The Lagos Worker and the Gospel

wd0b7cj4tug-oshomah-abubakar

In his helpful book Mastering Monday, John Beckett identifies five themes which should be considered in our attempt to demonstrate God’s kingdom in the workplace. They are Purpose, Values, People, Stewardship, and Serving. These all are nurtured by the Gospel.

The Gospel gives us a clear purpose for our work; we serve Christ and extend his kingdom through what we do.

The Gospel gives us an ethic centred on love, and this guides all the steps we take and the decisions we make.

The Gospel reveals that people are God’s priority (and should be ours, too). It was for people – sinful, broken people – that Jesus hung on the cross and died.

The Gospel reminds us that our lives, skills, and talents belong to God. We are simply stewards. So as we clock in at the office, apply our minds to a problem, or contribute to a project, we are offering back what God has given to us in trust.

Finally, through Christ’s teaching and his atonement, we are taught to lay down our lives for others through serving (John 15:13).

We will focus on the two themes of People and Serving.

People

The Gospel will lead us to value people above profits. Whether we work in risk management, financial planning, or customer service, it is people ultimately that we are serving. Sadly, the ambition and drive in most workplaces tend towards the opposite. The lust for power and prestige means that people are often trampled upon. In a bid to be seen as ‘performing’, managers will exhaust their subordinates. In a bid to cut costs, organizations will refuse or delay payments to vendors for services rendered. And even employees will offer shoddy service to customers. Likewise, the daily pressure to thrive in a competitive environment often leads us to focus solely on the ‘bottom line’, without regard for the humans who are involved in shaping it. It helps to remember that without people, whether as employees, customers, or vendors, there would be no business.

 Serving

John Chapter 13 is a remarkable chapter of the Bible. We have a stirring message proclaimed not merely in words but through vivid action. Shortly before his crucifixion, as he gathered with his disciples to celebrate the Passover, Jesus inverted the social pyramid. He took a towel and a bowl of water and washed the feet of each of his disciples. Contrary to social custom, the teacher became a servant to the student. Then he instructed them to do likewise.

We are called to serve others through our skills and talents. As Peter wrote, ‘As each has received a gift, use it to serve one another, as good stewards of God’s varied grace’ (1 Pet. 4:10).

In the words of John Beckett, ‘Serving is integral to how God wants his kingdom on earth to function.’ And we see this in Jesus’s instruction to the disciples in Mathew 20:26:

 “Whoever wants to be great among you must be your servant”

In a city like Lagos, with its craze for prestige and lust for wealth, the message of Christ is profoundly counter-cultural. Lagosians seek to be recognized and celebrated. We want to move up the ladder of career success, not pick up a servant’s towel. But that is precisely what the Gospel implies. In light of the death and resurrection of Jesus, to work is to serve.

So how do we go about this? We can start by noting the following:

  • As an employer, I should serve my employees, helping them to become their best selves. For we both have one master, which is Christ.
  • As a trader, I should offer goods of high quality to my customers.
  • As an executive within an organization, I should realize that I am serving the company by offering my skills and talents.

The Gospel leads us to understand that, ultimately, it is not my CEO or the customer whom I am serving, but Christ.


This article was first published on City Church Lagos.

 

Let’s talk about Love

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Seriously? Love in business? It doesn’t belong there!

We often think of business as just an enterprise for providing a product or service, earning income and making a profit. And it would seem out of place to bring such a warm, emotional and moral concept like love into it. However, this stems from a misunderstanding of both love and business.

Let’s start with love.

What is love? Love isn’t just a feeling, however warm and exciting. Love is rational. It is the deliberate regard for another person’s wellbeing. In the words of the British writer C.S. Lewis, “Love is not affectionate feeling, but a steady wish for the loved person’s ultimate good as far as it can be obtained.”  So love isn’t getting excited about a member of the opposite sex or having tingling sensations within your tummy when he or she approaches. We also shouldn’t think of love as condoning wrong behaviour or overlooking poor performance. Love is simply desiring another person’s good; it is the attitude of looking or seeking to benefit someone else. This could be a spouse, a friend, or a neighbour. It could also be a boss, an employee, or a customer. Therefore love can include discipline or rebuke, where it is intended to make a person better. And it can involve refusing to grant a request or favour where this will cause the person harm.

We come now to business. Is business just about goods and services, revenue and profit? Well, not really. At its core, business is about people – human beings. Business involves meeting their needs and furthering their welfare. When we produce clothing, manufacture domestic items, provide health insurance, assemble cars, educate children, impart workplace skills, and engage in retail trade, we are providing value to people. In an earlier post, I referred to the classic statement on the purpose of business by Jeff Van Duzer, Provost of the Seattle Pacific University in the USA. He stated this as follows:

Business exists to create opportunities for individuals to express aspects of their God-given identity in meaningful and creative work. And it exists in order to produce goods and services that would enable the community to flourish.

When we look at business in this way, it becomes immediately apparent that business is about people. True, we need to understand the mechanics of cost, price, strategy, and management in order for a business to function well. But we must not mistake the tools for the goal. The goal of business – any business – remains the people.  Shareholders own a business. Employees work for the business. Vendors work with the business. Customers are served by the business. Everywhere you look you see people. And the principle for relating with people, which is to love them as oneself, has to be applied in dealing with these different groups. Shareholders are to be loved by managing the business profitably. Employees can be loved through fair and humane workplace policies and practices. Customers should be loved by ensuring our products are of good quality and that our processes and systems make it easy to interact with the organization. What about the larger community? One obvious way is by ensuring that we do not pollute the environment in the course of our business operation.

So does this look like love belongs in business? It most certainly does.

Choosing to serve

The decision to serve, in whatever capacity, is a conscious choice. It has nothing to do with the expectation of a reward or even the assumption that those being served would acknowledge it. In fact, sometimes they won’t appreciate the gesture. Our motivation and inspiration comes from the example of God our Creator and Redeemer, who serves us by providing a universe loaded with good things and who offered himself as the payment for our sins, thus reconciling us to himself.

Thus true service is a sacrifice of love. Through our job or occupation, in our care for our spouses and children, in the assistance and help we render to our neighbours, service looks beyond what is to be gained. It reaches out to help because it sees the other party as valuable, someone in whom God’s image shines forth. And it considers it worthwhile to deny oneself of one’s own convenience at that moment in order to serve or help the other person.

Customer Service begins at the top

Top Executive at work

One of the frustrating experiences of a Customer Service representative is having an expectation or directive from the company’s top management to offer excellent service to customers yet receiving no real commitment from the same management. The company as a whole has no realistic customer oriented vision or mission, it lacks a strategy for truly satisfying her customers, and feedback from customers is never taken seriously unless it’s about to degenerate into a PR crisis.

The global drive towards excellent customer service has been on now for no less than two decades, yet for many companies, it’s still just an issue for a department. The company is yet to grasp that customer satisfaction is not an aspect of the business; it is the business. We simply cannot offer excellent service unless the whole company believes in it and aligns all – I mean all – her processes, goals, and decisions toward this aim. It affects every department. Finance should believe this, HR should buy into it, and Operations should practice it. And the key driver of the whole process has to be top management. If they neglect this or merely offer shoddy support, you might as well close the Customer Service department and tell your customers to go elsewhere. And, believe me, they have options.

The company’s top management must not just preach excellent customer service, it must not just state on the company’s website or corporate documents that “Our customer is our priority”, or some similar cliché. It must show this commitment to the customer in how it designs its products, processes, and systems. The security official at the gate must understand that the customer really is king and not treat every potential one like a possible terrorist. The front line personnel should be confident that she can really go the extra mile for a customer and not be held back by an antiquated ‘policy’.

So much more can be done, but it starts with management really believing in customer service.

 

 

What’s your Calling?

For the past several years, the theme of Calling has been very dear to me. I have increasingly come to see that it is a crucial truth for escaping the humdrum of modern life. As such, I am always on the lookout for books which help to clarify what it’s all about and provide much-needed guidance to all who are seeking to uncover the mystery. And, lately, I read Os Guinness’s masterpiece on the subject. It is at once thorough and lively, learned and interesting, with a continual focus on the Saviour who obediently surrendered to his Father’s call. His book is a delight to read and a feast to relish. I can do little more than offer his points on calling which he carefully develops throughout the book and hope they stimulate you to get the book for yourself and devour its nutrients.


  • Calling is the truth that God calls us to himself so decisively that everything we are, everything we do, and everything we have is invested with a special devotion and dynamism lived out as a response to his summons and service.
  • When something more than human seeking is needed if seeking is to be satisfied, then calling means that seekers themselves are sought.
  • The notion of calling, or vocation, is vital to each of us because it touches on the modern search for a basis for individual identity and an understanding of humanness itself.
  • Our primary calling as followers of Christ is by him, to him, and for him. Our secondary calling, considering who God is as sovereign, is that everyone, everywhere, and in everything should think, speak, live, and act entirely for him.the call
  • God normally calls us along the line of our giftedness, but the purpose of giftedness is stewardship and service, not selfishness.
  • A life lived listening to the decisive call of God is a life lived before one audience that trumps all others – the Audience of One.
  • God’s calling is the key to igniting a passion for the deepest growth and highest heroism in life.
  • The notion of calling is vital to the modern search for a basis for moral responsibility and to an understanding of ethics itself.
  • The call of Jesus is personal but not purely individual; Jesus summons his followers not only to an individual calling but also to a corporate calling.
  • Calling reminds Christians ceaselessly that, far from having arrived, a Christian is someone who in this life is always on the road as “a follower of Christ” and a follower of “the Way”.
  • The reverse side of calling is the temptation of conceit.
  • The truth of calling touches closely on the link between giftedness and desire and the almost inescapable temptation of envy.
  • Calling, which played a key role in the rise of modern capitalism, is one of the few truths capable of guiding and restraining it now.
  • Calling is the best antidote to the deadly sin of sloth.
  • Calling directly counters the great modern pressure towards secularization because the call of Jesus includes a summons to the exercise of the spiritual disciplines and the experience of supernatural realities.
  • Calling directly counters the great modern pressure toward privatization because of its insistence that Jesus Christ is Lord of every sphere of life.

What’s your Customer worth?

Service pixWhile offering good service does not depend on the financial return involved, it’s still helpful to consider the true financial worth of every customer we currently serve. Like I often emphasize, businesses fail to offer good service because they are thinking short term. How much is this person paying or buying right now? What value are we deriving from her in the present? However, when we shift our focus from what the person is purchasing right now to her value over a lifetime of transactions, it helps us form a better estimate of today’s encounter.

Supposing our customer, let’s call her Mrs. Garba, is an online buyer of domestic appliances. She buys N3,500 worth of kitchen utensils monthly, and she would go on to remain a customer for seven years. How can we determine her customer lifetime value or CLV?

A simple approach is to apply the formula below:

CLV Formula

 

 

 

Mrs Garba’s CLV, therefore, would be N3,500 X 12 X 7 = N294,000.

This simple arithmetic helps us realize that Mrs Garba’s value to our business goes beyond the mere N3,500 she is spending right now. She is worth a whole lot more!

Marketing is about Value

Marketing is the lifeblood of every business. It is the fuel which keeps the engine running. Without customers, the business would close shop.

We often think about this aspect of business as the activity of bringing in customers. While this is true, it goes beyond that. The core term which captures all that marketing is about is the word Value. And this refers to the benefit which the firm or company or business provides for those it serves. It is the heart of every business.

The popular paradigm for discussing marketing is the marketing mix (shown below), which shows the interaction among the 4 concepts of Product, Price, Promotion, and Placement.

mix

 

Central to all these concepts or activities is value. Determining the nature of product or service to be provided, how it is to be communicated to the target market, the price at which it is to be offered, as well as the means by which it is made available to consumers – all revolve around the core benefit which the business is providing.  Keeping this concept central helps us think clearly and make better customer-oriented decisions.