tMichaelB is the web site for Tom Bengtson, who writes about business, religion, family and politics.

Sunday, September 14, 2008

Thanks for the recognition

Due the the thoughtfulness of four dear friends and colleagues, I was among 10 people honored by our local Archdiocesan newspaper this past week for leadership in business. You can read about it here.

The Catholic Spirit hosted a very nice luncheon for us on Wednesday. With nearly 300 people present, MC Tom Hauser of KSTP-TV, associate publisher Bob Zyskowski and Archbishop John Nienstedt presented the awards, which were given in three categories: large company, small company and non-profit. I was one of three honorees in the small business category.

Dick, who has become a valued friend in the nearly three years we have worked together, and his wife Anne, came up with the idea to put in a nomination for me earlier this summer. They immediately approached Jackie about putting together a nomination. Jackie and I had worked together for more than a dozen years before she spun off her own business venture this spring.

At the same time, unbeknown to this trio, Christina was also putting my name in nomination. Christina has worked with me for about a year on a magazine called Family Foundations. Christina is a former Catholic Spirit reporter, so she was thoroughly familiar with the Leading with Faith awards program.

Both the nominations must have been well-written because I was notified on August 11 that I was among those selected for recognition. Within a couple weeks, Maria Wiering, a Catholic Spirit reporter, came to my office to interview me for an article. Photographer Dianne Towalski took a series of photos. I have been a reporter since my college days and have interviewed hundreds of people; for the first time, I was on the other side of the notebook. I am a bit of a ham, so I have to say I kind of liked it.

Mostly I liked it because of the story I got to tell. I have always been blessed with great employees who seem much more like friends than FTEs. Before the company can make money, everyone in the company has to make a life, and I have always been happy to help my colleagues do that, to the extent that I can. Sure, in 17-plus years of business there has been a small number of folks who didn't work out, but even those employees won my respect and best wishes for future success.

My father taught me most of what I know about entrepreneurism, and I am very grateful to him. Whatever I am in business is due to him. I also need to thank my dear friends in businesses, particularly the folks at Fredrikson and Byron, and Premier Banks, who took the extra step of congratulating me with advertisements in the Catholic Spirit. Wow. And again, thanks to my friends who took the time and made the effort to nominate me. Wow, again.

The brochure distributed at the luncheon included a statement from the U.S. Catholic Bishops' 1986 Pastoral Letter on Catholic Social Teaching and The U.S. Economy. Here's what is said:

Followers of Christ must avoid a tragic separation between faith and everyday life.

The road to holiness for most of us lies in our secular vocations. We need a spirituality that calls forth and supports lay initiative and witness not just in our churches but also in business, in the labor movement, in the professions, in education, and in public life.

Our faith is not just a weekend obligation, a mystery to be celebrated around the altar on Sunday. It is a pervasive reality to be practiced every day in homes, offices, factories, schools, and businesses across our land.

We cannot separate what we believe from how we act in the marketplace and the broader community for this is where we make our primary contribution to the pursuit of economic justice.

I'd like to think that's a fundamental philosophy at our company. I am going to hang that statement on my wall in my office.