It took me awhile the first time I read through this interview. So many things Joe lays out in this interview caused me to stop and think. I think you’ll enjoy this one.
Joe Peristy is a project manager at the multi-national engineering firm AECOM. He’s managed projects involving only a few million dollars of capital, all the way to huge projects worth several hundred million dollars.
In this interview Joe shows us a simple (but difficult) way in which we can turn our work into a ministry, gives us some hard questions to consider when growing a business, and shares numerous other insights.
What is your business?
We are one of the largest engineering companies in the world. This is one of our marketing catch-alls:
We are a global network of experts working with clients, communities and colleagues to develop and implement innovative solutions to the world's most complex challenges.
How did you get started?
I was good in math and science in high school, and engineering is a natural outworking of that as it is all about math and science. But it is applied science.
The math and science people do the proofs and experiments – we just take the results and apply them to the world. It was this application, not just theory, that appealed to me back in the day.
Can you tell us a bit about your faith?
For the average evangelical I am an anomaly. I have known Christ and God my whole life.
I was brought up in the Catholic church. The church was across the street from the elementary school – I walked to church each Sunday from grade school age while my parents and younger sister stayed home.
As I got older I tried different denominations, such as Methodist, Pentecostal, and Alliance, but in the end I have returned to my roots – the Anglican Church. I am a Warden of the church and on the stewardship committee – these are my two main tasks right now.
Running it like a ministry is easy. You see, God is interested in people, and people make a business succeed or not succeed
I have often been described as a practical mystic as I have a simple faith but also get visions and dreams from time to time.
Do you think of your business as a ministry?
First off, work is a ministry as it is ordained by God – we are not to be idle.
The engineering profession is generally God in action, practically in the world. We work behind the scenes to provide you (the lay person) everything. Everything you have has been engineered in some way from your phone, house, car, road, water, and electricity.
Running it like a ministry is easy. You see, God is interested in people, and people make a business succeed or not succeed. Apply biblical principles to all your interactions including work ones. This includes ethics, integrity, honesty, charity, empathy, listening, caring, discipling, correcting, and encouraging. All biblical principles are required in business when dealing with staff, clients and the public.
Furthering God’s Kingdom is an evangelical truism – like we have some obligation or something we can contribute. We do not contribute to our salvation or to the salvation of others. God does it all, is in all and through all. We just trust and obey and be Christ-like in the world – that is how we further the Kingdom.
Show those traits I expounded on above and the fruits of the spirit. Be quick to respond if asked why we believe what we do – then we point to God. That is in any part of life, not just business. In other words, the business furthers God’s kingdom by the people who behave like Christians and are Christians.
What are some ways in which you run your business differently than someone who is not a believer?
It could be in ethics and short cuts. The Christian acts like a Christian – so unethical behavior in life and business should not enter the realm of thinking or possibilities.
The things I said above – you cannot serve God and money – so serve God in business and money will take care of itself.
Should we grow businesses or keep them small? Do you think that faith plays a role in this at all, or is this question irrelevant?
What is the point? To grow to make more money or gain more prestige? Has God put opportunity in your way that would benefit people and your business? What is the drive – selfish ambition?
The answer: walk with God, and he will lead you into the right size and open and close doors – if you keep him at the head – then this question will work itself out.
Do others in the church mistakenly believe you are in business only to “get rich”? What have you done to help them understand your motives better?
I have done nothing to help them understand except pray. To what end or benefit is there in engaging in this line of questioning and thinking? People generally believe what they want to believe, even in the face of alternative facts.
What situation can you think of that would have you compromise or deny your God or faith? What is worth that?
The best is always actions not words. In addition, let your actions be done in secret so your left hand does not know what your right hand is doing. This makes it easy to misunderstand your motives, as you do not publicize what you are up to – but God knows and people who are close to you know. Does the rest matter?
Have you ever seen a conflict between serving profits and serving God in your business? If so, how have you dealt with this?
Sure, all the time. Business by nature is concerned with bottom line and profits – we need those to exist. I do not work for a charity. It is in how we go about it.
Do we do it ethically, with integrity, and with honesty in dealing with clients and staff?
That is the key. I do not see the company acting unethically, but maybe harshly in some situations. At the end of the day, the company is profits driven and sometimes people are cut. This is hard. Nobody I ever knew in business wants to cut people.
Sometimes we need to fire people if they are not fitting in or pulling their weight. Nobody wants to do that – but it is necessary sometimes. The key is to prayerfully consider the right course of action – even if it is difficult – and do that.
Do you struggle with the ethics of selling and marketing? What has helped you with this?
No, I have never struggled with this. You have to be true to yourself and your God in all situations. What situation can you think of that would have you compromise or deny your God or faith? What is worth that?
Is there a time when you really had to rely on God for something? When you have had to make a “leap of faith”?
This is a hard thing that you have to keep working on. Do not lean on your own understanding but in all acknowledge God. Pray about every decision and find peace, even in the hard choices. Then do what you believe is right.
Recently we had to make some personnel changes. It was not obvious, but through prayer and supplication it seemed like the right course. It was hard. But now, some time down the track looking back, it was right. They ended up in a different place more suited to them and are flourishing, and we have a new person who is bringing us through some tough times.
You can lean on God all the time.
How do you think about work/life balance?
For me this was not a struggle as I made up my mind at a young age – God, Family, Green Bay Packers, Work. That is the pecking order for me.
I have left work meetings early – excused myself – to drive home a few hours early to see my son or daughter in a recital of one kind or another. And when they spotted me walk in, they lit up. No work does that.
In the end as stated above, the business bottom line is about profits and what you can do to earn those – there is no loyalty. But I have never been looked down upon or chastised because I went home for family matters in all my many years of working (nine companies and two continents).
Do you have any books or other resources that you would recommend to other Christian business owners?
There was a book written a long while ago called God Owns My Business, by Stanley Tam. He actually made God the owner of his company – legally. It was the first book I read about being all in for God in all areas, and it got me thinking.
What habit have you developed over the years that you think others would benefit from having?
I have a pretty simple faith and life, and I think people can benefit from uncluttering their own life. There is not much to worry about and even less you can control. So show up and see what God will do.
My habit is to show up without much of an agenda or worry, and see what God will do in that situation at that time. It is freeing and less stressful that way.
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