This week, as we observe the Christmas holiday, we’ll take a look back at some of the Bottom Line Faith highlights of 2017.
Today’s episode features our conversations with Chris Allen and Cord Sachs. To revisit the full episodes, follow the links below.
Ray: Hello Folks, this is Ray Hilbert, your co-host at Bottom Line Faith, and wow we’re excited for another edition of the program where we interview some of America’s top Christ-followers who are in business leadership and in the marketplace, and where we learn best practices, lessons learned, failures, successes and all the things that we need to know about as Christ followers in business. If this is your first time checking out the Bottom Line Faith, welcome. You can learn about all the other episodes of our program at bottomlinefaith.org. We’d encourage you to go check that out. Also if you’re a Christ follower leading a company or organization, if you’re looking for tools and resources and encouragement, perhaps would even like to learn about roundtable groups for your peers, check out our ministry website at truthatwork.org. It is our ministry Truth At Work that presents the Bottom Line Faith program, so please check out truthatwork.org to learn about resources and roundtable programs in a city near you. Well, folks, I am excited about this edition. Buckle up because we have an amazing leader that is going to be our guest today. Cord Sachs is our guest, and we are in beautiful Birmingham, Alabama. I’m looking out the window at a beautifully, beautifully designed spring day. Cord, welcome to Bottom Line Faith.
Cord: Ray, I’m glad to be here. It’s a pleasure to be a part.
Ray: Man, I tell you what, just before we’ve gone on recording, we got a chance to spend some time together and your energy is contagious. I can just tell you’re fired up to be here and share lessons and all those things that you’ve learned. We’re going to learn more about your journey and your company as we go along, man, you ready to get rolling?
Cord: Awesome. Let’s do it.
Ray: That is great. So let’s learn a little bit more about your background, Cord. How did you come to Christ, and kind of just how did you become who you are?
Cord: Yeah, I would have to trace that back to my father, and just how he came to Christ was a big part of even my influence now, and I think what God’s been, what God has used to prepare me for who I am today and what I do today. And so I tell a little bit of his story. And it goes a little bit like this. He was brought up as a Catholic, very vivacious individual. Never met a stranger, go for the gusto type of guy and a big business guy. Big, big developer, and developed a lot of properties, developed a village and yet didn’t know Christ. So mid 80s housing crisis, interest rates go through the roof, 23%, he starts losing everything. And a college minister, of all people, runs into him at the McDonalds and shares the bridge diagram with him.
And this the first time he hears the gospel. He takes that back to a meeting with his lawyer, and his lawyer who is a believer begins to unpack and help them understand more of this good news that he’s never really connected the dots with. So he comes to Christ through those two individuals. And then you know, the type of guy that’s not gonna go, he’s not gonna do anything halfway. So he starts, he goes and finds another leader and asks, “How do I grow? I want to do everything, whatever it takes to grow.” And this leader happened to be an old nav staff that had a nav home up in, out near Camp Pendleton, California near the marine base and had 12 Marines living with him. And so my dad is being discipled by this nav, who’s housing 12 Marines. And as a kid, a little six-year-old kid, I remember going up with him every Friday for his D group, his discipleship group.
So that was kind of my, my early initial, you know, influence and I didn’t know what was going on. But as I look back, I see that having a profound impact on what shaped me today. And so, so I, I come to Christ about 14, at an FCA camp. And my dad was very intentional. My hero, I lost him 10 years ago, he was very intentional to develop me to disciple me, to invest in me, pour into me, z big part of my story is, is his legacy being, being invested into me. And so we moved from California to Guntersville, Alabama, where I got to watch him build a business out of the back of his truck, and really do business as mission. And all I knew as a new believer was you, you get in the Word, you pray, you share your faith, and if people come to Christ, you disciple them, and I got to see him disciple subs and clients and just all sorts of folks. I’d walk into his office, he’d be praying, he’d be sharing his faith, he’d be in the Word with someone, and all those people, of course, ended up at his funeral in the line and said, “Hey, your dad changed my life. Your dad spent time investing in me.”
So I got to, this was kind of the backdrop. I was very fortunate to kind of have this as my backdrop as I moved into college and, and then was discipled in college by a guy who was on staff with a ministry called Campus Outreach, and then, you know, just totally changed my life. I saw the reflection of what my dad had done in this man and, and just knew this is what I wanted to give my life to. I wanted to disciple others as I saw the impact it had on me. So, brings you up to college. And, and from there, you know, I thought I’d go straight into business. I loved business. I was an entrepreneur at heart. I’d started a couple businesses in college, but then I was challenged to go on staff with a ministry called Campus Outreach.
That’s where I spent the next seven years: investing in the football team, and just really seeing God take one man that just kind of did what was modeled for him. I spent my time just investing in, you know, three or four young knucklehead freshman football players and, and I saw them come to Christ; I saw them grow; I saw them catch this vision and give their life away. Fast forward four years, they’re about to graduate, and there’s been a movement that’s taken place, as I see, we counted up 67 football players who are involved some in some way in a Bible study, in an evangelistic experience, they’ve been on summer beach projects, they were in this movement, and that’s where I said, “This is what I want to do; this is what I want to give my life to, as I move forward, whatever domain I’m put in.”
And I just knew at that point; it was, it was time to move to a new season. They were calling me Sir in the dorms, and I had three kids at this time. So then I made it, I made the choice to really move, start my first company. And what I really wanted to see is what I had been challenging these graduates to do for seven years, these athletes, to go out in the world, to bloom where they’re planted. You know, 95% of them were going to the marketplace. They weren’t going into ministry. And yet, I had never really lived out my faith in the marketplace. And I knew this was, this was a time I had to go see, can I do that? I’d heard from many godly men that, you know, it’s probably not the easiest place to disciple and to do ministry in the workplace, and maybe I should just focus on transitioning out of ministry, and just getting involved in a Sunday school class. But I just couldn’t, I couldn’t imagine the bait and switch if that wasn’t true, that I’ve told all these guys to go out and minister in the marketplace. And so I had to go see, can you disciple men?
Ray: Is it real?
Cord: Is it real? Can you really do it? Is that what we’re supposed to do, to live our faith out where we’re called to go and where we’re going to spend the majority of our life?
Ray: So you started a company. What was that company?
Cord: So I started a company, it was called Booster with a partner of mine. He graduated from Samford with me. We started a company called Booster; it did elementary school fundraising of all things. And so all we knew is that we had that we had a good product, if you will, a service where we can help elementary schools raise a lot of money through a fitness-based fun run. But the unique thing we did is we went and we recruited these athletes, of all people, to come and work in an elementary school fundraising company. And we promised them two things: we will invest in you holistically, in a sense, we’ll disciple you in the context of work, and we’ll teach you business. And if you’re with us for a year, and you buy into both of those things, and you’re really good at what you do, we’ll let you take a team, and you’ll launch into a new city. And fast forward seven years, and that company multiplied from four of us in a basement to 17 cities, a couple hundred team members. And I saw it again, what I’d seen on the campus: a multiplying movement of multiplying leaders in that football team. I saw in a for-profit company, a multiplying movement of multiplying leaders, this time in business. And I remember saying, “This is what I want to give my life to.” God’s refining my story, right? Finding my calling. And that’s when I started FireSeeds.
Ray: And we’re going to learn now what FireSeeds is, but folks, if you’re just joining us, I’m speaking with Cord Sachs. He’s the CEO of FireSeeds, and we’ve heard a little bit of Cord’s background. So Cord, tell us a little bit about why the name FireSeeds? And then help us understand what the company does.
Cord: And I’ll give you the name FireSeeds. But before I do that, if I don’t include and interject into my story the fact that I have an unbelievable wife and six kids. Our whole tagline with FireSeeds is multiplying leaders. And so if I share that part of my story, if I miss, I may lose some credibility in our, buying into multiplying leaders. So a big part of who I am, why I do what I do, and how I try to build my business so that I can have my impact there. But FireSeeds, where’s it come from? It comes from really, I had the name way before I started the business. I love the fact that the two elements, fire and seeds, that represent two different elements. But they both have to do with exponential impact, exponential growth, multiplication. One, the fire represents the trials you go through, the challenges, the training, the development, the hardships that make a leader. and then the seeds represent the fruit and the growth. But both multiply and have exponential impact.
Ray: I’m looking at your logo on your shirt right now. I’m sure you get asked about that quite a bit, and boy, that’s just a great story right there.
Cord: Yeah, it’s a fun story to tell. And I can store it and sell it in the 60-second version, or, you know, the version that we’re sharing today.
Ray: Awesome. That’s a great transition. So tell us what it is that the company does.
Cord: Well, let me start with our vision and our mission. Because that’s who we are. Everything flows up the vision and mission and then, of course, values. But the vision of FireSeeds is we want to glorify God through multiplying movements of multiplying leaders in the for-purpose market space. We’ve had that vision from day one, as we saw a very strategic place to bring business, to where we could come alongside other business leaders who also, they would also agree that “I want to use my business domain on purpose.” And we want to help them create a movement of leaders that multiply. And so the mission is how we do that. That’s our legacy statement. That’s our why. How we do that is our mission. We discover, deploy, and develop multiplying leaders. So everything’s around this theme of multiplying leaders.
But the discovery is search; it’s recruiting. We have a search firm, if you will, that finds and vets and then places multiplying leaders. A multiplying leader is someone, we would say, has high character, high drive, and they have an intrinsic value of investing in other people, of building and developing other people. And when you get those three things right, that really does cover a multitude of the intangibles when you’re recruiting leaders. And so we’d say our niche is recruiting leaders to values. We partner with what we call purpose-driven organizations, and that’s the deployment component of our mission. We discover, we deploy multiplying leaders. The most important thing I do is vet out and partner with what we call a purpose-driven organization: a company that gets the fact that they have a domain where they’re going to influence people for the majority of their lives. The 80,000 hours that we spend at work is more time than we spend anywhere in any other domain, at work, or at home, or in our church or community combined.
And so they get, I want to use this very intentionally, I want to invest in my culture very intentionally, I care about my people, I want part of my legacy to be left through my company. That’s a purpose-driven organization for us. So when we can partner with that purpose-driven organization to recruit, or then the last part of our mission, develop multiplying leaders, we help companies build leader development tracks within their organization through a platform called Wild Spark, while it’s part leader development. Those three things are very crucial, and us seeing the vision of these multiplying movements take place.
Ray: Really exciting stuff, and I think maybe a client or two to give folks the framework of the types of companies you serve. Give us an example or two of the kinds of companies you serve.
Cord: Yeah, I’ll start local. We’ve got a great company that we serve here. We started with Iron Tribe fitness company, here in Birmingham, Alabama. They started with six gyms, local here in Birmingham, but a purpose-driven organization, purpose-driven leaders. They want to use the gym and the world of group fitness in a very excellent way to engage people and have an impact on their lives very holistically. So it fit our definition. And we’ve been able to place over 115 leaders for them here in Birmingham, but then all over the country. They’ve got gyms, literally, all over the United States. And so we’ve had the unbelievable privilege of last year partnering with Chick-Fil-A, and we’re serving over 100 franchisees over the last nine months, some with recruiting and others with leader development. So obviously another purpose-driven organization that wants to glorify God and have an impact through their platform. And we all know the influence that they’ve had on so many. And even the business expectation of how we as believers can use our businesses to have a kingdom impact. So big hero of ours, and we’re very privileged to partner alongside them too.
Ray: That is great stuff folks. You can see why I was so excited to have this conversation with Cord. You can just sense his encouragement, his enthusiasm, and the calling that God has on his life to really impact so many leaders in the marketplace through his company at FireSeeds. And by the way, Cord, if someone is wanting to check you out and learn about you online, where would they find you?
Cord: Yeah, go to fireseed.com.
Ray: Easy enough.
Cord: Yeah, pretty easy, fireseeds.com. And then you can learn all about us. You can learn about recruiting, learn about our leader development in one stop.
Introducer: Now we’ll revisit our time with Chris Allen, Chief Talent Officer at Movement Mortgage.
Ray: And so our audience is used to hearing folks who have been in business their whole lives, you know, they went to school to become business leaders and such. But you’ve had a really interesting journey of how you’ve ended up here, would you take a moment and help our audience understand your story?
Chris: Well, if I tell them, they’re all going to stop listening.
Ray: I doubt that.
Chris: I grew up in the Chicago area, ended up by God’s grace at Wheaton College, and I was a soccer player. But I started out majoring in Christian education. And I realized that I had a passion for business along the way. It wasn’t that I didn’t have a passion for Christian Ed. It was like, I have some other interests. So I went to basically the office at the school and said, I want to figure out how to get more business. And they said, well, have you ever heard of interdisciplinary studies? I was like, no, I have no idea what that is, tell me. And they basically allowed me to write a paper convincing a board of the combination of business and Christian education to create basically my own custom-tailored major. And so I ended up graduating from Wheaton with a full major of Christian education, about 20 plus hours of business, a couple hours of Kinesiology.
And the reason I share that is because that’s what my career has looked like as well. I came out of Wheaton; I moved to Charlotte, North Carolina to play soccer after school with the Charlotte Eagles, which was a Christian professional soccer team. I played and was a part of the organization for four years, then transitioned into the pharmaceutical industry, because a dad of a kid that I coached said, you’d be good, I didn’t know anything about it. But I learned about corporate cultures; I learned about training; I learned about sales in that environment. Transitioned out of that into an investment company that I helped the founder build. And there I learned about entrepreneurialism, and how to build a team, and how to build structures, and really the financial side of the investment world as well. I transitioned out of there in 2012 and went on staff with our church here in the Charlotte area called Elevation Church. We’ve been a part of the church since it was founded in 2007. I’d rejected their request to come on staff a few times and finally said yes, and ultimately went on staff in 2012. Oversaw students in one of the campuses, was a part of some of the leadership there.
And then in 2015, I transitioned out into the mortgage industry. But when I look back over that career, I am about people and in any of those environments, it’s not like my role within it changed, just the environment did; the setting did; the walls did. But who I am as a person, and my calling to develop people and create safe environments for people to thrive and create cultures and ultimately leads to success, whether it’s in the pharmaceutical industry, the investment world, church world, or mortgage industry, is still the same.
Ray: It is the same. And one of the things that I’m really, really pumped up about in our conversation is you really, I mean, genuinely, this isn’t a show, this isn’t a facade. You genuinely see this as your mission field, don’t you?
Chris: Absolutely. I get at least 40 hours a week with people and call me a pastor within a business, but my opportunity to meet people’s needs on a daily basis, because people don’t leave home at home; they bring their life to work. And people have to deal with that stuff within a work environment. Why not create a place in a setting where we can have an impact on people? So absolutely, this is my calling.
Ray: And folks, I just wish you all could have the experience that I even had this morning. Thank you, Chris, for allowing me to observe and kind of participate in the all-staff meeting, hundreds of people, and it was more like a party than a business meeting. You have dancing mascots and music, there’s a lot of energy, and that really is the people component. And that’s a big part of your role here, right? What is it that really is unique about this place? And what are some of the best practices that you have instilled here that is transforming this culture?
Chris: Yeah, I think from the founding of this company, Casey Crawford and Toby Harris really had this understanding that we want to create an environment where people really do feel loved and valued in a corporate culture at the highest level or at the foundational level, that is really it. So then it’s a matter of like, how do we actually create that? And I think in corporate cultures, obviously, we’re dealing with the millennial generation, this next generation of the workforce. But I don’t know if I buy everything as just millennial. I think all of us want to work in a place of purpose. We want to work in a safe environment where we can use our gifts and abilities to their fullest; I would say to the glory of God, not everybody may say that, but to their fullest, and to be valued within it. And so I think the special thing here is we’ve tried to create a community and environment, a safe culture for people to thrive and become their best spiritually, physically, financially, mentally, emotionally. And all of those factors affect us as people. And so why not create a workplace environment for people to thrive. And so I feel like that’s probably the secret here, although it’s not a secret. We try to tell people it all the time. We’re not perfect at it. But we’re continuing to try and create an environment where people just enjoy their work, where they feel a sense of fun, they feel a sense of purpose, that they’re part of something bigger than themselves, where they see that there’s potential, and where they feel like they’re being developed and growing. And that’s ultimately what people want
Ray: And it just happens that mortgages is the financial platform of the business, right? I mean, you really could transplant pretty much everything you’re doing into any industry.
Chris: Absolutely. I mean, mortgage is just how we make the profit we need to do the things we want to do in the community. But even my philosophy, I’m bringing people in, a lot of the people who have joined our organization didn’t go through college and school hoping to be in the mortgage industry, many of us just sort of end up because God’s called us to different places. And I think if you went and interviewed all the people in this building on hey, did you think you would be in the mortgage industry? 90% of them would say, I had no idea I’d ever be in mortgage. And so it’s not just about mortgage, it’s about creating a place for people to come to work that they really feel valued.
Ray: Well, in fact, you know, most businesses and business owners know that at some point, they try to develop their mission statement, their vision statement, their core values, and so forth. And your mission statement here has nothing to do; it doesn’t even mention mortgages. Would you just share with our audience that mission statement? Yeah, it really is much bigger than that.
Chris: Our mission statement is, we say we exist to love and value people by creating a movement of change in industries, corporate cultures, and communities. There’s not the word mortgage in there. The most important thing and the reason we exist is to love and value people. We do that by then having a greater impact, a movement of change, a disrupter, if you will, in the industry, mortgages, or broader industries, like the financial industries in general, but also calling on corporate cultures. How do we help other Christian business owners, other Christian businesses, even secular businesses understand how to really love and value people because that loving people is sort of a statement that kind of people reject in terms of corporate culture. And then that third component is we don’t just make money to make money. We want to be profitable because it matters for the impact that we can have in communities. And so we’re doing a lot of things around the community. That’s really Casey’s heart and Toby’s heart is that we would have a greater impact on the communities in which we serve.
Ray: How do you bring your faith into these different environments?
Chris: Part of my story is my dad’s been in ministry for over 35 years now. And I grew up as a pastor’s kid, I’ve seen church, I know how to fake church, I know the answers, I can talk the talk. But authenticity has become such a significant part of my life in the last kind of 15 years. And what authenticity means to me is like, I got to be the same person in any environment. And my goal isn’t to cram Jesus and the Bible down anyone’s throat. My job is to live out my faith, and to love people the way Christ loved people. And so when when I look at integrating my faith in things like coaching soccer, or being on the board of a non-profit, or meeting people in this community, it’s always just about how do I love and value this person? How do I build a relationship, and how can I live out Christ without cramming a bunch of Bible verses or the Bible down their throat? And eventually, they’re going to ask about it.
And when I was in the pharmaceutical industry, I had this manager that I just, I loved this guy. And we would have these great conversations, and I just shared with him kind of what my passions were. And I knew that there would come a time when he would ask, and there’d be a conversation, and he came to me one day and said, You’ll never believe this, Chris, you know, I don’t get it all. And I know you’re a super spiritual guy, or, typically, it’s super religious guy, but I was in the hotel room and I pulled out the Gideons Bible and then the TV came on. And there was a preacher on there, and I just feel like I get it. Can you help explain this to me? Because now I know why you’re so different. And I just think like, our job is just to live it out on a daily basis in every environment, rather than trying to explain to people without living it out. Like I my job isn’t to beat him with knowledge. My job is to love in action.
Ray: I love it. It’s all about people, right? Why do you keep coming back to that? It’s almost like you really believe this. Well, maybe a couple more questions here. Thank you for coming back for a second part of our conversation. And so how old are you, Chris?
Chris: I’m 39.
Ray: So you’re 39. So in your four decades, you’ve obviously had a chance to reflect on life, even though you’re still midstream, so to speak. But if you had to do anything over again, at this point in your life, what would you do differently?
Chris: I honestly, and I know this isn’t the answer that you’re looking for. But I would not do anything differently. Because I feel like I have listened to the voice of God in every step long the way. I may have been late at times. I don’t feel like I’ve been disobedient. I know when I look back over my career, people ask questions like how in the world? And I look at it, and I go, everything I’m doing today has been influenced and pieces I’ve learned along the way, all the way back to being a pastor’s kid, all my soccer days, my time at Wheaton College, and changing of majors, and adding business and Christian education, my time in the non-profit world, the pharmaceutical world, the investment world, ultimately, the church world, and now at Movement. I have learned something at every stop along the way that has made me who I am today and made me more effective in the role that God’s given me.
And I just believe that in God’s great plan, he gives everybody the skills and the tools and you throw them in your backpack as you go. And the next opportunity you find out, Oh, my gosh, now, I know why I did that and that and that. And so when I look back, I don’t know if I do anything differently. I’m really glad that I went to Wheaton College, instead of pursuing a soccer school, D-1. By the way, we haven’t talked about it, but I almost went to Indiana University. But like really glad that those decisions were made and ultimately influenced. So I’m on the adventure. This is an adventure, and I don’t know where we’re going. But it’s been fun. And I really wouldn’t change anything.
Ray: That’s fantastic. And I appreciate the transparency in that. Maybe time for just one more question, Chris. We’ve had a chance to talk before we even started recording these conversations that you get an opportunity to interact with business owners and leaders all across the country, many of whom are Christ followers, and you get a chance to learn from them, they learn from you, and so forth. So what advice would you have or what encouragement would you give to someone who’s listening to the program today, they’re a Christ-follower and they’re wanting to glorify God and their company and how they’re running their business and building their company? That maybe they’re discouraged, or maybe they’re just uncertain about next steps are they had hoped they were further along in there. Who knows what’s going through the hearts and minds of our listeners right now, but just wanted to close this part of our conversation with what words of encouragement would you have for them as a Christ-follower?
Chris: Yeah, as you were asking the question, I was trying to think of sort of end of life, when I look back over everything, what are the things that I’m going to remember and be proud of? In momentary struggles, discouragement, down times, we get focused almost myopically on the issue at hand. And I think if I look into the future, those aren’t the things that I’ll be thinking about then. And so my word of encouragement would be at the end when the relationships that you’ve had an impact on will surround, maybe it’s at your funeral, and they’ll say, this person had a tremendous impact on my life. That’s what matters. This is going to come as a shock to you, but it’s all about people.
And so for those of you who are discouraged or down right now, you know, it may be some business situation, it may be some sale that needs to go through, it may be something profitability-wise or income-wise, but if you’ll just get back to focus on the people that relationships that you get to impact on daily basis, the people that you interact with in your company in a daily basis, maybe it’s your suppliers, or maybe it’s your customers. Think about that people in the relationships that you get to impact and that will almost bring you out of anything. And ultimately, if you focus on the people, everything else will be taken care of. I just believe that and yet, most of the time, when most of us get down, we start to focus on the task or the strategy and we lose sight of the very thing that could bring us out of it, and that’s the people. And so my advice to you would be focused on the people because that’s what matters. That’s what’s going to matter in the future. That’s also what God has called us to. And those are the people you can have the greatest impact on right now.
Ray: Incredible insights. Thank you so much. And thank you, Chris, for the investment of your time with me personally today and for our guests here. But just thank you for how you’re modeling, living out your faith. I know you’re not perfect, and you’ve shared that but you’ve been authentic and transparent and all that. And so just thank you for how you’re impacting the marketplace for Christ.
Chris: You’re welcome.
Ray: Well, folks, this is Ray Hilbert. I am your host here at Bottom Line Faith. We have been visiting with Chris Allen, the Chief Talent Officer at Movement Mortgage. If you would like to learn more about the company movement.com is their website and where can we find out about you?
Chris: You can find me on LinkedIn I think under Chris Allen on Twitter and Instagram @ChrisTaitAllen, and you’ll see pictures of my family and my real life. You get to see everything.
Ray: Well folks, thanks for joining us. We say it all the time here. It’s the fastest 30 minutes on the airwaves. And Chris, this was Part Two of an incredible interview. Thank you so much. We hope to see you again soon. Folks, if you are a business owner and you’ve been inspired and encouraged by the conversation with Chris Allen today and you’re saying wow what would that be like to have community of other Christ followers who are running a business or leading an organization check out the website truthatwork.org. We are the host ministry here at Bottom Line Faith, truthatwork.org. Learn about one of our roundtable groups. We have chapters in cities all across the country with hundreds of like minded Christian business leaders who meet together on a regular basis. Until next time, I am your host here at Bottom Line Faith, Ray Hilbert. God Bless, and we’ll see you soon.