By Beverly Keller
How do faith, family, and values fit into the marketplace? That was the question posted by Director of the Amish & Mennonite Heritage Center Marcus Yoder as he addressed the hundreds who attended a workshop in Mt. Hope last week.
Faith & Values in the Marketplace – a workshop – was put together by David Miller of Everence with assistance from the Amish & Mennonite Heritage Center as well as MEDA (Mennonite Economic Development Associates). The evening featured three keynote speakers – Brian Miller of ProVia, Leon Wengerd of Pioneer Equipment and Dan Owolabi. Each brought a different perspective to the table. But, as David Miller noted, each person’s ministry has a different definition. For Miller, that ministry is found in helping others find ways to give and support that are in line with their passion. “We give because of our passions,” Miller said. “Giving generously is part of our ministry.”
Opening up the talk was Brian Miller of ProVia. He talked about the increasing pressures of the labor market in a world where finding the best employees can be a daunting task. “We have a very unique area,” he shared. “There are more open positions than workers. Amazon is paying $15 an hour as minimum wage. It makes finding good employees harder than ever.”
Miller noted that ProVia has worked hard to not only attract good employees but keep them. “ProVia doesn’t always get it right, people leave,” he stated. “But we work to be the employer of choice in any community we are a part of. To do that, it comes down to environment. It is created by leaders.”
He noted that while paychecks are great, it takes more than that to keep good employees. “We want our employees to grow and flourish,” Miller said.
Programs such as Dave Ramsey Financial Peace, character development and health incentives are part of what makes ProVia different. “These programs allow our employees to connect on a different level,” he shared. “We teach them things that have nothing to do with work because it adds value to their lives. It adds to the way they feel about themselves and how they feel about coming to work. It helps us to see what it means to experience character development and that is important.”
Miller shared that 100 percent of the respondents in his informal survey indicated they would not like to work for someone who is mean. “Employees want to know that they matter,” Miller stated. “Live like people matter, because they do.”
He encouraged those in attendance to always be genuine, truthful. “Don’t be someone you aren’t. Admit your shortcomings,” Miller stated. “If you are a genuine leader, you will be consistent in your authenticity. If there is no trust, the relationship is derailed.”
Miller pointed to Galatians and reminded the audience of the importance of winning God’s approval as opposed to man’s. “We need to love those around us, including those in the workplace,” he said. “We were created for relationships. As employers, we must give our employees environments to thrive in, and in turn, those relationships will thrive.”
Leon Wengerd, the CFO at Pioneer Equipment near Dalton spoke about the importance of new product innovation. It is a process that the company has gone through many times. By definition, innovation is the introduction of something new. But, as he explained, something new is not always accepted.
“Farmers had used the sickle for years but then the scythe was introduced,” he explained. “The scythe changed agriculture. Yet, the local culture rejected it for 100 years.”
Wengerd explained the need to create your own brand and blaze your own trail in order to be successful. He also talked about true research and development as opposed to ripping off and duplicating other ideas.
He also shared the story of a product improvement at Pioneer that was made possible because their company is tuned into its customers. “There was a letter in The Budget from a scribe who said that he thought Pioneer should add a specific kind of bottom to our plow,” Wengerd explained. “Wayne [Wengerd] read that letter and now 70 – 80 percent of our plows have that new European bottom. We had considered it but didn’t think it would take off because of the price of the imported piece.”
Wengerd went on to describe The Budget as Facebook for the Amish population. “You can find out a great deal from the pages of The Budget,” he said. “We are tuned into them and you should be, too.”
Wengerd shared the story of the new and improved mousetrap that was a plow on the market because the company focused on the mice being attracted to it and not the housewife who had to bait the trap. Conversely, Wengerd noted that the inventor of the laundry spinner had success because it actually solved a problem.
Ultimately, though, Wengerd underscored the importance of keeping God the center of the business. “God will direct you on where to go,” he said.
Dan Owolabi wrapped up the presentation with a focus on legacy. He spoke about the significance and the important thing to remember is that in 20 years your name will probably be forgotten. “You have to ask yourself, will it matter when you are gone,” he emphasized.
Owolabi held up an acorn. “This acorn has to know that its legacy doesn’t really begin until it dies,” he said. “When it becomes obedient to death, the potential is created to create more oak trees which create more acorns which create more life.”
He asked that people stop worrying about being remembered and focus on God. “Stop worrying about your legacy,” Owolabi said. “Surrender to Christ. We will die to our own agendas and ideas. Instead, we need to let God use us.
“We need to look for the acorn in others,” he shared. “We need to look for potential. Stop asking what is my purpose and start asking who is my purpose. Ask the Lord, ‘who should I be investing in?’”