From the editor Featured

10:05am EDT July 22, 2002

Over the years, we've developed our own style for understanding the kind of business lessons that can really change a company and its culture.

We tell stories. When you look at them carefully, many of those stories are simply case studies about how a business identified a serious problem and addressed it.

It's an effective method because everybody likes a good story. And as Aesop taught us 25 centuries ago, the morals are easier to understand and remember.

But there is a danger in that technique, too - a risk of universal oversimplification that can do more harm than good. If we tell you that an unconditional money-back guarantee got a high-quality product off the launching pad, it would probably be a disaster if applied to an average product by clumsy management.

Our role in this partnership is to find the good ideas. Can you use them? That burden is on you. We figure you're smart enough.

I've got to admit, however, that I'm having trouble being so dispassionate about this month's cover story - a business that is run, as owner John Beckett says, on biblical principles.

It's a hypercharged subject and there is almost no way to discuss it without raising the most fundamental and hard-wired disagreements people can have.

Take, for example, the language Beckett uses to describe his business. He makes an honest effort to remove what he describes as the polarizing jargon specific to his own religion.

But the ambiguity of his new terminology can't be ignored. Does "biblical principles" refer to the generic set of values upon which Western Society was built: a person's right to proceed through the day in an atmosphere of respect, without fear of being lied to, robbed or murdered?

Or is it simply a euphemism to make the term "Christian-based" more palatable to the many people who don't look to a "W.W.J.D." bracelet for moral direction?

OK, so I've now put it all out on the table. Not only am I unable to be neutral about this topic, I'm more passionate about it than most people I know.

Senior Editor John Ettorre has done his usual exhaustive, sensitive and award-winning work on this character study of a business owner who is not only comfortable that Bible studies take place in the lunch room, but also took on the EEOC to assure that these and other religious expressions remained legal at work.

Just reading about John Beckett, I've come to like and respect him. I'm not tempted to work for him, but I am thankful that he fought Congress to keep his lunchroom free of one more government intrusion (an issue that makes me even more passionate than the many people who have tried to "save" me over the years).

I'm impressed with the success of his business and the sincerity of his views.

But I can't help worrying that his ability to manage two callings (and our decision to bring it to your attention) is going to encourage a whole bunch of owners who are not as well equipped - spiritually and managerially - to handle the thorny issues of, shall we say, a biblically based business.

Then again, the burden to decide is on you. We figure you're smart enough.

Bob Rosenbaum can be reached at (216) 529-8584, or by e-mail at brosenbaum@sbnnet.com.