When People Are More Important than Profit

May 16, 2017

with Gayle Goossen

Most businesses are run with a focus on profits, often to the detriment of personal relationships. Gayle Goossen however, operates Barefoot Creative by putting relationships first. Even though our culture prizes money and encourages people to make a quick buck at the expense of others, she stands firm in her faith and uses her business as a platform to love others.

Gayle talks about the challenges of running a small business, and shares a tale of two very different clients, one greedy and one humble, and the unconventional way in which she dealt with them.

What is your business?

I am a partner/owner in a communications/marketing company.

Barefoot Creative focuses on brand development, cultivating loyalty in clients, customers and donors, and digital solutions for businesses and non-profits.

Can you give some examples of the types of customers you have?

Our clients vary.

Our business target is organizations and companies that are committed to investment in growth. While that sounds silly, many organizations and companies are not. They have not budgeted investment dollars into business development. Those are not potential clients.

We serve the non-profit space, with a high number of faith-based and international development clients. We also serve insurance and private business.

How did you get started?

We launched the company after working in the industry and seeing a need in the marketplace.

When we started 20 years ago, we felt a strong need in the non-profit space where professional communication services were not the norm. While that has changed in the past 20 years, many small non-profits and small businesses continue to work without an investment model.

I am not a “pastor” or a missionary, but I am a follower who lives to bring God’s faithfulness into our very spoiled, entitled, faithless world.

Tell me about an interesting problem that your business faces today

Time and money, those are always the challenges in any small business.

In a private business, because we are pretty small and our work is based on hours of service, there is little room for error in pricing and little time to do extra work for our company.

Currently, our biggest challenge is the same as that of the lovely shoemaker — our children are shoeless. We struggle to build our own marketing material. Not for lack of ideas, but for lack of time.

What are some ways in which you run your business differently than someone who is not a believer?

I’m not convinced that we run our business that much differently.

I work with many different businesses and organizations. Some are “Christian” and some are not. I have not seen a huge difference. In fact, sadly, I often see organizations with Christian leaders fall short.

But, idealist that I am, I realize that we are only human. The opportunity that we have is to repair broken relationships with humility and compassion, and that is a big gap in many companies.

I do not own a Christian business (it seems foolish to me to think of a business as Christian), but my business partner and I both attempt to serve God in our own unique ways.

I can take time and pray for a team member if they are going through a tough time, because life sucks sometimes. Divorce, anger, and death all impact our team. We always pray for our team in private, but there are times when we pray for and with them directly.

What is your perspective on the role of profit in a business?

Is profitability holy?

So here’s the thing. Barefoot isn’t that profitable. Oh, both my business partner and I get a salary, but it’s not outlandish. In fact, I’d say it’s pretty modest.

But I don’t think money matters at all to God.

Money is the marker in our society to buy power, things, and position. So I work hard not to use it for that. Money also provides shelter, staff and many good things.

Do you interact with your clients differently because of your faith?

I can tell you one interesting story.

Early in our day there were two clients. One was on the brink of bankruptcy, and while the work we did for them would help them build their sales, they didn’t realize until after we had finished the work how bad their finances were.

So they called us, talked it through, and we set up a monthly payment plan for a very small amount, and they paid it off over a few years. They are still in business and we continue to cheer them on. They were honest. They dealt with integrity.

Another business, very profitable, used us to do a bunch of stuff, then they turned around and said we didn’t deliver the services required and they weren’t going to pay. They purposely hired small businesses with little power, got the work they wanted and then walked.

About 6 weeks after they walked I got a call from their new agency (they had walked already without payment), they wanted us to join them to sue the business (which would have been a deep dark hole).

Frankly, we were both mad, but God protected us!

Neither of us had the money to fight this. And it would have ended up as “he said, she said”.

So we lost several thousands of dollars.

Will it happen again? Maybe, but I believe God gave us grace to walk forward and not get stuck in that moment. People cheat, but I don’t have to.

I can tell more stories like that, but God is very patient with us.

Is there a time when you really had to rely on God for something? When you have had to make a “leap of faith”?

The most difficult times have been when cash flow is seriously compromised. That is a challenge to our business.

But in the times when we thought we would be toast, God pulled the right people around us.

Every month we have to turn around a whack load of money to pay for our staff, our building, our equipment, our travel, our... That’s exhausting.

I wake up in the morning, and I pray.

I go to bed at night, and I pray.

And for weeks, in one case two years, we were living on a tiny thread.

Like many small businesses, we had grown too fast and too much. We struggled to maintain our fixed costs (staff and building) when the market hit a low. We had to rethink our business model, reduce staff and pray.

We are grateful to a staff team who supported us, partners who struggled with us, and the wisdom of God's Spirit to lead us to the next stage.

But the bigger challenge is to get up and pray when times are good, because it’s easy to trust when times are tough (well, the experience is hard, but it is more natural to go to God).

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