Tyson, if you haven’t heard, is one of the biggest meat companies in the universe, slaughtering 2 billion chickens, 20 million pigs and 7 million cattle each year. And Donnie Smith, it turns out, is not just CEO, but also a Sunday School teacher!
Mr. Smith says one of his most important jobs as CEO is to promote an ethical culture, and he blogs about integrity on his internal corporate blog. (Which I tried, but couldn’t track down. Let me know if any of you can snarf it up from the bowels of the Tyson internal infrastructure. I’d love to get a look at it.)
Scott Kilman, the WSJ staff reporter, asked some pointed questions of Mr. Smith regarding the perplexing mash up of his Christian beliefs with running a multibillion dollar business.
Here are some excerpts, interspersed with my own annoying commentary between their discourse, as if they had asked me to join right in the conversation. Which they should have.
WSJ: On your internal company blog, you mention the Bible as your favorite book. Does you faith affect the way you manage?
Mr. Smith: I don’t think you can say, “I do my church stuff on Sunday between nine and noon, and the rest of the time I am either out for myself or running my business.”
My faith influences how I think, what I do, what I say. There are a lot of great biblical principles that are fundamental to operating a good business. Being fair and telling the truth are biblical principles.
Me: OMG did you read that book too? I agree, wholeheartedly. Our faith influences how we think, and should cause us to think at higher levels, not just in ethical matters, but also in running a better business, being a better leader. Donnie, you are a great example of how our faith can play an integral part of running our business. And I am totally not just sucking up to you right now so I can get some free chicken.
WSJ: How moral can a company be?
Mr. Smith: We are going to do what’s right. And we’re going to do what is right for one reason: because it is right. Now, listen, we’ve got 117,000 people. There might be somebody that steps out of line occasionally. We will correct that.
Me: That’s a lot of corrections to keep track of.
WSJ: The bible says the chances of a rich man getting into heaven aren’t good. Can a Fortune 500 CEO get into heaven?
Mr. Smith: This one will, because I did what the bible said I had to do to get into heaven. Feeding people is a laudable purpose in life.
Me: Ha ha ha! You’ve got all your bases covered, mister. And didn’t Jesus feed people, too?
BTW, you people at WSJ need to get with the program and visit the “About” section of my blog to get the real scoop on that saying about a rich man getting into heaven. After Jesus told his disciples it’s harder for a rich man to get into heaven than for a camel to go through the eye of the needle, he goes on to say, “But with God all things are possible.” Jesus makes it very clear that the truth is, God can shrink that camel like magic, and it’ll slip right through the needle, no problem.
Everyone always forgets that part of the story.
Photo by Nancy Rosback.