You Can Bank on It

Taking care of employees is part of the Christian work ethic. It's also sound business practice. Because it is the people who work in a company who are its chief asset. That's a lesson I learned from my friend Jack Eckerd, the co-author of Why America Doesn't Work, the book we've been talking about for the past several days on this program. In the summer of 1959 Jack Eckerd was just a young businessman with a good idea. Today Eckerd Drugs is one of the largest national chains. But in 1959 Jack had only 5 stores. And he'd just been offered a chance to expand by opening stores in a chain of shopping centers. Jack sat nervously across from the president of one of the largest banks in town. He was hoping to persuade the banker to advance him a loan for the expansion. The banker declined. So Jack scooped up his spread sheets, and headed across the street to the bank's fiercest competitor. He explained all over again how ten stores could buy more cheaply than five. How his publicity costs would go down. How the additional stores would double his profits in two years. This banker was skeptical, too. Finally, Jack played his last card. "We still haven't discussed the biggest asset I have--my people. They're the best. You won't find that on any spread sheet, but believe me it's true." The banker met Jack's eyes for a moment then picked up his phone. Jack left the bank with the loan he needed. Jack's belief in his people turned the tide. He promised that someday he would reward the investment they'd made in the business. And he did. When Eckerd Drugs went public with its stock a few years later, Jack became a wealthy man. The first thing he did was give some of the company stock to his employees. To this day, every Eckerd employee is given stock in the company every year. Jack's loyalty to his people breeds committed workers. Like the pharmacist Jack tells about, who'd been with the company for decades. He was able to put his daughter through medical school on the stock he earned at Eckerd Drugs. And he passed his loyalty on to younger pharmacists. Pitch in, he told them, do whatever it takes, work hard. He was a company man. And no wonder: His company had earned his loyalty. You can't put a price tag on that kind of employee. But you can sure bank on them--like Jack Eckerd did. Too many American business barons hide in their plush offices waiting for typed reports to let them know what is happening on the floors below. Their salaries keep rising even when their workers' salaries are falling. But Jack Eckerd spent 50 percent of his time on the floors of his stores, talking to customers and employees. That's the kind of leader we need more of. Leaders who care about their employees, who are willing to keep their salaries to a reasonable multiple of their employees earnings, who give the workers the same perks as managers. Leaders who treat the worker on the floor is as important as the manager--because, as Martin Luther taught during the Reformation, all work is done for the glory of God.


Chuck Colson



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