Sam Thevanayagam, A Christian CEO Transforming Businesses & Lives
In a business world that prioritizes productivity, speed, and profits, Christians may feel like Monday through Friday belongs to the world while Sunday belongs to God. But Scripture beckons Christians toward a more holistic lifestyle. “Whatever you do,” Paul says in 1 Corinthians, “do it all to the glory of God.”
Christianity Today spoke to five C12 Members who want to do more than simply run another successful company. These leaders want their faith in Christ to be fully integrated into their business practices, influencing everything from production to employee relations, from hiring practices to strategic planning.
Here’s Sam Thevanayagam, Parts Life, Inc.
Image: Photo by Colin Lenton
Sam Thevanayagam is as warm as he is professional, as Spirit-filled as he is strategic. As the CEO of Parts Life, Inc., he leads his company in providing supply chain and obsolescence solutions by sourcing replacement parts and acting as a strategic partner to numerous military branches and primarily aerospace, automotive, and construction equipment companies. Thevanayagam started his career in the automotive industry. But after 12 years, he lost his job. Due to a strict non-compete clause, Thevanayagam realized he would have to reinvent himself as a professional. He consulted for a while, and then in 2007, right at the beginning of the recession, he founded Parts Life. Money was tight. Thevanayagam struggled with worry as he tried to keep a roof over his family’s head and his five children, three of whom were regularly risking injuries as they played football, covered by health insurance.
“It was a difficult time,” Thevanayagam says, “but the Lord actually used the things I learned while I was consulting to create sustenance for my family. In 2010, I got my first million-dollar purchase order from a customer. That really set up the company. Today, I’ve acquired two other companies and have about 110 employees.”
Thevanayagam doesn’t see the 2010 order as the moment when his luck changed. Rather, he sees it as one example of God’s ongoing faithfulness to him, a type of faithfulness that does not waiver in plenty or in want.
As Thevanayagam steers his company through recessions, spending cuts, and a volatile political climate, he keeps focused on what he believes God has called him to: re-creating.
“I have a unique ability and a unique process— it’s actually trademarked—that not only re-creates a technical data package but then re-creates a part. That [addresses] a huge issue for readiness in this country,” Thevanayagam says.
“I spoke to the Department of Defense in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia recently, and the Lord told me to talk about a ‘strategic gap.’ So, I said that there’s a strategic gap between bringing on new assets to the forces and the ability of existing assets to be sustained until the new assets come on board.” Thevanayagam refers to this method as “obsolescence solved,” which he calls his catchphrase. “If you think about it,” he says, “what we’re doing is creating a technical data package then re-creating that part. And then if you think about God, that’s what he’s doing to us from a heart perspective.’”
This parallelism between his and God’s roles brings great significance to Thevanayagam’s work. He’s not only re-creating parts; he’s helping to re-create lives. Recently, for example, a Parts Life employee was able to end his incarceration early because Thevanayagam offered him a job. And Thevanayagam didn’t stop there; the Parts Life community is helping this employee not only reintegrate into the workplace but assimilate back into his role as a husband and father. The company is there for him—with support, accountability, and confidence that re-creation is real, that it can happen for a part needed by the US Army and in the hearts of people, too.
Whether he’s deciding new HR policies or negotiating government contracts, there’s one Bible story that moves Thevanayagam and influences how he runs his business. He says, “Part of my call to leadership and to the people I am around is, ‘Who are the Zacchaeuses in my life who are looking for transformation, and what are you willing to do with that?’”
“Jesus was right there ready to receive the willing Zacchaeus and transform his life. We don’t know if Zacchaeus lived happily ever after,” says Thevanayagam. “But what we do know is that Jesus took the time to give him an opportunity to be transformational.” So that’s what Thevanayagam will be doing, too, whether with his own career trajectory, or an outdated part that a client needs to be re-created, or with an employee who has failed a drug test. He’ll be there, waiting, working, and participating in making all things new.
At the beginning of the millennium, Christianity Today founder Billy Graham said, “I believe that one of the next great moves of God is going to be through the believers in the workplace.” CEOs are living that out with every replacement part, sportfishing boat, and office supply sold. From plates of spaghetti served around the table to morning fitness classes that leave people sweaty but empowered, services are more than tools to ensure customer loyalty. For these business owners, they’re acts of faith to serve a glorious God.
July 16, 2020