture. Re-engineering it around modern architectural needs, David Ball used PUDLO in projects such as refurbishment works at the Royal Albert Hall and the creation of the spectacular Dubai Fountains.
David came to faith under the influence of his parents and has always sought to apply it to his work. He believes that his business contributes to the building of God’s kingdom. He is driven by three key concerns: ‘The first is a passion for quality, making sure the product is right first time, every time. The second is training and education of our staff, along with the training of our customers into the way things work properly. The third is service, service above self. You put the interest of your customer and your client first.’ He believes that commitment to these high standards enhances the quality of life and brings glory to God.
The company is accredited with ISO 9001 and 14001, international manufacturing standards which regulate the industry. As a young man David was initially sceptical about these systems. He was influenced by his mother who regarded such bureaucracy as ‘the mark of the beast’, mentioned in the book of Revelation. But David came to appreciate the value of the ISO. It helped to increase production, reduced defects to zero, won the company government contracts and inspired customer confidence.
David is now in his early seventies. He is less hands-on within the company, but still its owner and chairman. He has become a highly respected figure within the industrial sands, cements and concrete industry. For many years he chaired the Christian organization Chaplaincy to People at Work, which has provided pastoral care for employees in the Cambridge area.

Mark Mitchell (Group Managing Director, Mitchell Group; car dealership)

Mark Mitchell is a born salesman. At the age of seven, he discovered that if he put two hamsters together in a cage, they multiplied quickly. He then took the baby hamsters to school and sold them for 10p each. By the age of fourteen he had secured a loan of £50 from a bank to start a motorcycle business, initially selling the bikes at the gates of his senior school. Mark says, ‘I was too young to ride them, but I bought them from the local paper, and my dad brought them up to school for me. That was when I first became a dealer.’
Mark came from a Christian home, attending St Mary’s Upton on the Wirral, Cheshire. As youngsters, he and his brothers gave the Sunday school teachers ‘so much grief: we were inattentive and I guess quite obnoxious. Most weeks we were bringing various items of livestock – some alive, some dead – anything to take the focus off the week’s Bible story!’ But at the age of eleven, Mark went away on a children’s camp and embarked on a personal relationship with Jesus Christ: ‘1 June 1973 was an evening I clearly remember as the day I decided to follow Jesus Christ and live as his disciple.’
For Mark the urge to sell things, especially objects on wheels, remained strong. While studying economics at Leeds University, he and his friends sold 200 motorbikes in an academic year from their student accommodation. After graduating he worked for Austin Rover and then Ford for several years, harbouring ambitions to run his own company while building up the experience that would equip him to do so.
In 1988 Mark met his future wife and business partner Anita at St Michael-le-Belfrey Church in York. In 1991 the couple invested £50 each to buy a dormant company ‘off the shelf’ and then raised a bank loan of £10,000 to invest in their first petrol service station in Warrington. Soon they had four petrol stations. By 1996 Mark had enough capital to buy a car dealership franchise from Mitsubishi Motors, operating from Eastham in Cheshire. A franchise with Lexus followed.
Like Gary Grant, Mark has taken a stand on Sunday trading. In the entrance to the main Mitchell Group complex, a sign says the opening times are Monday to Saturday, but this is followed by ‘Sunday. At home with the family’. This led to a parting of the ways with Mitsubishi in 2004. The Japanese company stipulated that Sunday trading was mandatory in an area in which the majority of surrounding car dealers were open for business. ‘Given the circumstances,’ Mark says, ‘I had no choice. I couldn’t keep Lexus closed while opening Mitsubishi.’ At the same time, he says, ‘I had no wish to run Mitsubishi down, nor would I ever want to legislate about the Sunday-shopping habits of others.’ He received 150 letters of support from customers for his principled stance.
Mark also planned for the future. He sought and obtained new franchises with Mazda and Skoda. The Mitchell Group’s five-acre complex at Cheshire Oaks is now the home of Lexus Chester, Mitchell Mazda and Mitchell Skoda. The Group has a turnover approaching £50 million and a dedicated staff of 100 people.
Mark is not reticent about sharing his Christian faith. Each Christmas the Mitchell Group celebrates a carol service with about 1,200 of its customers in Chester Cathedral. Mark says, ‘Customers are invited to sing carols and hear the gospel presented gently and sensitively.’ Men’s groups from across the region visit for a ‘Men and Motors’ evening. After they have driven a range of flagship models and enjoyed a ‘behind the scenes’ tour of the premises, a Chinese banquet and drinks are served in the boardroom. The scene turns into an open forum and Mark has ‘the opportunity to reflect on some of life’s challenges and the joys of being a Christian. I’m constantly amazed at how these “no-holds-barred” times prompt immense openness from so many of these guys, who would struggle to raise issues in other settings.’ This is effective Christian witness.

Val King (Managing Director, Rooflight; architecture and construction)

The use of lighting in roofs is fairly recent. The first use of rooflighting on a large scale occurred in huge Victorian buildings such as railway stations, corn exchanges and the Crystal Palace of 1850. Yet a bird’s-eye view of any modern town or city shows it has become an important feature of our buildings.
In the early 1990s, Oxfordshire architect Peter King took the original Victorian cast-iron design and modified it. He innovated the Conservation Rooflight – a high thermal performance, hinged, double-glazed steel unit that sat discreetly flush with the skyline. The design won approval from fellow architects. In 1996 the Rooflight Company was born.
The managing director is Peter’s wife Val. She is an energetic and resourceful woman who has led the company through highs and lows. It is now set on an upward curve. Based at Shipton-under-Wychwood in rural Oxfordshire, the Rooflight Company employs over seventy people and has a turnover of nearly £8 million. The company supports several charities regularly, donating 10% of Rooflight’s profits. It works closely with the Nasio Trust, which supports orphaned children in Western Kenya, providing them with a daily meal, education and medical care. The company has also raised funds to protect people from malaria in Malawi. The provision of nets allows adults and children to avoid harmful insect bites and sleep more safely at night.
For Val, the impact of Christian faith upon her work is mainly in the area of values. The company has articula...

Table of contents

Citation styles for A Voice to Be Heard

APA 6 Citation

Higginson, R., & Robertshaw, K. (2017). A Voice to Be Heard ([edition unavailable]). IVP. Retrieved from https://www.perlego.com/book/1470412/a-voice-to-be-heard-christian-entrepreneurs-living-out-their-faith-pdf (Original work published 2017)

Chicago Citation

Higginson, Richard, and Kina Robertshaw. (2017) 2017. A Voice to Be Heard. [Edition unavailable]. IVP. https://www.perlego.com/book/1470412/a-voice-to-be-heard-christian-entrepreneurs-living-out-their-faith-pdf.

Harvard Citation

Higginson, R. and Robertshaw, K. (2017) A Voice to Be Heard. [edition unavailable]. IVP. Available at: https://www.perlego.com/book/1470412/a-voice-to-be-heard-christian-entrepreneurs-living-out-their-faith-pdf (Accessed: 14 October 2022).

MLA 7 Citation

Higginson, Richard, and Kina Robertshaw. A Voice to Be Heard. [edition unavailable]. IVP, 2017. Web. 14 Oct. 2022.