Today’s show features Chuck Welden, Principal at Weldon Field Development company.
Chuck Welden holds a B.S. from the University of Alabama in Commerce and Business Administration, J.D. from George Washington University School of Law and LL.M in Taxation from New York University School of Law. After practicing law at the Birmingham law firm of Burr & Forman, Chuck joined WeldenField, a Birmingham based family real estate company. He has served as a member of the Young Executive Board of Directors of Compass Bank and currently serves on the Board of the Alabama Wildlife Federation and the National Christian Foundation of Alabama. At WeldenField, he focuses on both alternative investments and real estate opportunities which include both acquisition and development opportunities in multifamily, single family, hotel, active adult and land. Chuck and his wife, Lauren, reside in Birmingham, Alabama and have four children.
Ray: Hello everyone, this is Ray Hilbert, your host here at Bottom Line Faith, and we would like to welcome you back for another episode. If this is your first time as a listener to the Bottom Line Faith program, welcome aboard. We think you’re going to be encouraged; you’re going to be challenged, you’re going to be equipped as a follower of Christ in business and in the marketplace to live out your faith every day. And if you are a long-term listener, welcome back; we are so glad you have chosen to rejoin us here for the weekly Bottom Line Faith program. Hey, listen check out all of our other interviews. You can check those out at the bottomlinefaith.org website; that’s bottomlinefaith.org. And if you are a Christ-follower, a president, CEO, or business owner, and you’re looking for community with other like-minded Christian business peers visit our website at truthatwork.org. Truth At Work is the host ministry for the Bottom Line Faith program.
Listen, this is the program and the analogy we like to use, we’re going to lift the hood, and we’re going to tinker around in the engine of leadership of Christianity in the marketplace. And so we are excited that you’ve joined us today. You know, one of our value promises, one of our things that we like to offer here is a variety of Christ following business leader. And we have had start-up business leaders, we’ve had CEOs of major corporations, we’ve had athletes, we’ve had entertainers, and so there’s great diversity here. And so today I am, and I’ve called this my kind of second home, my home away from home. I’m in Birmingham, Alabama. This is probably about my 10th trip to this beautiful city. We’re not only in the Bible Belt, but I think we’re in the shined buckle of the Bible Belt here in Birmingham.
Chuck: You should add barbeque belt.
Ray: Barbeque belt. Okay, and that’s a great introduction too. Today’s guest is Chuck Welden, and Chuck is one of the principles at the Welden Field Development Company. And Chuck, welcome to Bottom Line Faith.
Chuck: Glad to be here.
Ray: Are we going to go for BBQ later? Is that what you’re telling me?
Chuck: Well, I really hesitate to even take you anywhere unless I’m cooking it myself.
Ray: Oh, okay.
Chuck: So you need to come back this fall. We cook a whole hog two or three times a year.
Chuck: We use our own hickory, everything.
Ray: You don’t have to ask me twice. I’ll be there. You just give me a date.
Chuck: Any time between November 1 and January 31.
Chuck: Yes, I’ll do it anytime.
Ray: Okay. All right. Very good. So, so Chuck, thanks for joining the program. And you know, I learned about you a number of months ago when I interviewed some friends in the Memphis area, and it’s just great. Some of you’ve checked out those interviews with our friends in Memphis. And so Chuck, just tell us a little bit about your company, about your business. Tell us about how you came to Christ, let’s just get to know you a little bit.
Chuck: Sure. Second generation real estate development business. We do real estate development, management, alternative investments, banking. My father, my uncle and another gentleman named Pete Field started it about 40 years ago, and now there’s four sons back. Of course, one thing we say is blood is thicker than water, but it boils faster. And so a lot of times you get freaked out when your father talks to you, are you talking to your boss, or your investor, or your father? So that can be complicated at times. From Alabama, went to the University of Alabama. I know you’re a Notre Dame fan, Ray. So I know that’s hard to believe. But I actually became a Christian at Alabama through Campus Crusade for Christ.
Ray: All right. All right.
Chuck: I know you would not think that could ever happen in the University of Alabama. But anyway, somebody shared the four spiritual laws there in the fraternity, and that is what led me to become a Christian. I’d never gone to church with my family. I had gone to church in the summertime with my grandparents, at Baptist churches, walked the aisles a number of times emotionally, but never could describe my faith was. So in college is when I became a Christian.
Ray: And so did you have it from that point on? Do you believe we kind of walked faithfully or have you had kind of ebbs and flows?
Chuck: Oh there’s been some times and some seasons of life. I always tell people that because you’re going to have some seasons of carnality or backsliding, you need to build bridges in your life, because you never know what side the bridge you’re gonna be on. You need to be on the bridge to help somebody; you need to be on the bridge side to get some help. So that’s one of my big principles is you gotta have bridges with other believers, particularly men who can influence you, that really can affect you.
Ray: Absolutely. And so walk me through just a little bit more, maybe some of the challenges that you have as a Christ-following man in business and in the marketplace. What are some of those challenges that you face on a regular basis?
Chuck: I’d say balancing faith, work, and family is very tough. I’m in what I would call a variable time job, that is, not someone who’s checking in on a clock. Every real estate project we do could be better, and we make mistakes. And so this, there’s unlimited amount of time you could allocate, and so shutting that off and going home, I did not do a very good job of that, younger, even when I was in my career, particularly years ago, still struggle with it. But and that’s something I think that is, you know, had some, obviously, some consequences in the family because it’s just hard to turn it off. Because you can always do better job. You want to do a better job.
Ray: Yeah. So, you know, one of the things we love to do here at Bottom Line Faith, we want to be an encouragement. We want to help that believer in business in the marketplace; maybe just one person take one step. Move them forward. So what would you say to encourage someone right now who just feels like maybe they’re blowing it at home? Or maybe they’re not, you know, meeting all those things that God’s calling to do in their home life because their business life has kind of taken over. Any words of encouragement?
Chuck: Absolutely. A couple things. One is I would not try to make drastic changes. I found that you make drastic changes, it upsets the apple cart, and you put guilt on yourself. It’s kinda like alcoholism; you know that I guess those guys you’re supposed to just say I’m not gonna drink one day at a time? Well, I think likewise, and this, you can’t say I never can do this again. I think you have to say create some bumpers or guardrails. I think you get with somebody older. I mean, we’re, my wife and I are huge in seeking and giving, seeking advice from older couples and giving advice to younger couples. So I would get somebody who’s had experiences similar to you and see what kind of guardrails and bumpers they say to avoid this type of outcome of not spending the time with your children wisely, not spending time investing in your wife. I mean, basically, nobody dies, you know, and on the deathbed says, I wish I’d spent less time with my children and my wife, but I do hear people say all the time, I wish I had prioritized my work differently. So I think everybody can come to that conclusion at some point. It’s just a matter of trying to set up some guardrails. Initially, I think, again, talking to people who have already experienced it is really important.
Ray: So you shared, you know, particularly early on, you, maybe were a little bit out of whack a little.
Ray: What were some of those adjustments that you made to kind of return back home with your wife, your kids? What were some things that you did?
Chuck: Well, create some rules about how many days I would travel and how many nights I’d be gone because we do a lot of projects throughout the southeast. So that was one thing. Secondly, we prioritize church, and there’s almost no exception. I mean, I bet we only miss church twice a year. I mean, even on vacation, we prioritize it. We just think, and I don’t, I’m not saying be legalistic. I’m just saying if you aim at nothing, you hit it every time. So you gotta set some priorities and set some goals. Another thing is time for the children. I took each child on a missions trip by themselves for 7 to 10 days. And then we probably took another 10 or 15 family missions trips in probably ten countries around the world. And so that time was a really good way to help our children, you know, invest in them.
Ray: That’s incredible. What did those trips mean to your kids? How did that help shape their worldview and their value system?
Chuck: Well, at supper last night, somebody asked me, How did you get your children to go to Uganda when they were 15, 13 and 12? I mean, what did they say? My wife said the wife’s answer was we never asked them. So part of the deal is seeing that there’s actually authority in their life, that they don’t get a vote on everything. Just that by itself, you don’t think people appreciate how important it is; everybody’s got authority somewhere in life. If we don’t teach you to our children initially, then they’re going to rebel against authority in so many different ways at work, or in the church or within their family. So these little small things, Tracy Atkins has a famous song called, And She Thinks We’re Just Fishing. Well, he’s investing in her, and he’s teaching her things while they’re fishing. I think just decision-making about going on a missions trip, you’re teaching them things they don’t realize you’re teaching.
And then secondly, the whole missions trips allowed them to see the fact that people did not have what they had. We’re from a very affluent area here, and they need to realize that we’re the exception. God has blessed us; with that blessing comes a responsibility. And so we need to look how we can sacrifice to help other people. So you don’t do that just by looking at a paper book or watching a movie. But when you’re sitting with somebody in their house seeing a sick child in a mud house, and the child is sick because of emphysema because of cooking on fire stoves, it just changes the way you look at life. So it’s influenced my children tremendously.
Ray: Well, folks, we are speaking with Chuck Welden, one of the principles at the Welden Field Development Company and we’re in Birmingham, Alabama, and you’ve had obviously a successful business. And so let’s talk a little bit about failure. Let’s talk about some of the lessons learned along the way over the course of your; you’ve been in business how long, Chuck?
Chuck: Well, the family’s been in business since 1970s, and I came back in 1986, I went to law school in Alabama, went to University of Alabama for my finance degree in business, then George Washington University for law school and New York University to get a Masters in tax. So I came back to the family business, and right shortly after I got back, we had the RTC days, when the failure of the financial institutions in the late 80s and early 90s. We bought millions of dollars worth of failed loans and made money on all of them. So I thought I was a genius. I mean, I have a little bit of a pride, sinful nature anyway, and this only added to that. And then, you know, we had 10 more years of really good real estate. And then came 2008, the Great Recession. Well, I had kind of doubled down before the Great Recession, I thought things were going so well, our investors are asking to invest.
So I doubled our number of projects unwisely against the advice of my father. And he has mentioned that more than once. But in the end, the Great Recession almost killed us financially. It was horrible. And somebody said to me, Chuck, you weren’t as smart as you thought you were, and you’re not as dumb as you think you are today. And, but I really felt dumb. So that was a huge lesson, but what really came through that lesson for me was faithfulness. Because they got to a point where there’s nothing I could do. No matter how hard I worked, we could not have paid all the banks off between the guarantees and the debt. It just wasn’t physically possible. And so the result was, we had to trust God. And he orchestrated a series of events that looking as I was looking, and the front windshield looked stupid, like God, this is not going to help my situation. But fast forward two years later, and looking in the rearview mirror, I realized God’s plan for getting us out of that pickle and actually bringing our company back stronger afterward was unfathomable. There’s a plan that I never even could have imagined that he did.
Ray: I love hearing these kinds of stories. And so in the midst of that, Chuck, what did you learn about yourself? And what did you learn about God in that trial?
Chuck: Well, certainly, that God’s more faithful than I am. Secondly, that I really needed to check my pride. I think that part of the reason I was willing or wanting to double the size of our business was just thinking that we knew what we were doing. We were so good at it. And so I really just need to think about humility. And I talked to Pat Robertson one time and asked him one time, so what’s the most important character of any Christian? And he said humility, and that’s something I’ve learned, that I need to have more of.
Ray: We were joking recently with a guy we were talking who wrote a book on humility. And I said, how long would you like to talk about your humility? We just thought that was funny. That’s a bad joke.
Chuck: Unfortunately, unfortunately, the book of what I would say is I have a book called The 10 Most Humble Men in the World…And How I Chose the Other Nine.
Ray: That’s fantastic. On bookstores soon; on Amazon.
Chuck: Drones are bringing this already.
Ray: That is fantastic. Well, you know, so you’ve talked a little bit about failures, lessons learned, what God taught you about yourself, what he revealed about his character to you as well. What’s been maybe the best advice, you were talking about your conversation with Pat Robertson a moment ago. But what would you say as you reflect back now, you know, fourth decade in business, what’s the best advice you can recall being given? Who gave it to you, and how does it impact you today?
Chuck: I’m not sure who gave it to me but earlier own marrying a godly woman just became evident to me as one of the most important ingredients of success. Because that happiness and that being on the same page, that affects your family, affects your children, affects work, it affects your spiritual life. I just think that that’s probably when I talked to young couples are businessmen that come to me, and the problem is, people always think you’re more successful than you are, they think your marriage is better than it is, and they think your children are better than they are. And so then people come talk to you thinking they’re gonna get all these pearls of wisdom. So I’ve really, I probably talked to 50, 60 young people a year that will come to me to talk, and the advice I always give them is the marriage. I think that’s the most important thing. If they have to pick one area to choose well and one area to invest well, it’s the marriage.
Ray: Okay, so let’s go there. You know, we don’t mind taking little detours once in a while. So let’s say that I’m listening to the program. I’m a young man, or perhaps I’m a young woman, and I’m single, but maybe God’s brought somebody into my life. And I’m wondering, Is this the person for me? Is this the person God has for me? What are those traits, what are those characteristics that I should be looking for, that would help me understand this is a wise choice and a mate?
Chuck: That’s a great question. I think there’s a couple attributes I’d looked for. One is someone who, who really will put herself second. I hate to say, but being the mother and a wife is probably the most difficult task in the world. And the ones that I have seen that do the best really come along their husband and put themselves second, I don’t mean inferiority. I just mean the sense of they could recognize their role is different, and they really support his role. And that’s just an important thing. Second thing, I don’t know if this is a PG-rated audience, or whatever, but I think intimacy. The marriage intimacy is huge. We take a teach a class, a 13-week class on marriage and parenting and sex. And it’s surprising to me how many men and women do not have healthy sexual relationships, and that causes the man to wander. I’m not defending the man. That’s sin still, but sexual intimacy. And I think to, talk about the number of children you want to have; talk about how much time you expect your husband to be there. I mean, these are questions you really gotta talk about ahead of time, I’m big into pre-marriage counseling, or I’m actually being into pre-engagement counseling. Nobody takes the ring off. I mean, nobody will take that ring off and give it up. And so you got to do pre-engagement counseling, and you should cover all these things in that.
Ray: What I’m hearing, and I’ve heard this now in several aspects of our conversation. And you talk, we talked about this before we went on the air, a big word for you is intentionality. And everything that I’m hearing you describe right now has been quite intentional on the forefront of bringing these conversations, having a plan being very candid about these things. Would you speak to the importance of intentionality in life in business and marriage?
Chuck: I think it’s one of the most important principles of your life because you can aim at nothing; hit it every time. If you’re not intentional, then you’ll be like the Jews wandering the wilderness for 40 years. By being intentional, I tell my children all the time; if you take 10 minutes every day, you could change that whole day; you can re-prioritize it. You can decide where the intersections are that are going to occur that you need to do something differently, as opposed to just letting it come up on you as a surprise. So I think intentionality, sitting down and in looking at your time, treasure and talents. I think it’s as simple as this. Where am I skilled? Where are my time, treasure, and talents? In other words, everybody has the same time, but we all have different treasures, we have different talents. And if I’m not intentional in doing an inventory of those, then I will try to take on tasks I’m not prepared for and not qualified for. So that’s an example of intentionality is really doing a good inventory of who you are, where you are, what your skills are, and figure out how that intersects with God’s plans.
Ray: I really love that. One of the ways, I was actually speaking to a group of men recently, and I think that in this seminar I was doing it, we were talking about what does a successful day look like? What does a successful life look like? And it seems like too often we determine whether or not we had a successful day based on what happened to us, you know, did I get that deal? Did I get along with people? Did my wife and I get in an argument or not? You know, these are just, you know, anecdotal examples. But we too often, I think, determine whether or not we had a successful day based on what happened to us. What I hear you saying is a successful day is what happens through us.
Ray: Waking up, asking God, Okay, God, what needs to happen today? You know, how can I take my gifts and talents and treasures and put a plan in place to maximize them? That’s what I hear you saying.
Chuck: That’s exactly right. Bill job, who’s one of my heroes in the faith and huge business as a mission leader based in China for 30, 40 years. He told me one time to me; he goes, Chuck, I think we’re accountable a lot for our resources and money and time. But I think one of the things that we never talk about being accountable for is relationships. Every time you have an intersection with somebody, it may be unique to that person to have your type of Christian thought and knowledge in that person’s life. And I just thought that that has convicted me when I’m sitting on an airplane where they’re saying prayer with, I mean, I’ll say prayer at supper with atheists or Jewish partners. And they usually don’t get offended, but it leads to conversation. But that takes intentionality and to be willing to take that risk to do that. But we’ve had I’ve had a chance to share my faith with non-believers just because I prayed in front of them. And that shocked them. But if you’re nice and you’re polite, you can get away with it.
Ray: Yeah, absolutely. And so okay, so I’m hearing a couple things I want to just kind of follow up on. You used the phrase a moment ago; business is mission. For our audience who might be listening that that’s never heard that phrase before, or maybe they’ve heard that phrase, but they don’t know what it means, would you add some context? And what do you mean by that? Tell us more about that?
Chuck: Well, certainly, if you just think of, and of course, most of your audience are business owners. As you say, they are the ones who are on the front side of the check, not the back side of the check. So I think just as business owners, we should take our business and run it in a way that has holistic impact on everybody we come in contact with. Basically, our spheres of influence as a business owner is our employees, our investors, our customers, our competitors, the government officials, suppliers, vendors, everybody, we have lots of spheres of influence that someone in the church may never have a chance to intersect with or have a contact with. Well, that’s great.
And we need to do that just like Interstate Battery and Chick-Fil-A and all those great companies do. But there’s another side of it is, how about going overseas? There’s international businesses required, and there’s issues of access and Muslim countries or Hindu countries for missionaries, you take a business over there, and it’s called business is mission. That is, I use my company in the spheres of influence to have holistic transformation. And everybody I come in contact with, well, think about it. The business is sustainable. If I’m making a profit, it just costs me a little bit extra overhead to be intentional to have impact on those people. Then I’m leveraging business, and I’m using those bridges and relationships that no one else may have. Because somebody watches me how I treat my employees. In India, I’ll give you an example, one of our places we invested was a Business Is Mission India.
If somebody gets hurt in India, you just fire them because there’s another billion of them there. Yeah, maybe kind of sarcastic but yeah, but in one company, he had a guy that broke his neck. He gave them months off; he came back said I still have a job? I can’t believe it; nobody’s ever done that to me. I’ve never seen anybody do that. Guy becomes a Christian because of HR Management. That was the most boring class at Alabama, Human Resource Management, but it actually has an impact if done correctly. So that’s what business is mission is, using your spheres of influence to have access to countries you may not have access and sustainability. You don’t have to keep giving money away every year. I’m for missionaries; I’m for the churches, but this is using your business as well.
Ray: So that is really exciting to me to for us to have that conversation. And so I’ve heard a few things that you’ve talked about that are unique to us as Christ-following in business. You talked about being intentional and praying with unbelievers, agnostics, atheists and so forth. So that’s a discipline or a practice that you have been instilled, right? And it’s given you that mission field platform. You’ve talked about HR policies and maybe just going the extra mile to invest in your employees. So that’s a practical way to set ourselves apart from the world’s way. What other models, what other practices or disciplines have you either instituted in your company or you’ve seen instituted that is great examples of doing business as mission or propagating the gospel through business? What comes to mind?
Chuck: Well, rightnow.org has a huge library of videos and audio cassettes, or I guess, videos, really, that you can, as a company join. So yeah, we use that for our company. We started that for our company last year. It gives access to Christian content on a variety of issues: marriage, parenting, drug addiction, just all those issues that as parents, we struggle. And also has really good family entertainment with the Christian message for the kids. So that’s something we’ve done our company. Another thing is co-tribute. I don’t know if you, Alan Barnhart, who you interviewed in Memphis, has done that, and I think Tom has, and we’re aiming toward it. You set up a fund; you let your workers do certain number of volunteer hours a month. You pay them for it, but they don’t get the money; it goes into like a charitable fund that they can give away, or they can pool together as part of the company to impact your location or the community of your company. And all sudden they’re together doing something together. It builds a Christian ethos within the company, and it has an impact on the community. So there’s probably 8 or 10 different things like that, that we do.
Ray: And you call that co-tribute.
Chuck: Yes, it’s called co-tribute.
Ray: I love it. I’m talking with Chuck Welden, one of the principles at Welden Field Development Company. And Chuck, let me ask you this if someone wanted to learn more about you or the company or what’s the best way for them to find you? Are you on the web?
Chuck: I think so. Hey, you have to remember, I don’t text, I don’t ATM, and I don’t Facebook.
Ray: You do have a LinkedIn profile. How ‘bout that?
Chuck: No, I don’t have a LinkedIn profile.
Ray: Well, it’s on there. You just don’t have a photo.
Chuck: Who put that up there? Just call Chuck Welden, and call my office: (205) 930-4500. I return every call. It’s that simple. Don’t text me.
Ray: I love it. That’s old school baby, right there. That is great. Well, you know, we talked about before we went on the air, there’s one question that we ask at the end. And believe it or not, we’re at the end of our time together on this interview. We ask every guest here at Bottom Line Faith, and it’s what we call our 4:23 question. It’s based out of Proverbs chapter 4, verse 23, the words of Solomon who said, “Guard your heart. Above all else, guard your heart, for from it flows the wellspring of life.” This was Solomon’s top of the line, pay attention to this, if you don’t remember anything else advice. He said, “Above all else, guard your heart.” So Chuck, let’s kind of fast forward the clock, and you’re towards the tail end of your time this side of eternity; you have a chance to gather your family, your friends, your loved ones, those who are most precious to you, and you now have a chance to pass along the single most important piece of advice. Above all else, what would you say?
Chuck: That’s a great question. I always tell my children, live life backward. When you’re on your deathbed, what do you want people to be saying about you? And at your funeral, what do you want the people to say up front? By the way, my funeral is by invitation only, and there will be barbeque served. So if you send me your email, I’ll invite you.
Ray: So that means it’s going to be between November and January.
Chuck: I won’t be cooking that barbecue. I would tell you what one lesson I’ve really learned that I think applies. And almost all these areas that we’ve talked about is the distinction between abundance mentality and a limited resource mentality. You know, Psalm 50 says, God owns the cattle on 1000 hills. Well, that sounds so simple. Yeah, sure, I trust that, but think about how it plays out. If you really believe that, you trust that God will provide you the resources to accomplish anything he’s assigned you to, so you quit worrying about things. You also approach things as being open handed. As Martin Luther said, I’ve held many things in my hands, and now I’ve lost them all, but whatever I’ve placed in God’s hands, that I still possess. So from that principle, you trust God, you’re open handed, which means you’re open handed in giving advice, investing in others, investing in young people who may be your competitor one day. But if they’re Christian competitor, they’re advancing the kingdom, and I don’t believe that it’s a net sum.
I mean, it’s an abundance mentality. And also it provides generosity in giving. All of a sudden, your approach of giving, and what you have to have to keep to make yourself comfortable the rest of your life until you think you’re gonna die. We don’t know when we’re gonna die anyway. And like that fat guy in the in the Bible who builds two more warehouses for his goods and then dies the next day. I just think that principle, that principle, it plays into your marriage, into work, into your children, into generosity, and investing in others, almost more than any principle in the Bible, because I trust God to provide what I need all the time.
Ray: Phenomenal. That is some of the most excellent and Christ-centered, biblically worldview based, that’s one of the best answers I’ve ever heard.
Chuck: Well, I didn’t say I did it. It’s advice.
Ray: But something tells me you have intentionality in living and in conducting life in that fashion. Wow. I can’t, you know, as I said, fastest 30 minutes on air. Is this going fast for you? It has for me.
Chuck: Well, just come out and go deer hunting. You won’t believe the advice you’ll get; how much wisdom in a weekend of deer hunting with me would be. And food; gain 10 pounds.
Ray: I know one thing; we won’t be texting. Well, folks, what a pleasure it has been. Thanks for being on the program.
Chuck: It’s been a pleasure.
Ray: This was so much fun. And I wish you all had the privilege of sitting across the desk as I do from Chuck; just an incredibly warm smile and just a twinkle in his eye. You can tell this man loves Jesus and enjoys life and is giving back in every way possible. It’s an honor that I get to interview leaders like Chuck in the program here at Bottom Line Faith. Again, this is Ray Hilbert. God bless. Thank you for listening to Bottom Line Faith.