“As for the mystery of the seven stars that you saw in my right hand, and the seven golden lampstands: the seven stars are the angels of the church, and the seven lampstands are the seven churches.”

– Revelation 1:20

THE NUMBER SEVEN AND BUSINESS PLANNING

One of my favorite things in helping a business or a businessperson is to review the company’s or the individual’s strategic plan or purpose. How do they guide themselves? How do they think about their customers? What is important to them? It shows up in their strategic plan. Good businesses can articulate their mission crisply and quickly. Both their employees and their customers know the mission. Those that have a long, extensive strategic plan are usually unfocused. Those that have no plan or are unsure are rudderless. It almost always shows up in their results.

“In the Bible the number seven represents perfection and is considered divine.”

An exercise I do for businesses is to get them to write their mission in seven words. It forces them to be both concise and focused. Listing out the seven words is hard; it involves looking again at what the purpose of the business is. The next step is to list the seven actions a business needs to take to accomplish this mission. Are the seven action steps harmonious with the mission and are they consistent with how the business is being run? Would the employees and customers agree? In its simplicity, a focused approach makes us think beyond the seven words and seven actions, but it isn’t overbearing and doesn’t require massive committees. This also works for the rest of our lives. When looking for a job or trying to be more successful with your career, do we have a plan?

“In its simplicity, a focused approach makes us think…it isn’t overbearing and doesn’t require massive committees. This also works for the rest of our lives.”

In the Bible the number seven means perfection or completeness. It is tied to the creation of the world. While I am not a fan of numerology, we can see that the number seven is important to God, by the fact that throughout the Bible it is used 860 times. If we were taking a Bible test, the number seven would be on the test. The first act by God for humankind was the seven days of creation. Jesus performed seven miracles on the seventh day. In the Bible the number seven represents perfection and is considered divine.

When using the method of seven in our business or life plans, not only are we focused, but we are honoring our Christian values. In a sense we are asking God to bless our plan. The plan of seven doesn’t take long, but it requires thought and insight. It highlights where we have to get better and where we are doing well. The seven actions we need to take will awaken us to the state of our business. If we take out the business or life plan once a week, it becomes part of our daily thinking. We can hire high-priced consultants to tell us what we already know, but I am not sure it is any more effective than to follow the roadmap of God.

Blessings, until next time,
Bruce L. Hartman

Do we have a life or business plan?

How does it measure up to what our employees and customers think?

Do we have a life plan and are we following the plan?

“And seeing a fig tree by the side of the road, he went to it and found nothing at all on it but leaves. Then he said to it, ‘May no fruit ever come from you again!’ And the fig tree withered at once.”

— Matthew 21:19

DO THE FRUITS OF OUR EFFORTS PRODUCE GREAT CUSTOMER SERVICE?

I was talking with the business manager of a large automobile dealership and asked him, “How many cars a month does your best salesman sell?” He replied, “Thirty a month, month in and month out.” I was stunned. That was almost one and a half each day he worked. Considering the immense amount of paperwork and government forms that had to be filled out for each car, it was even more impressive. The salesman’s name was Steve, and not only did he sell a lot of cars, but he always achieved very high customer service scores. I queried the business manager about how and why Steve was so consistent. His reply was that Steve’s steady business came almost entirely from past customers’ referrals. He had gotten to a point where he only had to provide good customer service and no longer needed to  make cold calls.

“The fruit of his efforts was a steady stream of loyal customers.”

Steve sent out birthday cards to all his customers. He advocated for them when there was a problem. He would take their cars and get gas for them. He knew everyone by first name. In short, he put his customers first. The fruit of his efforts was a steady stream of loyal customers. His fig tree bore fruit because he cared. Customer first and himself second was the only way to accomplish this amazing feat.

How many times have we felt like a salesperson just wanted to sell something to us to make his or her goals? How many times have we felt cheated because of an extra add-on charge? How many times have our interests been put last? We are left feeling used and just there for people to get our cash. Many of us walk away silently and never do business with that person or company again. The salesperson may have won that day, but lost a future customer and many referrals. For a short-term gain there is a long-term loss.

“Do we really listen to the customer or are we only interested in the sale?”

In today’s verse Jesus condemns the fig tree because it bore no fruit. It provided only leaves. Its purpose was to produce fruit, but it bore none. Many of us are guilty of this as well. We strive for that big sale. It makes our numbers good and our bosses happy. But silently we ignore the customer and in turn choke off our future. Our withered fruits become our reputation. Do we really listen to the customer or are we only interested in the sale? Would we continue buying something from someone like that, knowing we don’t come first? Jesus knew that good business is great customer service.

Blessings, until next time,
Bruce L. Hartman

Do we listen to our customers or do we push our goals?

How many repeat sales do we get?

How do we show value to our customers?

“Sanctify them in the truth; your word is truth.”

—John 17:17

COLORING OURSELVES WITH TRUTH

I met Bishop Earnest Lyght at Drew University. He was the resident bishop for Drew and was frequently available to the students. When you talked with Bishop Lyght, you could feel his truth. Whatever he said, he meant. When he talked, he talked without agenda. What he believed came from his heart. Not varnished, just a humble recitation of what he believed. He said what he believed with the knowledge that he needed to know more. A conversation with Bishop Lyght was a mutual dialogue. I am sure in silent moments of prayer, he searched his heart and desired only to tell God what was right.

Bishop Lyght was one of the early black bishops of the Methodist Church. He grew up at a time when the Methodist Church was segregated. It wasn’t until 1968 that these separate entities of race were dissolved and black pastors were welcome throughout the church. In spite of this obvious racism, Bishop Lyght continued his ministry with grace and truth. He commonly spoke out for the denied. He worked hard for equal rights of women and the poor. He wrote four books. But when you sat with him, you were with him. He listened and replied. His “thank-you’s” and “good days” were sincere. If something had to be fixed, regardless of the cost, he fixed it. His heart was always centered on the truth.

“Jesus says that our word is the truth.”

Jesus says that our word is the truth. That all we do should be centered on a sanctifying truth. A truth that courses through us to be the only thing we speak and do. In today’s world of fake news,  quick thank-yous that are said as an obligation and sleight of hand, Jesus’s ancient statement still applies. When we meet someone, we should be glad to meet that person. Our thanks in our emails should be sincere. When we tell a story, we should tell the whole story. What comes from us should always be the truth.

“When we do embody the truth, we set ourselves apart. We create a tapestry of ourselves that reflects the color of truth.”

It is sometimes hard to tell the truth. It can compromise our lives. We worry and fret about the consequences. When we do embody the truth, we set ourselves apart. We create a tapestry of ourselves that reflects the color of truth. We need to be always on guard about where our stories are leading us. Is it to gain favor? Is it to get something? When we say thank you, are we sincere? When we leave out facts, what is our purpose? Each day we struggle to be sincere. Each day we struggle to say what we mean. Each day we desire to be truthful. Some days we accomplish our tasks. Some days we don’t.

I am glad to have met Bishop Lyght. He is, in fact, a beacon of light. He is one of those people we aspire to be. His truth guides us.

Blessings, until next time,
Bruce L. Hartman

What is truth in conversation?

What is truth in action?

How do we feel after we have been sincere?

“So God created humankind in God’s image, in the image of God he created them; male and female he created them.”

— Genesis 1:27

IMAGO DEI

George  was raised in a wealthy home and went to Harvard. Instead of studying economics or business, he pursued a path of social advocacy. He eventually graduated with a master’s in Social Work. From there, with his wife, he started an organization called Street Squash, a program that provided inner city youth with access to college. The sport of squash was used to add an advantageous credit for the young people when applying to college, but it was not the primary focus of Street Squash. The students were provided with a place to go after school and study. They had tutors and visited college campuses. The goal was to create access for a segment of our population that needed a head start. George could have been a great investment banker, but chose instead a life of helping.

From his kitchen table George built an organization that has sent thousands of youth to college. And he has helped in the establishment of fourteen other programs throughout the country.   The graduation rate of students from these programs is substantially higher than national statistics. The youth from Street Squash achieve an almost 90 percent graduation rate. Without Street Squash, their chances were 15 percent. George only sees goals. He only sees that the youth are people. He knew that squash gave the students athletic content for their college résumés, and he knew Squash would help him with fund-raising.

“George reflects the Imago Dei, and his life focus is on helping, not labeling.”

Today’s verse comes from the book of Genesis and reflects the earliest statement from God on how humankind is viewed. We are all made in the image of God. Theologians call this Imago Dei. In today’s world of labeling from all corners,  people like George gets lost in the din of noise about racism, liberalism, conservatism, misogyny, and all the other labels we use to describe one another. Our news media encourages labeling because it increases viewership, which in turn increases revenue. All at the expense of the imago Dei. I know George and wish he was better known by others. George reflects the imago Dei, and his life focus is on helping, not labeling.

“There are no differences or labels from one to another when we think of people as images of God.”

In this time of great divide between all the various factions, it is important for us to reflect on what God means with the image of God. There are no differences or labels from one to another when we think of people as images of God. When we label, we diminish the intent of God. The solution to this great divide is turning back to God’s original intent and away from the commercialization of labels.

Blessings, until next time,
Bruce L. Hartman

How do we see people when we first meet them?

What does the imago Dei look like?

How do we feel when we are labeled?

“All who saw it began to grumble and said, “He has gone to be the guest of one who is a sinner”

— Luke 19:70

HANGING OUT WITH JESUS

I remember meeting Rudy Rasmus in a private room with a bishop of the United Methodist Church. He was a talker. He had stories that were riveting, about his past, his ministry, and the poor. He is a pastor for a Methodist church in Houston, but prior to that he had run a bordello. He would admit he was a sinner. He’d come to face Jesus and turned his life around. After passing his tests to become a pastor, he was given a church in one of the poorest sections of Houston. The church had nine members. Undaunted he moved forward with this small church. In a move of pure faith and to get more people to come his church, he started paying one dollar to anyone who would show up.

Today, the church Rudy serves is over nine thousand people strong. Thirty percent of the people were previously homeless. And it is one of the most culturally diverse churches in the country. Rudy attributes the success of the church he pastor’s, to the fact that it contains a group of people who embrace the vision of tearing down the walls of classism, racism, and sexism and building bridges to experience Christ. The church feeds the poor. Builds housing for the homeless. All through a nonprofit called the Bread of Life. The church and Rudy have changed the landscape in downtown Houston. Rudy doesn’t usually preach these days; he leaves that up to the other ministers. Instead he greets church attendees at the door and welcomes them.

“For Jesus and Rudy, there are no class differences, race differences, or gender differences.”

In today’s verse we hear people grumbling that Jesus was going to be a house guest of a sinner. This was a frequent activity of Jesus. He dined with sinners. He stayed at their houses. He spent his time in the Judean marketplace helping all who worked there. Jesus views each person as equal. He even converted women of ill repute. Everyone was worthy of God. For Jesus and Rudy, there are no class differences, race differences, or gender differences. We are all God’s people. Jesus hung out with everyone.

“We are all God’s people.”

When we see a poor person on the street, do we walk to the other side? Do we judge a person or try to understand their circumstance? It is hard to engage on a sincere basis when we meet someone in a situation different than our own. It is hard to not be wary or judgmental. We all wrestle with the idea of hanging out with those who come from a different social stratum. But we don’t know their journey to this point. Perhaps they were once where we are. Perhaps their circumstance arises from an abusive home situation or poor choices from the past. Perhaps they are grappling with a serious medical ailment. Perhaps they were abandoned by their families. We all have one important thing in common: We are all God’s people.

Blessings, until next time,
Bruce L. Hartman

How do we approach new people in our lives?

What judgments do we make?

Can we see God in every person?