By David L. Steward with Robert L. Shook – June 7, 2011

Business Book Review

Doing Business by the Good Book
52 Lessons on Success Straight from the Bible

By David L. Steward With Robert L. Shook

Published by Hyperion
270 pages, $19.95

By Beatrice Williams-Rude

“Doing Business by the Good Book” is a good book written by a good man. His goodness manifests on every page. David L. Steward is also a smart man who’s aware, astute and articulate.

This book makes points about business then backs them up with quotations from the Bible. But strip it of its Biblical backup and it would remain a remarkable primer laying the framework not just of conducting business both ethically and successfully, but of living life by those same moral principles; a philosophy to be embraced by Hindus, Muslims, Buddhists and Jews as well as Christians.

This all-embracing concept relies on the Golden Rule (Do unto others as you would have them do unto you.) and “Love They Neighbor as Thyself.” (Mr. Steward uses the new Bible, which, while abundantly clear, lacks the soaring eloquence of the King James version.)

Over and over the thrust is “serve others.” There is a selflessness and generosity in this plea, but there is also the post script that by doing so the doer will prosper.

Mr. Steward refuses to draw a line between personal conduct and behavior in business. One should not do in business what would be unacceptable in private life. One would not cheat in private life, one should not cut corners or otherwise shortchange one’s business associates. Mr. Steward stresses truthfulness and notes repeatedly that a person’s most important possession is his/her good name. He points out that it takes much time to build a good reputation, but that it can be destroyed overnight.

One’s word should be inviolable; a deal made with a handshake is as binding as one hammered out by lawyers.

A business owner’s first responsibility is to his employees, then his vendors, and then his customers. Mr. Steward gives such examples as his not taking his own salary when money was tight, but in making certain his employees were paid.

His generosity, including generosity of spirit – which led to financial rewards – was manifested with advice to recognize the contributions of all, to listen, really listen, then to act on what was heard. He noted the positive effects of complimenting workers on jobs well done, on rewarding outstanding performances, and on keeping an open door so employees feel comfortable in expressing themselves and offering suggestions.

Throughout this book love pours forth. A psychologist could applaud this tome because it offers such wisdom about living one’s life, not just one’s business life, by not being diverted by destructive impulses (easier said than done). Those who would wreak vengeance in the end generally hurt themselves, even if simply by expending energy that would produce better results if used for positive purposes.

Mr. Steward’s is an improbable history and a testament to persistence and good will. Mr. Steward grew up in a home that statisticians would call “poor,” but was rich in love, decency, a spirit of giving and clear moral imperatives. “The glass is half full” became his mantra and his steadfastly optimistic personality helped enable him to overcome long odds.

He credits Thelma, his wife, with supporting him, cosseting him, and letting her love lift him to the heights he’s scaled. And heights they are! World Wide Technology, Inc. is a multi-billion-dollar business and an example of “the little engine that could.” Although it could be called “Dave’s baby,” he would insist that it’s “our baby,” in tribute to those who are and have been a part of it.

Among the issues “Dave” addresses are the need for an entrepreneurial spirit, the insistence upon integrity, the art of delegating, and the imperative of ever striving for excellence.

The strategies include ways of adapting to change and the consequences of not doing so, and of finding a niche and building long-term relationships.

In this overarching analysis, attention is paid to the need for consistency, weighing risk taking, the necessity for a team spirit and the joy of work. Underlining it all are creativity, innovation, a shared vision and commitment to the long term. And of giving back. Neither an individual nor a company can flourish by taking without returning. Nurturing is the key to growth and one owes one’s family, company and community loyalty and love. In the end generosity benefits the bestower as well as the receiver.

Much stress is put on the need for communication as well as a positive attitude. Sharing and serving are mentioned on virtually every page.

Whether it’s “Look before you leap” in contrast to “He who hesitates is lost” or various Biblical dicta, there are conflicting messages. “Fire in the belly” while always competing fairly. Competition as a virtue, yet the most touching tale is one of cooperative effort (at the Special Olympics). Flexibility yet holding to conviction. While each in its season is a good rationale, the trick is knowing which and when.

Mr. Steward is open about his highly commendable charitable work as well as his church activities and even consideration of prayer meetings at work. He does not quote the Biblical injunction against displaying one’s religion. In the phrase in the King James Bible that begins “Be ye not as the hypocrites” is the command about going into “thy closet” and when thou hast shut the door “pray thy God in secret and he will reward you openly.”

There is much attention given to sowing and reaping as well as motes and beams, here called specks and logs. Yet Mr. Steward puts the blame for anti-Americanism worldwide solely on “evil leaders of … a handful of nations..” without regard to America’s role in Iraq and before that in Vietnam. Europe was appalled by our Iraq attack. Anti-Americanism was what we reaped.

Shouldn’t “getting the log out of one’s own eye before trying to remove the speck from someone else’s eye” (motes and beams in older Bibles) apply to relations among nations as well as business and personal interaction?
Now fortunately, thanks to President Barack Obama, anti-Americanism abating.

In addition to the Bible, there are quotes from Mark Twain, and most tellingly, Winston Churchill: “Never, never, never give in … except to convictions of honour and good sense .” That could well be Mr. Steward’s guiding philosophy.

This book was written by David L. Steward and Robert L. Shook, the latter a well-known Christian writer. But it’s in the first person, and the trials, travails and triumphs are Mr. Steward’s. How aptly this good man is named. He is indeed the steward of his company and a steward of his community. He counsels to turn the other cheek, details how he’s done it himself, and how blessings rained down upon him. Deservedly.

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