Tuesday, July 8, 2008

ServiceMaster: Sounds Like An Oxymoron

The following excerpt is taken from Rabbi Daniel Lapin's book, Thou Shall Prosper, preview available at Google.

"ServiceMaster Corporation in Illinois was founded by an evangelical Baptist, Marion E. Wade, in 1947. Its primary mission was always "to honor God in all we do." Wade asserted that running a profitable business was not inconsistent with serving the Lord. He spelled out his notion of using the Bible as a guide to business in a book that for decades was given to every new manager. Yet in spite of and many would say because of its linking of God and profits, ServiceMaster quickly grew into a $6 billion Fortune 500 company that did well by doing good on everything from Merry Maids house cleaning to Terminix pest control and TruGreen lawn care. Early in 2000, ServiceMaster opened its web site on which customers could select, purchase, and schedule any of ServiceMaster's services directly.

"During 2001, ServiceMaster brought in its first chief executive officer (CEO) from outside the evangelical fold. Nonetheless, new CEO Jonathan Ward was rightfully reluctant to modify the corporate culture that had worked so well for so long in this service-oriented company with its fleet of 23,000 vehicles. For instance, he retained the custom of calling corporate meetings to order by quoting from the biblical book of Isaiah. That may seem irrelevant to modern business, but this company schedules thousands of visits to customers' homes. If ever a company needed to radiate a message of true commitment to service, this is that company. Even the company's motto is "We Serve"; and this, coupled with its unabashed embrace of Christianity with its own tradition of service, has certainly played a role in its success. ServiceMaster's very name proclaims its eagerness to serve.

"In 1989, Fortune magazine listed ServiceMaster among the country's top companies, and in 1998, the Financial Times was quote in the New York Times as calling ServiceMaster one of the world's most respected companies. [David Barboza, "In This Company's Struggle, God Has Many Proxies," New York Times, November 21, 2001, C1] I hope it continues to prosper because it serves as a useful reminder that to truly excel at service, some form of inner belief is necessary. If you cannot wrap yourself around the notion that other humans are worthy of your committed service and that you are not diminished but are instead elevated by providing that service, you will never really excel at what you do."

Is this so different from what Jesus was teaching his disciples the very night he was betrayed and set about ransoming us from the penalty and power of sin? It was when Jesus knew that the Father had put all things into his hands that he then proceeded to give what may be the most excellent example of service in all the New Testament. "He riseth from supper, and laid aside his garments; and took a towel, and girded himself. After that he poureth water into a bason, and began to wash the disciples’ feet, and to wipe them with the towel wherewith he was girded." Why would Jesus do something like that? Maybe it was simply because his disciples' feet were dirty and needed to be washed? But how could he do such a thing? He could do it because he knew that the Father had put all things into his hands. He could do it because of the confidence that he had in God's ability to conquer the world through service to others. He could do it because he understood what he taught in Matthew 18, "whosoever shall humble himself as this little child, the same is greatest in the kingdom of heaven."


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