by Jonathan Simpson
Publication: One-to-One, Autumn 2012

“Are you creating the climate around you, or are you simply OK with reflecting the culture in which you work? The challenge and opportunity is there for us every day as Christians in the marketplace to be salt and light to the world, but how tasty and illuminatingly different are we?” These are questions Rod Smith, Vice President and Partner of Costa Solutions is asking and taking to heart. It was my pleasure recently to interview Mr. Smith, who is largely responsible for his company’s overall vision and direction. -Jonathan Simpson

Rod Smith with a teammate121: What are some pitfalls for us in the marketplace in becoming “salt and light” and how are these pitfalls avoided?

RS: Setting a poor example through personal modeling will undermine every relationship as well as company directive. If a leader or employer is a self-centered person instead of Christ-centered and outward focused, it is all the more damaging due to his/her increased influence and responsibility. Only short-term gains can be made with such a short-sighted approach. It’s also important to realize that you can change the culture where you are. You don’t need to be a CEO to do it. If you wait until you are the leader to learn to lead, you won’t be ready.

The misdirection of a Christian life is often that we’ll make a difference when we have more time, money, resources, or knowledge to give. The truth is that we will never truly “arrive,” so we need to make an impact right now with what God has given us in this current season-this is the definition of stewardship.

Our failure to live in an effective and relevant manner leads to mediocrity which leaves a flavorless, lukewarm taste in the mouths of a hungry world. John Wooden says, “When you’re through learning, you’re through.” Keep learning, developing yourself every day in both your craft and your relationship with God. If we fail to grow and learn, we are at risk of being ineffective, irrelevant, or easily dismissed by the ones that we should be reaching. We definitely must renew our minds daily and wash ourselves in the water of the Word, not living off of yesterday’s victory or relationship. We are called to be most ready and engaged in the moment of the present, especially with our Heavenly Father.

There is never a better place to start making a difference than where you are. For millions of Christians worldwide, that opportunity exists in the marketplace, en masse. The places where we work are the most available, yet largest untapped mission field, affording each one of us excellent access to positively impact the lives of friends, co­workers, customers, vendors and all of their families. We need to be about our Father’s business and the marketplace group represents a lot of folks.

121: In your role at Costa Solutions, what is your approach to establishing vision and direction, and how is it imparted throughout the company?

RS: Strategic planning starts with core values, then mission and vision statements; all current and future decisions, direction, and policies, must be run through the filter of the strategic plan. Effectiveness is born out of having a foundation that accurately represents the essence of who you are and where you are going. Good communication is essential to engagement and impartation. Believers in leadership should practice the following: (a) Personally model and be accountable to a Christ-centered message; (b) Develop, disciple, and have buy-in of key leaders and staff; (c) Disciple leaders who make disciple leaders.

121: What kind of culture would a new employee encounter at Costa Solutions?

RS: A growing and changing culture-we haven’t arrived yet. The HR term is “healthy labor relations,” but the feel is a caring, loving, candid environment. Our work is typically challenging and labor intensive, so the environment is not soft, but it is fair and supportive, building relationships of trust and confidence.

121: How do you quantify your effectiveness?

RS: That’s a tough one to answer because we are still growing in our effectiveness, but here are some: (a) improved retention and decreased turnover rate; (b) better, more open dialogue with all team members; (c) an “open door” and alternate dispute resolution policy that works; (d) increased ministry activity among leaders and team members; (e) ability of the newest team member to articulate the basic essence of our company’s core values, goals, and desires .

121: What recommendations do you have for personal, “salt and light” development?

RS: Lots of reading, as well as meditating and renewing your mind in God’s Word. An excellent book on Christ-centered leadership is The Way of the Shepherd, by Dr. Kevin Leman. I also believe personal development and growth is best served in an environment of accountability. To that end, I am part of a Christian CEO and Owner peer board called the C12 Group. The group has helped us hone our strategic plan, establish and communicate the core values of our company, sharing our vision and mission with the leaders and teams of people that help us live it out. As “iron sharpens iron,” and it makes us more effective in Christ, as a person, as a leader, in business, and finally in our business as a ministry.