BusinessColumnistsOp-EdOpinionWilliam Reed

BUSINESS EXCHANGE: Doing Business by the Good Book

Some of America’s largest and most influential companies are headed by Christians in the marketplace. Chick-fil-A, Hobby Lobby, Tyson Foods, Wal-Mart, Cracker Barrel, Interstate Batteries and Thrivent Financial are the 2016 Faith Equality Index’s leading companies.

Chick-fil-A has long supported traditional marriage and expands locations and franchises despite boycotts by supporters of gay marriage. Chick-fil-A started in suburban Atlanta in 1967. Since then, Chick-fil-A has grown to become the largest quick-service chicken restaurant chain in the United States with over 1,900 locations in 42 states and Washington, D.C. In 2014, annual sales were nearly $6 billion. Chick-fil-A was involved in a big controversy over its president’s views on same-sex marriage and donations to anti-LGBT causes. In 2012, D.C. Mayor Vincent Gray referred to the brand’s food as “hate chicken,” saying he opposed its expansion into D.C. In fall 2015, Chick-fil-A opened a franchise in Columbia Heights.

In 1970, entrepreneurs David and Barbara Green began making miniature picture frames in their garage. A few years later in 1972, the Green family opened the first Hobby Lobby store. Today, Hobby Lobby Stores Inc., based in Oklahoma City, Oklahoma, operates over 600 stores across the nation and offers more than 70,000 arts, crafts, hobbies, home decor, holiday, and seasonal products. In 2014, Hobby Lobby won at the Supreme Court to block the federal government from forcing it and other companies run by religious families to offer health insurance that includes birth control.

Tyson Foods is one of the world’s largest processors and marketers of chicken, beef and pork, as well as prepared foods. The company started in the mid-1930s from the back of a truck. It has grown into a company that operates across the world. Tyson Foods’ prepared foods include pizza toppings and crusts, tortillas and chips, deli meats, appetizers, soups sauces and side dishes. Tyson Foods products are sold in the U.S. and 130 countries.

Started by Sam Walton, Wal-Mart is the largest retailer in the world. Each week, nearly 260 million customers visit Wal-Mart’s more than 11,500 stores under 65 banners in 28 countries and e-commerce sites in 11 countries. With fiscal year 2015 net sales of $482.2 billion, Wal-Mart employs 2.2 million associates worldwide – 1.4 million in the U.S. alone.

Cracker Barrel Old Country Store Inc. is an American chain of combined restaurant and gift stores with a Southern country theme. The company was founded in 1969; its first store was in Lebanon, Tennessee, which remains the company headquarters. The chain’s stores were at first positioned near Interstate highway exits in the Southeastern and Midwestern United States, but it has expanded across the country during the 1990s and 2000s. The chain operates 630 stores in 42 states. During the 1990s, the company was the subject of controversy for its stance against gay and lesbian employees and for discriminatory practices against African-American and female employees.

Interstate Batteries is the No. 1 replacement brand battery in North America. It is now a multibillion-dollar privately held corporation. In the spring of 1950, John Searcy began selling and delivering car batteries to wholesalers in the Dallas/Fort Worth area from the back of his red Studebaker pickup truck. After two years, Searcy named his new company Interstate Battery System, after the new interstate system being built across the U.S.

Thrivent Financial is a not-for-profit membership Fortune 500 financial services organization. It is a unique kind of fraternal benefit society that provides insurance to its members and has to carry out social, intellectual, educational, charitable, benevolent, moral, fraternal, patriotic or religious purposes for the benefit of its members and the public. It operates under what’s called the lodge system.

Christianity has always been a double-edged sword for African-Americans. The nation’s largest Black-owned company is World Wide Technology Holding Co. Inc. The privately held company’s chairman and majority owner is a Bible-thumper whose book, “Doing Business by the Good Book: Fifty-Two Lessons on Success Straight from the Bible,” shows how to succeed in business using the Bible and its lessons as a source of inspiration and guidance.

William Reed is publisher of “Who’s Who in Black Corporate America” and is available for projects via busxchng@his.com.

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William Reed

William Reed is President and Chief Executive Officer of Black Press International. He has been a Media Entrepreneur for over two decades. A well-trained marketing and communications professional, Reed has a national reputation for his expert writing, speaking, organizational, research, management and motivation abilities, along with strong managerial, presentation and sales skills.

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