Chris Jackson

President of Samuel Jackson, Inc.—Golden Rule Business Brings Success

By Marjorie F. Eddington

Categories: Business, Golden Rule, Gratitude (Thanksgiving), Nehemiah, Perseverance

Chris Jackson, an engineer, faced complex problems as he learned the Samuel Jackson business. He commits to practicing the Golden Rule, removes distractions as Nehemiah did, and values gratitude as essential.

What kind of company is Samuel Jackson?
Samuel Jackson is a designer and manufacturer of highly specialized moisture control machinery for processing fibrous material, including cotton, nylon, polypropylene, rayon, etc.

How did you get into this?
It was the family business, which my sisters and I began to purchase in 1990. I had worked for the business in high school and college doing manual labor tasks, like cleaning, assembly, and answering telephones. I earned a degree in industrial engineering, so as far as knowing the mentality of our customer base, the rationale for the product, and basic business precepts (such as collection, payables, and negotiating), I felt as green as the next guy. There were a lot of hard times.

What were some of the challenges?
We had large payments to make every month for well over a decade, payroll to meet, and our cash flow was unpredictable. There were family pressures that often created an emotional impact. In the beginning, I was naïve. I had to learn the business through the school of hard knocks. I really hated to fire anybody. I still don’t enjoy it, but back then, I hesitated, and that wasn’t good for business. At one point, a large company with whom we work tried a subversive, hostile take-over, which was unsuccessful and actually transformative for our company. (Find out how they got through this intense experience!)

Did any ideas from the Bible help you pull through the hard times?
One of the things that greatly influenced me was this concept: “Owe no one anything except to love one another, for he who loves another has fulfilled the law” (Rom 13:8 NKJV). That developed a kind of company philosophy that has served us very well right up to now. It runs counter to prevailing business logic as taught by the business schools, especially in regards to the cash conversion cycle. Prevailing wisdom would dictate that you want to collect what is owed to you as quickly as possible and hang on to the money you owe your suppliers for as long as possible.

We don’t actually follow that at all. We pay our financial obligations very quickly, more quickly than our receivables from our customers, which we also manage tightly. As a result, we are able to expect things from our suppliers. Since no one else is going to be paying them as quickly as we do (5 days), we are their quickest way to meeting their next bill. It all comes from “owe no one anything.” I was raised with this philosophy. My parents got out of the debts they had at one point in life in this way. But I also made this practice my own.

How did you make this practice your own?
I thought how I wanted to be paid—very quickly. To me, that’s Golden Rule business. I’ll never forget: I was working for an electrical equipment Fortune 500 company. They had a large sales training event and brought in all their people from every continent. What astounded me was the high powered sales training consultants who essentially did nothing but teach the precepts of the Golden Rule, rephrasing the words into business parlance.

I was kind of yawning, as I’d known this precept since my early days in Sunday school, and wondering why this company was spending money to hear this message for two days. The reason astounded me. I discovered that about 80% of the participants had never heard that message before. The Golden Rule was a radical concept. That was a jaw dropper for this country boy.

I never took it for granted again. The Golden Rule is one of those values that is not unique to the Bible. It pervades every religion or philosophy in the world. Yet, how little it is known! That was pretty amazing to me. It makes for great business. If you follow the Golden Rule and then owe nothing to anyone but love, your business follows.

It sounds like biblical principles guide your business.
They do. I see my job as being a lot like Nehemiah’s. I don’t consider myself a CEO, or a COO, or a CFO. What I do consider myself is a CDMO, Chief Distraction Management Officer, identifying and nullifying distractions. When Nehemiah was rebuilding the wall of Jerusalem, Sanballat the Horonite, Tobiah the Ammonite, and Geshem the Arab threw every possible distraction at him to keep him from finishing his mission, which was sanctioned by King Artexerxes. When the enemies were unsuccessful in one approach, they tried another approach. They were covert and overt in their attempts, to the degree that Jews had to carry weapons in one hand and build with the other.

So Nehemiah worked to keep his people away from the distractions, which is exactly what I do, just a few thousand years later. I keep our team focused on what we do and clear the air constantly as distractions come forward. If we don’t get bogged down in the dogfight of what our competitors are doing, we can soar with the eagle, keeping our focus on why and how we do what we do.

That’s actually very powerful—removing distractions and maintaining focus.
It is, and it’s very profitable. I’ve also learned that having the right team is highly important. Creating effective personal chemistry in business is a lot like putting a garden together: you need to have flowers that compliment each other, and you can’t allow invasive species that battle each other to grow on the home turf.

Out of all you’ve learned about business, what stands out to you the most?
If there is one single element or attribute of a business leader who can get through the good times and bad, I would say it’s gratitude. It’s kind of like a trump card. We even have specific examples, such as Andrew Carnegie. For all the wealth the man amassed, his epitaph said something about how grateful he was for the good people he had around. I know how he felt.

The gratitude goes beyond just your own team. You can develop phenomenal customer relationships predicated on gratitude—gratitude for them buying our equipment, and gratitude on their part for us making the equipment responsive to their needs. The same goes for our suppliers. The one essential attitude for operating a business in the 21st century is a deep, sincere, genuine gratitude. That will cut through all types of stuff.