There's a lot of ink spilled over how politics and religion intersect, but I wish we could see more stories about religion and commerce. It's somewhat rare to find any religion stories on the business pages. Dana Knight of the Indianapolis Star examined the two in her piece "Religion at the Register":
When customers walk into Chick-fil-A, they get a side with their chicken sandwich that's rare in the world of monstrous fast-food chains: Christianity.
No bones about it, this company's business philosophy is based largely on biblical principles -- including the decision to remain closed on Sundays, when the company could be making big bucks at its 1,356 stores.
"It's become so much a part of how people think about us that they almost think of that as quick as they think of our chicken sandwich," said Dan Cathy, president of the Atlanta-based chain, who was visiting the Avon store last week.
It must be true. Every time I get a Chick-fil-A urge, I have to check my Day-of-the-Week clock to make sure it's the right day for a chicken sandwich and waffle fries!
Anyway, the story lists a few other companies that shutter their doors on Sundays so that employees and customers can go to church and rest. Others are more tolerant of prayer groups or hire chaplains for counseling or to visit employees in hospitals.
But the story doesn't really explain what, exactly, Christian principles are or where they come from. Even the explanation of why they matter is somewhat shallow. This is the best part in that regard, however.
Knight cites Chick-fil-A's 40 consecutive years of annual sales increases:
A study by McKinsey & Co. found that when companies engage in programs that use spiritual techniques for their employees, productivity improves and turnover is greatly reduced.
Chick-fil-A has some of the most committed employees in the industry, "given the strong principled, religious and value-driven corporate culture," said Richard Feinberg, a professor of retailing at Purdue University. "Committed employees do better. One would think that closing Sundays would hurt business, and in a sense it does, but it improves employee business relationships and leads to the commitment that the others do not have."
Carolina Cruz, the operator of the Lafayette Chick-fil-A, welcomes her team members over to her house each Sunday to watch "appropriate" movies and build morale.
"Our team members get to work in a great environment, and that builds loyalty," said Cruz, who started out as a team member herself. "When I found that the company shared my values, little by little I got more in love with the company."
Again, it's a good idea for a story. But I wish business reporters weren't afraid to delve into the religious concepts and bases for running a "value-driven" company. To that end, maybe a religious source or two wouldn't hurt.