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Monday, September 19, 2011

Book Review: "Doing Virtuous Business"

This review was first published at Yapdates here.

TITLE: Doing Virtuous Business: The Remarkable Success of Spiritual Enterprise

AUTHOR: Theodore Roosevelt Malloch
PUBLISHER: Nashville, TN: Thomas-Nelson, 2008.

Spiritual capital is not only profitable in the long run, it is vital for the survival of any organization. In this book, the author makes a strong case for a kind of business culture that is more than mere profit-making or stockholder-pleasing. At the core of the book's argument is that the goal of business is to bring about both material prosperity as well as a flourishing of the human quality of life. Strongly in favour of capitalism over socialism, what is needed is not to discard capitalistic ideas too quickly, but to cement it with a strong layer of social and spiritual capital. In fact, spiritual capital or enterprise is the way to bring out the best of capitalism.

About the Book
This book is filled with lots of stories from the business world, coupled with multiple descriptions of virtues, philosophy of life, and the meaning of spiritual capital. Spiritual capital is "the bold idea that the creation of wealth by virtuous means is the most important thing we can do for ourselves and others, for our society, and for the world at large." (5)

More important than economic capital, spiritual capital can be 'accumulated and invested' through 'networks of trust and goodwill,' resulting in a shared investment toward a common purpose. The author argues for a healthy integration of modern capitalism with a fresh dose of spiritual capital through virtues. After describing some historical views of virtues, from Greek philosophers to Western theologians, the author settled on 14 types of virtues that will increase social capital. They are faith, honesty, gratitude, perseverance, compassion, forgiveness, patience, humility, courage, respect, generosity, discipline, chastity, and thrift. He specifies three specific business 'cardinal virtues' as 'creativity, building community, and practical realism.' (44)

The way to increase these virtues is through 'spiritual entrepreneurship' which helps 'directs' these virtues to face challenges both now and the future. Here, Malloch uses the Paul's use of 'faith, hope, and charity' as a framework to implement such spiritual entrepreneurship. He highlights the amazing ventures of businesses whose mission stems from a faith-based conviction, like Dacor, Domino's Pizza, Malden-Mills, Johnson & Johnson, Catholic Health Initiatives, Eleven Wireless, ServiceMaster, and many others.

He then moves toward the practical side of spiritual entrepreneurship by distinguishing virtues into hard and soft types. The 'hard virtues' of leadership, courage, patience, perseverance, and discipline represents the perspiration side of enterprise. The 'soft virtues' of justice, forgiveness, compassion, humility, and gratitude provides the inspiration part of it.

His chapter on 'spiritual capital in a skeptical age' is worth the price of the book. In it, he deals with the three objections to his thesis by conventional capitalistic culture. Firstly, he answers the skeptical cynic who is suspicious of the integration of faith and business by saying that they are not antithesis, but motivates each other. Secondly he answers the Christian who prefers to separate faith and business by saying that it is not the wealth per se, but 'how we use it' that matters more. Thirdly, to the pragmatist who prefers the secular as the best way ahead, he argues convincingly that current 'successful' secular models are reaping the fruits of a religious past.

Final Comments

This book is rare for its faith-business integrated view. It blends in the virtues of faith with the vitality of business. It tells the reader that it is possible to let one's faith lead one's work. There is no contradiction.  There are many stories that warm the heart and can uplift the soul. The sacrifices of the businesses for the sake of virtues and goodwill are inspiring, and show readers that business is indeed more than making money. It is making people out of business, not business out of people.

For every Christian businessperson, this book is required reading. 

Rating: 4 stars of 5


Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from the publisher through the BookSneeze®.com book review bloggers program. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255 : “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

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