I have the unique privilege of leading a fourth generation family business alongside my brothers and cousin. We are the co-owners of Ozinga Bros., Inc.
When I explain to people that we are six brothers and one cousin all working together to steward the family business, it is common for inquiring minds to ask, “How in the world does that work?” To many people, it sounds like a train wreck waiting to happen. This is actually a very appropriate response. The fact is, the odds of survival for a fourth generation family business are less than 3%.
When people ask me how we make it work, I immediately quip, “a LOT of prayer!” That typically gets a good laugh. I then deadpan and go on to explain that I am actually not kidding. Prayer has become a foundational component to our success.
A number of years ago, the fourth generation owners got together and concluded that our success is dependent upon us having healthy relationships with one another. We knew we needed supernatural help to accomplish this. Given our upbringing, prayer was an instinctive reaction to this need for help.
We instituted a standing prayer time on the calendar. Every other Friday afternoon we’ve committed to go into our boardroom, close the door, and leave operational issues behind. We prod each other for what we can be praying for: personal struggles, joys, challenges – nothing is off limits – and then we each take time to pray.
A Coup d’état of the Family Business?
My dad jokingly tells the story that at one point early on he saw all of us with the door closed, unaware of the commitment we had made. This was at a point while he was still running the business but the ownership control had been transitioned to the fourth generation. He couldn’t help but be curious as to what we were up to. He thought to himself, “Maybe they’re going to tell me my time is up.”
As we emerged from the boardroom, he sheepishly asked what the meeting was all about. We told him what we had committed to. Needless to say, it brought joy… and maybe a little relief to a father’s heart.
The Power of Prayer
I have learned firsthand that prayer is mysteriously powerful and effective. Prayer has been a key component of my spiritual and personal development as a leader at work and at home. Personal, quiet, self-reflective time talking and – more importantly – listening to God has given me a very clear sense of my purpose in this life. It helps me answer the question, “Why am I here?”
Another lesson learned is that when prayer moves from an individual activity to a communal or corporate activity, it deepens and enriches the relationship between the people involved, as well as each individual’s relationship with God.
The following are some of the outcomes that we have experienced by spending time praying together:
* Humility. When we publicly acknowledge our shortcomings, fears, and anxieties before God and each other, we emerge realizing that none of us has everything figured out and that’s okay. This keeps us humble.
* Empathy. Our time of prayer puts us in each other’s shoes in a way that the day-to-day business activity doesn’t. We discover things about each other that the busyness often covers up.
* Grace. Grace is unmerited favor. We all need it and we’ve all received it in abundance. Prayer is a great catalyst to freely extend it to each other and our coworkers.
* Trust. Prayer has a way of initiating vulnerability. With seven Dutch guys in a room, one can only come to the conclusion that this is supernatural. This creates a bond of trust that that is an unshakable foundation to build upon.
* Unity. Our biggest concern as family members is divisiveness. The health of our organization depends upon us being unified. Our time of prayer refreshes what’s most important to us collectively. It keeps us on mission. Being like-minded in our mission and values is very liberating. It fosters a culture of courage, enabling us to make bold decisions in our day-to-day activity.
Could prayer be the answer?
As I’ve stated, my very strong belief is that prayer has been a key component of enabling health and success in our organization against incredible odds.
Organizations are made up of people. In order for an organization to truly flourish, the people within it need to have healthy relationships with each other. For many reasons, prayer fosters an environment that makes that possible.
Could it be the answer for unhealthy situations in other organizations? In our government, our schools, churches, families, businesses?
I don’t have all the answers… but then again, that’s my point. What say you?
This article was previously published on LinkedIn. It is reprinted with permission.