After a lot of thought and debate, Glenn has picked his man of the year: Steve Green, president of Hobby Lobby.
His company began in a garage and is now worth over $3.3 billion with no plans of stopping. But they don't just invest in the company, they invest in people. The Green family pays their employees $5 more the minimum wage. They have the most immaculate warehouse Glenn has ever seen, and they just opened another 70 stores.
Steve Green deserves this recognition not just for his business success, but also for his principles. In 2014, Steve Green and Hobby Lobby took Obamacare to the Supreme Court to protect religious freedom from Obamacare's birth control regulations. They won.
The Green family has developed a four-year public school Bible curriculum they plan to have in thousands of schools by 2017. They also plan to unveil a Bible Museum in Washington, DC, filled with texts and artifacts.
Has anyone else had such an impact on the country?
Watch Glenn's interview with Steve Green below:
Glenn: And I welcome Steve to the program now. Hello, Steve. How are you, Sir?
Steve: Doing good. How are you doing, Glenn?
Glenn: I’m very good. I selected you for a couple of reasons. First, let me just start with the courage that it took to take on the most powerful man. You are going to be remembered, I think, very much like Mellon was remembered under FDR. He was a guy that the administration, FDR just took and just ravaged for years and years. He won in the end because he was right. Do you see your place in history on that one Obama lawsuit? Do you recognize that?
Steve: It’s hard to say. You know, I think that we know it was a significant decision, and the family knew that we really had no option but to take the administration to court because of the position that we were put into. I have felt like that a win would not be remembered as much because it’s more business as usual, but we hear from a lot of people the significance of the decision, and we feel like the religious freedoms that our founders gave us needed to be protected, and we were very excited about having a win.
Glenn: Okay so here’s another reason. I’ve got a whole list of reasons why I’ve selected you, but on that same topic, you are a freak of nature because you said what you just said, I had no choice, the family had no choice but to take this on. Yes, you did, Steve. You were threatened with $1.5 million fine a day. You could have lost everything with Hobby Lobby. So you did have a choice. What was it that…and was there a time that the family ever said or any of your advisers said geez, Steve, man, let’s fight another day here, this one is too big?
Steve: Well, we have stated as part of our statement of purpose for our company that we want to operate our business according to biblical principles, and for us to be able to do that, to live out our faith, that is where we didn’t have a choice. We either had to compromise our faith and walk away from what we believe or, you know, be willing to violate our conscience and in essence be willing to take life.
Glenn: Steve, I have to tell you, I know a lot of companies that say they want to operate on biblical principles, and I think this is why religious people sometimes get a really bad name, when push comes to shove, most times they fold. So wanting to select you as man of the year for what you guys have done, teach us, how do you hold the line when it gets so tough?
Steve: Well, I think it has to do with a personal relationship with God and realizing that one of the things that I think our family felt comfortable in or had a lot of comfort in is knowing that when we know that we’re making the right decision, when we’re making the right choice, we are ultimately in good hands. We put our lives, our business, in God’s hands, and we trust Him, which again is a part of our statement of faith. We believe that…or statement of purpose, we believe that God has protected us, and we trust Him for our future, and that needs to be more than just words. We have to live that out, and that’s what we strive to do on a daily basis.
Glenn: All right, so let me stay on business here for just a second. I’ve been to your warehouses. Who knew the hobby business could be what it is. I walk in…in fact, my son-in-law just said to me, he was out last weekend on Saturday. He came, and he had dinner with us, and he said hey, by the way, if you ever talk to the Greens, tell them we were in Hobby Lobby, and I can’t leave that store. We want to buy everything.
I went up to your facilities maybe a year ago. I still want to do an episode just on your facilities. It is immaculate. It is absolutely, I mean, you could eat off of the floor. The way you treat your employees, the fact that you take minimum wage, it’s seven…what, 7.25 an hour? You pay, your minimum wage is $15 an hour. Why do you operate that way?
Steve: Well, my father, who started this business, still very active in this business, has always had a drive and a certain knack for retail, and part of that is always to be the best that we can be, always been very orderly himself as an individual, so that comes into the business. And we know that our most precious commodity, most precious asset as a company is our people and that we are only as good as the organization that we build.
And when my father speaks to our new co-managers as they come in, one of the things that he always says is that their number one job as a manager of a store is to build a good organization. So we know the value of having good people, and part of that is by treating them well with respect, doing the best that we can for them, and then we know that in return, they work hard for us, and so that has always been what we have strived to do. There’s times when we fail, but that is what we try to do on a daily basis.
Glenn: How difficult is it to keep your store closed on the Sabbath?
Steve: You know, when we made that decision to do that several years ago, for a couple of years our profits struggled, but after we went through the cycle, and it took a couple years for us to do it store by store, state by state, our profits really took off. And we just feel that it was a bit of a test that God was putting us through—are you truly going to trust me and know that I’ve got your back?
And what we believe today is that we draw greater employees, they have a greater appreciation for the fact that they know they’ve got that day off, and again, they work that much harder for us and take care of our customers, which is ultimately what their job is. So the profits have been record almost every year, so the closing of the stores has not hurt us at all.
Glenn: You guys are kind of the Sam Walton of today. You started with nothing. I mean, still at the lobby of your business, you have that frame maker that you started making frames in the garage or in the dining room of the house, and now you are this, you know, several billion-dollar business, and yet, unlike Sam Walton, you don’t really get credit for anything. I have not seen the news reports that says wait a minute, these guys, we’re supposed to hate them, but look at the way they’re running the business, look at how they treat their employees, look at how their customers feel about them.
I know you well enough to know that you’re not going to say anything derogatory about anybody, so let me rephrase this question. What advice do you have for businesses that want to be successful and entrepreneurs that want to be successful that nobody has asked you for in the mainstream media?
Steve: You know, I think that it’s focusing on the business. It’s going into the office every day, working hard. I think of Jim Collins’s book, Good to Great, and as I read that, there’s many things that I say oh, well, that’s what my father taught me, just going in there, working hard.
You know, it was years, it was 20 years that there was not a lot of profits. It was just going into work and eking out an existence, and it was that long-term determination to say we can make this thing work that my father spent years doing that ultimately as it started growing, the Good to Great book of Jim Collins refers to this flywheel. And as that flywheel started going, you know, it kind of looks like that hockey stick chart that you talk about. It has just grown and been very successful, but it just took a lot of hard work and dedication and commitment to do the best that we can on a daily basis.
Glenn: Okay, so let me just end this segment, because I want to come back and talk about some other things that people don’t know about you. But let me just end this with this part…the backlash against you guys has been so vitriolic. You are an evil company that doesn’t want to provide birth control. The lies that have been said about you are phenomenal. How do you keep such a positive attitude? Everybody in your family, I mean, you are not kicked to the ground, and even when you were in the throes of it, nobody in your family throws stones. How do you do that?
Steve: Well, I think again it goes back to our faith. We just know that we are in good hands and that our reputation is not as important for us as how we represent our Lord and Savior Christ, and so we leave that to him, and if we take some hits, we’re fine with that. We just know that we serve a great God, and we trust Him in our business and in our future.
Glenn: Talking to Steve Green, he is the guy I have selected as the man of the year for my program, and I wanted you to get to know him a little bit better. He and his family have started the Bible museum, the Museum of the Bible that is going to be built in Washington, D.C., and we’ll talk about that here in a second, but he has also reached out to people of all faiths, which is truly remarkable.
He has met with Pope Francis. You want to explain a little bit of what you guys have done with the Pope in Rome? Because I find it amazing that the Vatican is impressed by your collection. They’ve got probably one of the greatest collections of historical items in the entire world, and yet you are impressing them, and they’re borrowing stuff from you.
Steve: Well, one of the things is that a lot of the items that the Vatican has in their collection are not necessarily put on public display very often. From time to time they do, so when we started this journey five years ago, we knew that a museum was going to be several years off, and we wanted to start telling the story that our collection told. So we started a traveling exhibit, and the exhibit provided an opportunity for us to actually have one at the Vatican. So in 2012, we had an exhibit at the Vatican, and they asked us to come back, and so we did again this year, which was where I was able to have a meeting with Pope Francis and was honored to be able to speak with him for a few minutes.
Glenn: Did you get a chance, did they take you into the room of the winds?
Steve: We had gone to several of their rooms. I don’t know about that specific room, but they gave us a tour back in 2012.
Glenn: Okay, you need to go in. It’s where they came up with the Gregorian calendar. You’d know it if you’d been in it.
Glenn: You have to ask them for that. I don’t know how I got invited in, but the Vatican Museum, the lady who was a curator of the Vatican Museum, the next day, I saw her, and she was giving me a tour, and she said, “You went into what room?” And I explained it to her, and she said I’ve worked here…they will never let me see that. You could get in. But it’s where they came up with the Gregorian calendar, and it’s awesome. Like only the Pope gets to go into it.
Anyway, but you’ve done other things. You have now gone, we just normalized relations, which I’m not really sure how I feel about normalizing relations with communist countries of Cuba, but we are now normalizing relations. But you guys did something amazing in Cuba that I don’t think anybody knows about. Explain what you did in Cuba.
Steve: Well, back in 2012, Pope Benedict of the time made a trip to Cuba, and while he was there, he was talking to the leadership of the Catholic Church there and saying well, maybe they would be able to bring that exhibit here to Cuba. And so as I’ve said, if the Pope is plugging your exhibit, you ought to check into it, so we made a trip down there really not thinking that it was going to work out, but doors opened. We got the approvals from the U.S. government as well as the Cuban government to bring an exhibit in.
So earlier this year, for 22 days we had a Bible exhibit at the National Cathedral there in Havana, and it was an honor for us to be able to go and share some of the history of the Bible with the people of Cuba, and there were lines to come into this exhibit. What was interesting is the opening night they were doing a celebration, and it was the Catholic Church and the Protestant Churches coming together to put on this production that actually was a production that told the story of the Bible from Genesis through Revelations with orchestra and dance and music, very well done.
And it kind of hit me that this exhibit, it took the American and the Cuban governments and the Protestants and the Catholics coming together to put this on, and I think only the Bible would be able to do that.
Glenn: So let me ask you a question, Steve, because this is really difficult, and you’re walking it expertly. You asked me to speak at the opening or at one of the introductions of the Museum of the Bible. Franklin Graham was speaking at the same one. Catholics were there. Jews were there. You have broken down the walls of all religions, yet you still are who you are. But this is really unusual, and it’s, I think, a really, really good thing. What is the secret, and why have you decided to say look, one God, not one sect, one religion, one God? Why are you doing that, and how can we get more people to do this?
Steve: Well, to some degree I think I’ve kind of learned a lesson from Billy Graham. I know that he spoke at both the Republican and the Democratic conventions, for example, and I’m sure many of them wanted him to weigh in on many of the political arguments and discussions of the time, but he just felt like that was not his role. And from that, you know, I was asked once when did we decide to include the Catholic, the Protestant, and the Jewish traditions in our museum, and I said well, I didn’t. The Bible runs through all those traditions, and so what our role is is just to highlight the Bible.
This is a book that has had an impact in our world, and if we can try to stay out of the weeds, and I kind of enjoyed some of those discussions getting into the weeds of what the Bible teaches, but our role is just to say here’s a book that has impacted our world. We want to celebrate the Jewish traditions. The scribal tradition, the Torah scroll collection that we have, tells the love that the Jewish people have of this word and how they meticulously transmitted it from generation to generation, you know, on into the Catholic and even the Protestant traditions, and so we’re not celebrating the traditions. We’re celebrating a book.
This is not about a faith tradition, a religion. It’s not about a church. It’s about a book and how that this book has impacted our world. The way I like to say it is set your religion aside. If you just set it aside and just take a look at this book and see how it’s had an impact on our lives, it’s a book that we ought to know about, and that’s what we want to do.
Glenn: Now, when you are going and taking this into schools, you’re taking this in all around the world. Your goal is to have it in how many schools? You have a curriculum, a Bible curriculum, which you say studies show that your test scores across the board go up if you are studying also the history of the book, the Bible.
Steve: Yes, there’s implications that when we took it out of our schools that scores plummeted, and I am convinced that as we do studies and as we show that as we teach the Bible in our schools, it will help in many different cases, and we want to do some of those studies as we get into schools. And so we are developing a curriculum that basically teaches the Bible. I am not interested in teaching religion. I’m interested in teaching about a book, and people ought to know about this book.
Glenn: Even Dawkins says, I mean, the atheist says this is an important book everybody should read and understand, an atheist.
Steve: Exactly. In his book, Richard Dawkins says…a leading atheist, in his book, The God Delusion, where he’s arguing that there is no God, he is honest enough to say that the King James Version of the Bible ought to be taught in our schools because of the amount of our language that comes from it, and he gives 100 examples, over 100 examples—an eye for an eye, a tooth for a tooth, and so forth.
I was on a CNN segment where I was showing some of the artifacts, and in the segment just before I went on, the newscaster was talking about a Good Samaritan story. If you don’t know the Good Samaritan story, you just lost the context for that story, and that’s what Richard Dawkins’s argument is.
Glenn: Steve, I want to thank you so much for all of the work you and your family have done in the last year and will continue to do to make our country better and the world a better place. Steve Green, our man of the year, God bless, have a great Christmas. Back in just a minute.
Steve: Thank you.