Cleaning Up… With A Capital “C”!

Kingdom PURPOSE in the marketplace can be advanced most widely and impactfully when it starts at the top. But only when leaders proactively turn their passion for Christ into everyday presence and performance.

Like at ServiceMaster. A company whose name was chosen to remind employees they were serving the Master, Jesus Christ. (Faith in the Halls of Power, D. Michael Lindsay, Oxford University Press, p. 181)

ServiceMaster was founded in 1947 by Marion Wade, a devoted Christian who wanted to serve and honor God in all he did. He brought his strong personal faith into business, where he respected every customer and employee as having been made in God’s image. Marion’s faith convictions inspired both his corporate mission and culture.

From its early days of moth-proofing and carpet cleaning, ServiceMaster has become a multi-billion dollar company offering extensive residential and commercial services, e.g., lawn / landscape maintenance, termite / pest control, maintenance / repair of heating, air conditioning, plumbing and appliance, cleaning / furniture maintenance and home warranties.

Much of ServiceMaster’s industry leadership (in each of its markets) and growth in shareholder value came under the guidance of C. William “Bill” Pollard. Bill joined the company in 1977 and served as its CEO (twice), long-term Board Chairman, and subsequent long-term corporate advisor.

What is Bill’s leadership philosophy? I love his description from his first eight weeks at ServiceMaster:

“I spent my days out doing the work that our service workers did and my evenings doing my job as senior vice president. I learned many lessons as I worked in the field and gained an understanding about the emotions and the needs of the people who did our service work; how the design of a job and the training of a person could be a motivating factor in their development and in their realizing their own dignity and worth as they did their work. I learned how people should be cared for by the firm and treated as the subject of work, not just the object of work. I learned some very practical lessons of servant leadership as I mopped floors and cleaned toilets.”

Maybe that’s why the market took notice when Bill modeled that philosophy and took ServiceMaster to new heights. Under his leadership, ServiceMaster was… Heralded by Fortune Magazine as the Number 1 service company among the Fortune 500. Included in Fortune’s list of its most admired companies. Identified as a “star of the future” by The Wall Street Journal. Recognized by the Financial Times as one of the most respected companies in the world.

Maybe that’s why Bill’s book on leadership, Soul of the Firm, became a bestseller.

ServiceMaster’s website doesn’t mention God today. Its History page acknowledges its founder’s “strong personal faith”  and declares, “ServiceMaster operates under many of the same tenets of Marion Wade’s original purpose to deliver exceptional service and quality to customers.”

How does Bill’s leadership style advance the Gospel from the C-suite to the shop floor?

Please post your comments below.

Diana Furr, a.k.a., Abba’s Girl

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