Integrity and the Entrepreneur
Integrity and the Entrepreneur

Integrity and the Entrepreneur

Seeking to affirm the entrepreneur and all of the challenges she faces, Comment asked for stories of unexpected challenges to integrity.

Comment asked a few small business owners, individual freelancers, and leaders of small organizations to

"tell us a story of your work presenting an unexpected challenge to your integrity—the context, your reaction, and the consequences.

"These need not be happy-ending stories. But we are seeking to affirm the entrepreneur and all of the challenges she faces in pursuing 'enterprising innovation, patient investment, frugal management, skilful collaboration, and fair exchange.'"

—The Editors

Technology has two edges, and the seller of technology cannot control all the ways in which it will be used. (For instance, the porn industry is an early adopter of all new computer, video, and entertainment technology.) Inevitably, technologies will be used for good and evil, for what is wise and what is foolish. Exercising discernment requires keeping this tension always on one's mind. Being a technological romantic is no more biblical than being a Luddite. The hard work is staying in the midst of the tension, living with cognitive dissonance.

One area of significant tension is video games—an arena into which I have entered as an entrepreneur. New York Times reporter Chris Suellentrop was right when he wrote, "Video games have created what must be the biggest generation gap since rock 'n' roll." My grown children play video games. I do not. I find myself in catch-up-mode learning a language, world, and immersive experience that cannot be fully appreciated apart from some participation. And yet, my company will sell sophisticated computer technology to video game developers that will enable them to make their virtual worlds more real and their profits more abundant. This discussion is not abstract. And yet, I realize that I must withhold quick judgment. To be discerning, I must hold my own biases in check.

Likewise, those immersed in the business of video games or those who have never questioned their value would do well to develop a more critical eye. Few advocates of video games are willing, in conversations and panel discussions, to discuss their addictive nature, while twelve-step programs are being created in South Korea for video addiction.

Video games are powerful, immersive, and potentially far more influential than narrative film. Here is a world of active participants, not passive watchers. The narrative flow follows the player's own actions and choices, even as the player is constrained by the game's structure. Playing video games is a heart-racing, adrenaline-pumping experience, a structured practice that inevitably shapes the participants' moral imagination. As philosopher James K.A. Smith observes, "Secular liturgies don't create our desire; they point it, aim it, direct it to certain ends."

Dallas Willard adds, "Images, in particular, are motivational far beyond our conscious mind, and they are not under rational control . . . Ideas and images are, accordingly, the primary focus of Satan's efforts to defeat God's purposes with and for mankind. When we are subject to his chosen ideas and images, he can take a nap or a holiday."

So we can no longer afford to be naïve about what video games teach us. As Christian video designer Bill Slease acknowledges in Gamesauce, "It turns out games are really, really good teachers. The scary part for me is that I know very few game developers who are consciously considering what their life's work teaches others." Whether one is an amateur or an aficionado, discernment requires going beyond one's own overly critical or overly complimentary assessment. We must find our way to an uncomfortable middle ground.

Discernment is messy, painted in shades of grey when simplistic answers and stark contrast are sought. It is not easy to discuss discernment in a sound bite world. Messy topics require longer, nuanced conversations. So integrity in a fallen world often requires mucking about in a world of tough choices, mixed results, and muddled motivations. Acknowledging this is the beginning point of marketplace discernment.

John Seel, president, nCore Media

When I am asked to tell a story of an unexpected challenge to my integrity as a Christian running a small business, I am struck with the same wave of nausea I experience when people ask for my conversion testimony. In both cases, I don't have any flashy stories. I grew up a Christian—no biker gangs to turn from or drugs to give up. And in my business I have been very blessed to work almost entirely with clients of integrity.

For me, the biggest challenge is so small as to almost be imperceptible. My company offers graphic design services—logo design, book layout, websites, and such. For these services, I charge by the hour and break down my hours into fifteen-minute blocks. And there is the rub. Every day, all day long, little by little, I am confronted with the need to decide: Am I going to steal, cheat, and lie to my neighbour . . . by rounding up? I have to round my time up or down. I never work on a project for exactly fifteen minutes.

Yes, rounding up isn't a spectacular sin, nor is rounding down a monumental triumph. But do remember, as His Abysmal Sublimity Under Secretary Screwtape writes in C.S. Lewis's The Screwtape Letters: "It does not matter how small the sins are provided that their cumulative effect is to edge the man away from the Light out into the Nothing. Murder is no better than cards if cards can do the trick. Indeed the safest road to Hell is the gradual one—the gentle slope, soft underfoot, without sudden turnings, without milestones, without signposts . . ."

Ned Bustard, principal,

The New York City Department of Education employment contract that I held in my hands in the spring of 2002 presented me with two alternatives, both of which attack—and perhaps completely undermine—Christian integrity. In my previous work in the financial services, I had been reprimanded for discussing issues of ultimate commitment in the workplace over lunch; in the DOE, non-proselytism was an explicit condition of employment. Having already been accepted into the NYC Teaching Fellows program, and having resigned my position in financial services, I faced a dilemma in this piece of paper. I could deny the claims of the gospel over all of life by signing a document saying that I wouldn't speak it in the workplace, or I could sign the document and breach integrity by continuing to speak the good news. I saw no way—and continue to see no way—for a Christian to retain integrity in embracing Jesus Christ as Lord of all and signing a document agreeing not to speak the good news of Christ. In becoming a teacher, I compromised my integrity.

Specifically, I chose the second breach of integrity. On one occasion, I sat in the main office with a parent and child within earshot of the secretarial staff and explained, "I'm taking off my teacher hat now, because I'm not supposed to talk to you about this. But I think that there is something spiritual going on here . . ." That didn't remove the tension, or the breach of integrity.

My experience of ideological hegemony forced me into entrepreneurship: to start an organization that had integrity and created space for the integrity for its employees in addressing the most trenchant educational problems of our time. That may be the one good consequence of that heavy-handed contract.

Graham Scharf, co-founder,

In my last year of high school, I was shopping at a jeans store called The Black Sheep in the Guildford Mall in Surrey, British Columbia. The people there knew me well. They'd generously bought an ad in our high school newspaper when I came around selling space, and kindly let me have the run of the store when I came back with my camera to take the "creative" photos for the ad. On this day, though, I wasn't selling and, it turned out, I wasn't buying, either.

Walking out empty-handed, I sensed one of the clerks following me. At the door, he stopped me and asked bluntly: "What are you hiding under your coat?" I was stunned. And not just by his accusation of shoplifting. As I opened my coat to show him that the "hidden" object he'd seen was the belt pouch I always wore to carry keys and such, a buzz went through my head: "Did I steal something without realizing it?" Even as I protested, "I'm not a thief," an echo voice was asking: "Am I"? He apologized and smiled a weak can't-be-too-careful smile.

Outside, I had to sit for long minutes to regain my composure. Not because of the clerk. He was doing his job. What left me sick was my doubt of myself. There had been an assault on my integrity, and I had led it. I knew with certainty I wasn't a thief. But something was warning me not to take that for granted in perpetuity.

We think of integrity as consistency between word and deed. But it's also awareness of the divergence between what we are and what we could be. Integrity is a subset of humility. Knowing the wrongs we are capable of committing is the best way I know to avoid being caught off guard doing right.

Peter Stockland, Senior Fellow, Cardus

Look at the mission statements or advertising slogans for organizations from local small businesses to multinational not-for-profits, and it won't take long to stumble onto the word "integrity." Organizations that understand the important role trust plays in customer relations are often quick to insert words like "integrity" into their marketing messages. But in the battle for mindshare, integrity has become an unfortunate casualty—reduced to little more than a meaningless buzz word. And I confess that my own industry has been complicit here.

But integrity is much more than a word in a mission statement. And trust is much harder to earn than just saying, "Trust me."

Recently, a brochure for a local mayoral candidate boasted, "I believe in honesty. I believe in integrity. I believe in accountability." As a voter I thought, "So what? We all value those things. What I want to know is: How will you achieve those things?"

Which is why every time a client comes to our firm and says, "We want to be perceived as X," we ask, "Well, are you X?" Challenging clients this way can be awkward, confrontational, and a little unnerving at times. But if we don't ask this simple question—and seek evidence of same—we risk becoming accomplices in a deception which both misleads consumers and hurts our clients' business.

A 1992 Gallup poll asked American consumers to rate 26 different professions according to the degree to which they trusted them. Advertising practitioners came in 25th, rating only 8% on ethics.

The world is desperate for individuals and organizations who do what they say they will do. As a marketer, I have a responsibility to get real and tell the truth. If I do that consistently over time, perhaps people will be able to judge the brands vying for their attention better, and arrive at a different view of the marketers who shape those brands.

Jason Bouwman, principal, Compass Creative

"Kirstin!" I paused from my three-day floor-sanding marathon to see what my husband Rob wanted. "Did you move the ceiling fans?"

"No. Aren't they on the shelves, by all of the lighting stuff?" He left to look for the boxes again in the basement, while I continued sanding.

August 2009 found us between homes. We had moved out of our rented house, but the apartment we were renovating above our fair trade store in Three Rivers, Michigan was not yet finished. We laid our heads in temporary beds while we worked every waking moment to finish our new home, pushing ourselves to the point of physical and emotional exhaustion. In the meantime, most of our household stuff was in storage about a mile away, but the items we considered particularly tempting for taking, we'd stored in the basement below the store along with various supplies we'd amassed for the renovation. The basement was accessible from the store by a tucked-away staircase, but we trusted our volunteers with our own belongings as much as we trusted them each day with the assets of the store.

In the middle of re-finishing the floors, we discovered that our new ceiling fans were missing from the basement storage area, along with various owned and borrowed power tools, handfuls of CDs, a borrowed video projector . . . Calling the police to report the incident was nothing more than a necessary gesture for insurance claims. In six years of overseeing the volunteer-run store, we'd handed out dozens of keys, including, most recently, to contractors who needed to access the building when we weren't available.

In the weeks following, we changed locks and handed out new keys to our volunteers, but we also continued to discover new rounds of theft—the cash from the off-site sale cash box, more tools, a space heater. We exhausted our ability to make insurance claims. I began to live in constant fear, turning the possibilities over and over again in my mind. Who was stealing from us? Who would do this to us? I didn't think it could be any of our volunteers. I didn't want to think it could be any of our volunteers. I wanted to quit. I wanted to sleep forever. I wanted to scream, and sometimes I did. When we finally moved into our apartment above the store about five weeks after discovering the first theft, it was not a home. Every noise was cause for suspicion and the nights on Main Street, even in a small town, are full of sounds. Each time we discovered more items missing, the wound re-opened and we were raw with grief. Each time, we hoped it would be the last and the memory could simply fade away. We could live with an unsolved mystery as long as it allowed us to avoid the answer we feared.

But this story takes place on a level other than just the personal. We had a couple dozen volunteers who grieved deeply with us, but also felt the heaviness of being key holders who were inherently suspect as long as the question of responsibility went unanswered. We had a board of directors whose hearts were broken with ours, even as they felt helpless to do anything about the situation. And yet, the support of our volunteers and board members was indispensible. Together, we resisted suggestions like security cameras that would have instituted a culture of suspicion and accepted actions like installing a locking door on the basement to create appropriate boundaries between personal and private space. With the board, we crafted a statement about how our community would respond, concluding:

Theft, like other breaches of trust, is dehumanizing to us all and injures both victims and perpetrators. The person who stole from our building stole not just property, but the opportunity to be helpful and bear one another's burdens. In the face of this act, we maintain our commitment to cultivate a humanizing community of help and hope, justice and sanctuary, trust and care—both for the people we serve around the world and right here in our own community.

The statement was an attempt to express and live out of the shared commitments that we, as a board, had been intentionally seeking to nurture. Just a month before the first theft was discovered, our entire board had gone through a two-and-a-half-day anti-racism workshop—a fact which became increasingly both ironic and appropriate as we realized with gut-wrenching sorrow that the culprit was one of our newer volunteers, an African-American male. Because the board shared a foundational understanding of systemic racism, we were able to proceed wisely and discern together how to express our messy blend of anger, grace, sorrow, and forgiveness, both in word and action. We cried together not only for ourselves, but for all of the brokenness in the world as we called the police on the night the answer to the mystery became clear.

I read in the paper several months ago that our former volunteer is back in jail—the next chapter in a life of addiction and crime that I had desperately hoped was not inevitable. Then, I noticed a for sale sign in front of the home he used to share with his family. My anger has faded, but the grief remains and it's inextricably mixed with gratitude. I am grateful for the shared mission, collective care and discernment, and common language of systemic injustice that carried all of us to the other side of a difficult time.

Even though the immediate crisis has passed and our consciences are clear about our actions in the midst of it, we and our board members and our volunteers share an acute awareness that the work is far from over. How do we create culture that defies our persistent tendency to privilege some at the expense of others? How do we cultivate spaces of compassion and creativity that radically reroute destructive cycles in our community, for young and old alike? How do we grow a corporate culture that invites life-giving expressions of and responses to our private hurts and needs? How do we collectively embody trust, transparency, confession, and forgiveness? I hope that, as a community of board members and volunteers at World Fare, we can continue to ask and, in very practical ways, seek to answer these questions in partnership with one another.

Kirstin Vander Giessen-Reitsma, co-founder, *culture is not optional

Over six years I have helped build a unique company called PharmMD, which is dedicated to serving patients with needs around their medication use. As part of the mission and purpose of the company, we established six key values. Each of these values are introduced on the first day of the job and reinforced by traditions within the company. As we have grown and added employees over the years, the values have been the one steady constant that holds everyone accountable. One of these core values is integrity.

The first test of both my own integrity and the company's has been a repeated question through the years. Will PharmMD and Bo Bartholomew do what they say? Countless times, we have been tempted to oversell our services; in the early days, when payroll was tight, we were tempted simply not to confront the reality of the situation. The more I stepped up to share the brutal facts (as Jim Collins exhorts in Good to Great), the more the company rose to the occasion. As the CEO, I battled with whether to share the full truth of the situations or simply to "protect" the employees from the larger business concerns. With clients, the challenge of being realistic versus selling them what they want to hear when it is so easy to oversell is fundamentally a question of integrity.

In a similar manner, the CEO may be tempted to share only the good news—and not the bad—with the board. There have been many times when the news was far from positive; I could have easily half-presented those parts, while emphasizing the rosy parts of the picture. After sharing the tough facts time and again, one learns to trust in the outcomes as part of business. My chairman once complimented me by saying I wouldn't sweat when facing the barrel of a gun. I only credit this to having my own integrity intact.

The CEO is the only one whose role has him with one foot in the employee camp and the other on the board. In this unique role, the impact of a decision on the company is exponential. My own level of integrity is revealed when the board and the employees trust me, and reflected in the integrity of the company itself and the services we provide. And I truly believe we are the highest quality producer of the services we deliver and are not just selling for the sake of selling.

Bo Bartholomew, CEO, PharmMD

When starting two not-for-profit ventures, the greatest challenge I experienced in integrating my values and my actions was in determining how (and whether) to engage my friends and family members, particularly when it came to requesting financial support.

I don't like to feel used, and I don't want those I care about to feel used, either. Christ's Golden Rule became my guideline in this difficult area. I'd ask myself, "How would I feel if this person came to me with the same request I'd like to take to him?" It helped me think through how and whether to approach people—and reminded me to value the relationship over the advancement of my business.

But I do want my friends and family to come to me with their requests and needs, and I hope they want me to do the same. So, just as often as the Golden Rule has given me pause, it has also given me courage to ask boldly.

As with prayer, asking for money is a discipline that bears fruit beyond the direct financial results. I've been profoundly encouraged (and sometimes surprised) by those who have supported my work. I've also felt hurt when others have chosen not to. But these feelings remind me of the beginning of the whole cycle of questioning. If I am really loving my friends and family, and not just using them for what they can do for me, then I can't measure their love against the size of their cheques.

Luann Jennings, founder, Church and Art Network

In our sheet metal production facility, it wasn't in our best interest to consider custom jobs unless business was slow. When we did take them on, we made sure there was ample margin to account for the inefficiencies inherent to custom work. As it happened, a custom job came along and it was sizable enough to merit our attention. We quoted it as per our usual formula for custom work and faxed it off to the customer. They were pleased with the price and the time on delivery, so we won the job.

Then we were informed by our supplier that the raw material costs were going to be significantly lower than we had expected. We had already quoted the job, and the pricing had been accepted by the customer. We were suddenly faced with the prospect of making far more on the job that we had ever anticipated.

The simple solution would have been to say "thank you" for life's little blessings and head off to the bank to make a larger-than-expected deposit. After all, business is business. But so-called "good business" is often at odds with "good Christian living." After considering the matter, we decided to pass the savings on to the customer. We didn't make a big deal out of it. We just explained the situation and adjusted our invoice accordingly.

Did we change the world? Probably not, but we made a customer happy, we maintained our ethical standards, and we might have even given someone out there who had previously been cynical about business an example of what "good business" can actually look like.

Jerry Groen, co-founder, Groen Metal Products

As an architect, I have to work hard to gain the trust of my clients. They need to feel that I have their best interests at heart, and, most of the time, I do.

The challenge to my integrity comes in trying to win new clients. Institutional clients almost always choose their architects in competitive interviews—interviewing several teams of design professionals to find the best fit. In these interviews, it is common for a naive client to ask something like "Is this the main project you'll be working on?"

The short, truthful answer to that question is no. In nearly every case, my firm has other clients to serve, all at various stages in the design and construction process. The project at hand probably fits nicely into the normal ebb and flow of work in our shop. But "no" is not the answer this client wants to hear. So the answer I usually give is something that amounts to a "yes," although it may not contain that particular word.

The honest approach, explaining how great I am at multi-tasking or how all these other projects are winding down, doesn't work. The dilemma I am faced with as a business person is whether to give the short, honest answer that will result in guaranteed failure, or a longer, more convoluted answer that leaves the desired impression but is less than entirely honest.

Prospective clients like professionals who give short, direct answers to simple questions. Long answers sound evasive, and often are. But in this case, a long, winding, never-quite-answers-the-question answer is the only way to stay in the game. Either that or an outright lie. It seems foolish to me to bet the future success of my firm on a strategy almost guaranteed to fail (in other words, the plain truth), but I've never gotten comfortable with the varnished version that, while not a lie, comes painfully close to it.

David Greusel, principal, Convergence Design LLC

In a world where everybody's a publisher, the ethical standards for reporting news and sharing opinions are crumbling, even within the Church.

Our denomination recently debated an issue that would affect churches financially and politically. Well-meaning men, naturally, disagreed. And in the spirit of healthy debate, they weighed in on the issue.

For some, the Internet and individual blogs became a primary platform, and from there a number of advocates brought a wide, wide range of perspectives—but not every blogger bothered with facts.

Those who publish, and especially those that call themselves magazines or newspapers, have a responsibility to find and report the truth. They have a duty to verify the information they publish. Even opinions and editorials, when responsibly published, must be based on evidence that has been objectively gathered and thoughtfully weighed. ("Objective," in this context, means "based on observable phenomena and presented factually." Nobody is or has a responsibility to be impartial.) But in too many cases these days, there's little regard for verifiable truth, and little notion of journalistic integrity.

The ethical dilemma, then, came in the tension between fairness and truth. So many who had an opinion on this issue were misinformed; their opinions and attitudes—sincerely held—were based on false notions.

And so the questions are these:

  1. If our primary obligation is to the truth, how can we be fair to those who are factually wrong?

  2. How do we respect the opinions of sincere brothers who are misinformed?

  3. And what about those who do the misinforming? How do we hold people accountable without becoming divisive?

Richard Doster, editor, byFaith Magazine

As a Christian fundraiser, my integrity is challenged by the gap between my aspirations and the actual achievements of my organization.

At one level, this may be a problem of personality: Some of us are flaming idealists for whom the fulfillment of a vision seems just around the corner, while others find solace and deep soul satisfaction in a job well-done and documented. The former tend to populate the ranks of fundraisers (not surprisingly), and the latter the ranks of accomplished businesspeople and professionals who really do know how to make things happen (and generate the wealth). The problem is that this personality gap can often be misinterpreted as an integrity gap.

There is also the reality that the early stages of a project will necessarily involve more aspiration than achievement. Consider a K-12 school (the aspirational objective of the institutional leader) where in its early stages of development only three grades (K-2) are being offered (actual achievement). I suggest that the fundraiser committed to integrity will report the achievement while also constantly casting the aspirational vision.

In the final analysis, the integrity issue ought to hold a place of prominence in the soul of the fundraiser. Since the truth sets us all free, as Jesus said, then as a fundraiser I must interrogate myself in order to maintain integrity: To what degree do I rationalize my aspirational vision as an excuse for a failure to achieve? I was reminded of this very issue as I thought about a recently-deceased Christian friend who once was a faculty member at a well-known Christian college headed by an extremely prominent public figure. He lost his job when he confronted the president (also now deceased) with evidence of outright fabrication in fund-raising materials. No doubt, the president had rationalized the materials in terms of worthy aspirational objectives. The path between our high aspirations and our actual achievements is slippery. A fall costs us our integrity.

Robert Osburn, founder, The Wilberforce Academy

Graphic designers lead strange lives. We like to create, but more importantly, we like to create for other people. We design for the purpose of telling someone else's story—using our skills to visually represent another person's vision. It can be a wonderfully collaborative process one time and an exercise in patience the next. The struggle lies in trying to maintain our own personal artistic integrity, forever conscious that the client could stomp all over our work at any time, then conveniently forget to pay us.

I've never had a client hijack a project, and the bills are always paid eventually, but in my first summer as a freelance designer, my integrity was challenged in a very unexpected way. The project? A book cover design for a collection of letters penned from the perspective of Jesus to society's most marginalized, with the working title From Jesus. I immediately envisioned a simple, typographic cover design. With a title like that, less is more.

However, as I reached the end of the creative brief, the author conveyed a request. She had envisioned a particular cover for the book since its inception. She wanted a picture of Jesus, at a desk, writing a letter. With that request, every horrible image of Christian kitsch I'd ever seen flooded into my mind—Jesus playing soccer, Jesus at a hunting lodge, Jesus holding a dinosaur (google it). Every scathing comment from my favourite art professor rang like gong in my ear: "Kitsch kills art!"

As I reread the brief, I knew I couldn't do it. I could not carry out the client's vision. I could not forsake my Seerveldian aesthetic duty so flippantly! And this was certainly not why I spent four years completing my B.A. in art (despite the fact that art classes always fell in the 8:00 am timeslot).

So, with a series of carefully penned emails, I mapped out an alternate route for the client. I suggested she opt for something more mysterious, less literal, and ultimately, more effective. I suggested she choose something simple to convey the weight of her message, opening her eyes to the rich world of visual metaphors, and I designed something I was proud of.

Interestingly enough, the book stalled, and my cover never made it to a shelf. But the client compensated me fairly for my time, and thanked me for my honesty. I quickly contacted my old art professor and gave him full permission to use this story it in a lecture someday.

Julie Van Huizen, principal, Jubilee Creative

Saint Paul commended the tactic of becoming "all things to all people . . . for the sake of the gospel" (1 Corinthians 9:22-23). Yet in my line of work, as a director of a Christian study centre based at a major state university, a facile application of this seemingly straightforward biblical teaching can easily compromise a more basic commitment to integrity. It's not uncommon for me in a given week to share coffee or a meal with both believing and unbelieving faculty and students, to venture out to the suburbs to work with a pastor or a church group, and to articulate our mission and vision to evangelical and mainline Protestants (of a variety of denominational backgrounds), Roman Catholics, and Orthodox Christians. Of course, all these men and women hold a wide variety of political, social, and economic commitments.

I suppose when your organization's mission is to "bridge church and university" in our peculiarly secular age, you should expect to feel pulled in many directions. Certainly our institutional mission provides some clear boundaries, and our trustees and donors and partnering churches also in various ways hold us accountable. Yet the challenge to integrity is often more subtle. It happens when particular individuals or communities, for perfectly understandable reasons, want us to look a little more like them than we actually do or can. It happens when people approach us with attractive (and even funded) proposals for partnerships that might pull us inordinately in a direction that we'd want to disguise to other parts of our constituency. And it happens, often, sitting across a table in a restaurant or coffee shop when someone makes a simple, rhetorical statement communicating some kind of tacit knowledge about the world that he or she believes you and your organization share—but that you don't.

Integrity, in these moments, insists that you clarify your position and identity, that you refuse to become who you are not, that you decline some convenient partnerships. These are short-term losses, perhaps. But the good news is that most things worth doing require strong and transparent partnerships based on mutual trust over time. And for this kind of work, integrity is fundamental.

Bryan Bademan, executive director, the MacLaurin Institute

What do you do when you are faced with two bad choices, and don't know which is the least of the two evils? After working for 16 years on Capitol Hill, I started a new firm called The Clapham Group, named after the small community of evangelicals outside London at the turn of the eighteenth century, committed to ending the slave trade and addressing other social concerns.

One of the areas of our work is in the promotion of films that are "conduits" of meaningful conversation or are culture character shaping. After a series of rather dark R-rated films, we undertook a more light-hearted marketing project for the Jonas Brothers—in 3D! Why, you might ask? The homeschooled brothers have been a modest push back against the onslaught of sexual imagery that our tweens are assaulted with, and their willingness to take heat for wearing chastity rings was certainly worth promoting.

We hired approximately 20 "field staff" around the country, and contracted them to undertake regional promotion activity. Our cash flow was tight as a new firm, and the first payment to us was basically sufficient to cover the initial phase of their efforts. The final payments were contingent on my firm's being paid, but there was a date certain for payment in our contracts for the subcontractors.

Unfortunately, the corporation's payment to us was delayed, and it actually appeared uncertain whether it would come at all. We did not have the cash flow nor the assurance that we could fulfill our contract to the 20 field staff. Either we pay them, or we pay ourselves. The staff gathered and prayed. And prayed.

Finally, we agreed together to pay the others and (hopefully only) delay our salaries until the payment was received. God did provide, and Clapham was able to make up for lost salary to its (small) staff. It meant some modest hardship, but at the end we could glorify God for His provision and faithfulness.

Mark Rodgers, President, The Clapham Group

Sam "Bo" Bartholomew, III
Sam "Bo" Bartholomew, III

Bo Bartholomew is President, CEO and Co-Founder of PharmMD Solutions, a medication therapy management company based in Nashville, Tennessee. Prior to helping form PharmMD, Mr. Bartholomew served as Vice President of Business Development for Integration Management, Inc. He also served as managing partner of Integration Ventures, LLC, a joint venture partner of Integration Management that worked to leverage healthcare data expertise and technology to improve employer healthcare costs and managed care company profitability. Bo also worked with Hospital Corporation of America (HCA) building and running hospitals after his tour serving with the United States Army Corps of Engineers as a combat engineer working with landmines and explosives.

Ned Bustard
Ned Bustard

I am the owner of an illustration and graphic design firm called World's End Images. I received my B.A. in art from Millersville University of Pennsylvania. I have done work for various clients ranging from the Publication Society of the Reformed Episcopal Church, White Horse Inn, and Christians in the Visual Arts, to ICI Americas, Macy's West and Armstrong World Industries. I was the art director for the late, great, alternative Christian music publication, Notebored Magazine. Much of my current work is for Veritas Press, for whom I have also written a number of books including Legends & Leagues or Mr Tardy Goes From Here to There, The Sailing Saint, Ella Sings Jazz, and a historic novel, Squalls Before War: His Majesty's Schooner Sultana.


Download and Share Articles From The Comment Reader

An introduction to Public Theology for the Common Good

Want more of the same fresh, thought-provoking content delivered right to your inbox once a week?