Decision Vision Episode 87: Should I Mix My Faith With Business? (Part One) – An Interview with Bill Leonard and Jonathan Minnen
“Mix my faith with business?” Many won’t even touch the question, and others struggle with it. Christian business owner Bill Leonard and Jewish attorney Jonathan Minnen join host Mike Blake to discuss how they integrate their faith with their business work. “Decision Vision” is presented by Brady Ware & Company.
Bill Leonard, Founder and President of Wm. Leonard & Co
Wm. Leonard & Co is a commercial real estate advisory firm providing services primarily to high growth technology companies in locating office space, negotiating the lease and advising them in the design of their facility to best reflect the culture of the company and align their real estate objectives with their business plan.
Bill Leonard is a native of Atlanta and a Life Member of the Atlanta Commercial Board of Realtor’s Million Dollar Club. In 1975, Bill founded Wm. Leonard & Co. which provides commercial real estate advisory services primarily to tenants in negotiating office leases. He is a former member of the Board of Directors of the Atlanta Commercial Board of Realtors, recipient of the Board’s Exclusive Phoenix Award and the Silver Phoenix Award. He has been active in commercial real estate since 1971 and is dedicated to the development of value-added services and lasting client relationships. A large percentage of his clients are high-growth technology companies.
Bill is actively involved in the Atlanta technology community and has served on the boards of the Technology Executives Roundtable, the Southeastern Software Association and the Tech CEO Forum. In 2000, the Technology Association of Georgia honored Bill by making him the recipient of the Leader of Influence Award for his outstanding service to the area’s technology community. He was selected by the Atlanta Business Chronicle’s “Who’s Who in Technology” in 2002.
In addition, Bill takes a leadership role in the Christian business community. He is the founder of the High Tech Prayer Breakfast; co-founder of the Commercial Real Estate Prayer Breakfast; co-founder of the Fellowship of Companies for Christ International and has served on a number of boards including Ambassadors for Christ International, The Fellowship of Companies for Christ International, Crown Financial Ministries, High Tech Ministries, Camp Highland and Teach Every Nation.
Bill received his B.A. degree in Economics & Business Administration from Furman University. Bill and his wife, Sandy, have been married for 47 years and have two grown children and five grandchildren.
Jonathan Minnen, Partner, Smith, Gambrell & Russell, LLP
Smith, Gambrell & Russell, LLP is a full service, International law firm that advises regional, national, and global businesses on a wide range of legal matters. The firm’s 250 attorneys provide legal counsel in more than 45 specialized practice areas, including corporate transactions, litigation, intellectual property, aviation, banking, real estate, construction, employment law, and employee benefits and executive compensation. Founded in 1893, SGR has offices in Atlanta, Austin, Jacksonville, London, Los Angeles, Miami, Munich, New York, Southampton, and Washington, D.C.
Jonathan Minnen, partner, has extensive experience in a wide range of U.S. and overseas business transactions, including mergers and acquisitions and ongoing transactional matters across many business sectors. He practices from both the New York City and Atlanta offices of SGR. His client experience includes businesses which range in size from emerging companies to large publicly traded enterprises; both domestic and overseas. These clients have been involved in a variety of industries including both traditional and high-tech manufacturing, healthcare and financial information systems, robotics, medical devices, biomedical polymers, and technologies involving the telecommunications industry. For some of his clients, Mr. Minnen functions as de facto outside general counsel and is responsible for managing those clients’ entire legal portfolio, which involves routinely teaming with other practice groups of the Firm to achieve the client’s objectives.
Michael Blake, Brady Ware & Company
Michael Blake is Host of the “Decision Vision” podcast series and a Director of Brady Ware & Company. Mike specializes in the valuation of intellectual property-driven firms, such as software firms, aerospace firms and professional services firms, most frequently in the capacity as a transaction advisor, helping clients obtain great outcomes from complex transaction opportunities. He is also a specialist in the appraisal of intellectual properties as stand-alone assets, such as software, trade secrets, and patents.
Mike has been a full-time business appraiser for 13 years with public accounting firms, boutique business appraisal firms, and an owner of his own firm. Prior to that, he spent 8 years in venture capital and investment banking, including transactions in the U.S., Israel, Russia, Ukraine, and Belarus.
Brady Ware & Company
Brady Ware & Company is a regional full-service accounting and advisory firm which helps businesses and entrepreneurs make visions a reality. Brady Ware services clients nationally from its offices in Alpharetta, GA; Columbus and Dayton, OH; and Richmond, IN. The firm is growth minded, committed to the regions in which they operate, and most importantly, they make significant investments in their people and service offerings to meet the changing financial needs of those they are privileged to serve. The firm is dedicated to providing results that make a difference for its clients.
Decision Vision Podcast Series
“Decision Vision” is a podcast covering topics and issues facing small business owners and connecting them with solutions from leading experts. This series is presented by Brady Ware & Company. If you are a decision maker for a small business, we’d love to hear from you. Contact us at email@example.com and make sure to listen to every Thursday to the “Decision Vision” podcast.
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Intro: [00:00:00] Welcome to Decision Vision, a podcast series focusing on critical business decisions. Brought to you by Brady Ware & Company. Brady Ware is a regional, full-service accounting and advisory firm that helps businesses and entrepreneurs make vision a reality.
Mike Blake: [00:00:20] And welcome to Decision Vision, a podcast giving you, the listener, clear vision to make great decisions. In each episode, we discuss the process of decision making on a different topic from the business owner’s or executive’s perspective. We aren’t necessarily telling you what to do, but we can put you in a position to make an informed decision on your own and understand when you might need help along the way.
Mike Blake: [00:00:40] My name is Mike Blake, and I’m your host for today’s program. I’m a Director at Brady Ware & Company, a full-service accounting firm based in Dayton, Ohio, with offices in Dayton; Columbus, Ohio; Richmond, Indiana; and Alpharetta, Georgia. Brady Ware is sponsoring this podcast, which is being recorded in Atlanta per social distancing protocols. If you like this podcast, please subscribe and your favorite podcast aggregator and please consider leaving a review of the podcast as well.
Mike Blake: [00:01:07] So, today’s topic is, should I mix my faith with my business? And this can be a very broad topic, to be sure, but I think it is a very relevant topic, and it is a deeply personal and impactful decision that somebody decides to make, whether you decide in the affirmative or the negative to mix faith with business. One of the first things they taught me, at least, as I went out into the marketplace, is you don’t talk politics, you don’t talk religion, and you don’t talk something else. I forget what the third thing is. Knowing me, I probably talk about it all the time.
Mike Blake: [00:01:54] And as a young professional, I made sure to sort of stay away from those things; although, frankly, my best relationships are with people where I can have conversations about those things and we frequently disagree, but we don’t have to declare war over it, but that’s a separate discussion.
Mike Blake: [00:02:12] But there are potentially risks. It is not a decision to be taken lightly because any time that you decide that you’re going to put a stake out there and define yourself in a way that not everybody necessarily agrees with, you are taking a risk, and you’re investing something of yourself and of your business out there. And there can be some very positive results that come from that, but they aren’t necessarily always positive.
Mike Blake: [00:02:46] And the thing that I find of particular interest about this topic is if you do a search for this topic on Google, should I mix my faith with my business, number one, what’s enticing to me is nobody really authoritative touches it. The economist hasn’t covered it, to my knowledge. Harvard Business Review, Wall Street Journal, the big what I consider kind of intellectual journals really haven’t covered this at all, which tells me then that that’s an interesting topic to cover because other places just don’t know how to treat it. And I’m not afraid to take risks on the program.
Mike Blake: [00:03:25] And second, when you do find that information, nine times out of ten – this is not a statistical study, this is all my own personal observation – is they tell you exactly what I just said, “Don’t do it. There’s just not enough upside to justify the downside.” But, you as you go on in life and I’ve accumulated experience in exchange for gray hair and two arthritic ankles, you learn that there are people of faith who are very open about their faith. They’re not shove it down your throat about their faith, but they’re certainly very open about it. That is their identity. They’re their identity and they make that part of the business. And there are people that are happy with the results that have occurred.
Mike Blake: [00:04:18] And so, I think this is an opportunity to kind of present a couple of case studies where I think that has been successful. People have made that decision, taking the plunge, and have accepted both the good and the bad of having made that decision. So, I hope you, as listeners, are going to enjoy the topic as much as I anticipate that we are going to. And again, I think this is the kind of thing you can’t just sort of get everywhere, which makes it a more exciting topic to do.
Mike Blake: [00:04:48] So, to address this topic – and as an aside, this may wind up being a two-part topic. We have a panel of two guests. There’s a third I’ve been working on trying to get, but I wasn’t able to make the schedule work for today, so we may revisit this in a second session, but I’m not going to commit to that because I can’t force the guest to come on. I’m hopeful that we will. So, this may be standalone, maybe second part. you’ll just have to stay tuned and keep downloading these things to find out.
Mike Blake: [00:05:18] So, we do have a panel of sources today. And my first introduction will be of Bill Leonard, who is the founder of WM Leonard & Company. And they are commercial real estate advisory firm providing services to high-growth technology companies and locating office space, negotiating the lease and advising them on the design of their facility to best reflect the culture of the company and align their real estate objectives with their business plan.
Mike Blake: [00:05:42] I’d be remiss also if I didn’t acknowledge that they’re the stalwart supporters of the old Startup Lounge. And you have to sort of be of a certain age to remember Startup Lounge now. And that’s okay. We’re happy to fade into history. But Bill was there when not a lot of other people were. And I can’t express that gratitude frequently enough.
Mike Blake: [00:06:03] Bill is a native of Atlanta and is a life member of the Atlanta Commercial Board of Realtors Million Dollar Club. In 1975, Bill founded WM Leonard & Co., which provides those real estate advisory services primarily to tenants in negotiating office leases. In other words, it’s a tenant representation firm. He’s a former member of the Board of Directors of the Atlanta Commercial Board of Realtors, recipient of the board’s Exclusive Phoenix Award and the Silver Phoenix Award. He has been active in commercial real estate since 1971 and is dedicated to the development of value added services and lasting client relationships. A large percentage of his clients are high-growth technology companies.
Mike Blake: [00:06:40] In addition, Bill takes a leadership role in the Christian business community. He is the founder of the High Tech Prayer Breakfast, which is a big deal. If you don’t know Atlanta, High Tech Prayer Breakfast, I would say, is one of the maybe one of the top three events on the technology professional calendar. And the way that I know that is because they routinely clear 1500 attendees. I’ve been to many of these as guests of Bill and others. And the thing starts at 5:59 a.m. And that is not an easy commitment for people to make, especially for a night owl like myself.
Mike Blake: [00:07:15] Bill is co-founder of the Commercial Real Estate Prayer Breakfast, co-founder of the Fellowship of Companies for Christ International, and has served on a number of boards, including Ambassadors for Christ International, The Fellowship of Companies for Christ International, Crown Financial Ministries, High Tech Ministries, Camp Highland and Teach Every Nation. Bill earned his Bachelor’s Degree in Economics and Business Administration from Furman University. He and his wife Sandy had been married for 47 years and two grown children and five grandchildren.
Mike Blake: [00:07:42] And also on our panel and certainly not least is Jonathan Minnen, a dear friend of mine for, at least, a decade – and I think he’d actually admit to that – who is a partner with Smith, Gambrell & Russell and works out of the Atlanta office. Smith, Gambrell & Russell is a full-service international law firm that advises regional, national and global businesses on a wide range of legal matters. The firm’s 250 attorneys provide legal counsel to more than 45 specialized practice areas, including corporate transactions, litigation, intellectual property, aviation, banking, real estate, construction, employment law, and employee benefits and executive compensation.
Mike Blake: [00:08:19] Jonathan Minnen is a partner with Smith Gambrell and has extensive experience in a wide range of United States and overseas business transactions, including mergers and acquisitions and ongoing transactional matters across many business sectors. He has the bar from both New York and Georgia, and works from both the New York City and Atlanta offices.
Mike Blake: [00:08:43] Jonathan’s client experience includes businesses which range in size from emerging companies to large publicly traded enterprises, both domestic and overseas. These clients have been involved in a variety of industries, including both traditional high-tech manufacturing, healthcare and financial information systems, robotics, medical devices, biomedical polymers and technology involved in the telecommunications industry. For some of his clients, Jonathan functions as de facto outside general counsel and is responsible for managing those clients’ entire legal portfolio, which involves routinely teaming with other practice groups of the firm to achieve the client’s objectives.
Mike Blake: [00:09:18] Jonathan is also on the American Israel Chamber of Commerce, Board of Directors and Executive Committee. And as an aside, the American Israel Chamber of Commerce, Israel, last I checked, is a country of somewhere around seven million people. So, the whole country is roughly the population of the greater Atlanta Metro area. That is an incredible chamber. They punch well above their weight. In fact, I would say, among … And I’m involved with other binational chambers. They are the most effective bar non-binational chamber in the Atlanta area. And we have a lot of competition. There are 28 of them. They’re just a fantastic organization.
Mike Blake: [00:09:54] And Jonathan is also a member of the Attorneys for Family Held Enterprises and the Family Firm Institute, and holds a law degree from Emory University. Bill and Jonathan, thank you so much for coming on the program.
Bill Leonard: [00:10:06] A pleasure.
Jonathan Minnen: [00:10:08] My pleasure. Thank you.
Mike Blake: [00:10:11] So, I want to set some groundwork here because I’d like people to understand their perspectives. This is one question I’m not going to define for you that I think you need to answer it however you think is best answered because I want our listeners to understand that we’re trying to create kind of multiple perspectives because I do think that different faiths experience this decision and I think must approach this decision, have a different environment. So, they must approach that decision in a different way.
Mike Blake: [00:10:42] So, Jonathan, let me start with you. How would you describe your faith? If somebody asked you to describe your faith as I’m doing now, how would you do so?
Jonathan Minnen: [00:10:54] That’s a great question, Mike. And thanks again for having me on the podcast, Judaism is, of course, an ancient faith dating back many thousands of years. It is one of the three main Abrahamic faiths – Judaism, Christianity and all its various forms, as well as Islam. So, all three of these faith systems come from a common root core and have as a central tenet of their faith, monotheism, essentially one supreme being.
Jonathan Minnen: [00:11:30] The way I would differentiate Judaism from some other religions is that Judaism is much more focused on, I would say, personal, that you’re really responsible for your your personal conduct. And I’ll give you a great example. At the time this podcast is being recorded, we are about to approach the holiday season, which are the dual holidays of Rosh Hashanah, which is the Jewish New Year, and 10 days later, Yom Kippur, which is the Jewish day of Atonement.
Jonathan Minnen: [00:12:09] And one of the things that I find so striking, so meaningful during the Yom Kippur service is a passage that roughly translates this way. For the sense that you make against God, the day of atonement atones. However, sins or wrongdoings against your fellow person, the day of atonement is not atone until you make peace – you personally make peace with that person. And I think that passage speaks volumes as to kind of one of the course of Judaism.
Mike Blake: [00:12:53] Thank you for that, Jonathan. So, Bill, let me turn that to you. How would you describe your faith? You’re talking to somebody and that subject comes up, how would you describe it?
Bill Leonard: [00:13:10] Yeah. Mike, again, thank you for allowing me to participate today. I think I would best describe it as John 3:16, “For God so loved the world that He gave his only begotten Son. And whoever believes in him should not perish, but have everlasting life.” God created man to have fellowship with God, but that was broken. That fellowship was broken when man sinned in Genesis 3. And so, since then, man and God has looked for ways to restore and reconcile, I should say, that relationship.
Bill Leonard: [00:13:48] And as a believer, as a Christian, we believe that God sent His Son, Jesus Christ, to pay the ultimate penalty, the ultimate sacrifice for our sins. And it’s up to, not just ours, for anyone to receive that gift of salvation. We believe Jesus died on the cross. He was raised again the third day. He had victory over death. So, the key to us is forgiveness of sins, a different way, and the resurrection.
Mike Blake: [00:14:23] So, Bill and Jonathan, one thing that strikes me, I both certainly recognize and respect you both immensely for being people of faith. And as I said, not everybody is willing to kind of express it as openly as you do and even link it to your professional lives in a meaningful way.
Mike Blake: [00:14:52] And what I like – Bill, let me start with you – is talk about your decision to link your faith to your business. You’re very open about it. It’s not hard to find your connection to your faith, obviously, with the High Tech Prayer Breakfast, High Tech ministries, and all the other things that you’ve done. I have a feeling I’ve only read a fraction of the things you do. The same thing with Jonathan. But come back to the decision to say, “I’ve got this business, and I like it. I think it’s doing pretty well. I like it also to somehow be an expression of my faith.” Talk about that decision, please.
Bill Leonard: [00:15:33] We got to go back a long ways. I grew up in the church, but I rejected the church in early teen years and was away from the church. I was in rebellion. When I surrendered my life to Christ, I was 30 years old, and it was a very radical change in my life. And I think you find people who accept Christ as an adult, and have a contrast in their life, and recognize that particularly time when it happened. Actually you’re maybe a little bit more outspoken about it. I think it’s because you just recognize that forgiveness for the sins committed in the past and the future.
Bill Leonard: [00:16:13] But when I came to Christ, I was very fortunate. The guy that was most instrumental in that decision, was struggling with an issue. He was running a business, I had my business, and he was relatively new Christian himself, but he was trying to find out what the Bible had said anything about running a business. And he kind of pulled me by the collar, and the seven of us began to meet twice a month to see what the Bible had to say about running a business, hiring, firing, paying your bills, how you treat your employees.
Bill Leonard: [00:16:45] And we did this for a couple of years, and we started this organization called the Fellowship Companies for Christ International, whose purpose is to encourage and equip Christian CEOs and business owners to operate their business, to conduct their personal lives in accordance with Christ’s internal objectives.
Bill Leonard: [00:16:59] So, what that did for me is it gave me an opportunity as a new Christian to see that the Bible was relevant to what I was doing on a daily basis. And I really felt like God was calling me 24/7 to live out my faith, not on Sunday, and then go to work on Monday and live a totally different life. So, basically, it allowed me to integrate my faith with my work and my whole life, really.
Bill Leonard: [00:17:26] And so, as far as being a conscious decision, it’s really what gave me purpose in business and purpose in life, for that matter, is integrating my life and my business or my faith in my business. And so, then, it was just a matter of how do you do that? And that was a long process.
Mike Blake: [00:17:47] Right. And we’ll get to those specifics shortly. So, Jonathan, let me turn it over to you. Talk about the decision that you made – whether it was conscious or unconscious, you’ll tell us – that you’re going to to make your faith somehow a part of your business.
Jonathan Minnen: [00:18:10] For me, it was really, I think, somewhat automatic in that it’s just who I am and always have been. I mean, I’ve always identified as a Jewish person. I’m not an Orthodox Jewish person. I would be part of what would be called the Modern Reform Movement in the United States. But it’s just always been part of my identity. I believe that, when I was in business before law, and I grew up in a small town in Kentucky, and then also when I became a lawyer, I’m very much aware that Judaism has been subject to a variety of forms of anti-Semitism for most of our history. And a lot of very anti-Semitic tropes have evolved from that, from the ancient to the modern.
Jonathan Minnen: [00:19:12] And so, I’ve always felt, because it’s pretty obvious if anybody looks at my website or LinkedIn bio, it’s pretty obvious I’m Jewish. I don’t need a beard, and I don’t have to look like the character of a Jewish person with a hat and beard, neither of which I wear to figure out I’m Jewish. And I have always felt that I’m not only speaking for me, I’m also a representative of all of my coreligionists. And so, therefore, I’ve always felt that it was incumbent on me in all of my dealings to act in a very above board and ethical manner as a way to confront these anti-Semitic stereotypes that have been around forever.
Jonathan Minnen: [00:20:07] And to some degree, obviously, they’re still around. But I remember this story from my parents, remember that years ago at Sea Island, the place here, the rule was no blacks, no dogs and no Jews. When they went for their honeymoon in 1951, they went down to St. Petersburg, Florida, and many of the hotels on the beaches had signs that said restricted clientele. It was a code phrase – no blacks and no Jews. So, I felt that the way I conduct myself professionally and personally, I’m not just speaking for myself, I’m also essentially a representative for every other Jewish person out there. So, it kind of just happened and evolved.
Mike Blake: [00:20:56] So, one thing that strikes – and I like both of you to respond to this – about how you describe your respective faiths, and your decisions and how you integrate that into your business life is Bill’s approach – and I’m just going to extrapolate here. Please do correct me if I’m full of it – is it’s an approach to religion that is high profile, if you will, and that glorifying God is a very important and central feature of that practice of faith; whereas Judaism, at least the way you, Jonathan, described it, it’s somewhat more introspective.
Mike Blake: [00:21:46] And neither one is right or wrong, but I think that does inform that when I think of Christian-owned businesses, I think that, frankly, they’re easier to identify because of that tenet; whereas, Jewish-owned businesses, aside from the stereotypical deli and that kind of thing right, they’re not quite as easy to identify. Jonathan, I wouldn’t necessarily identify you as linking your faith to your business, except for the fact you do wear the flag of the State of Israel on your suit lapel. But there are two very different approaches that I think also inform the ways in which you link your faith to your business. Is that a fair observation or am I full of it?
Jonathan Minnen: [00:22:36] Bill, you want to go first?
Bill Leonard: [00:22:36] Yeah, I think, first of all, Christ commanded us to go into all the world and make disciples. So, I’m an evangelical Christian. Someone cared enough about me to reach out to me when I really had a lot of challenges going on in my life and literally changed my life. So, I’m evangelistic. I don’t know many Jewish people who, in a sense, are evangelistic to try to convert somebody to Judaism. And I can’t convert anybody, but I feel compelled to tell everybody about my faith in Christ.
Bill Leonard: [00:23:24] And so, I think maybe that’s part of the reason that you would see Jonathan and myself different in our approach to integrating our faith into our practice because ours, clearly, is evangelistic and that’s the whole purpose of the High Tech Prayer Breakfast, and the Commercial Real Estate Prayer Breakfast in the other prayer breakfast that we have started. And that’s just a part of it. But I mean, that is, on my mind, literally all the time. The people I meet is praying for them and sharing my faith with them at the appropriate time. So, I think that would be very different for me as I see a Jewish person versus an evangelical Christian.
Mike Blake: [00:24:09] Jonathan?
Jonathan Minnen: [00:24:11] Yeah, I would agree with Bill’s assessment because there’s really … I mean, you can always find exceptions, okay. There are always exceptions. There’s a general rule. I would completely agree with Bill, because there’s really not an evangelical component as part of Judaism. And it’s just not really part of the faith system. There is a process if somebody chose to become Jewish by choice, but it’s not an easy process because there’s a lot you take on by being Jewish. And so, it’s not something that should be done lightly if somebody chooses to be Jewish by choice, but we really don’t do much in the way of being evangelical.
Jonathan Minnen: [00:25:07] I do want to point out one thing you said because I think it merits pointing it out. There are a very large number of probably Christians but probably evangelical Christians who are extremely supportive of the State of Israel, the modern State of Israel, and probably would be very happy to wear the same kind of pin that I wear, which is one of these dual flag pins with the American flag and the Israeli flag side by side. And I will speak strictly my own opinion here. Israel would be in a lot of difficulty if she did not have the loving support of the evangelical Christian community. And I think people who think about it a little bit, they have two words in response, which is thank you. And so, I didn’t want that opportunity pass by.
Bill Leonard: [00:26:02] I just want to speak and say that next to the Jewish people, the evangelical Christians are Israel’s best friend because we believe in the Scripture. And the scripture, I mean, Jews are God’s chosen people, no doubt about that. He chose the Jewish people. Why He chose the Jewish people? Why He chose me? We don’t know. But we are big supporters of Israel.
Mike Blake: [00:26:30] So-
Jonathan Minnen: [00:26:31] And this may be.
Mike Blake: [00:26:34] Please go ahead.
Jonathan Minnen: [00:26:36] No. I’d say, Bill – and some time, maybe you and I will have a chance to have a cup of coffee together – something, and this is just again, my own feeling is when some Christians and Jews get together, and they have this rift about Jesus is what I developed in my own feeling is in both Christianity and Judaism, there is the concept of the Messiah. And if we are so blessed in our lifetimes where the Messiah should come before us, Christians would say, essentially, “Welcome back;” Jews might say, “What took you so long?” but at that point, does it really matter anymore? And so, when you get down to the fundamentals, there’s so much more similarity than there is a difference.
Bill Leonard: [00:27:32] I agree. We share the same path.
Jonathan Minnen: [00:27:33] And similarities, yes, to embrace. And even though there’s a little difference in in methodology, at its core, there’s really not much daylight between the two faiths.
Bill Leonard: [00:27:49] I read through the Bible, the Old Testament and the New Testament, every year. And it’s nine months in the Old Testament, and only three months in the New Testament. So, I’ve just graduated from the Old Testament, Jonathan.
Jonathan Minnen: [00:28:05] All right, Mike, back to you.
Mike Blake: [00:28:07] Yeah, thank you. But this is really good stuff and this is fun to listen to. So, question I’d like both of you to answer. Bill, I’ll just toss this to you is, can you talk about … There are probably lots of ways, but we want to limit our time here a little bit. What are the sort of two or three ways, most important ways that you find that your faith manifests itself in your day-to-day business?
Bill Leonard: [00:28:36] Well, I believe that God gave me my business as a platform for ministry, as a tool or a vehicle to reach people for Christ. So, I would hope that … I mean, I have a quiet time every morning and I read through the Bible every year now, and I pray for a lot of people. I try to pray for the people that I am going to see that day or I’m going to talk to that day, and asking God to use me in whatever way He chooses to use me.
Bill Leonard: [00:29:08] So, that would manifest itself in a lot of ways. It might manage to manifest itself in serving. It may manifest itself in sharing my faith. Again, hopefully, it is totally integrated in everything I do. And I think that begins with loving people and how you treat people. It’s followed by doing things with excellence. And I think, Jonathan, I would certainly agree on that that, hey, listen, if you don’t treat people right, if you don’t do your work with excellence, you can forget about the rest of it because you don’t have any basis, you don’t have any foundation to talk to anybody about what you believe.
Mike Blake: [00:29:48] Jonathan, how about you?
Jonathan Minnen: [00:29:52] I would absolutely agree with Bill with your last comment, and that’s what really kind of guides me is that I’m a business lawyer, obviously, as I was introduced so graciously by Mike, but it’s fine to attend to your business. And as a lawyer, my ethical responsibility is to advocate forcefully for my client, but I have always felt it is absolutely a rock solid foundation to do that in an ethical manner, and ethics and all of its manifestations – truth, reliability, honesty. If you make a mistake, you admit it. You don’t try to hide anything. And that’s a big part.
Jonathan Minnen: [00:30:49] The other thing – and this is one of the the differences between faith systems – is that Judaism does not have the same concept of of life after death as Christianity does. And I can tell you from personal experience, having lost my mother last April, it would be very comforting for me right now if Judaism had such a concept, but it does not. It doesn’t deny it; it just doesn’t get into it very much. But what Judaism does focus on is that you are remembered by your deeds. You’re remembered how you acted to fellow people.
Jonathan Minnen: [00:31:31] And so, one of the things is I ask myself, how do I want to be remembered by the people who I touched in my life and in my profession? And I always, whether I carry the day to negotiate or did not, I always want to be remembered as somebody who was honest and ethical in everything I did. I hope that answers the question.
Bill Leonard: [00:32:00] Yeah, there’s a New Testament verse that I think that Jonathan agree with, and that is in Colossians 3:23. It says, “Whatever you do, do your work hardly as for the Lord, rather than for men, knowing that from the Lord, you will receive the reward of your inheritance.” That’s one of the foundational verses that I try to live my life by.
Bill Leonard: [00:32:23] Another one’s an Old Testament verse. It’s Proverbs 231:1 that says, “A good name is to be more desired than great riches.” We all want to make a deal, we all want to make money, et cetera, but it’s it’s hard to develop a good reputation. It’s very easy to lose it.
Mike Blake: [00:32:42] Yeah, boy, it sure is. I mean, I posted a quote of the day on my LinkedIn profile a couple of weeks ago that, “It takes a lifetime to build a reputation and five minutes to destroy it.”
Bill Leonard: [00:32:53] Right. Absolutely.
Mike Blake: [00:33:00] When I thought of the next question, I write these questions, I think and I kinda anticipate what the answers may look like, and I love it when I’m surprised. I almost thought about not asking this question, but I’m going to ask it anyway because I think it’s important to make the answer very clear. And that is, do you draw a line between promoting your faith versus promoting your business? And if so, how do you decide where that line should be? Jonathan, let me start with you on that.
Jonathan Minnen: [00:33:36] Sure. Well, because Judaism doesn’t really have an evangelical component, I don’t promote my faith to others. I try rather, as I mentioned earlier, to be an honorable representative of my faith in all the dealings that I do. And again, this also goes back to the fact that there’s been so much anti-Semitism over the millennia that it offends me deeply when I see a Jewish person not acting in an ethical manner. And people are people. And there are plenty of Jews who don’t act in an ethical manner. It’s not because they’re Jews. It’s because they’re unethical people. But what people remember is that they were Jews. And that really upsets me.
Jonathan Minnen: [00:34:33] And I had a situation, and I can’t get into the details, but it was somebody that I had an association with who was part of the Orthodox community and acted in an unethical manner, and I was absolutely livid because I said, “You have just confirmed all the anti-Semitic tropes that I worked so hard to show are nothing but anti-Semitic tropes. And here you’ve manifested them.” And I was livid. And he didn’t do that because he was Jewish. He did it because he’s an unethical guy. But what do people remember? They remember he was Jewish. So, there’s a responsibility. You’re not just dealing with yourself.
Jonathan Minnen: [00:35:31] And when I first started working with Israeli companies in the United States, I gave a lecture in Israel to a bunch of early-stage companies. And I remember this very well. I said, “When you are conducting business with the US company, you go ahead and negotiate as hard as you want. But when you strike a deal, that is the deal. Your word is the bond.” And I said, “Because if you break that, let me tell you, nobody is going to remember that Solomon broke his word. It’s going to be the Israeli broke his word. And you have now tarnished the reputation of everybody.” So, when you go out in the business world, you’re not just out there yourself, you’re out there as representative.
Mike Blake: [00:36:19] Let me comment on that. I think that’s a really interesting point, and it’s something I’ve never given any thought to. But one of the things that makes the Jewish religion unusual and maybe unique, but at a minimum, unusual is that being Jewish is both a religion, and for the most part, ethnicity. Of course, there are conversions and so forth, but for good or ill, there is an ethnic component and association with it.
Mike Blake: [00:36:51] And I think about that person, and I imagine that as you are, frankly, upgrading him, he’s maybe thinking, “I didn’t ask for this,” right? “I’m just a guy who happened to be Jewish.” He may not may or may not be practicing. “Why am I sort of tasked with representing an entire people?”
Mike Blake: [00:37:18] And I’m not defending the behavior necessarily, but but because of the history, and I think because of the unique sort of ethnic religious silo that occurs, there is sort of whether you like it or not, I guess, you can say there, you are sort of out there, no pun intended, waving a bar representing that people. And what you do does reflect on others who are associated with you in a way to say same myself as a Catholic. If I’m a jerk to somebody, people will say, “Well, Catholics are jerks,” and say, “Blake’s a jerk.” I don’t have that burden that I think, Jonathan, you do.
Jonathan Minnen: [00:38:04] That’s correct. At least, I feel that I do. And you talked about both a religion and ethnicity. You are correct. And I’ll give you an example of that. Mike, I know you’re a science fiction fan. I certainly am. And if we all ran across a wormhole or a temporal rift, to borrow from Star Trek, and I was suddenly transported a thousand years into the past and deposited in Europe. So, we’re now looking at the year … what would that be? 2000 or 1020 at a common area, the A.D. And I walked into a synagogue, okay. I don’t know their street language. They don’t know mine. And I’m now a thousand years into the past. But I can tell you that I know which direction to stand when we pray, and I’m going to be able to pray in a common language with them. I mean, where else can you say that?
Mike Blake: [00:39:19] Yeah, I mean-
Jonathan Minnen: [00:39:19] And I could go through the whole service with them. From beginning to end, we can pray as if there is no difference between this at, all in the same language, doing the same things at the same time.
Mike Blake: [00:39:34] So, Bill, let me get to you on the same question. I think I already know the answer to this, but I don’t want to assume. Is there a line, in your mind, between promoting your faith and promoting your business? And if so, what in your mind does that line look like?
Bill Leonard: [00:39:53] Yeah, there definitely has to be since, again, I’m evangelical. And I’ll tell you, it was harder, Mike, in the early days as a Christian because there’s a verse in Roman that said, “I’m not ashamed of the Gospel.” And I felt I need it. In other words, I needed to share my faith. I need to tell people who I was. I needed to pray over the food. I didn’t need to be embarrassed about praying over the food, regardless of who I was having lunch with, et cetera. I saw it as an opportunity for evangelism.
Bill Leonard: [00:40:36] It took a while, but I learned. And sometimes, I will ask, “Can I bless the food?” And if I do, it’s a very short prayer because I know the guy on the other side is probably embarrassed to bow his head even for five seconds. But it is a way to bring up my faith. Sometimes, somebody asked you then, “Where do you go to church?” And so, it gives you an opportunity to just talk.
Bill Leonard: [00:41:01] But yeah, clearly, you’ve got to draw a line. You got to draw a line. God didn’t put me here just to irritate people because I want to share my faith, but I’d be sensitive to where they are because it’s not going to do any good anyway. Again, I cannot convert anybody. Only God can do that. And then, really, I just need to be sensitive to where people are, and meet them where they are, and hopefully take them from where they are to one step closer to Christ. Or if they’re not interested, to shut up. It’s not my responsibility. But definitely, there should be a line. Let’s put it that way. I haven’t always gotten it right. I’m not sure I get it right now, but recognize that that’s definitely a challenge.
Mike Blake: [00:41:45] So, if you’re not all about sort of converting people, clearly, you’re not a big Facebook user.
Bill Leonard: [00:41:51] No, I don’t use Facebook. I try to stay away from that, do a little bit of LinkedIn, but I have got five friends on Facebook, and I’d like to really get rid of them just because I don’t want to be on Facebook.
Mike Blake: [00:42:02] Yeah. I don’t blame you. Probably should be renamed Judgebook, but at any rate. So, we walked through some of the decision making processes here. And I’d like to spend the next couple of minutes talking about, first, I want to talk about has there been a noticeable positive effect on your respective businesses? And what I mean is, do you seem to attract more and better clients or maybe better fit is a better word, employees or something else?
Mike Blake: [00:42:45] In other words, can you point to good things that have happened to you commercially because of your choice to align your business with your faith that otherwise might not have happened had you chosen a more secular path? And, Bill, let me let you continue talking about that, if you can.
Bill Leonard: [00:43:06] Well, there’s no [indiscernible]. No doubt about that. You know I’m Charlie Paparelli. Charlie Capparelli came to Christ through High-Tech Ministries. Matt McConnell. Some really radical life change has taken place. And that’s the bottom line for us or for me. That is life change.
Bill Leonard: [00:43:26] And the real value … I mean, I’ll be 74 years old this month. Looking back, do I remember the deals? Yeah, I remember the deals. Do you remember the money? Absolutely. Money’s important. But what’s really important is seeing lives radically changed, not just like Charlie, but his wife, his family, and the impact he’s had throughout the technology community, far more than I’ve had. And so, that’s that’s the real value.
Bill Leonard: [00:43:55] Yeah, I think it does bring people together. I admire Jewish people. I think they’re very loyal to each other. Christians aren’t nearly as loyal, but a lot of my clients are Christians. And I have to be careful that I don’t get stuck in the holy huddle because I really want to get out and build relationships with people who are not believers. But as far as our company goes, everyone here is a believer because we’re a small company. And we’re only four people, Jonathan. We’ve been in business for 45 years. We’ve gone up to seven, back down to four.
Bill Leonard: [00:44:26] So, I mean, it’s important because it’s integral to who we are. And as a company being small, yeah, we’re all believers, and that’s just part of the way we live it. So, if I was larger, if I had 20-40 people, it wouldn’t be that way. But that’s just the way God’s led me in the way I’m wired, so.
Mike Blake: [00:44:47] Jonathan, well, same question to you. Can you identify ways in which your decision to to connect your faith with your business activities has brought some positive impact that you otherwise may not have had had that connection not been made?
Jonathan Minnen: [00:45:07] In my case, because we need to separate being Jewish and building US work for Israeli companies because those are not the same things, okay. In terms of the Jewish aspect, no, I can’t really point to anything that has directly benefited my practice where I only got work because I’m known as Jewish. It would not surprise me, although I don’t know, but it would not surprise me if I have been rejected for that same reason by certain people. I wouldn’t know that because if you’re rejected, you don’t really know. You just don’t get the business. You don’t get the representation.
Jonathan Minnen: [00:46:00] On the Israeli side, because I started 20 years ago to say, “Hey, I’d like to kind of develop a practice niche in doing US work for Israeli companies,” being Jewish, I think, that certainly helped that because the normal model is that you have a company that develops in Israel, so you hire hte Israeli parent company, and as you correctly pointed out, Israel is real tiny in a difficult neighborhood, although I thank the good Lord, it’s gotten a little less difficult recently.
Jonathan Minnen: [00:46:42] Yeah.
Jonathan Minnen: [00:46:42] But I mean, you talk about the population of Israel being like the population of Metro Atlanta, the land area of Israel, the square mile land area of Israel and the land area of San Bernardino County, California is about the same. That’s how tiny it is. So, Israeli companies, when they want to get bigger, look to the United States for expansion. Som they open up subsidiaries here. I am quite sure that the fact that I am Jewish was a point of comfort to Israeli business owners who were looking for US representation because they felt there was some common ground affinity.
Jonathan Minnen: [00:47:27] But I will also tell you that that only gets you in the door. After that, it’s back to what I said before, do you perform and conduct your business in an ethical and proper manner? Because if you don’t, it doesn’t matter whether you’re Jewish or not, you’re going to get fired. So, all that does is maybe help you get yourself in the door. And after that, you have to prove yourself as a competent and ethical individual.
Mike Blake: [00:47:56] We are speaking with Jonathan Minnen and Bill Leonard on the Decision Vision Podcast, talking about linking or mixing business with one’s faith. And we’re coming to the end of our time here, but I want to squeeze in a couple of questions. Jonathan, you touched upon this a little bit already, so I’m going to throw this to Bill instead, and then let you add to it if you want. And, Bill, my question is this. It’s that, have you found that linking your business to your faith has been limiting in any way? Have people, in any way, been turned off, have been intimidated, have been made uneasy that you can discern?
Bill Leonard: [00:48:40] Yeah, absolutely. There are times. Again, we’re visible about our faith. And so, I think that attracts that rejection, yeah. But I’ve been fired because of my faith because they don’t do business with me. That’s fine. But ultimately, I believe it all comes from God. I believe there’s not one deal that we’ve done in 45 years that wasn’t from Him.
Bill Leonard: [00:49:06] There’s a verse that I love that’s actually King David’s prayer after raising the money to build a temple. It says, “Riches and honor come from you alone. You’re the ruler of all mankind. Your hand controls power and might.” And it says, “Your discretion that men are made great and given strength.” That’s the way I look at it, is first of all, I’m to be obedient to Him. And I believe He provides. I believe He’s a very active God. And so, yeah, there have been times, but you know what? The blessings have so far outweighed any negative. I’m not worried about that. Just trying to be more discerning at times when I should keep my mouth shut as far as sharing my faith.
Mike Blake: [00:49:52] Jonathan, you talked about that a little bit. Is there anything you want to add to it?
Jonathan Minnen: [00:49:59] I really like what Bill said. I mean, I’m really right with you. I mean, I am who I am and if somebody has a problem with that, guess what? The sun will rise in the east tomorrow, and they’re welcome to find a different lawyer if my faith bothers them. So, I’m right there with Bill that we’re not going to change who we are at our core just to get the next piece of business. I fully agree with Bill.
Mike Blake: [00:50:28] So, gentlemen, this has been a great conversation. And absent of any kind of constraints, we could easily go on for another hour or so, and I would continue to be on the edge of my seat. But unfortunately, time is limited. I suspect, at least, somebody in our audience is going to have questions about this topic and maybe learning more about your experiences. Can they contact you? And if so, what is the best way for somebody to contact you if they want to pursue this topic further with you?
Bill Leonard: [00:51:02] I’ll go first, it’s WM Leonard & Co. Phone number is 404-252-9700. And my email address is Bill@wmleonard.com. I’m happy to talk about it.
Jonathan Minnen: [00:51:19] And people are welcome to contact. Probably the easiest way is by email, which you can find on the on our website. Our website is sgrlaw.com or you can email me at first initial and last name, firstname.lastname@example.org.
Mike Blake: [00:51:39] All right. So, that’s going to wrap it up for today’s program. I’d like to thank Jonathan Minnen and Bill Leonard so much for joining us and sharing their experience, their expertise with us today.
Mike Blake: [00:51:49] And we’ll be exploring a new topic each week. So, please tune in, so that when you’re faced with your next executive decision, you have clear vision when making it. If you enjoy this podcast, please consider leaving a review of your favorite podcast aggregator. That helps people find us, so that we can help them. Once again, this is Mike Blake. Our sponsor is Brady Ware & Company. And this has been the Decision Vision Podcast.