Can Friendship Mix With Business? I hope so… THE COMPANY may hold the answer.

Author Chuck Graham THE COMPANY

I have a confession of sorts…  a long, long time ago (the mid 1970’s to be honest) I managed a Christian Bookshop owned by Tyndale House Publishers in the western suburbs of Chicago. It was my first job out of college and I absolutely loved it. During my short 4 year career from May 1976 to July 1980 we learned quite a bit about selling Books, Bibles and Christian Music. I think in 1979 I was interviewed by Contemporary Christian Music magazine to share my views about the burgeoning Christian Music market. All I remember was that Noel Paul Stookey of Peter, Paul and Mary was on the cover and the word “burgeoning” was in the article title.  I think John Styll, the publisher had heard about me from friends at Word or Sparrow Records. I’ve certainly been blessed with solid business relationships through the years and many from my Christian Bookselling days have lasted for decades.

Which brings me to the question at hand. Can friendship mix with business? In 2010, my friend Chuck Graham, a successful corporate lawyer, mentioned he was writing a book. Now Chuck is an excellent writer as he usually writes a weekly “Note of Encouragement” which is available free by e-mail at http://www.Ciloa.org. Many thousands of individuals from all over the earth read “The Note” every Monday morning plus he had published two other books comprised of a collection of “Notes” that he has written over the past 9 years. I had asked him to keep me updated on this new book’s progress which he did. Then he asked me to read it when the first polished draft was done. (A polished draft is something writers will distribute to friends that represents a work that they are relatively comfortable sharing for feedback purposes.)

I read the pdf pages on our laptop in just two days because I simply could not put it down.  I heartily recommend it for anyone over age 12 because it is a very, very good read. My taste in books are usually non-fiction because I like to learn from others and benefit from their wisdom. After all, they made the mistakes and lived to tell about it. (So I don’t have to repeat them.) Plus, I’m kind of a curious guy who likes discovering the roots of everything that interests me. So for me to be personally enthralled by a fiction book means it must be both stunning, and spectacular. THE COMPANY is all that and more. I can’t wait to see the movie(s) because Chuck has 4 more sequels planned out in order to finish telling the story.

At bare minimum, the story of  THE COMPANY is a real conversation starter. However, it would be unfair to divulge any more about THE COMPANY in this blog,  but Chuck will tell you more if you listen to the podcast of the interview we did in July at the International Christian Retailing Show in Orlando. Just visit http://www.sntradio.com/podcasts and click on the highlighted link for Chuck Graham THE COMPANY. After you do, if you are a fiction lover then you will probably put it on your must read list.  And I hope that you will appreciate the unique opportunity THE COMPANY has as a gift this Holiday season for all your friends and colleagues. It makes an awesome “secret Santa” gift at your workplace.

I may have taken some lines to get to it, but the reason you’re reading this blog is to discover if friendship can mix with business. From my experience, doing business with friends can either be the best experience with stratospheric highs or the absolute worst where a perfectly good friendship gets ruined beyond repair.  In the fall of 2010, a friend and former client (I produced and edited his weekly radio program) asked me to be a partner in a new downtown parking garage venture where the after tax profits would go to start a new church in Central Florida. Throwing caution to the wind despite my wife’s advice, I plunged ahead with the task of negotiating contracts, many meetings with city officials about signage, business licenses, setting up the relationships with business insurance, legal, accounting, and payroll professionals and being a paid advisor for setting all significant company policy. I  believe the initial meeting was early September of 2010 and operations began in mid-December. Despite the business turning a profit from the very first month, I was bought out in mid-April 2011 and the other party and I had a serious breakdown that lasted into March of this year when we finally began  speaking to each other again. The overall business dissolved after about 11 months because the main contract was cancelled under suspicious circumstances.

Now being a bit wiser, I will not go into a business (meaning money changes hands) with friends no matter how much earnings can be made nor how much I love and personally cherish the friend. I will only engage if and only if two criteria are met. 1) A go from the Lord and 2) unbridled passion for and total belief in the project that meets or exceeds that which I have also for my current assignment, which is SnT Radio and SnT-ARK. OK, I know that is somewhat subjective but these principles can be applied in your life. So when you are approached by a friend with a business offer, take time to seriously think it through and examine your motives.  Ask yourself this hard question, “Am I serving God or mammon (money)?”

But that does not mean I won’t help a friend, I just will refuse payment for it now in the vast majority of cases. Even if it personally profits my friend substantially. Will a true friend really expect a referral fee for suggesting a service or prospective business customer to another friend. I understand about protocol and professional courtesy in modern business practice but does that have any place in the Body of Christ where we are called to “love one another” and “serve”? There’s a particular verse about laying down your life for a friend. I don’t believe that it means only physically dying any more than “dying to self” does. It has to do with investing yourself in them and their life at the cost of your time, talent,  treasure and personal will. Jesus didn’t charge us for anything that He did on earth. No, rather He admonished us, “Lay up treasures in Heaven”.

So as opportunities to serve with your friends come in life, please learn from my mistakes so that you don’t have to repeat them. The pain of losing any good relationship is not worth any amount of money. You’ll only get 3 to 5 truly good friends in a  lifetime. Don’t roll the dice unless you have very good and non-financial reasons to do so, even if you are qualified to do the work.

Now for the rest of the story… this began innocently when Chuck asked me to submit a quote about “THE COMPANY” that could be used for marketing purposes which I did gladly.  Because of my experience in that field, I had a pretty good idea of the kind of statement that would be most effective and the manner in which it could be used. As it turned out, WinePress the publishing/marketing company, chose it to be used on a bookmark to be given away at the ICRS mentioned above, an event where 5,000 people from all over the world directly involved in the making and distribution of Christian products meet. Honestly, that was an honor and gift straight from the hand of God. Are people who received the bookmark going to listen to SnT Radio.com? Perhaps. More than anything,  it lends credibility to my role as an influence and will register with industry insiders who pay attention to such details. So in my mind, Chuck has already paid it forward and anything I can do to help him get a leg up in the book and film world is only my attempt to balance the books between friends. Even though he’s graciously extended an expanded opportunity to me, all my publishing and film contacts are open and gratis for the advancement of  THE COMPANY by Chuck Graham, a man I am pleased to have as my friend, and dear brother in Christ.  I intend to keep it that way. BTW, this book and film franchise will accomplish everything that  is prophesied on the bookmark. You saw it here first.

Click on the link below to see the bookmark but you may need to shrink it in your browser as it may load in large.

Company Bookmark

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Back in the Saddle Again… after many God Moments

Back in the Saddle Again… after many God Moments

I’ve been asked why haven’t I written a blog in many months. The answer is simple. I’ve been caring for mywife who has been in the hospital over 80 days from December 1, 2011 until July 8, 2012. It all began with a brown recluse spider bite right around Thanksgiving. That bite resulted in a massive infection and ultimately she lost her big right toe on December 7, 2011. There have been several complications with her toe and foot since. As a result, I have learned to mix and infuse antibiotics as part of her care in addition to helping her walk and being her emotional support. She needs round the clock attention being restricted to bed and the bathroom. Outside assistance from home health care only comes for an hour 2 to 3 times per week to check on her foot wound and dress it so the rest is up to me. She is allowed a leased wound-vac to enable healing. It is a struggle to juggle everything that needs to be done. But we persevere.

Chest pain seems to persist and the big one is avoided in mid-March when she had open heart surgery after the cardiologist is convinced that it is not a gastro intestinal problem. No, it was not. Triple bypass to be exact. Most of you do not know that 4 days after we launched SnT Radio.com in May of 2009, she had a massive heart attack. It was so bad, she was flown by medical helicopter to the heart cautherization lab because the ER doctor was convinced that she had minutes to live. That was my first instance where I just had to humbly tell the Lord, “I trust you for her well-being. Let your will be done on earth as it is in Heaven.”  This was out of my hands. In the end, her blood sugar and blood pressure was too high to operate. The surgeon on call waited 24 hours for it to drop into safer levels. During that same 24 hours we called evryone we knew to organize a massive prayer chain. And God heard our prayers and she was released a few days later with a strict medication regime.

So fast forward to March of this year. Another massive prayer chain has been praying for her for months then they get news about the heart surgery. We have no medical insurance but she is at Florida Hospital South Orlando (Seventh Day Adventist) whose mission is to care and heal people as Christ did and she is assigned the number 2 heart surgeon in one of the best Cardiology departments in the USA only because the number 1 surgeon is booked and they can’t wait for him. The hospital assigns a person to her case who will interface with State and Federal medical assistance programs on our behalf. They should because they have hundreds of thousands of potential costs to cover in this procedure. She comes through. We praise God, her heart is strong and everything looks good.

Then she develops cellulitis in her right leg in April which threatens her foot because it still has not healed despite massive antibiotic treatments. So it’s back to Florida Hospital where staff are beginning to know her by sight and address her by her firstname. They pump another round of antibiotics into her via an IV. Once the cellulitis is gone her podiatrist and foot surgeon determines that another section of bone must come out of the foot. It was tainted by the cellulitis. This will make her walking even more difficult without assistance or a prosthetic. After foot surgery the attending Infectious Diseases doc orders to install a third picc line. We get her home on Friday night and the home care nurse has trouble Monday afternoon just like I did flushing the line on Sunday.  We compare notes and agree it is the picc line and not either of us so we rush off to the ER again.

This time we discover, as a parting gift, she has blood clots caused by the picc line which travel from her right arm into her left lung. A pulmonary embolism… another serious reason to pray fervently. So back to Florida Hospital and the picc line is pulled. Now the only way to administer antibiotics is through an IV. Her veins start collapsing from over use in the left arm because you can’t take fluids out of the side where blood clots are detected. But the doctors are very good and as chest pains return her stay extends into two weeks until they are sure she is stable. Then home again, finally. But not for long.

The new week takes us to a new place, the coumodon clinic where her blood thiness is checked.  More complications show up with chest pains and shortness of breath. Her vibrancy after the heart surgery has disappeared. She is in pain and tired. No one seems to know why. So she is admitted from the ER into the hospital after flat lining twice in the ER. Her cardiologist is called in again. She is stabilized and sent home again because he does not want to stop the coumodin treatments because the blood clots are still much too dangerous. Still more fervent prayer. We go to the store and she breaks her second toe on the right foot when she shifts her weight. She sees the podiatrist within 24 hours and he puts her into a protective boot that goes up to her knee with the strictest stay off your feet order I have ever heard. A week passes then the painkillers won’t touch the chest pain. Something else is definitely wrong.

Then, I recognize the same look on her face as I did in May of 2009.Its a bright sunny Monday morning in late June. Her rosy color is not so rosy. I say we are going to thre ER. She mumbles and nods her head. We arrive. The computers are down and they do not realize that she is categorized as urgent when her computer file comes up. I keep her awake as best I can by telling her funny stories followed by “I love you very much. Its great to hear you laugh.” There is a shift change. More waiting as the hours pass by. Then the annoucement that the computers have come back up. A brief time passes then her name is called. Off to get an immediate EKG. It is bad. I’ve watched enough to know an irregular heartbeat when I see one. She is taken right away to a room and hooked up to a monitor. Within minutes she flatlines again for an instant. The ER doc comes in and begins to address us. Right in front of him she flatlines again. He tried but couldn’t hide the look of concern on his face. He orders more tests and bloodwork. The techs have a hard time getting blood from her veins and gives up. He must call in another tech. Off to X ray. Then the ER doc admits her and she is shown to her room. She doesn’t leave for another 14 days and has one more visit to the heart cautherization lab in the middle of it. The cardiologist takes a good look at her heart and determines that there is a minute blockage but elects not to do a procedure. He thinks the chest pain is not cardiac related but clot and orders her back on the blood thinners, stat. It takes 5 long days for her to get the levels into a stable range before she can be released. It is Sunday, July 8th.

Around May 25,2012, the start of SnT Radio.com’s fourth year of 24/7/365 streaming, I received an email from friend and author Chuck Graham telling me that a quote I had submitted endorsing his new book, “THE COMPANY” was chosen by his publisher to be used on a bookmark to be distributed at the upcoming International Christian Retailing Show in Orlando, FL from July 15 -18. He send me a digital copy. There it was attributed to James Burkhardt, Founder – SnT Radio.com. What a blessing of an opportunity. That convention attracts about 5,000 attendees from all over the world.

So I sought the Lord about it and was told to plan on working hard there and that my wife would be my photographer. I would have everything I needed to make the most of it. OK. I needed to register as media and secure a space to record interviews. Registration was no problem but all the media rooms suitable for recording had already been reserved months ago. I could have a in the hallway outside the convention floor. OK… are you sure there isn’t other space more suitable for recording author/recording artist interviews? We’ll try was all I was told. Hmmm… portable recording gear. None on hand. Plus our laptop had died after the bypass operation which could’ve worked. I kept trusting as I began to book interviews with several authors. Then more and more until I was conducting interviews on Sunday the 15th through Tuesday the 17 without a break. Nearly 2 dozen we set in stone secured. No room. No suitablable equipment. And my wife was in the hospital with no guarantee that she’d be out to serve as timekeeper and photographer.

She was still in the hospital as books, DVD’s and CD’s began arriving for review prior to interviews  Neither the equipment and money I thought we might receive to purchase it never came into my hand. Just enough to cover parking for five days @ $13 a day and a little extra for some signage, printied materials, bottled water for our guests and some protein snacks to sustain us during the 9 – 10 hour days on Monday and Tuesday.  After securing my wife’s permanent handicapped parking placard on Tuesday July 10th, with less than a week to go, I called my former 660AM WORL talkshow producer and friend, Joe Ferraro and asked if he had any portable recording devices I might borrow for the week. He said yes and that I would love what he had — and no laptop necessary. He would swing by on Sunday about 2 in the afternoon to my space and get me operational. My first interview scheduled was at 3pm with Michael Card. When you have friends that you know you can trust, details like that do not make me sweat. I also contacted the Media contacts and was told something better was in the works but I needed to wait until Saturday afternoon or Sunday morning before it would be resolved.

So we spent the rest of my wife’s first week home reading and watching and listening so I would be prepared.  On Saturday, the parking attendant let us park for free to pick up our Media credentials and ID badge around 1pm. We stopped in the media room and met the person coordinating all the media relations inclusing our space. She said she was waiting for the room set up people to arrive before she could commit to anything. But it would definitely be resolved by Sunday morning. I could stop by before 5pm that afternoon, she would be in a better position to know.

That was fine with us because we had to be back to help out taking tickets for the Champions of the Faith Concert at 5:00pm. Apparently someone backed out at the last minute and my friend Kenworth Reeves texted me and asked us to help out. As long as my wife can accomplish her volunteer task sitting down, we can do it, I texted back. She absolutely should not be on her feet very much. I must admit it was fun taking tickets from people that I would be interviewing later in the week. Well the printing was done and ready to be picked up at 3pm. I had justr come in from feeding and cleaning up after our eleven cats when I had to leave to meet Tony Metcalf from Salt 1 to 1 in Orlando. I got back just in time to shower and get back over to the convention center. On the visit earlier in the afternoon we discovered how to drop my wife off close to Media area where we would be so she did not have to walk long distances. It was about 4:50pm when I let her out and she went directly to the media room. I asked her to call me with the room information and I would meet up with her there before making our way to the theatre for the evening’s event.

I parked the car… free again because the lot was unattended at that moment — or should I say God moment and was almost to the Media wing when my phone rang. It was my wife. We had several options but come quickly because it was 4:59 and the Media Relations folks had to go. Thankfully, they were gracious to wait an extra minute for me to arrive and they took me to a cavernous meeting room that could be shared by three media outlets seperated by curtains. It was perfect for our needs. I knew that a couple of prominent interviewees had entourages so the two extra tables and chairs would handle this very nicely. I was very grateful. And now we have 28 interviews done and I will be sharing all of them with you as podcasts at www.sntradio.com and here in the sntradioblog. God willing — next weekend, Chuck Graham and THE COMPANY.