Three business owners share their expertise
Business in China today is booming – and sadly so are crime and materialism. (If you have any doubts, read Chen Han Ming’s article on page 12.) Of course, we don’t have to look back to our homeland to find these problems; they also exist right here in the United States. No Chinese student needs to be told of the materialism and crime that are so widespread in America.
What is the answer? The Mandate interviewed three business owners to find out. They operate their enterprises according to business principles that will surprise you.
George Liu was born in Shandong Province, where he became a captain in the army. George moved to Taiwan in 1948, and 15 years ago, he and his family moved to Orlando, Florida, where he has launched many successful business enterprises.
Next, you’ll meet Doug Russell, a businessman in Charlotte, North Carolina, who found success in an unusual location – the garbage business. Doug also has an unusual way of relating to his employees; instead of looking at them as his servants, he sees himself as their servant.
Finally, we talked with Tracy Freeny, who five years ago helped start a long-distance telephone company in Oklahoma City, Oklahoma, that now gives away $500,000 a month. How can Freeny do this and still remain in business? Read his story and the others and find out.
– Wang Jiapu
The Mandate: What is your business and how did you get started in it?
George Liu: I have a number of businesses. We’ve had a bakery in Taiwan for 40 years, Liu’s Bakery in Taichung. I’ve also operated an import business to the U.S., and for the past nine years I’ve operated Nutricom Corporation, a health food company.
Forty-four years ago, I got very sick with tuberculosis. In Taiwan at that time it was just like cancer, and the doctor said I had one or two months to live. I was a major in the army, and I thought I should just kill myself.
The doctor sent me to the hospital with no hope. There, I read in the Bible about a lady who had had a blood disease for 12 years. She spent all her money on doctors, but she only got worse. When Jesus came, the lady simply touched the hem of His garment. Jesus told her, “Your faith makes you well. Go in peace.” And she was healed.
I was very interested in this power! I never heard anything about it before. I thought I was a good man, that I’d never sinned. But as I read the Bible, I saw God had very high standards. If you hit someone, it’s just like murder. Well, I smoked – I started at age 13 – and I gambled so much that I couldn’t stop.
But the Bible said, “If you confess your sin, the Lord is gracious to forgive your sins, and you’ll become a new man.” I changed my mind right away and said, “I’m a sinner.” I confessed my sins, and the Lord forgave me. I decided not to kill myself, but instead dedicated myself to the Lord.
When I left the hospital, I went back to the army as a Christian, with a new life, as a new man. In 1959, I retired from the army, and had to find something to do to support my family. A friend gave me the idea of starting a bread delivery company. We bought bread from downtown bakeries and delivered it to Americans living in Taiwan. Then someone said, “How about if we start our own bakery?”
I thought it was impossible because we didn’t know how to bake bread! But what is impossible with man is possible with God. We started with a very small bakery, but it grew quickly to 160 employees.
In 1970 I got sick again, and the doctor told me to eat wheat germ. Within four or five months, I was healthy again. The germ is the good part of the wheat, which people normally throw away when they make flour. But we make it into a powder, and it’s healed many people. My company, Nutricom, is in Orlando, and the factory is in Taiwan. We distribute it in the U.S., in Taiwan, and three years ago we started distributing it in mainland China.
Doug Russell: Even as a young boy, the Lord put in me the desire to be in business. At 13, I negotiated renting a neighboring farmer’s tractor that had special spray equipment. I used his tractor at night or early in the morning, and I’d spray crops for a fee per acre.
One Sunday, a neighbor who had a son my age picked me up and drove me to church. I went because there were girls there! I wasn’t even listening to the sermon, but the Lord gripped my heart, and not fully understanding, I realized there was something missing from my life – a need. The pastor invited those whom the Lord was speaking to to go forward. I did, and the Lord convicted me of my need for Him. I surrendered my life and heart to Him that day.
I grew up, married, and eventually worked in the truck equipment industry. The Lord created the circumstances that enabled me to go into business myself selling garbage trucks. And from there, just by selling in that industry, I became acquainted with performing services on a contract basis, so in addition to being a garbage truck dealer, I became a contractor, collecting and disposing of garbage.
Tracy Freeny: LifeLine was founded in early 1990 by people who were committed to doing the work of the Lord by helping ministries raise additional revenue. Long-distance service was chosen because it is a service that most everyone uses on a monthly basis. The company is owned by over 800 Christian stockholders and has grown from an idea to a company whose gross revenue will exceed $100 million per year by the end of 1995.
I received Christ at the age of 25 when I was attending a Methodist church in Oklahoma City. We had a three-day meeting at church and we housed a family during the meeting. I had started reading the Bible in college, but still did not have a personal relationship with the Lord. The mission helped me understand the sacrifice that God had paid for my sins through Jesus Christ.
The Mandate: What are some of the principles you rely on to operate your business?
George Liu: Most businesses only want to make money. I never think how to make money. We just think how to serve people and God. God is love. When we serve the people, we show them God’s love. When we do this, God supports all our needs. If someone doesn’t have enough money to buy a product, for example, we just give it to them.
How much money you make depends on how much you serve. We do our business for love and for Jesus.
Tracy Freeny: Our company is founded upon the principle of seeking first the kingdom of God. We believe “Kingdom” means to spread the Gospel, feed the hungry, and help ministries who are doing God’s will. We also believe it means standing against the devil, which has led LifeLine to take a public stance against abortion, the homosexual lifestyle, and the sex and violence on T.V.
The most important points are: (1) Make Jesus Christ the Lord of your personal life and the Lord of your company. (2) Study God’s Word to know Him better. (3) Seek to obey Him in all things. (4) Give your first fruits* to help establish the Kingdom.
Doug Russell: In the late 1970s, I became disillusioned with my life. Basically I said to the Lord, “If there’s not more than this, I want to get off the life cycle I’m on.” I pursued the Lord, just to know Him. He revealed to me that He was a businessman – and that He has specific principles for doing business.
I tried diligently to change the direction of my business practices and those of the people who served with me as supervisors. We worked to change them from a worldly perspective, meaning that the boss “lords” over those under him, to becoming servant leaders who literally serve their subordinates.
The Mandate: Can you give a specific example of how you instituted these principles?
Doug Russell: Eventually I sold the original two businesses and bought another garbage business. It was in trouble from the beginning. I met with the employees and said that we would be managing the business by God’s principles as revealed in His Word, the Bible, and that we requested they do likewise. We said that, as owners, that made us servants to them, the employees, as well as to the customers.
Needless to say, at first there was a lot of distrust and unbelief among the employees! Over a period of time, however, they began to see that we were different from other employers. We cut the number of hours they worked from 60 to 40 hours a week – at the same pay – and hired additional trucks. The business was already losing money, so this wasn’t a “wise” thing to do under normal business principles. But I obeyed the Lord and asked the employees to use the additional time to commit to their families and their church.
Needless to say, they were astounded at this display of kindness and generosity. Gradually, however, many of their families, who had formerly been under great stress, became strong and healthy. Attitudes among the workers changed dramatically for the better, and production rose significantly.
However, we continued to lose money. After about a year, we considered buying a competitor company, which would increase our work by 28 percent. Before we made any decision, we talked with the employees and asked how much more time and equipment they’d need to do this. They studied it and told us, “We don’t need any more time or equipment. We can absorb 28 percent more work.” In essence, my employees had become “partners,” which was originally my goal. They were willing to sacrifice for the company, because they realized the ownership of the company was willing to sacrifice for them.
And they did absorb the work. The 28 percent additional revenue flowed back to the bottom line, and we became profitable.
Tracy Freeny: It has been said that LifeLine is like a ministry that helps other ministries. The company has a daily Bible study led by Carl Thompson. The most important part of our day is when we gather around 8:30 to 9:00 each day to study God’s Word. We spend 30 to 60 minutes studying God’s Word and then we ask Him to show us His will for LifeLine.
LifeLine gives 10 percent of its gross revenue back to ministries who have endorsed LifeLine. The Lord has given us great favor, and we believe the reason is that the company’s primary goal is to serve Christ.
- “First fruits” refers to the Christian practice of tithing, which means giving away the “first fruits” – 10 percent of your income.