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Published Date: March 5, 2004

Published Date: March 5, 2004

Featured Articles

Featured Articles

Business Partners, Kingdom Partners

As business partners, Charles Arnold and Jaime Nolan share the same goals as most business owners: serving their clients, making a profit, growing their business and maintaining a positive work environment for their employees.

However, as Christians their top priority is to remain centered on God’s will.

“From the very beginning Charles and I have prayed about every potential client, every potential employee and every potential direction the company can go,” Nolan says.

The two met as coworkers at Synergy Resource Group Inc. (SRGI), an association management firm in Plymouth, Minn. They later bought the business from the owner when she retired in March of 2001.

While the business is secular, Arnold and Nolan have found it provides many opportunities for ministry. And, knowing it is ultimately God they serve, they take seriously the admonition in Colossians 3:23: “Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord.” Putting God first means the rest of their priorities also look a little different from those of the average secular business.

SRGI’s published management philosophy defines these priorities:

1. We strive to honor God in all that we do.

2. To provide an atmosphere that encourages the importance of family.

3. To serve and represent our clients with a superior effort in every action and opportunity.

Managing Together

Sharing authority as co-owners of SRGI works for Arnold and Nolan because they both look to God as the highest authority, avoiding the trap of self-importance that often tempts those in leadership. Says Arnold, “It is an extremely humbling experience to know that God has placed you in a position of managing even a small piece of his plan.”

From day-to-day responsibilities to important decisions that have a significant impact on the business, this shared faith and submission to God is the framework for their management decisions. If a situation arises and they disagree on how to handle it, they turn to Scripture to determine the best solution. They have a standing policy not to proceed on a course of action unless they both agree it is the right one.

One passage that has helped them keep a God-honoring perspective is Galatians 6:7-8: “Do not be deceived; God cannot be mocked. People reap what they sow. Those who sow to please their sinful nature, from that nature will reap destruction; those who sow to please the Spirit, from the Spirit will reap eternal life.” Nolan says, “This is the verse we remember when we are struggling with a decision that could benefit the company, or us personally, but isn’t necessarily pleasing to God.”

The two begin each week with a time of prayer, which employees are welcome, but not obligated, to join. “When we pray on Mondays, we surrender ourselves to God’s will, his direction, commit the company to him, commit the week to him, ask for his guidance and wisdom, and pray for each one of our employees,” says Nolan.

A Beneficial Partnership

Arnold and Nolan see the fact that one of them is a man and one a woman as an advantage for their business.

“Men and women see, hear and think differently, and in a world where decisions — good decisions — are the key to running a successful business, our gender difference is a great asset for SRGI,” says Arnold.

However, Arnold avoids oversimplified stereotypes about how men and women differ. He points out that basic personality differences, irrespective of gender, are also a key area where he and Nolan complement each other. “Jaime’s more grounded, stability-minded personality perfectly counterbalances my outside-the-box, risk-taking personality, and vice versa,” he explains. “Both attitudes are good for a growing business, but too much of one way of thinking can cripple a company.” He feels their partnership offers “the best of both worlds and is healthy for the company.”

Nolan agrees that the two bring different viewpoints to all issues. In a business with a wide variety of clients, it helps to be able to analyze things from as many angles as possible. In addition to personality and gender, she identifies age as another difference that helps shape their perspectives. “Charles is 11 years older than me,” she says, “so we have different experiences we can relate as we are brainstorming on projects.”

They also have a business advantage when it comes to interacting with someone who, for whatever reason, prefers to work with one gender rather than the other. For example, Nolan notes, “There are a lot of older men that still have not grown accustomed to doing business with women.” On the flip side, she is a member of the National Association of Women Business Owners, and many of her contacts there prefer to do business with other women. So the partnership provides a good balance for dealing with potential clients.

Service Goes Both Ways

A lot of people have used the biblical passages on masters and servants as an analogy for modern-day employment, likening employees to the servants and employers to the masters. But Nolan and Arnold believe they are also called to be servants to their employees. They take inspiration from Philippians 2, which describes how Christ humbled himself to be a servant to humanity and instructs Christians to “look not only to your own interests, but also to the interests of others.”

Ways they strive to serve their employees include making themselves available to help and to answer questions and making the effort to provide staff members with whatever support they need to do their jobs. This attention strengthens relationships with their employees and makes them more efficient and effective in working together.

The Importance of Family

Another way Nolan and Arnold serve their employees is by fostering a work environment that nurtures the whole person. They encourage employees to keep a healthy balance between work and home life, and strive to do so themselves. SRGI has adopted family-friendly policies to accommodate employees’ personal needs. A lot of companies will allow employees to work from home occasionally, or to take time off to care for a sick child. Nolan and Arnold do this and more.

“If someone has a relative who is suffering with a trauma, emotion or issue and they need our employee, we encourage them to go,” Nolan explains. “If an employee’s spouse doesn’t want them working late or at a particular event, we support them and make other arrangements.” And recently an employee brought her daughter to work with her when the child had a day off from school. “We totally support that,” says Nolan.

Reaping the Rewards

SRGI’s management philosophy, while a bit unconventional in the secular business world, has served the company well. In less than three years since taking the helm, Arnold and Nolan have increased their number of clients from 3 to 12 and added five more full-time employees. And the company has grown by more than 35 percent.

Beyond the physical blessings of a successful business, Arnold and Nolan also treasure the spiritual opportunities and rewards that have resulted from owning SRGI. By being open and approachable about their faith without making it a source of pressure for anyone, Arnold and Nolan have had the chance to share Christ on a number of occasions. One employee became a Christian about three months after joining the company. “She came in seeking, and asked a lot of questions,” says Nolan. “We were only a vessel God used to bring her to him.”