Arjay Miller, Businessman And Do-gooder!

Over the last few months I have been developing the foundation of what I want to do during retirement. I am not one to sit around and watch Game of Thrones over and over, and I can only play so much golf, so I have been thinking about what I am passionate about, and how I would like to use that to keep myself busy during my senior years. I have been in business for forty-eight years, and enjoy being able to create successful and productive outcomes for the good of people and the community. I am also passionate about my faith in Jesus Christ. So I have been thinking about how I can combine those two passions and do something memorable while I am retired.

Business As Mission is that thing I have been looking for. There are many implications associated with this concept. I think of the family that owns Chik-Fil-A, and how they express their faith in the way they run their business. They treat their employees with respect, close on Sundays, and make sure their restaurants are clean. There are many other examples too of Christians who run their business in a way that demonstrates that it is a kingdom business.

In today’s Wall Street Journal William Galston pontificated about a previous CEO of Ford Motor Company, Arjay Miller, who ran the business in a way that exemplified the concepts I have been writing about. Arjay, who recently died at 101 years old, ran Ford from 1963 to 1968, after which he moved on to be the dean of the business program at Stanford Business School. At Stanford he created a world-class business program, which now has a Masters in Social Impact. The business school was known for its diverse faculty and student body, and how it expanded the curriculum to include ethics and public policy.

I do not know Arjay Miller, and I certainly don’t know if he is a Christian, but I do know he thought that business could create positive social change as evidenced by his actions. The question is what did he Do?

During his reign at Ford, the management system was modernized. I can only guess what William Galston meant by that comment in his editorial today, but I would guess that this means that Miller helped move the Ford management style for coercive to participative, less autocratic to more democratic, and less task focused and more people focused. Miller also introduced the Mustang. However, what is most interesting to me is Miller’s emphasis on vehicle safety. He was the first to introduce safety belts, which “he defended as the right thing to do.”

This emphasis on the right thing to do was also demonstrated by his founding of the Economic Development Corporation of Detroit created to help the revitalization of the city of Detroit. Miller also support “black-owned and operated businesses, and backed a negative income tax to reduce poverty.” I do like this quote that was attributed to him, “Making money is the easy part, making the world a better place is the hard part.” You see, there are business people out there that use their platform to do good!

Galston does a good job of prescriptively exploring what business should do in this current environment. As I look at his points, I would have to say I agree. You see, I think that people in business should take the high road in their endeavors. This means instead of just focusing on maximizing shareholder value, this includes social value as well. I think all of us are concerned with stagnant wages. I truly believe that a workman is worthy of a livable wage. I also think using creative accounting to steal from the tax official is not worthy of the noble businessperson.

I was trying to find who made the statement about the sound of guillotines getting closer, but was unable to find who said it. This person who said it was wealthy and was worried that every time the stock market ticked up, they could hear the sound of guillotines moving closer. The time for using business to create positive social change is now.

Bottom line, I think business is a calling, and the best way to look at is as being a steward over resources given to the business person to not only make a living, but to do good in your community. After reading Galston this morning I am convinced that wealth creation through business can create positive social change. But I also am convinced there are many people out there that wants to “get er done.”

And that is my thought for the day!


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