Changing the Culture of Business

Second Interview with David Hodgson of Kingdom Investors

  1. You are passionate about seeing business culture change. Tell us how you developed this passion.

I grew up in Rhodesia in Africa. It was a model state and very prosperous. It was known as the bread basket of Africa and it fed all of the nations to the north. In 1980 it was given independence and President Robert Mugabe and his family began to plunder the nation and made it into the economic basket case that it is today. That was distressing for those of us who had grown up there because now Zimbabwe is one of the poorest countries in the world and the people are starving. And Mugabe become one of the richest men in the world – top 20.

Eventually I left Zimbabwe under duress and I managed to get into Australia. And when I got here, I saw this same corruption happening again, but a lot more sophisticated and more covert. Within two weeks of arriving in Australia I’d joined a health club and given them thousands of dollars for a lifetime membership and they went broke. They knew they were going broke, but they still took my money. As I studied it historically I went back to the beginning of history and I realised that it was all to do with greed and self-centredness. That was the root cause and the driver of it all. With that I thought, “How do we change this?” because I’ve got kids and grandkids and I don’t want another Zimbabwe here in Australia. I found that the Biblical model was driven by caring and sharing, not greed and self-centredness. So I tested it and it worked. And I found that it always worked.   So I thought, “In order to change the marketplace I’m going to need a big company and to start a movement. It can’t be just me with a small to medium enterprise. I’m going to need momentum and numbers. I intentionally bought businesses and built what is today a 1.2 billion dollar corporation, Paladin Corporation. I also built a very influential marketplace ministry which is Kingdom Investors (KI) which is one the largest networks in the world today. With these two institutions I was able to create massive momentum for change in Australia and around the world over the last 14 years.

2. In your mind, what is responsible business and what is necessary for a business to behave responsibly?

Responsible business is not a thing we do because we want to get investors and because it’s a trendy thing. That’s the wrong approach and that’s the wrong culture. We have to change the culture that drives our businesses. And if we change that culture from greed and self-centredness to caring and sharing, then when we do business, it’s a strategic plan to benefit all of our stakeholders. In this context we’re not just talking about the shareholders. We’re talking about the employees. We’re talking about the communities. We’re talking about the supply chain. We’re talking about the environment and so on. So when we actually approach business as a director and owner of a company with all of that in mind, we’re going to holistically benefit all of the stakeholders, as well as the shareholders. We’re actually going to create more prosperity. We’re going to eliminate social distress and we’re going to eliminate human suffering from our communities. And as we collectively do this – and teach all businesses how to do this – we’re going to eliminate human suffering from the cities and the nations.

That’s the corporate responsibility in my mind. We’re going to provide good quality goods and services to our customers. But at the end of the day, there’s a bigger corporate vision. Social responsibility needs to be part of a strategic plan and not just a bolt on that we’re going to put on there simply because the banks won’t lend us money if we aren’t be nice to the poor.

 A very quick example of this is competition. We’re taught to compete in the marketplace. That’s incredibly wrong in my mind. I don’t have competition or opposition. I only have fraternity in business. I figured this out in the late 1980’s when I was living in Perth, western Australia. I had a motorcycle business. I was an Olympian when I was 17. I was in the special forces. I’m a very competitive creature. And I was competing with all of the other motorcycle businesses and I put all of the ones out of business who were in my sector. I did this until there was only one other one left standing. He was very competitive as well. So we competed and competed and we nearly put each other out of business. We nearly wiped each other out. Until we met one day. He had a wife and kids. His kids were awesome and I really enjoyed them. We met by accident and we rode motorbikes all day and all night on a big adventure rally and I thought, “Wow, this is a great guy!” And the next day at home I thought, “What am I doing? Why am I trying to kill these people (in business) that are actually really nice people? And it changed my whole demeanour. I went and spoke to him and said, “Hey! Why do we have to compete? Why don’t we grow a bigger market? We have a bigger responsibility than just putting each other out of business.”

 He didn’t trust me at first, but he said, “Ok, what are you proposing? I made a few suggestions and we worked together and we grew a massive market. And we all prospered and we all rose with the tide. We changed the culture and we deliberately set in a strategy to change the community. Nobody was plundered or driven into poverty. And that’s how corporates should behave.

3. I know that you are a believer. You’re a committed follower of Jesus Christ. What particular Scripture inspires you?

Being very interested in Biblical economics, obviously the book of Ruth really inspired me. There are two themes there: that Ruth was a very faithful lady and she converted from a Moabite to become a Jew. But that actually isn’t the theme of the book. The theme of the book is how Boaz created a very prosperous community in the region of Bethlehem during the time of an international famine in 1300 B.C. that collapsed a lot of other cultures. The famine actually went on a long time.

They prospered because of Boaz’s economic modelling. Boaz, during that time of famine, allowed people to glean off of his enterprise. Not just enough so that they could eat, but he left them excess to take home. That was their “seed capital” so that they could create more enterprise and trade amongst each other and trade with Boaz. It’s no good if he’s the only guy standing. And in that process, the place began to prosper because he created people of means through his enterprise and human enterprise creates wealth. That particular Scripture and that particular model was what inspired me to be where we are.

4. Dave, you talk about it being important to help people realise their dreams. What does that mean to you in a business context?

When we talk about corporate responsibility we’re taught to look after our employees even though we’re taught to drain the last drop of blood out of them so we can maximize profit. That’s rubbish. We should be teaching them (entrepreneurs and business people) to look after everybody. There are various ways of looking after your employees. They need to be paid really well in my opinion so that they prosper financially. They need good and safe, comfortable working conditions Those are the obvious ones that we focus on first. But, there are other areas that if we don’t address them, those people will not be holistically prospering. And I found out many years ago that if I work with the dreams of my employees, they become so loyal that they don’t want to leave because you’re focused on what they want to be in life.

If I go back to my old motorcycle business again, my employees were in the back room, and I knew they didn’t like me because I was a new immigrant into the country. I was paying them really, really well and they had the best working conditions, but they still weren’t satisfied. So I brought them into my office one by one and I asked them questions. And one of the questions that I asked them was ‘What do you want to be in life?’ These are all motorcycle mechanics and apprentices. And I asked them, “What are your dreams?” My mindset was that they needed to corporate climb out of the workshop. But that wasn’t what they wanted. Their identity was that they were mechanics and they were really good mechanics. Instead, every one of them said the same thing. They wanted to have the fastest racing bike in the state of western Australia because there was a very competitive racetrack up in the state of Wanaroom. That would make them happy. And I began to realize that if they did that, they would reach the pinnacle of their careers because that was who they were. So, I went and imported the fastest bike ever made in Italy because we had Italian motorbikes. And I got them to work on it to make it light and fast. I put up all the budgeting for it and we hired an A grade rider. Within 18 months they were winning against Japanese bikes on the racetrack. And they then developed a cult following. People would come into the shop just for their autograph. And their dreams were fulfilled. They were heroes in their world and that’s what they wanted. And it applies in marriage and it applies everywhere.

5. You have a big vision at KI. Tell us how you’re walking it out now and changing the culture of business globally.

I said earlier that we needed to start a large ministry to create a movement for change. KI came out of that. We grew KI to teach Christian and secular business people, actually anyone who will listen, to teach them these principles that we’ve quickly described here.

We knew that we had to actually create a strategy for change. This was not new. We understand the concept of sheep nations and goat nations. A sheep nation is one that’s eliminated social distress. But it’s absolutely pointless to eliminate social distress if you don’t eliminate the cause, and that is greed and self-centredness in the marketplace. We needed to figure out a way to turn off the tap from which all of this social distress flows. We therefore decided to build this massive movement through which we would teach people how to switch off the tap and change the culture that drives their businesses and that will help people to both switch off the tap and mop up the water. And then we realised that we needed to prove it so that people will do what we want them to do. What we’re doing right now is we’ve designed a course to teach people to actually do what we’re doing. We’re actually launching one of the most ambitious strategies for cultural change in the marketplace in modern history.

It’s a large scale roll out of KI chapters where we offer the course, “Trading God’s Way”, to change our members thinking and their whole business culture into one that gives the massive growth that we’ve experienced ourselves. I’ve got a 1.2 billion dollar company which I actually built. But I’m just an ordinary guy with no qualifications. If I can do it, anyone can do it.

As people pass the course we issue them and ‘All Shall Prosper’ number (ASPN). That number goes onto a worldwide register of ethical traders. And we promote that register. We’ve allocated millions of dollars of revenue to promote that register so that the general public right around the world actually get to hear about that register. When they have goods or services to offer, or when they need them, they go first to that register because they know that this person/business will look after their interests in the way that they have been trained. With that in mind, we can monitor and manage the performance of each of those ASP holders because we can see the feedback and the revue they’re getting from their customers. If anyone’s getting consistently negative revues, we can contact them and retrain them, strike them off the list if we have to if they won’t change. That way we keep the list pure and we keep the vision on track. As more and more ASPN’s businesses can reach tipping points for change in their communities. We know this from experience. It’s not theory. As more and more communities change, their cities will change and eventually their nations. That’s a big project. And we also know that, even though it’s a big project, it’s entirely doable. It’s not wishful thinking.

We know that to reach a tipping point with business people you only need to reach 6% of the community. We also know that in most countries, over 90% of all businesses is small to medium enterprise. Many of these are owned by just one person. Therefore, we need to reach the SME’s because they control the culture of the marketplace and the well-being of the cities of the marketplace. So we only need to change just 6% of them.

In our third biggest city just down the road, Brisbane, it has a population of 2.5 million people. It has 196,000 SME’s. We only need to reach 11,700 of those people to change the 196,000 which in turn changes the 2.5 million. so, reaching these tipping points is not a difficult thing and we’re doing it all the time.

That’s the whole essence of switching off the tap purely by changing the culture that drives business. Then we get the chapters. Within each chapter it’s going to be different because they all live in different geographies with different social issues. But we work with them to then take on social initiatives. And collectively they get all of the stakeholders together in their community, the leaders, the police the council members, etc. to fix issue after issue. And we’ve done that as well and it works. Effectively, we’re bringing the Kingdom of God onto the earth by changing the culture that drives it all. Obviously we would love to have everybody worshipping the one true God, but that comes in time. We’re not going to go out and get everybody born again on day 1. And that wouldn’t change culture on day 1, even if we did. We’ve got to change culture. It’s a practical thing that we’re doing. And that’s KI’s role that we’re rolling out around the world right now.

Kingdom Investors and the future in the Netherlands and Europe

Arleen Westerhof: That’s excellent Dave. I say often, “It’s no longer time for good ideas, or even good ideas that work. The world needs good ideas that work AND that are implemented. What I love about this strategy is that it is actionable.

The Economic Summit stands behind KI and fully endorses it. We will be teaming up with Dutch business people to see KI chapters started in the Netherlands, starting this September 2020. If you’re from the Netherlands you can contact us. If you’re from another country in the world then you can go to the Ki website: .

It’s about changing the culture from greed and self-centredness to one of caring, sharing and prosperity for all. Micah 6:8.