When I review Business by the Book, by Larry Burkett, I’m referring to the version that was published in 1990. The copy I have joined my business library only a few years ago—I don’t remember where I got it. When I was cleaning my office a few weeks ago, I almost put it on the “thrift shop” pile. But something made me decide to peruse it again rather than discard it. I’m glad I did.
This is a classic book for business owners, and by “classic” I mean the principals are enduring. Though some of the real-life illustrations he shares seem a little dated, the advice is still sound.
Early in the book, Burkett lays out six “basic business minimums.” He proposes that applying these minimums is a good way to make a business distinctly Christian:
- Reflect Christ in your business practices.
- Be accountable.
- Provide a quality product at a fair price.
- Honor your creditors.
- Treat your employees fairly.
- Treat your customers fairly.
Now, perhaps it’s sad that Christian business people need to be taught this—it seems like the kind of thing we began learning in Sunday School! But I think Burkett’s assumption is valid: Too many business people—even those who claim to be Christians—believe that the Bible’s teachings are incompatible with savvy business.
Burkett shares plenty of real-life stories of people who applied Biblical principles to their business operations—sometimes at great financial cost. Though he comes close to painting a PollyAnna-ish picture of everything working out for people who do the right thing, he does acknowledge that it isn’t always easy. A Biblical decision may, in fact, not be profitable in the short-term. But in the long term, explains Burkett, God blesses His people.
That long-term view is important, maybe today more than ever. In an age of fast growth and instant gratification, it’s tempting to seek quick, easy success. But the foundation of every business is relationships—with customers, with staff, with vendors, with shareholders. And even today, relationships take time and trust.
Business by the Book
In the end, it doesn’t matter what type of business you’re in. I believe we will all be judged not by the profit margin we generate, or the product we manufacture, or the inspiring Mission Statement we hang on our walls. We will be judged by the quality of the relationships we develop, with God and with the people around us. As Burkett says:
“Since graduating from business school I have been studying another text book. It’s called the Bible. And it takes a radically different approach to business matters than most business schools today–an approach more concerned with eternity than profits.” (p. 11)