| Character: The Key to Good Business
Good Business Is About Investing in a Worthy
Vision and Being a Good Person
For almost a decade, President Eaton has made
a commitment that SPU would be active in the work of the surrounding
city. He brings his eight years in business and nearly 30 years
in higher education to his involvement in the downtown Seattle
I LOVE BUSINESS. Though some people don’t like
to think of it that way, Seattle Pacific University is a business.
We have a good-size budget, many great employees, a huge physical
plant to maintain and lots of people who pay a precious price for
what we have to offer. And so I spend countless hours thinking
about how to maximize resources and revenues in order to invest
wisely in the vision and the people of this great university. I
love this part of my work.
Of course, I lay awake at night thinking
about the risks, too, the damage or danger we might encounter from
dumb or sloppy business decisions. I am so grateful that I am surrounded
by people who know this part of my work even better than I do,
people who know business and who care as well about realizing our
vision. I think it is a matter of integrity that we do our business
But what does it mean to do business well? We have many models
around these days of how to do business badly, harmfully. Breaches
of integrity and honesty, manipulation and misuse of people and
resources, overwhelming greed and ambition, unchecked power — when
these things happen, business gets a bad name. Good people in business
grow ashamed. Students begin choosing other career paths.
be quick to say that business has no inherent corner on greed or
ambition or power. Of course, we can focus with disgust on the
CEOs and CFOs who abuse their power. But then there are the Catholic
priests and Protestant evangelists who violate a sacred trust;
there are scholars who plagiarize and scientists who alter their
data; unbelievably there are teachers who seduce teenage students
and pilots who get on their planes drunk — real people are hurt
badly when something vital and foundational is broken and violated.
And so we only have to take a look around to know that business
is part of a larger culture that seems out of whack, and somewhere
deep down the fundamentals need attention.
One of our business
professors, Randy Franz, said recently, “In our times there can
be no greater leverage point, no more strategic place to engage
the culture or change the world, than in the realm of business.” I
think he is right. Randy is a member of the team of faculty in
School of Business and Economics envisioning “another way of doing business.” Our
faculty is saying that the solution to the scandals in business is not to sit
on the sidelines casting stones, but rather to craft a vision for doing things
So what does it mean to do business diferently?
What does it mean to do our business well at Seattle Pacific University? I am
convinced we have to dig down to the fundamentals, down beneath the layers of
expertise that help us do business successfully, important as these skills are,
down there where we examine our motives, down there where we are exploring the
big ideas of integrity, goodness, human nature, dignity, the common good, honesty,
trust, beauty, civility — those kinds of things. This is the territory where
we can do the good work, and the hard work, of crafting a vision about doing
For me, business is all about investing in a worthy vision. Most
business leaders I know want to invest in such a vision. They want to make a
difference in the lives of their employees. They want to produce something
beautiful and worthwhile. They want to return something to their communities.
I believe my father worked hard to do his business well, but so often I came
to understand he did his business primarily so he could give away his money to
other Christians who were trying to make the world a better place.
an even deeper level, the key is all about trying to be good people. It is about
character formation. It is about understanding, beneath all of the complexities
of shades of gray, that there is something we can call right and wrong, and good
people choose right. Honesty and integrity matter. It is about understanding
that people matter, that civility is a choice, that kindness is possible, that
good manners can change an organization — indeed, that good manners can change
I have long argued that scandals in business will never be solved
with more laws or more regulations. The key lies with character. Ultimately,
the money part of business is a tool we must learn to use skillfully and responsibly,
a point of leverage through which we can accomplish a worthy vision, and that
takes good people. Ultimately, I believe character matters.
And so I do love
doing business, and I am grateful to the people who counsel us on how we do our
business: our competent staff , our thoughtful faculty, our experienced trustees
and friends. In our work at SPU, in our business, it is critical that we do our
business well, because this is another way of modeling to the world that something
is different here. Perhaps this is another way we can help chart a path toward
changing this part of our world.
— BY PHILIP W. EATON, PRESIDENT
— PHOTO BY JIMI LOTT
Back to the top
Back to Home
Circle of Influence Grows
Nearly 4,000 new donors have supported The Campaign for SPU, including those with no previous connection to Seattle Pacific. [Campaign]
Planning for Casey’s Future
SPU faces challenges in its efforts to retain and maintain Camp Casey while working to preserve its historic and environmental resources.
Talk About Imagination
Professors of physics and art probe the “brilliant bridge” between their two disciplines.
You Can Go Home Again!
Hundreds of SPU alumni and families returned to campus for Homecoming. See photos of “Discover More in ‘04.” [Alumni]
Legends of the Falcons
The Falcon Legends Athletic Hall of Fame inducted the Class of 2004, including a celebrated coach and four honored athletes. [Athletics]
Professor Rick Steele writes a letter to SPU community members about the “divine grace” he and his daughter, Sarah, experienced at “The Sacred Sounds of Christmas.”