Staff Photo: John Bohn David Mimbs, VP Business Development at Pure Red Creative in Tucker, poses for a portrait in his office. David displays a Celtic cross and a bible in his office.
DULUTH -- As a veteran accountant and a Christian since he was 16, John Dillard is familiar with his business and faith, and he often discussed both when he was active in the Gwinnett Chamber of Commerce.
In fact, after he opened his own CPA firm following 10 years working for an international company, Dillard considered the chamber as his mission field.
But Dillard said God didn't think he was doing enough.
"God told me, I want you to be more overt with your faith," Dillard said. "I appreciate everything you're doing -- I'm telling everybody I know that I'm a Christian. That was when I decided to rename my firm. It wasn't my idea."
So in 2004, Dillard, a Duluth resident, branded his firm "HisCPA" and has similar logos and scripture on email signatures, fax cover sheets and his website.
Dillard's email signature ends with a quote he attributes to Perimeter Church pastor Randy Pope, "Dare to attempt something so great for the kingdom of God that it is doomed to failure, lest Christ be in it!"
There was some hesitation about making the branding change. One of Dillard's largest clients was not a Christian.
"I was afraid I was going to lose one of my biggest clients," he said. "But I don't believe in pushing my faith on others. Christ came to offer love, peace and grace. He didn't come to brow beat people."
Dillard said not much has changed about his business, from a worldly perspective. He still has about 90 to 100 clients, but the depth of the relationships with clients is "much different."
"Often when we're reviewing our faith walk, man standards are what determine who we are and what Christ wants us to be," Dillard said.
What's changed, Dillard said, is the first part of the conversation about being a Christian.
"Instead of being afraid to say we're a Christian CPA firm, all of our branding says that," Dillard said. "People come up to me and say, 'Oh you're a Christian? Where do you go to church?' I expected the opposite. As a result of doing that, people see me a little different. We don't have to say anything."
Dillard's decision to integrate his faith into business is becoming more common, said Georgia Gwinnett College management professor Douglas Johnson.
Johnson is interested in developing a college course on the topic of faith in business, and has researched the area.
As the owner of a small business, Dillard has the license to direct his company's philosophy.
And whether it's a small local business or larger companies Johnson has researched, like Michelin and Chick-fil-A, the role of faith is decided by who's in charge.
"While faith is being discussed (and) integrated more in the workplace today than in the past, it is still contingent on the company's philosophy," Johnson said. "More specifically, it often comes to what the senior leadership team is most comfortable with. Some will use this as another dimension of diversity, while others see it as a core part of the business and has been since its founding."
Michelin and Chick-fil-A, Johnson said, have strong positions about the role of faith in each company in terms of policies, procedures and practices.
Other companies, are not as forthright about it, or at least evaluate the role of faith given employees' desires.
David Mimbs, a vice president for business development for the advertising firm PureRed Creative, said while his company's chief executive officer is a committed Christian, Mimbs is mindful of all of the 400 employees in the company.
"I am a born again Christian and I believe that Jesus said, 'Go out and share the gospel with the world,'" said Mimbs, a Suwanee resident. "I'm very sensitive in how I share that because I don't want to offend people. I want to love people first and then share the gospel with them. We have to be careful (with) when and what we say. I rely on the Holy Spirit to lead me."
PureRed handles branding, marketing, print design, photography, web design and social media for clients from San Francisco to New York. In his experience, Mimbs said he "almost never" sees clients or companies that have the branding of Dillard's company. But because Dillard is the owner of a one-person company, he has "greater freedom to express himself," Mimbs said.
Mimbs said he handles faith in business on a case-by-case basis.
He's prayed with a co-worker battling cancer because he felt her suffering. And prayed over the phone with a client who had a severe illness.
"You have to be very careful about that in the sense of that gets pretty dicey," Mimbs said.
While Mimbs said his direct supervisor is a committed Christian, he's not sure of the faith beliefs of the majority of the employees in the company.
Representing the company must be done in a "right and proper way," Mimbs said, but he doesn't lead with his faith. Mimbs said he develops a rapport with someone before bringing faith into the conversation, or lets them mention it first.
"I try to conduct myself in a way that will bless people," Mimbs said. "I have a desire to exceed our expectations with regard to the work we're doing for them. I look for God to open the door to do that. We're not Bible thumpers. I think we witness in the right way. Just being aware that there might be an opportunity to share."
Mike Haswell owns Storing Treaures, a company that teaches Biblical financial principles to help people become free from the worries over debt and money. Haswell offers financial coaching and helps employers and church groups find individual financial personalities.
Haswell said many business owners may have personal feelings about their faith, but it's typically not on a mission statement, logo or website.
"If you sit down and have a discussion with an owner and spend any time they'll quickly recognize they're a Christian organization, but I don't see it as an overt part of their business," Haswell said. "For most, it's a personal faith journey that they will share with you if you sit down with them. I don't see them actively promoting that with their business."
A concern with being outgoing about faith is how that would affect the bottom line, Haswell said. Another is with employees, or potential employees.Business owners must strike a balance between demonstrating their faith with employees and clients, and not discriminating or offending someone, Haswell said.
"They want to be cognizant of the background of their people," he said. "They might have a person from a different religion in an employment group. Is that going to be offensive to them in any way?"
In Johnson's research, there isn't much of an empirical link between faith and a company's bottom line.
"There have been some that have alluded to it by way of organizational culture," said Johnson, who referred to the notion that more fulfilled or satisfied employees are more productive.
Rob Keith, a Peachtree Corners resident, is vice president of business banking for Regions Bank in Cumming. Keith works with a variety of businesses that have an annual revenues that range from $2 million to $20 million.
Keith said he believes knowing a colleague or client is a Christian believer may be a deciding factor in a business deal.
"I believe that God directs me everyday in what I do, as I believe he does all of us," Keith said. "I believe certain doors are open. Some people talk about coincidences, and I believe that certain things are supposed to happen. I think other business owners that also feel that same way are very receptive to a banker that has that same appreciation to doing business."
Bringing faith with him to work helps make ethical dilemmas easier, Keith said. It also helps fight the temptation to cut corners to do more deals, or bigger deals.
"Typically what I do is approach every situation with how I would want to be treated myself and give prayful consideration to my clients and folks I deal with," Keith siad. "If I'm tempted to cut corners or not handle things in an appropriate manner, my faith helps me with an appropriate response."
During a recent conversation, Dillard recited at least five scriptures from the Bible. After he admitted that his personal goals have changed from wanting to be a "drastically different" person every five years instead of every 10.
"I like to think I've gained a little wisdom and (hopefully) it doesn't take as long," he said.
To make his point, Dillard cited the verse Jeremiah 29:11. It says "For I know the plans I have for you,' declares the Lord, "plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future."