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SS 60 – Doing Virtuous Business with Ted Malloch

Episode: 60

Guest: Ted Malloch

iTunes: Stream Episode

In today’s Solomon Success Show, Jason Hartman speaks to Professor Ted Malloch about the influence of spiritual beliefs and moral virtues on business and corporate leadership in our modern society.
Key Takeaways
01.14 – It’s no longer just about the business you conduct – it’s about how you do it, and the spiritual impact.
05.20 – There is no one-size fits all approach. All companies are different and have different core values.
07.20 – Ted Malloch gives his view on the controversy surrounding Chick-fil-A. What do you think?
10.11 – Faith and virtues are ever-present across so many levels of industry and business.
13.09 – For more information about these issues, head to
Mentioned in this episode
Doing Virtuous Business by Ted Malloch

There’s no cookie-cutter approach to business. Sometimes you just have to figure it out.
Would you opt to lose 15% of your market by stopping trade for one day a week?
Is religion dead? Or is it just showing itself in different ways?


This show is produced by the Hartman Media Company. For more information and links to all our great podcasts, visit
Welcome to the Solomon Success Show, where we explore the timeless wisdom of King Solomon and the Bible as it relates to business and investing. False profits and get-rich-quick schemes are everywhere; let’s not be distracted by these. Instead, let’s go to the source – the eternal principles that create a life of peace, power and prosperity. Here’s our host, Jason Hartman.

Jason Hartman:
It’s my pleasure to welcome Ted Malloch to the Show. He is Professor of Management at Saïd Business School, Oxford University. He’s creator of the PBS series, Doing Virtuous Business and author of the best-selling book ‘Doing Virtuous Business: The Remarkable Success of Spiritual Enterprise’. Ted, welcome, how are you?

Ted Malloch:
I’m fine, thanks.

Good, it’s good to have you on the show. You’re coming to us from England, I assume?

Yes, I’m at Oxford University, just outside of London.

Fantastic, I’ve been there before, it’s a beautiful campus. So, tell us a little bit about the book and the series.

Well, there was a book a few years ago that I wrote called Doing Virtuous Business that was turned into a PBS documentary which aired on American television for 15 million “viewers like you”. That’s a book that we wrote about 60 different companies that do well and do good, that exhibit certain business virtues in the way they actually conduct their business – everything from the vision to the mission to the values to the culture to the way they do decisions and actually execute on those transactions. More recently, I’ve written a case study book flowing out of that work with some of my post-doctoral students, and it’s entitled Practical Wisdom for Management Across Spiritual Traditions. It digs down very deeply in a case study methodology to look at how these companies actually perform in some depth.

Super. How do you define virtuous business, according to the Bible?

Well, our definition is not a biblical definition per se. It grows out of a philosophical tradition that is called Virtue Ethics. It actually predates the Bible by some centuries, and Aristotle was the first person to give us an orientation around what is excellence in the world of good behavior, which was translated over time in the Christian centuries by Aquinas and later thinkers so that it’s been handed down the centuries. We’re very much in the tradition of thinking about business from an ethical point of view. That’s not necessarily a Biblical or theological point of view, but one that is philosophically deep.

It also cuts across, we have found, different religious persuasions – with Christianity, obviously across Catholicism and various forms of Protestantism, but also in our global studies, it seems to be also the case that some of the same ethical principles are found in other spiritual traditions.

Good good. So can you drill down on that a little bit and tell us any specific steps or philosophies for the listener running a business – on how they run a virtuous business?

Well, we actually have a fairly sophisticated methodology that we use when we put together the original study. We were looking at 14 different virtues – so-called ‘hard’ and ‘soft’ virtues. It’s a fairly traditional list of virtues; you could identify with many of them from gratitude and humility and honesty and perseverance to obviously the Biblical ideas of faith and hope and forgiveness, charity. We developed this theory of 14 different virtues.

What we did then was we went out and looked at a large number of companies, both public and private, across industries, across cultures, to see which ones exhibited some of those virtues to the degree that it could be exhibited to the fullest.

What we found was that not many companies exhibited more than two or three of those virtues in any profound way, but if you looked at the whole panoply of companies that we studied, you’d then have the whole matrix, if you will, of virtues and some of them are more outstanding than others.

And so anything more on those 14 virtues? You mentioned a couple of them, and then any practical points for actually practicing them in daily life? That’s the hard part; it’s the actual execution, right?

Sure. What we did was studied the companies again at some granular level of detail – both what the founding of those companies was about, because all of them were started at some point in time, and some of these countries were hundreds of years old, others are dozens of years old. We looked at the founding, we looked at the core values and principles of the companies, how they actually have built up what we call ‘cultures of integrity’ and then how they make decisions around those virtues.

Every one is actually slightly different – there’s no uniform pattern of rule. Every company, like every individual, is slightly different. What we try to do is highlight a company – let me give you some examples that exhibit some of these virtues, and then we’ll look at them in some detail. If we look at a company like Herman Miller, for instance, the large manufacturing company grew out of the Protestant reform tradition – one of the core virtues and values they have in that company is the virtue of respect. The way they actually do that in the company in terms of people development and the way they treat their employees and they way they get involved with all the stakeholders, the way they treat the environment is extremely respectful. It’s a unique company in the way that it actually embodies that virtue of respect, which makes it a kind of interesting company to look at from a spiritual perspective.

Fantastic. Okay, good. I was going to ask you – that was kind of my next question – some of the companies that we all know that exhibit virtuous business and any tips on how they do it, or insights on that? Herman Miller’s one, and they produce very nice products, of course.

What we’re suggesting is that there’s no one way of doing this. It’s not a cookie-cutter approach, it’s not a 7-step approach where you do these 7 things and something good comes out. Every life, every corporate culture, every industry is slightly different so you have to look at how they do that, both in their founding and then over succeeding generations and how it gets embodied. It’s who they are, what they do, how they practice, what their leadership models are, how they develop people, how they interact with their communities, how they interact with their shareholders, how they interact with their vendors, how they interact with their employees, as I just suggested. All of these things demonstrate the kinds of virtues that we articulate in the study.

Fantastic. Chick-fil-A was recently in the news – well, not that recently, about a year ago – I wanted to ask you about that because there was a lot of controversy. Tell us more.

Well, Chick-fil-A is a pretty phenomenal company when you think about how Truett Cathy founded the company that helped develop the company, I think you know the products, and most of your listeners probably know about the controversy. The actual virtue of gratitude we found is embedded both in the practice of how Chick-fil-A operates, and in the way they treat their people, their products and the fact that, given their Baptist origin, they have the – you could say – audacity, even in a secular world, to close on Sunday. They’re Sabbatarian in that sense.
They give up 15% of their market share by closing all their stores on Sundays so that their workers and others can actually have time for worship, have time to

relax, have time to be with their families. It’s a company with an incredible degree of loyalty and following. It has a predominance now as an American company – it’s not really operating outside the US, but it has a predominance in the South and the South-Western parts of the United States. You saw even in light of some recent criticism that their fans, if you will, or their customers are particularly appreciative of this company.

They sure are. I felt that that controversy was very unfair. It’s a private company, they didn’t discriminate against anybody – simply the owner, or the President (I’m not sure who it was, maybe that’s the same person) was just expressing a view when asked a question.

No, they’re certainly entitled to a point of view. They’re a very charitable company, so they do a lot for underprivileged families, for underprivileged youths, for camps, for college courses. It’s a company that has been particularly generous in the way they’ve interacted both with the communities in which it operates, but also, and I think this is something that is less well known is they actually have scholarship money for many of their young employees. They have a high turn-over in the fast food industry of younger workers, and Chick-fil-A has actually found a way to educate and bring many of those people to the next level of human development and has encouraged them in their future education. It’s a company that does a lot of good.

Yeah, I would agree. I see them giving away free food in various disaster zones and so forth, and I just don’t know why people have been so outraged. It just seems rather unfair, it really does, but that’s the way the world in which we live is.

What else can you tell us about how can religious principles impact corporate leadership?

What we’ve found, again, studying this across time, across traditions – as I jokingly say, everything from Anabaptists to Zoroastrianism – religion or spirituality is still very much a force at play in the world. 85% of the world’s population of 7 billion people actually practice one religious faith or another. Unlike what some of us have been told or what some Western Europeans seem to believe in that religion is going away, that it’s withering or fading, that we won’t have religious faith any longer, we actually have quite the opposite. And the United States is clearly at the top of that heap where religion is part and parcel of our culture and is very much a part of who this country is.

What we found is that many of these companies are either faith-based companies, or faith-friendly companies. In other words, their economic culture grows out of this environment and it gives rise to all kinds of different small, medium-sized and over time, some of them grow to be quite large business entities. Whether it’s Hobby Lobby growing out of the Assemblies of God, or it’s Four Seasons Hotel growing out of Judaism, whether it’s a company in India that has a Hindu tradition, this is still very much a large phenomenon in the world and frankly, it’s understudied. It’s not understood well.

So you say that it’s a large phenomenon and that it’s understudied, and I would agree with you. Is the trend upward or level or declining? I know you mentioned Western Europe would lead us to believe that religion is on the decline, but where is it in the world? Statistic are very hard to know, I’m sure, but what’s your opinion?

What we have found is that it’s still very much alive and thriving. There are places around the world where it’s more intensely practiced, where spirituality is still part and parcel of life, and there’s still parts, frankly, of the American culture, whether it’s the South, or different States where you find a higher level of participation, either in various forms of religiosity, of worship or of company formation, but it’s still very much alive and thriving. New businesses are being born everyday, some companies are growing and thriving everyday. We wrote a case study about TOMS shoes – you may have heard of that case. There are all kinds of new businesses, new business formations, new business models, social entrepreneurship if you will. Some are for profit, some are not for profit, some are blended, but it’s still very much a part of the corporate reality both in the United States and around the world, frankly.

Yeah, very interesting point. Give out your website, if you would, or your Twitter lead so people can learn more about you and your work.

Well, the place to look for some of this information would be, and you can go onto that website, see pieces of research, some clips from our PBS documentary and some background information. If people are interested in some of these virtues and if they want to drill down and see which companies are doing which things and how we highlighted it, that would be the single best place to look.

Good, well thank you so much for joining us, Ted.

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