Book Review September 2004
Reviewed by Soroya Brantley
Browse the business section of any bookstore or library and the array and quantity of books promising to improve your business and sales skills will likely overwhelm you. Doing Business by the Good Book makes no such promises. Instead, it loosely concentrates on David L. Steward’s story as founder and chairman of the board of World Wide Technology, the largest African-American enterprise in the United States, with revenues last year of more than $1 billion. The book is co-authored by Robert L. Shook, who has authored and co-authored numerous business books.
While Steward draws from his own well of experience, the main focus, as the title implies, is the Bible. Steward believes that his faith and belief in God has contributed greatly to his success. He stresses that morality and fairness enhance business dealings and encourage others to trust and believe in you and your product. The book is peppered with Biblical verses to highlight points or simply to provide encouragement. However, Steward and Shook manage not to sound preachy. Instead, Doing Business by the Good Book uses the Bible as a guide, showing how embracing its principles can enhance the business experience and improve results.
In the chapter “The Entrepreneurial Spirit,” Steward discusses the fear of the unknown and likens his decision to start his own company to Noah building the ark. Just as people mocked Noah and derided his decision, so too did Steward have numerous naysayers who predicted his failure. However, he found strength in the Bible, believing that God had a greater purpose for him. Steward also considered the example of Abraham, who did not question God but was prepared to sacrifice his only son. Abraham’s example serves as a reminder that even in the darkest and dreariest of times you should keep faith because God will not forsake you. Steward was buoyed by verses such as Deuteronomy 7:12-13, which says, in part, “If you heed these ordinances,…he will love you, bless you, and multiply you.”
“Finding a Niche” highlights the importance of concentrating on one portion of a market instead of trying to conquer it all. Matthew 6:24, “No one can serve two masters,” proved particularly helpful to Steward and reminded him to stay focused and not go flailing in the wind. Steward’s resolve was also strengthened by the story of David, a young boy who defeated the Philistines and the giant Goliath. The story is certainly applicable, since Steward’s start-up company was up against major IT corporations.
The chapter on “Empowerment” was particularly interesting. Throughout our lives we are taught to depend on ourselves, that our level of success depends on us—our drive and skills determine how much we achieve. Steward suggests a different view. While drive is certainly necessary, Steward believes that greater results can be achieved through the combined efforts of many. He uses the example of Jesus, who delegated a great deal of responsibility to his disciples. In running a business, “no man is an island” and therefore cannot do it all. Delegate responsibility so that others feel empowered and trusted. They will be more inclined to be loyal to the company. As Proverbs 15:22 states, “Without counsel, plans go wrong, but with many advisers, they succeed.”
Doing Business by the Good Book is an easy and enjoyable read. There are 52 chapters, each dealing with a separate principle designed to improve business management, ethics, strategy and personal leadership. The number of chapters is probably not a coincidence. It allows for one chapter to be read, along with relevant Biblical text, per week, and gives the reader an opportunity to digest and understand it before moving on to the next chapter. In this way, Steward and Shook make the book not just another business tome but something that can be used all year, just as the Bible should be.
Steward’s own story serves to make the book even more phenomenal. His rise from a childhood in segregated America to head of the largest African-American–owned business in America makes for a fascinating read. One glance at the Foreword, written by former President George H. W. Bush, confirms that Steward is enjoying success and power. With Doing Business by the Good Book, we, too, have the opportunity to achieve our dreams without sacrificing morals or faith.