About 2:30 every afternoon, Kevin Sauder looks out his window to the stream of cars leaving the Sauder Woodworking factory in Archbold.
“Every one of those cars has an owner with a car payment that’s depending on me to make the right decisions,” Mr Sauder, the company’s chief executive officer, said Thursday. “And I think about it, every day. It’s very important.”
There’s a popular perception that in order to be successful in business, one must be cutthroat and chase profits at all costs and consequences.
Educators, medical professionals — those are noble professions. Business is business.
But Dean Ludwig says business leaders, like Mr. Sauder, can also be noble and that their vocation can be an honorable one.
Mr. Ludwig is the dean of Lourdes University’s College of Business and Leadership. The school’s alumni had its annual leadership summit Thursday at the Toledo Club, focusing on principled business leadership.
The summit, now named for former Dana Corp. chief executive Joseph M. Magliochetti, used a document published by the Pontifical Council for Justice & Peace titled “Vocation of the Business Leader: A Reflection” as a jumping off point.
The document argues that when business leaders act as they should, they help the common good and build community wealth. It says they can get there in part by carrying the same faith and ethics they hold in their private lives into their business lives.
In other words, it’s possible to both do well and do good, Mr. Ludwig said.
Along with Mr. Sauder, Lourdes invited Debbie Sauder David, the director of Sauder Village; Mike Anderson, chief executive of The Andersons Inc.; and Hal Reed, chief operating officer of The Andersons. They all spoke briefly about their company and its role in the community and later participated in a panel discussion.
The two companies are similar in that they both have strong ties to their communities and have successfully transitioned from generation to generation. Both companies also focus on faith.
In The Andersons’ case, the company’s statement of principles includes a belief that all are subject to a higher and divine authority. Mr. Anderson said the company takes that, and the service that comes with it, seriously.
“When we say we’re really about service, we are here to serve,” he said “We are here for more than just selfishness.”
When The Andersons went public in 1996, an associate told Mr. Anderson that his job was now easy. All he had to focus on was increasing shareholder value.
“My answer then and now was very simple,” he said Thursday. “No, that is not our sole reason for being in business, that is not our sole job, and it never will be.”
Both companies’ leaders talked about their commitment to philanthropic endeavors. Though Sauder had long given to church charities, Mr. Sauder said a few years ago the company’s board re-evaluated how it gave based on where its employees might want money to go. As a result, it’s focusing 90 percent of its donations to Fulton, Henry, Williams, and Defiance counties, where about 90 percent of the employees live.
“It’s the United Way, it’s a school, it’s a playground, it’s all the things that make our employees’ lives better and the communities where they live,” Mr. Sauder said.
The companies’ leaders also spoke of the importance of creating a culture in which they listen to concerns brought by employees or others. “The simple act of listening well is probably one of the most humble things a person can do,” Mr. Reed said. “To truly sit and listen and try to understand and respond to a comment or question, it’s not a normal business practice.”
He said respect, trust, and personal goodwill should be seen as keys to success.
Doing the right thing can create a competitive advantage, Mr. Sauder said.
“There can be tendency to fight back the same way and think short-term and try to grab the biggest piece of the pie and run with it. But we’ve looked at it a little differently and we think more long-term. In the end, it’s become a competitive advantage,” he said. “We’re one of the few people out there our customers trust.”
Lourdes officials said 260 people made reservations to attend the event.
Contact Tyrel Linkhorn at: firstname.lastname@example.org or 419-724-6134.