In this interview summary with Ziwani’s Sibs Sibanda, Mergon COO Gauché Radley gives us a fresh perspective on what it means to ‘love your neighbour’ in business today. In a fast paced world of competition where winner takes all, he shares how ‘laying down power’ and ‘moving at the speed of trust’ will always get you further in the long run.
Setting the bar high
Since the beginning, God has invited us to co-labour with Him in the renewal of ‘all things’, beginning with our relationship with him, overflowing to our relationships with others and ultimately extending to the elements of culture and society at large. Central to this mission is God’s love.
Gauché reflected on this idea of loving people in the context of business: ‘In Psalm 24 the writer talks about journeying with clean hands and a pure heart, with no lies and no idols,’ he says. ‘That’s a pretty high standard. It’s one thing not to lie in business – but to negotiate with a ‘pure heart’? To appoint and sever employment relationships with a ‘pure heart’?! That’s a completely different way of dealing with people. It’s where you’re looking out for yourself as well as for the guy on the other side of the table.’
Gauché made this idea practical, sharing a recent example during Covid whereby the Mergon investment team was in the process of raising significant capital for the acquisition of a business in Denmark. Nearing the completion of the deal, with only a handful of legalities left to finalise, the team was confronted with a sobering reality: though profitability projections looked good in the immediate and long term, they would have to ride out a year of inevitable profit loss. ‘We decided to share this information with the investors,’ said Gauché. ‘They ended up pulling out. It was horrible.’ He added: ‘But fast forward a couple of years, and we were able to buy that same company in Denmark. It wasn’t simple – there was a lot of prayer involved and a lot of stressing, submitting and surrendering. What we could say though, is that throughout the process we kept a pure heart and clean hands – and that was worth it.’
Coming to the table as equals
Business can be a powerful vehicle through which we live out God’s commandment to love our neighbour as ourselves, as expressed in Matthew 22. For this to happen, there needs to be a level playing field where both parties can come as equals to the table. Gauché emphasised that part of our role as capital investors is to acknowledge the power that comes with money – and then intentionally lay that power down in the spirit of true partnership.
‘Trust creates speed in our business – and, in the end, it creates financial success too,’ said Gauché. ‘For us the relational aspect – the partnership – is a fundamental part of our business philosophy, both on the investment side and on the giving side. When you have money, you can almost do anything you want. It’s undiluted, impersonal power – and the way you use that power really defines what your views are on partnership and God’s love in this world.’
Gauché noted that, over the past decade serving as King Price chairman, decisions have always been made in team, with room for robust discussion and disagreement. ‘Even though we have the majority seats on the board to get through what we want, we don’t abuse that power. We always invite discussion and argue our position with respect for one another’s views. We do not use money as a source of power to get what we want.’
Gauché noted that when partnerships are rooted in love, priorities shift away from the bottom line agenda and towards a more holistic, Kingdom perspective. This in turn produces a kind of counter cultural behaviour in the business world. As an illustration, Gauché shared a recent experience with members of the King Price executive board: ‘We were discussing the impact of COVID, the recent storms and riots – all the factors that have made for a rough ride for insurers in the last couple of years. You would think that the board would have first wanted to know more around profitability, share price and our financing arrangement. But their response was, ‘how can we serve the management team in this time’? We decided that in the next month we’ll get on a plane and go pray with the team. We want to create a circle around them and dedicate them to God, asking for God’s wisdom and help. These are the things that really makes a difference in people’s lives and change the way people think about business, said Gauché.
Success is in surrendering
On the back of this example, Sibs asked how God has challenged Gauché’s notion of ‘success’ in business. ‘Given that God is love,’ he said, ‘how does that truth impact the way you personally define success and how you as a business regard what success is?
Gauché noted that it’s important for us as Christians to strive for excellence in all we do, especially when it comes to excellence in business. ‘If you’re a failed businessman, people won’t necessarily want to hear your opinion. So monetary success is part of our mandate and gives us a voice to speak into the world. With that said, Gauché continued, ‘Money does not define whether you’re successful or not.’ No matter how much you have of it, he reminded us through the famous words of John Rockefeller, you’ll always want ‘just a little bit more’.
Success is rather rooted in relation to our dependence on God. He reflected on a few vulnerable moments at Mergon when liquidity was at risk and there was very little to do other than to get on one’s knees and surrender: ‘In those moments we’d say to the Lord, You built this company – Mergon is yours, so you do what you want with it. It’s these points of true surrender that have brought forth much growth, where God has put more of his Kingdom into our hearts.’
Gauché ended with an encouragement for business leaders to strive for God’s definition of success. ‘Trust God to get out and walk on the water with Jesus. It requires a lot of faith and a lot of trust; you’ll have to keep surrendering. But in the end, I really believe it will be worth it.’