In this first episode of Bottom Line Faith, we are chatting with our host, Ray Hilbert. As he walks us through his journey to becoming a leader in marketplace ministry, Ray, the Co-Founder and former CEO of Truth at Work, is diving into the vision of the BLF podcast.
Tune-in to enjoy the compelling ups and downs of living out faith in the workplace.
Full transcript below:
Adam: Welcome to Bottom Line Faith, and we are underway with our inaugural show of Bottom Line Faith. I’m one of your co-hosts, Adam Ritz. Along with me Ray Hilbert. Hi, Ray.
Ray: Hey, Adam. How you doing today?
Adam: I’m excited, I’m just fantastic, I’m full of energy, and love, and electricity – the smile on your face – unfortunately, this is radio; our listeners can’t see your face and my face, but we’re ready to explode with anticipation of Bottom Line Faith getting off the ground. I’m really excited for this show, our first show, because we’re going to try to explain exactly what this concept is, how you came up with it, what the driving force is behind Bottom Line Faith. I want to thank you for inviting me to be your co-host for this show, first of all; thank you very much.
Ray: I’m thrilled you can do it; happy to be partnering with you.
Adam: Real quick; my background for our listeners, I’ve worked in radio and television for about 25 years and currently host several radio shows. The most popular one I guess is a public affairs show airing nationally on Sunday mornings across the country. It covers social issues; addiction, bullying, hazing, a lot of philanthropy, benefits, foundation work, a lot of prayer, fatherhood, and spirituality on the show as well. And I’m a Truth At Work member, and I guess that’s important for our listeners to know that’s how we met. Through Truth At Work.
Ray: It sure is.
Adam: And I’m sure we’re going to take a few moments in a few moments and share more about Truth At Work, but that is how we’ve come together.
Ray: And I really, I share in that excitement, this Bottom Line Faith initiative, Adam, is something that’s really been on the drawing board for more than two years; something we prayed about as an organization, something our board has talked about, and to see it now coming to fruition, it is very exciting.
Adam: So I guess we can start with how Truth At Work launched, how old it is, where it is, what it is, because we’re going to have some listeners I think that maybe aren’t familiar with Truth At Work, and are familiar with what is becoming Bottom Line Faith and vice versa. So let’s start with Truth At Work. What is it?
Ray: Yeah, absolutely. So we are a marketplace ministry; we are headquartered in Indianapolis, Indiana. We are a 501c3 nonprofit organization, and while we may be new to some of our listeners here on Bottom Line Faith, Truth At Work is not new. We actually started our ministry, myself and our co-founder Matt Palin, back in 1998. And so we’ve been at this for quite a while and I’ll just quickly share the story of my own personal background because it really serves as the foundation for how and why Truth At Work got started.
So I graduated from college in 1988. I was a business major, I took my last final on Friday, I got married the next day on Saturday, and I went to work full time in my first career position on Monday. In fact, we we kind of joke and say I get asked, “Well, didn’t you go on a honeymoon?” And all those sorts of things, and I say we couldn’t afford a honeymoon. We were what was known as “po.” And po is when you can’t afford the “or” on the back of “poor.” And so I went right out into work in the marketplace just a couple of days after being married. And I worked for a very godly Christian man who ran a business built on biblical principles, and it was a family owned business, and I would go by his office quite often, would see him on his knees in prayer. I would see him with his Bible open before a very important meeting with customers, or vendors, or maybe even employees, and he really modeled what it was like to live out his faith in the marketplace. And it was an incredible learning opportunity. Now two things about that; and not only was that positive in a great environment; however, it was a small company, so there wasn’t a huge career path, you know, to climb from level to level to level. And his son graduated college with me, so naturally he was grooming his son for future leadership. And so as great as that environment was after a couple of years there, I pursued an opportunity with a very large international company thinking this would be great as a young married guy to have a career path opportunity.
But it didn’t take me long to realize that I wasn’t in Kansas anymore, as Dorothy would say. To go from a Christ-centered company to a large publicly-traded, international company. That was night and day difference. And so going from a company with an eternal perspective, and for any of our listeners, and I can’t say if this is everyone’s experience, but it was my experience working in a publicly-traded, international company, was all about 90-day objectives. It was all about maximizing shareholder return, keeping the Wall Street analysts happy, those sorts of things. So you think about an eternal perspective versus a short-term, 90-day perspective; that’s oil and water.
And I won’t say that I was asked to do anything illegal, but I was really taught to do some things that certainly challenged my own value system. I’ll leave it at that. And it didn’t take me long to realize that probably wasn’t a long term fit for me. And so while there, I started a little business on the side and started developing my own line of licensed apparel clothing line and so forth. And that business really took off to the point where I could leave that corporate job, if you will, and have my own company. And it really took off, and at a very young age I was having more fun than I ever thought I’d have, and making more money than I ever thought I would make, and I thought, “Wow, I’d really arrived.” And it was going great.
Adam: And you finally took a honeymoon.
Ray: Yes. Yes sweetie, I know you’re listening to this, so yes I hadn’t forgot that, but thank you for reminding me, Adam. And then what happened was, so I had success going, and everything was fun and great, and then I had a Christian brother come up to me, and he said, “Ray, you’re doing well. What you need to now do is diversify; and I’ve got a business opportunity I want to share with you.” And so he shared that with me and it sounded interesting, and exciting, and intriguing, but I knew that in the book of Proverbs over 25 times, it tells you there’s value in Godly counsel. So I went and talked to my pastor, I went and talked to a few businesspeople that I respected in the marketplace, and then I sought counsel from the Holy Spirit who looks and sounds just like my wife. Some of our guys in the audience know what I’m talking about there.
And Adam, everybody told me unanimously, do not do this other business. You’ve got this company already, got your own company going well, stay focused, but you see, I had prayed about this other thing, and I felt I was supposed to do it. And I later learned what a terrible mistake that was, and so all this is leading up to what started Truth At Work. What happened in that business, it didn’t take long where we were losing money so fast in that other company, I really didn’t know what I was doing, we didn’t have enough capital to keep it going, I had creditors calling me at all hours wanting to know when they were going to get paid. I couldn’t always pay my employees on time and it was terrible, and I was lonely. I didn’t know what I was going to do, and I had three guys from my local church, and we met every Thursday morning for breakfast. And we would read the Bible together, and we’d pray together, and we would challenge and encourage one another. And as I was sharing what I was going through, those guys they said the right things. They said, “Brother, we’re praying for you. Trust God.” And all that was true, but none of them had ever been in business before, and so as I was sharing what I was going through, they couldn’t really identify. They couldn’t give me advice, they couldn’t coach me, they couldn’t counsel, me and most importantly, they couldn’t look me in the eye and say, “I understand what you’re going through.”
And so it was in that dark moment, and by the way lost nearly everything financially, had to liquidate the profitable business so that I could pay the vendors on the other company. And it was an unbelievably painful experience. But here’s what I took away from that which later led to Truth At Work. I realized how important it was for me as a Christian in business in the marketplace to have peers, to have people I could talk with who understood my world, who understood my challenges. So that’s what we do in Truth At Work. We bring Christians in business who are in leadership, ownership, and so forth, together in what we call Round Table groups on a regular basis. And we develop curriculum to help them build their companies on godly principles. But probably even as important, if not more important, we bring them together in community so that they can encourage one another. They can counsel one another, and help each other through the challenges of leading and owning businesses and organization. So that’s who we are at Truth At Work.
That’s kind of a background or why we got started. So I pulled together some business guys in 1998, and we launched our Round Tables, and today we have chapters across the country and hundreds of companies involved with what we’re doing. So long story I know, but that’s how we got here, and coming up on 20 years. I mean ’98; it feels I’m old enough – and I’m sure you feel this way too – to think 1998 was just last week. It doesn’t seem like that long ago, but when you look at the calendar, when we’re coming up on a 20 year anniversary of Truth At Work.
Adam: Yeah, that it really is hard to believe, and I often joke, you know, just recently turned 50. I said, “I’m at that weird age where I’ve lost most of my hair, but I still have pimples. This time right? That’s really weird, I’m right there with you.
Ray: You’ve got a lot of hair, though, so you know.
Adam: Yeah, fair enough.
Ray: And so it really is hard to believe that we have been at this as long as we have, and we’ve seen God move mightily with business leaders across the country. And so really all of that led up to where we’re at now. And we began to say and think, “How can we help even more?” We have a few hundred business owners and leaders involved in our Round Table groups, but we said, “What can we do to reach thousands and thousands of Christians in the marketplace? High-capacity leaders.” And that’s where the idea for Bottom Line Faith came.
Adam: So technology’s on your side. You’re a media savvy guy. I’ve been to several conferences that you’ve produced with webcasting in other locations, and so it’s just it’s right for this sort of a podcast, broadcast to see what Bottom Line Faith can do and where it can go from here.
Adam: So here we are on Bottom Line Faith with Ray Hilbert, founding CEO. What is your current status?
Ray: Yes, so actually I served as CEO of Truth At Work for about 16 years. Just recently, we hired a CEO to come in in that capacity and I’ve transitioned over into the kind of a co-founder role so that I can focus more on projects and initiatives like Bottom Line Faith, building high-level strategic relationships on behalf of the Ministry of Truth At Work. And really to have a CEO back running and building the organization. So my current title is co-founder.
Adam: Okay, and I’m Adam Ritz, and you’re listening to Bottom Line Faith. And now that we have a little bit of the background of Truth At Work behind us as a foundation, let’s talk about Bottom Line Faith, and this show, and what it’s going to showcase.
Ray: Bottom Line Faith really is more than just a podcast. Actually, we’ve got a long-term vision for this, and the podcast is a part of it. We’re kicking off or we’re going to be producing regular episodes of guests. High-capacity, Christian leaders in the marketplace from all facets of leadership: business ownership, athletics, celebrity, perhaps higher education, and so forth. But we want to kind of lift the hood, if you will, and we want to peek under the hood, and see what makes a high-capacity Christian leader tick. How do they make decisions? How do they overcome adversity, and the challenges that they face, how do they balance all the demands on their time between their careers, and businesses, and work, family, church, community leadership? And those sorts of things. We want to learn what are some of the mistakes they’ve made? How do they apply and integrate their faith on a daily basis? So we’re really going to take a peek under the hood at high-capacity, Christian leaders. This is our Bottom Line Faith podcast, and that’s what our listeners are listening to right now. It’s a 30-minute regular broadcast where we’re going to have guests on a regular basis for that for the podcast.
Phase two of this is we’re going to do video interviews, where we’re going to really identify some of the most high-profile Christian leaders in the country, and we’re going to sit down with them and video some of the same questions that we’re covering in the podcast, but then those videos will become webinars. Those videos will become other tools and resources that people can watch for leadership training in their companies, and so on and so forth.
And then the next phase is asking those leaders to come on to monthly webinars. Just imagine the opportunity to dial in, and talk, and interact with some of the most high-capacity, high-profile, Christian business and marketplace leaders in the country. And to have an opportunity to interact with them live, and so the webinars are going to be a huge part of it, and then ultimately, we’ve got the Bottom Line Faith project that will be coming out, and then next year to a year and a half. And so there’s a holistic strategy here to help proliferate tools and resources so that we can learn how and why high-capacity leaders tick, and think.
Adam: Well, from the radio perspective, from working in radio and seeing where radio has gone in the last few years, and and trying to guess where it’s going to go in the future, I’m hopeful and excited that this podcast that we’re doing as well, can end up on terrestrial broadcast radio as a syndicated radio show. I know it will because I know the content is good, and I know that there are radio entities, radio companies looking for good content, and when you’re talking about business leaders in the marketplace sharing their faith and advice. I mean I don’t know any radio company that wouldn’t want to carry that show.
Ray: Yeah, we’re sure hoping that that ends up being the case, and I’ve got in my mind anyway a vision that, you know a business leader, a marketplace leader, they’re there in their car, and they’re there driving to a very critical meeting or they’ve got something they’ve really been wrestling with, a big decision, a problem, a challenge, or whatever the case is, imagine the day when they can be listening to their radio, hear a broadcast, and actually be able to call in and get godly counsel and get godly insight from our team of leaders who have been through it before to kind of get through that loneliness and that isolation.
In fact, that really is where the Christian in business is today. They’re lonely, they’re feeling like am I the only one out here going through this, they’re isolated, thinking where do I go for help that really helps? And they’re overwhelmed, thinking how can I get all this done? And I bet if you’re listening to this podcast right now as a Christian in the marketplace as a leader, you’re feeling lonely, isolated, and/or overwhelmed. And we want you to see eventually this is a place you can tap into for help.
Adam: Well and from your own background, I mean I have known you about a year, and I know as a founding partner and CEO at the time when I met you, of Truth At Work and the business that you’ve run, and the business context that you have, it was probably pretty humbling for you to tell me right now – I had known this about your past, that you had such a tough time in the mid ‘90s with a business that you had I guess closed down. Well, isn’t that the guy, makes in a weird way, that makes me feel better about some of the problems I’m going through.
Ray: Well, and that’s just it. I’m, you know, that’s really awesome to hear you say that because I find and I think most of our listeners would agree, that the most powerful ministry that we are ever a part of comes through our own brokenness, that comes through our failures that God takes us through, maybe a broken relationship, or a failed business, or a financial situation, an illness, whatever the case may be, that if we will allow him to use that, our brokenness our failure, if you will, if that’s the case, becomes our platform to help, and serve, and minister to others.
And so it really was through that brokenness and failure that launched Truth At Work, and interestingly enough, recently I was sharing the story that I just shared with with our listeners and on the air here, and I had somebody raise their hand. I was in a large crowd speaking, and they raised their hand and said, “So if you had to go through it all again, would you?” And I had never really thought about that. It was a great question because I remember how dark that place was, and I was lonely, I was scared, frightened, all that stuff. And he said, “Because if you hadn’t gone through that, you wouldn’t have been inspired to start Truth At Work.” And I said, “You know, I’ve never really thought about that, but now that you said that to me, ‘Yeah, I think I would.’” And spoke in spite of the personal pain I would go through it again, because now I’m getting to see on the backside of that, Adam, the blessing to hundreds and thousands of business leaders across the country.
Adam: You’re listening to Bottom Line Faith with Ray Hilbert. I’m Adam Ritz, and the format of the show is bringing on business leaders. We’re going to have professional athletes, celebrities, like you said earlier, and Division One college coaches to talk about their faith and how it maybe drives their leadership, or how they run their business, or the challenges they’ve had, and we thought we’d do that right now with Ray Hilbert, with your career, with your expertise, and see how your faith has driven you in your in your marketplace, I guess with your leadership skills, and how you run your business. So please welcome Ray Hilbert.
Ray: Kind of weird being a guest on my show, the host, and the guest.
Adam: You do it all, and you’ll drive me home after the show, okay. So let’s start with the the hardest business decision that you ever had to make and the role that your faith played in making that decision.
Ray: Yeah, and I thought about this question knowing you were going to ask it. And I think I would go back to that season in my own journey that I shared earlier when I realized the incredible financial burden, the incredible failure financially that this failed business had placed upon myself, my wife, and so forth, and what was at risk. It was really hard to come to grips with my own failure.
However, at the same time, I made a very strong commitment that I was not going to put my creditors out to dry, that I wanted to maintain my Christian integrity that I found and discovered that it was much easier to share my Christian testimony with my bankers when I was actually paying them what I owed them, that it was much easier to share my Christian testimony to my employees when I actually covered on their paychecks and they were good. So at personal sacrifice, Adam, personal financial pain if you will, in one hand it was the hardest decision. On the other hand, it wasn’t so hard because I knew it was the right and wise thing to do. But the financial impact, to honor all those debts was incredibly difficult to fulfill.
Adam: And this is coming off a young career in business where you had already had a couple of successful careers with two successful companies, so it’s not like you hadn’t tasted success. So that might have made it even harder.
Ray: Without question. It was crazy.
Adam: How about the biblical principles within your, I guess, company with your employees, with the jobs that you’ve done, what kind of biblical principles have you had in your heart?
Ray: Yeah, you know that would be an issue or an item that we could talk about for hours and hours, but it knowing again that you were going to ask me this, I really said, “Okay, if I only had time to address one, what would be the preeminent, most important thing I would want to convey about biblical principles?” And for me, not for anyone else but for me, it is this principle of authenticity and transparency. And I just can’t stand to be around situations, and I don’t like to be around people who want to keep the mask on and pretend like everything is great, that everything is all perfect, you know. We meet somebody on the street. How you doing? Fine. Well, it’s not always fine, and so this principle of transparency, this principle of authenticity, is so critical.
I can handle anything you share with me, anything you share with me as long as it’s the truth because if you’re going to share with me, and I’m going to engage in a relationship and in life with you, then I’m going to take in what our discussion is, and I’m going to pray about it, and I’m going to go to the Scriptures, and I’m going to look for insights and principles to maybe encourage you along the way. And frankly, don’t waste my time by telling me something that wasn’t true, because whatever I’m told is what I’m going to go pray about, and think about. And so I can handle anything as long as it’s the truth. And so I just treasure and crave authenticity, and I love that in business.
Sometimes that looks like telling someone you know that I’m not the best solution for you, even if that’s going to cost me financially. Authenticity is saying, “You know what? I know that I’m not the best solution; I’m not the right thing for you, so I need to live that out.” So for me, you know, I just want to hone in on that one principle. It is my number one core value, is authenticity. And so in a lot of times in my life that’s just saying, you know, what I don’t know, I don’t know. And be okay with that when you’re consulting these business leaders.
Adam: And sometimes they might have their guard up, and if they don’t know you, and they’re thinking, “Okay, Ray Hilbert, this business genius; he thinks he knows everything.” And you’re here to preach to them, and their guard’s up when you’re authentic, especially with that story of the failed business. And that comes through and now they’re like, “Oh, this guy really does know what I’m going through.” That’s the authenticity you’re speaking of.
Ray: Yeah, and I tell you, and I think a lot of this comes with maturity over time, I wasn’t always able to have this perspective. Because when you’re young, and you’re trying to prove yourself, and all those sorts of things, and where I really have come to grips with this, Adam, is I have to, you have to, we all have to be okay that just being a child of God is enough. And then we don’t have to prove anything, we don’t have to, you know. I have another book that I’m working on right now; it’s called The 12 Words that Will Change Your Life and Business Forever. And those twelve words are, nothing to hide, nothing to prove, nothing to lose, nothing to fear.
And so it’s all about living that life of authenticity. And once I realize I don’t have anything to hide, I can live with integrity. If I realize I don’t have anything to prove, that just being a child of God is enough, just being his child is enough, I’m royalty, you’re royalty, that’s all I need to know. I don’t have to prove myself to anybody. I’m just supposed to be my authentic self who God’s created me to be, and in some cases I may be the man for the job, in some cases I’m not going to be. But I think people pick up on that really quickly. So yeah, that’s what it’s about to me: nothing to hide, nothing to prove, nothing to lose, nothing to fear.
Adam: Have you ever said, “I’m writing a book. It’s the 12 words that will change, and then you reel them off, and you can’t remember the twelve words? I got six of them. I could write half the book. There you go: there’s the six words that can change your life. Moving along with our guest, and host, and our featured I guess interviewee on this inaugural episode of Bottom Line Faith. Ray Hilbert’s talking about how faith drives his business. And the biggest mistake that you’ve ever had or failure that you’ve experienced and what you’ve learned from it.
Ray: Well, I’ve talked a lot about the one, the biggest from a business standpoint was not listening to the godly counsel that I was given about starting that other business or becoming a partner in that other business, and it cost me dearly. So I really learned the value of godly counsel there, and another kind of funny story just a financial mistake, and I don’t know if any of our listeners will be able to identify with this, and I hope I don’t offend anybody with this story.
My wife and I about two years into our marriage we’re on vacation, remember talking about that honeymoon, so we finally got two years in, and we went to a very warm place, I won’t even say the city, okay, but we got kind of let’s say influenced to go to a timeshare presentation. And we went there, you know, we got all this place is beautiful, it’s exciting, it’s warm, it’s great. Wouldn’t it be great to come back here every year? And I set through one of those really high-pressure sales presentations, and at the end of the presentation, the guy said, “Look, you’re never going to see an opportunity like this again. You’re never going to have an opportunity like this again until tomorrow at 10:00 a.m.” And that’s the funny part, like I believed it, right?
I was young, I was immature, well we bought that presentation and that timeshare, and soon came to regret it. And I was sharing that story with a mentor of mine, and he said, “The a next time somebody says that to you, here’s how you respond. Next time they tell you there’ll never be a better opportunity like this again, or an opportunity like this again, he said you look him in the eye, and say, “Then we’re both in trouble.”
Adam: That’s great.
Ray: I’m in trouble as the buyer and you’re in trouble as the seller if this is the best that’s ever going to get. And I’ve used that many times and it’s kept me from making some stupid financial decisions, but that was a huge financial mistake early on in my marriage.
Adam: Did you at least get free breakfast at the presentation?
Ray: Yes, it was little cold eggs and toast, but it worked out.
Adam: If you had a chance to do everything all over again, what would you do different in your career?
Ray: Yeah, I love that question because doing what I’ve done for the last, now almost 20 years as you said earlier, I can’t tell you how many times I sat across the table from business or marketplace leaders with literally tears streaming down their face because they want to pursue something that God’s put on their heart, a ministry opportunity, another business, or whatever, but they’re so locked into their financial security and the whole security thing, and holding onto their assets.
So what I would say if I had it to do all over again, I would live my life and I think getting here now to where I would pursue the passion and vision that God’s put on my heart, and to make sure that I’m making as few decisions as possible to lock myself away from being able to pursue those opportunities to do the things that God’s put on my heart to, you know. So the importance of like avoiding debt whenever possible, and those sorts of things because lifestyle is a capturing kind of thing right? We have to have a certain kind of car, certain kind of house, certain kind of whatever. It’s the pursuit of those things I think that most of the time is what gets in the way of us pursuing the really big things that God’s putting on our hearts. And so if I had to do it over again, I would hopefully, Adam, learn that lesson a lot earlier.
Adam: Hopefully someone will invent a time machine and you can go back and not buy that timeshare.
Ray: That’s one of the mistakes.
Adam: And what we’ve learned here with Bottom Line Faith is is that our major sponsor coming up will probably not be a timeshare vacation company. There will never be a better opportunity for them to sponsor than right now. Korea inventory; moving fast. Well your experience as a businessman, business owner, and as a Christian paramount on both ends, so what is your advice for other Christian business owners or marketplace leaders living out their faith?
Ray: That is an awesome question, Adam, and I would say it would be this: is listen for that still small voice. Some call it gut, some call it instinct, but I really truly believe the Holy Spirit is talking to us all the time, and many times it’s like in Psalm 46:10 it says be still and know that I am God. And when we’re still is when he comes to us in that still small voice, that quiet little voice. And it might be a prompting to go give some money to somebody, it might be a prompting to ask a really potentially hard question in a conversation, that may put the relationship at risk. Most of the time when it’s that little inkling, I found that that’s God speaking, and that I need to obey, and not be so concerned with the outcome, and not be so concerned if I’m going to embarrass myself. You know, take chances, live life on the edge, if you will.
As I heard once, that the good fruit is really out on the end of the limb. Be willing to go out on the limb where it’s shaky and it’s scary; that’s where the really good fruit is, and so that would be my advice to someone listening. Maybe there’s something that’s been in your heart for a long time and it won’t go away. That’s the other thing; if it won’t go away, there’s a good chance God has planted that there, right? And if we’ve just listened to that and pursue that still small voice, I think that that would be some advice I would give.
Adam: All right, well this has been a fantastic inaugural first episode of Bottom Line Faith. The Twitter, Facebook, website let’s hit those right now so listeners can learn more. Our folks can learn more about the entire Bottom Line Faith initiative at Bottomlinefaith.org. If you want to learn more about Ray, it’s RayHilbert.com, is your personal website, and your Twitter’s @RayHilbert spelled just like you think. I’m at AdamRitz.com just like Ritz crackers, and my Twitter is @AdamRitz. Thank you, Ray, for having me and we look forward to more episodes of Bottom Line Faith.
Ray: It’s been great, Adam. Can’t wait to get back together.