7 Inspiring Stories from C12 Christian Business Leaders
In 2001, our founder, Buck Jacobs, began a tradition of recognizing C12 “Heroes”: Members who embody C12’s mission and demonstrate faithful and fruitful leadership at an uncommon level over a prolonged period of time (five years at minimum). He originally framed up the Hero award eligibility and award as C12’s “highest and most meaningful honor” as inspiring examples to others. We continue this tradition today in that same spirit by honoring Members bi-annually at CURRENT, our global marketplace leader conference.
Hero award recipients have demonstrated unwavering commitment to an eternal perspective, seeing their business leadership as a conduit for the gospel and an opportunity to model and share the love of God. Their BaaM (Business as a Ministry) models have pushed the envelope on ministry in the marketplace, building exemplary businesses while applying biblical principles.
The faith of these leaders has been the firm foundation for their businesses through prosperity and adversity—no doubt in 2020. No amount of strategic planning could have predicted a global pandemic, workforce and supply chain disruption, commodity shortages, suspension of public education, racial riots, Chinese tariffs, and economic recession—all amid an already volatile election year. While some may throw up their hands and conclude our dynamic VUCA world calls for a narrow focus on the business and precedence over the merits of ministry, environments like 2020 actually underscore the imperative of businesses shaped by the gospel!
Significant opportunities exist for Gospel-advancing ministry efforts in this crisis. In April, C12 launched a targeted survey of CEO Members to gauge the impact, outlook, insights, and challenges for business leaders. With our membership ranging from small, local businesses to multi-billion dollar multinational enterprises, a broad-based survey provides a meaningful glimpse into the state of the American marketplace and the needs going forward. The survey focused on impacts around finances and the workforce, utilization of federal stimulus programs, responses by the businesses, future challenges, and searches for winning strategies.
According to our findings, CEOs and business owners have a positive, entrepreneurial outlook and are pivoting to build sustainable business models in a post-pandemic marketplace. The nearly 600 survey respondents reported the following growth to their ministry activities:
- 55% increased ministry to employees
- 27% increased ministry to the community
- 17% increased ministry to the industry
- 8% developed a COVID-19 ministry plan
For some specific examples of how agile Members are creating advantages and breakthroughs enhanced by peer group experiences and an eternal perspective, C12 recently asked the 2017 and 2019 C12 Hero Award recipients for testimonies about how they have navigated the challenges of 2020 thus far. Hear seven encouraging perspectives from long-standing, courageously faithful Members. At a time when many leaders are looking for hope, wisdom, and resources, it is undeniably evident in these vignettes how good and faithful God is to those who are fully dependent on Him. May their generous testimonies inspire ideas and actions throughout the marketplace.
“In a very practical way, this has been the worst of times and the best of times for the ACR family. Some of the negative consequences that have happened are obvious and common to many C12 Members (and leaders). We’ve had a significant downturn in business, and as a result, we have made some very difficult but necessary decisions to help ACR not only survive, but thrive when we reach the other side of this COVID-19 storm. We have tried to channel our inner ‘buffalo’ and run directly into the storm, being as proactive as possible and making sure that we are leading first with prayer and asking the Lord for wisdom and discernment in our task force strategy sessions! As others have said, it has also opened up doors to have much deeper and spirit-filled conversations about where we place our hope. I have personally tried to make sure that I’m communicating on a regular and consistent basis with our team. We are holding weekly Wednesday morning coffee calls, giving them updates on where we are operationally and financially. The COVID task force we put together has spent time in prayer and networking with C12 Members as well as other like-minded distributors in our industry, which has provided us with a lot of important and effective strategies to help us navigate these unprecedented times! Ultimately, our prayer is that this evil virus would be eradicated.”
ACR Supply Company | Raleigh, NC
“We are in a very different position possibly from many C12 companies. Nut consumption (peanuts, peanut butter jars, peanut butter ingredients, and tree nuts) has been going strong since March. Our processing plants have been running to keep up with demand. The balance of keeping employees safe and production running has been a challenge. We have had to wrestle with COVID cases from time to time and reassure our workforce that we are endeavoring to do all we can to ensure their safety. We have been able to pay our employees who were out for precaution, awaiting results or experiencing symptoms. Our Chaplains are back, making face to face visits. (We had to cease ‘rounds’ for about 60 days.) Earlier, we had to shut down one of our facilities and mandate everyone be tested. The impact was a one week shut down. The state of NM acted responsibly to our requests. It turned out well. Essentially, God has placed us in a position to produce an inexpensive food source that is considered essential. Our ministry, Meherrin on Mission, has continued throughout the crisis. One short testimony is in regards to two house fires and the loss of an employee’s home in April due to a tornado. Our employees and Meherrin raised over $32,000 to help these three families! Disaster knows no race or income level. We are trying to stay focused on our calling to be salt, light, and Jesus in the workplace. The families impacted have heard the gospel as well as seen it! I need to be consistent in crisis and act in a manner that reflects our Lord.”
Hampton Farms/Meherrin | Rocky Mount, NC
“God has given us His spirit and an ability to move forward in challenging times by faith. He has also given us resources, people, and profits to steward. Early on, we partnered with a black pastor friend of mine to create a fundraiser for Generation One, an organization that provides early childhood development and youth education in a predominantly black area of Houston’s impoverished third ward, which is also where George Floyd was from. Our approach has been to focus on solutions instead of problems. In doing this, by God’s grace, we were able to raise $25K and match with a $25K gift. More importantly, we put a quick video-ask together with Pastor Anderson and myself. Thousands viewed the video that expressed our friendship and desire to be a part of the solution. One learning we had during this exercise, though, was that less than 1% of those who saw the video actually gave. We’re reminded that it’s always the small minority that stands and moves the ball forward. God needs us to stand strong and be bold in this season. We are choosing to do this by partnering with life-changing ministries to the next generation. We are educating folks in the process and trusting God with the results.”
–Todd Stewart, President
Gulfwinds International | Houston, TX
“On COVID, we prayed and deliberated long and hard on whether to apply for the PPP and other government financial support that was being offered. Was this from God, or were we settling by ‘going to Egypt’ for provision? After a time of listening for His voice, we felt the Spirit telling us that God intended to use the government support to bless and grow PM2. We looked to Romans 8:28, which says, ‘And we know that in all things [even COVID and government aid programs], God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.’ So, hearing this word from God, we applied for everything that was available. All our applications were immediately approved and fully funded within just a few days. Meanwhile, God has been bringing His company steady work during a time when any reasonable person would expect us to be bleeding profusely. Isaiah 45:3 says, ‘I will give you hidden treasures, riches stored in secret places, so that you may know that I am the Lord,’ and He surely is doing that. Today, we have ample capital to invest back into PM2, and God has brought us several high caliber people to join our team. The miracle in all of this is that PM2 is in better shape financially than we were heading into the pandemic and God’s company is poised for growth like never before.”
PM2 Inventory Management Controls | Tampa Bay, FL
“As a construction business, we live risk mitigation and we have learned to work safely through this pandemic. The racial issues concern us more! I produced a video that went out to our team in an attempt to set the stage on how we are to react to the tensions. The message centered around Jesus and our call to love one another. While we are eager to learn and empathize with our black and brown brothers and sisters, we remind our team that there is an effort by our enemies to divide us and constantly keep our nation in turmoil. Our message is one of unity, not division. So we are constantly trying to navigate our environment through the eyes of Christ. We all need His peace and forgiveness before we can expect more from our fellow man.”
–Charlie Brown, CEO
Precision Plumbing | Charlotte, NC
“The darker the room is, the brighter the light shines!! Although we would not wish for these things to happen, God is in control and has a plan and purpose. We continue to ask God to reveal what His plans and purposes are for us, and He has been faithful to do so. Teamwork and innovation have been off the charts during these times. Based on a belief that emptiness will be filled with something, we are very proactive to inform and discuss what has been going on with our team members, customers, and suppliers in a very open and truthful way. I was given an opportunity to write a letter to a national industry publication that proclaimed our hope is in Jesus Christ. This would not have been possible in ‘normal times.’ We are holding regular meetings with the entire company to keep them updated and remind them of the hope of Jesus. We have recorded videos for team members and customers and sent a gospel letter along with a mask to many of our customers. God has brought several of our team members to a profession of faith through our Chaplain. These and other efforts have given us many opportunities to talk to and pray with many people that would possibly not normally be open. I am so thankful that God has us in a time and place like this to be used for His glory. I may be crazy, but I am excited by the opportunities we have to let the light of Jesus Christ shine!!!”
–Chad Epperson, CEO/Owner
United Treating & Distribution | Huntsville, AL
“As I think about all God has been doing in this time of chaos in our country and the impending cultural war, I see God has given us the opportunity to shine the light of Christ in our business, to our vendors and customers, and even amongst others in our industry. One of our sales managers asked, “As long as I can’t go out and meet with customers during COVID, can I call every customer and ask if there is anything we can pray for them?” Some customers didn’t express any prayers requests, but many more did. Our team gathered regularly to pray for their requests, then circled back to learn many had been answered. Inspired by one of my C12 peers, we also launched a prayer email account. We have had several responses and continue to get more. We make a point to get together regularly to pray for the requests that come in. With all the anxiety that has surfaced in recent months, God has brought about peace for those that have reached out to Him. We are still doing our weekly lunch and learn and have prayed for people in our company that were apprehensive about all they were hearing and seeing in the media. What Satan meant for evil, God has used for good. It has been a blessing to have two of my team members in C12 Key Player Groups. It keeps us cohesive and on mission together—not just the Members but our whole team. God has blessed us with great people but not without asking. My daily prayer is, ‘God please send the people you want at Hay Creek and take the people out that you want out.’ I am looking forward to CURRENT’21 and hearing more about what God is doing in all of this—in our country, our people, and our businesses.”
–Tom Gardner, Owner
Hay Creek Companies | Central Wisconsin
August 13, 2020