How does workplace culture affect business profitability and the job performance and well-being of employees and their families? Toxic workplaces have far-reaching consequences, often producing negative cultures, unhappy employees, high-turnover...
How does workplace culture affect business profitability and the job performance and well-being of employees and their families? Toxic workplaces have far-reaching consequences, often producing negative cultures, unhappy employees, high-turnover rates, and added costs. Transforming the workplace can transform individuals, as selfish leadership develops into servant leadership and people flourish as valued team members with well-rounded lives. How can this be accomplished? In this episode, Linda interviews Mark Whitacre, Vice President of Culture & Care and Executive Director of the t-factor initiative at Coca-Cola Consolidated, Inc. Mark is a celebrated executive and has been involved with the marketplace ministry movement for the past two decades. You’ll be inspired to hear of his personal journey from selfish to servant leadership, and you will gain actionable steps to transform your workplace to one that helps to transform lives. Life is too short to be unhappy at work. Listen today to learn how to positively transform your workplace and the lives of those around you.
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Linda J. Hansen: Welcome. Thank you for tuning in to this episode of the Prosperity 101 Breakroom Economics Podcast. My name is Linda J. Hansen, your host and the author of Prosperity 101- Job Security Through Business Prosperity: The Essential Guide to Understanding How Policy Affects Your Paycheck, and the creator of the Breakroom Economics Online course, the book, the course and the entire podcast library can be found on Prosperity101.Com. I seek to connect boardroom to break room and policy to paycheck by empowering and encouraging employers to educate employees about the public policy issues that affect their jobs. My goal is to help people understand the foundations of prosperity, the policies of prosperity, and how to protect their prosperity by becoming informed, involved, and impactful. I believe this will lead to greater employee loyalty, engagement and retention, and to an increased awareness of the blessings and responsibilities of living in a free society. Listen each week to hear from exciting guests and be sure to visit Prosperity 101.Com.
Thank you for joining with me today. As you know, I have a heart for the workplace. Employers communicating with employees, employees communicating with employers, and we know that a healthy workplace leads to a healthier life. And when we can talk about issues that matter, whether it be policy or our faith in the workplace, it really helps communication, loyalty, engagement, retention, and it really helps the families that are involved with the businesses. It helps the nation as families and businesses are stronger. So please join with me today in this episode where we are discussing workplace ministry workplace communication with my special guest. Mark Whitacre: has been engaged with the Faith at Work movement for the past two decades. Mark is vice president of Culture and Care and executive director of the T Factor Initiative at Coca Cola Consolidated. Mark has worked with Coca Cola Consolidated since 2019. Coca Cola Consolidated is a publicly traded faith based company. I just love the atmosphere that is brought forth with the T Factor Initiative. I love your history and testimony and so I welcome you to this podcast. Mark Whitacre, thank you so much for being here today.
Mark Whitacre: Thank you, Linda. Thank you for having me and I look forward to sharing.
Linda J. Hansen: Well, your testimony is amazing. And for the listeners, I'm going to give you a little bit of a teaser. More of his testimony is coming in. A follow up interview with his wife Ginger has an exciting story in their life and what God did. But today we're talking about the workplace culture and what the T Factor Initiative is and how Coca Cola Consolidated is different from Coca Cola, but also some of the really creative things you're doing to really bring a faith based culture to the workplace. So first of all, I'd like you to just share a little bit about how did you end up at Coca Cola Consolidated and T Factor?
Mark Whitacre: Yeah, I've been involved with, as you mentioned, almost two decades with the Faith at Work movement. And I met the CEO speaking at an event. The chairman and CEO, Frank Harrison of Coca Cola Consolidated. But even when I look at this last 20 year journey, I was COO of Cypress Biotech for almost a decade. And Cypress Biotech is a California biotechnology company. I'm a PhD in biochemistry from Cornell, and it's a California biotech company, a faith based Christian company.
The CEO is a Christian, myself a COO. And we pray together and pray with our customers and our vendors and our employees and think about that California Biotech company, a cancer research company. And then I worked for about eight years as COO of CBMC. Christian Businessmen Connection. And there's about 10,000 members in the United States, a 93 year old organization. Organization and event that Billy Graham became a Christian at.
Linda J. Hansen: Amazing.
Mark Whitacre: Yeah. And I was about eight years there where we equipped business leaders to help them integrate faith at work, because we feel strongly there's no better place for ministry than the marketplace.
Linda J. Hansen: Amen.
Mark Whitacre: Even Jesus, he was public appearances in Scripture 132 times, and I learned this through Chuck Colson Disciple and me. And 122 of those 132 times for Jesus and public appearance were in the marketplace showing that that's 92% of his public appearances, him showing us clearly that that's where the lost are. That's where the unconvinced are, and that's where our work should be. And that's where people spend most of their time, most of their waking hours is at work. And so I've been involved in this Faith at Work movement and through CBMC, I got to know the Coca Cola Consolidated executives very well. And for the last almost five years, I've been leading their faith based initiatives at Consolidated.
Linda J. Hansen: Well, it's so exciting. And I, like you, believe the workplace is so important. All politics is local, right? And relationships are one on one. So whether we're helping people understand how to develop a relationship with the Lord, or we are helping them understand how policy issues affect their lives, I mean, it's all relationships. And God showed us, like you mentioned, Jesus was in the marketplace and he helped people be entrepreneurs and entrepreneurship and being able to have business and create income is important to Him. And he wants to bless us through our ministries. And these faith based workplace initiatives are incredible. So tell us a little bit about T Factor, the mission and purpose of T Factor.
Mark Whitacre: Yeah, I'll tell you a little about T Factor and kind of tell you where it came from. The purpose statement. Think about that. A publicly traded company, six and a half billion in revenue, 17,000 employees. We're the largest bottle in America. We're not Coca Cola Company in Atlanta. We're a separate company for 120 years. Different CEO, different board of directors, different ownership. They're on the New York Stock Exchange. We're on the Nasdaq. And Coca Cola Consolidated's. Purpose statement is to honor God. This is our official Purpose statement on pay stubs, invoices with customers with Walmart and Kroger's and Sam's and Costco. Our official Purpose Statement is to honor God and all we do by serving others, pursuing excellence, and growing profitably.
And we've been a faith based company for 23 years. We have 104 plant sites. We have a chaplain at every plant. We had 557 salvations and recommits in 2022, 644 in 2021. That's averaging about 50 a month salvations of our employees. I mean, it's a ministry that happens to be in the beverage business. We have over 100 prayer groups and Bible studies mentorship. We have a program called Radical Mentoring, which is a faith based discipleship program where we have a mentor and eight mentees where we help them grow in their faith. A year program, 3 hours a month, all these different programs. So when we hire a non believer, they see God in every corner. And that's why we're seeing 500 plus salvations and recommits every year. And so that's our purpose statement at Coca Cola Consolidated. And about nine years ago, our Chairman and CEO, Frank Harrison said we need to share this with the world, the impact, because our retention rates grew higher tremendously, our absenteeism lower, our turnover lower. We do it for God, but God blesses our business as a result of it if secular companies would do this if they saw the results of caring for your people and being a purpose driven faith based company. So our chairman CEO said, let's share it with the world. And that's what T factor is. T stands for transformation. And it's really the outward expression of what we're doing internally where we share it with the world. We're doing nine events this year, for example, 400 plus attendees at each event, so that's well over 3000 attendees will attend T Factor, where we share our Chairman and CEO, our COO, ten of our top leaders share at these events. And the Purpose statement of T Factor is to transform workplace cultures around the world for good, for God and for growth. Because we feel, as Billy Graham has quoted before he passed, the next revival is in the marketplace.
Linda J. Hansen: I agree with that. I believe that. And that is why I am so dedicated also to helping people transform their workplace, transform their communication in the workplace. And this faith based initiative is just so exciting to me. And so listeners, if you are sitting there thinking, how do I talk about faith in the workplace? And if you are someone like me, that when you were growing up, you got told, don't ever talk about politics and religion. I remember when I got older, I asked my parents, what are we going to talk about, the weather? I mean, there's no two things more important than politics and religion that affect our life. It's every day, all the time.
And so to be able to have this and I imagine some listeners might be asking, do you have to be a Christian to work at your company? What about the non Christians? Will they be uncomfortable? How will they feel? I imagine there's somebody listening right now who might have that question. Maybe they're not ready to commit their life to Christ at the moment. So they don't understand why that can be an atmosphere of love and acceptance. But how would you welcome non Christians into the area and even if they choose not to receive Christ?
Mark Whitacre: Yeah, that's a great question. Matter of fact, at T Factor, when I shared our chairman's shares, our COO shares, or ten of our top leaders, we also have our attorneys share about how this is completely legal. As long as you don't force someone to see a chaplain or force someone to be part of a prayer group and Bible study, it's completely legal. If you keep it optional and you allow them to opt in in terms of does everyone have to be a Christian? We hope that they're not because we see ourselves as an outreach and have non believers to join us and get to know God through our company because they don't yet go to church, so where else they going to hear about God unless it's at their work.
So yeah, we prefer and pray that many of them will join us as non Christians. And during the onboarding, when they see that purpose statement, this is their onboarding first couple of days at work and they're with HR and they see that purpose statement is to honor God and all we do by serving others, pursuing excellence and growing profitably. They are told clearly a couple of different times, a couple of different ways, they don't have to be a Christian to work at Coca Cola Consolidated. Then we have ten values underneath that purpose statement integrity, morality, accountability, consistency. And we make it clear these ten values are non negotiable. Those are the values of a servant leader. So those are non negotiable. But the purpose, they don't have to believe in God and we kind of hope they don't because they're going to get to know God through our company well.
Linda J. Hansen: And what a better example is people who love the Lord and love other people and live that out in their lives. And I'm sure in the workplace you have a lot of imperfect people and it's a great way to exhibit the love of God, how imperfect people deal with other people's imperfections and help each other grow. It's like families. A workplace is like a large family or like a small town is like a large family, right? And so you have these groups together and it's amazing what God can do with willing hearts, willing people who are asking God to allow them to be used to bless others. And I just think this is incredible. The t factor initiative. I know I first met you, you were speaking at a C Suite for Christ event. And now today you are speaking at an event with the Central Florida Christian Chamber of Commerce and so I'm interviewing you in Florida. And so it is just a fantastic outreach that T factor has in your ministry you know, you talked about your history a little bit before that and your work history before you got in with Coca Cola Consolidated and things.
And I'd like to give the listeners a little bit of a taste of what we will be talking about in the next interview I do with you, which will be in a few weeks. So listeners, pay attention because I'll be interviewing Mark and his wife Ginger and they have quite a story and their story led them to where they are today and what Mark is doing. You know, listeners, if you are going through a time in your life that is a valley we all have know life is a roller coaster and when we are up at the top we think everything's great and we have this aerial view and it's like life is wonderful. You can see the treetops, right? But down in the valley things can be pretty heartbreaking and painful. But that is often where God does the greatest work and helps the fruit of his spirit, the fruit of his word, the fruit of a relationship with Him really help us grow and it's just amazing. So I'd love to have you just give the listeners a little bit of a teaser on that.
Mark Whitacre: Yeah, when I look at I'm in my sixty’s now and I've been involved, been a Christian for the last 26 years and been involved in this faith that Work movement for the past 20. But prior to that, when I look back in my 30s, when I was 32 years old, I was divisional President and corporate vice president of the 56th largest company of America. And this is an example of selfish leadership that I'm going to be sharing when we do that interview with Ginger and not servant leadership. This wasn't living the purpose statement of Coca Cola consolidator or the values of Coca Cola. I was caught up in the secular world a little bit more like the movie Wall Street with Michael Douglas and Gordon Gecko.
Linda J. Hansen: Right. The Wolf on Wall Street.
Mark Whitacre: Yeah. And greed is good and similar to that. And basically my wife became a Christian ten years before me. She saw what was happening and our CEO was 75, our President was 69. I was 32. I had my own jet for eight years. I bought the CEO's home. I was really Justin Bieber before Justin Bieber and had all the things the world had to offer. But boy, it was so selfish and so internal focus and it became a crash and to the point where I got involved with some things and we'll share it in the interview, but where my wife didn't like it and she said, you're going to have to turn yourself into the FBI or I'm going to. She said, this has got to stop. And we'll share more details with Ginger, but it's an amazing story, but through that brokenness of some of the things that happened and there was lots of brokenness is really when we grew and it took our life from ashes to beauty. Only something God could do.
Linda J. Hansen: Well, that's what he's an expert at, taking things from ashes to beauty. And so, listeners, you may be in a work culture that sounds a little bit more like he described his previous work culture, where greed is king, the money is the king. The quest for money is the purpose and vision and mission for everyone. And money comes and goes. It can leave us in a minute, and it can come in a minute sometimes, right? But it is not eternal. And we can only take people with us to heaven, and it's our relationship with Jesus Christ that allows for that and that eternal significance. And so if you are wondering how you can make an eternal significance at your workplace, whether you're an employee or an employer, or if you are thinking, I'm not sure if I'm even a believer, what are they talking about? I don't even know what they're talking about.
Knowing Jesus Christ, to be able to know Jesus Christ is the most simple thing. You just ask Jesus to come into your heart and say, I'm a sinner. I'm in need of a savior. I want you to transform my life. And when you hear Mark's story, you'll be saying, yes, God, I want that for my life, too. I want that for my life, too. And even if you're in a period of unbelief right now, like you see things around and it makes you think, well, how can there be a God if this tornado happened or that person died or something? But once you begin to know the true heart of God, and it's an amazing journey to walk with the Lord and to be able to do so in the workplace and minister to people. God cares about our workplaces and God cares about our government. He cares about leadership. And you mentioned servant leadership to you. How would you describe servant leadership to the listeners?
Mark Whitacre: Yeah, I would. Servant leader, where you care for the others around you, your teammates, your customers, your vendors, more than you do yourself. We call it to be a leader, you have to lead. And we call the leads model is this l is listen. You listen at a different level to your teammates and your vendors and your customers. E for empathy, have tremendous empathy and really care about them and their family. And been an advocate. A in leads, be an advocate and be their biggest cheerleader. D develop, help them develop even more than yourself. And s self-reflection and prayer. That's the s in leads where you self-reflect and pray about what you did during the week and see where you can improve and do it differently on Monday.
And a good example where we use the leads model and some critical decisions. When COVID hit, our employees are working overtime. We're the bottle in cansai. We're not the fountain drink of Coca Cola consolidating. Our business was a record year in 2020 and when COVID hit but lots of the spouses of our employees lost their positions because they worked in a cinema or a restaurant or something that went remote and closed down for several months. And we put a benevolence fund together and covered basically their family needs, their mortgages, their children's college tuition. And it was hundreds, literally hundreds of our teammates. And it's not even the Coca Cola employee that was laid off, it was their spouse.
But to meet their financial needs, we covered in this benevolence fund hundreds of financial needs of families because of their spouse being laid off at a position that was not related to Coca Cola consolidated. And those are the kind of things where we feel like listening, having empathy and really caring. And I tell you, God blesses our business as a result, so you do it for God. But God gave us. And when COVID hit, we didn't know what the financial results were going to be. We didn't know the kind of year we were going to have. And we're convinced God blessed our business that you can't outgive God to the point where our chairman and CEO says often now generosity drives cash flow.
Linda J. Hansen: That's so true in God's economy. It is upside down from the world's economy. The more you give, the more you get. And God's economy is beyond our human roles and our human abilities. So thank you so much for sharing and that caring for your employees and their families and that really does make a difference. And that's what I try to do with Prosperity 101 and just really encouraging employers to talk with their employees, to really share the importance of these issues, help their employees understand they want to have a profitable company. So they can keep employing them, they can keep helping their families, and they can keep this nation free so we can have faith based ministries at work. We can have freedom of expression. We can have freedom to not believe if that's the case, right? But we need that freedom. And so it all works together well. What would you say to employers and people in the workplace who may want to bring something like this or help their employees be educated about issues and their faith? What would you say would be a great first step?
Mark Whitacre: A great first step. And even when attendees over 3000 this year attendee factor is usually pray, pray together, even if it's two or three, like Nehemiah did. Look how he prayed for almost three or four times more than what it took to build that wall in 52 days around Jerusalem. So prayer is so important. So the key is get some leaders together, pray together, and let's say once not the chairman, CEO or the owner, and you're a listener and you're an employee, no matter what role you are in that company, you can be the salt and light. And through your actions, people will watch and see. And they will see you are different. And at some point they want to know why you're different, where you're then able to share your testimony. So the key is pray together. And if you're the only one in your group, then you pray to God. Just you and God. And be that salt and light because it will impact the company.
Linda J. Hansen: It will. And when you impact even one life, just think about that. The results are amazing. One life can make a difference. So when we think about the multiplication, the spiritual multiplication available, it's incredible. Okay, well, if people want to get a hold of you, or if they'd like to attend a T Factor event, how should they do so?
Mark Whitacre: Yeah, my email address, my name is Mark Whitacre, is mark. Mark and Whitacre spelled W-H-I-T-A-C-R-E-W-H-I-T-A-C-R-E. So, Mark Whitacre at Coke Consolidated. That's coke. C-O-K-E. Consolidated. Consolidated.com. Mark Whitacre, Mark Whitacre@coconsolidated.com, we'd love to have you at a T Factor event. No matter what your role in the company is, we'd love to have you and we think you'd find it impactful. And we do virtual and in person. So we do four in virtual and five in person. But if it's something virtual would work better for you. Its 4 hours and I think you'd see it was well worth 4 hours invested.
Linda J. Hansen: Exactly. And the website to look into the T-factor programs is tfactor.com so small t like for transformation factor. So thank you so much, Mark, and we just are really grateful for your time for the interview and look forward to having you and Ginger back to tell the rest of your story.
Mark Whitacre: Thank you. We very much look forward to it. And the reason why we had a lowercase T is for the cross. It stands for transformation. T Factor. T does, but the lower T is the beautiful, beautiful.
Linda J. Hansen: Well, that's a great way to close. Thank you so much.
Mark Whitacre: Thank you. Thank you for having me.
Linda J. Hansen: Thank you again for listening to the Prosperity 101 Podcast. If you enjoyed this episode, please subscribe, share, and leave a great review. Don't forget to visit Prosperity101.com to access the entire podcast library to order my newest book, Job Security Through Business Prosperity: The Essential Guide to Understanding How Policy Affects Your Paycheck or to enroll you or your employees in the Breakroom Economics online course. You can also receive the free e-book, 10 Tips for Helping Employees Understand How Public Policy Affects Their Paychecks. Freedom is never free. Understanding the foundations of prosperity and the policies of prosperity will help you to protect prosperity as you become informed, involved, and impactful. Please contact us today at Prosperity101.com to let us know how we can serve you. Thank you.