Weekly Impact is written for leaders by our former Executive Director, Garth Jestley, who has decades of experience in senior leadership roles in the financial services sector. Each week he will share insights on life, leadership and faith.
This Series explores “business as calling” – what it means, barriers to seeing business as a calling and its implications for followers of Jesus who desire to live out their faith in God not only on the weekend but also in the marketplace.
“It’s nice to have an elephant in the room. There’s nothing more helpful than something everybody’s thinking about.” ~Seth Meyers, Comedian
“I am going to argue that many aspects of business activity are morally good in themselves, and that in themselves they bring glory to God – though they also have great potential for misuse and wrongdoing.” ~Dr. Wayne Grudem, “Business for the Glory of God”
IS COMPETITION MORALLY GOOD?
“I don’t know what would have happened to Walmart if we had laid low and never stirred up the competition. My guess is that we would have remained a strictly regional operator.” ~Sam Walton, Founder of Walmart
“Competition is always a good thing. It forces us to do our best. A monopoly renders people complacent and satisfied with mediocrity.” ~Nancy Pearcey, Christian author
Most of the people in the marketplace with whom I deal are wired competitive. I certainly am. Over my lifetime, my competitive nature has manifested in various ways including the drive to be the top student, beating my personal best time in every marathon or winning new business.
For example, I remember the thrill of beating out other major international banks to lead a large financing of a new aluminum smelter. In the trade, we call these competitions “beauty contests”! To beat these global competitors, we were compelled to bring all our skills to bear. Indeed, the very presence of such reputable and powerful competitors caused us to stretch.
Alternatively, as a buyer of investment banking services over the years, my firm held our own “beauty contests” to determine which banks would lead the initial public offerings for the new funds we had created. At one point, we received excellent presentations from four firms in London, UK. Based on these pitches, we chose one team and, to this day, they have continued to do a great job.
By the way, in pitching for new business, bankers are very inventive. Typically, they establish performance parameters including the definition of their competitive universe or the time frame measured so they’re always number one! Notwithstanding, we were well served by the competitive process. Of course, every one of us experiences the benefits of competition whenever we shop. As we seek out the best features and prices, we are proving that competition works in our favour.
How is it then that some see competition is a dirty word? The expression “dog eat dog” comes to mind. According to the Cambridge Dictionary, “dog eat dog is used to describe a situation in which people will do anything to be successful, even if what they do harms other people.” While I agree this can happen, it’s not the norm in my experience. Of course, proponents of socialism generally view all facets of capitalism as “evil” including competition.
As it happens, the Bible doesn’t have anything directly on point regarding business competition although there are some references to athletic competition. For example, in a letter to the early church at Corinth, the Apostle Paul said, “Don’t you realize that in a race everyone runs, but only one person gets the prize? So run to win!”
While Paul was applying the race metaphor to his passion for sharing the good news of Jesus, it is clear that God wants us to be excellent in all our conduct including our business dealings. The purpose of excellent conduct isn’t to earn His favour (which is extended to us without charge) but to respond to His love. The pressure of competition is intrinsically good because it reminds us to always put our best foot forward.
Next week, I will address the moral goodness of money.
Garth Jestley is a husband, father, grandfather, leader and business executive. Most importantly, he is a follower of Jesus Christ.