It’s one thing to practice servant leadership in ministry, but for Hobby Lobby founder and CEO David Green, that calling is also very much one of his company’s best practices.
In his new book,Leadership Not by the Book: 12 Unconventional Principles to Drive Incredible Results, Green lays out what his vision looks like for a thriving work environment, which he emphasizes never involves asking employees or prospective employees about their own deeply held beliefs.
“We don’t, we shouldn't, and we don't even want to,” Green told The Christian Post.
Instead, Green said he strives to create a working environment that focuses on the people who have made Hobby Lobby what it is.
“Hobby Lobby does a lot for our employees because we know they’re so important,” he said, pointing to the company’s minimum wage of $18.50 and closing stores on Sunday.
“We were open [on Sundays] at one time,” Green explained. “That was the busiest day per hour.”
Hobby Lobby also has chaplains available for any employees who request such services, something Green said is aimed at a higher calling.
“We have people that are really fighting for us, and they know they’re not building my wealth,” he said. “They’re doing things that are going to change the Kingdom, something that’s more important than something that's temporal.”
That heavenly orientation sometimes even leads to evangelism opportunities at Hobby Lobby.
Green said one employee — who he described as “really an evangelist” — will often share the Gospel with co-managers, who are brought into the Hobby Lobby corporate office from other retailers, and even give them little pieces of paper where they can say whether they have put their trust in Jesus.
Over the past several years of doing that, Green said about a hundred have received Christ for the first time, while another hundred have rededicated their lives to Him.
Green said it’s something they started about 15 years ago and continued even after his attorney warned about the potential cost of doing so.
“I think we oughta risk,” Green said. “I don’t think we should be pushy. But I think we have something that … we should tell them about. We have a Master, we have a Creator that loves us, that died for us and cares for us. Why should we not tell that story?
“We want to make sure we do that and do it in the right way.”
Doing things the right way also underscores what Green sees as the difference between inheritance and heritage, at least when it comes to his own family.
“The heritage that I want to leave my children is the heritage of serving the Lord and knowing Him, and not billions or millions of dollars. I don’t care to do that at all,” he said. “Some of my worst days are, ‘What do I do with this value and how do I not put a curse on my family?’”
Acknowledging that wealthy people often “have an awful lot of problems,” Green said he wanted to do everything he could to ensure that doesn’t happen with his family.
Earlier this month, Green revealed that 100% of Hobby Lobby's voting stock has been moved to a trust composed of all seven Green family members so stewardship of the company can continue into the future.
He shared a little more with CP about the motivation for that move, saying, "We truly believe that it’s God's business and run it in such a way that it’s His, so the profits do not belong to us."
“Basically, we say that God owns the company. But we don’t only just say it, then we say, what does it look like? And to make it look like that, we took all of our ownership and we put it into 1 percent,” he explained.
“So 100 percent is in 1 percent, and it’s in a trust that seven of us, seven family members all serving the Lord, come together. And that’s what guides our company. “
When it comes to his children and the family business, Green said while the family has never made a dividend “nor do we plan to,” those who do the work earn a salary, just like everyone else.
“It’s real simple in our family — you get what you earn and no more,” he said, adding that a committee decides what Green and his children who are in the business earn.
“Everybody in our family gets a salary based on what they contribute, but no one earns anything in our family that has not come alongside with the family, ‘cause that’s not what God wants for all of them,” he added.
He said he has seven grandchildren that are in some type of ministry, and “that’s OK.”
“God has a plan and we want them to find what God would have for them,” he added.
Like most Christian parents, Green said his greatest hope for his children is to come into a personal relationship with Jesus Christ.
That's why, Green said, he and his wife, Barbara, have been “very intentional” about providing their children and grandchildren with a Christian education, either through homeschooling or at private institutions.
“The most important thing to me is my children serve the Lord far beyond Hobby Lobby,” he said. “I would rather Hobby Lobby would never have even existed if I lost one of my children because of wealth.”
And as for Hobby Lobby’s future, Green said he hopes the retail giant will continue not just after he’s gone, but until the very end of the age.
“We have it set up to be here as long as we can, until Jesus returns,” he said. “We want to use it to tell as many people as we can about the Good News of Christ dying for us while we were yet sinners, so that’s the mission we would like to continue.”
Ian M. Giatti is a reporter for The Christian Post. He can be reached at: firstname.lastname@example.org.