Dueling Perspectives: Faith and the family business

By Barbara Spector

The family owners of A. Duda & Sons — a diversified enterprise based in Oviedo, Fla., with operations in farming, ranching and agricultural management, real estate development and commercial properties — share a strong Christian faith.

The Yoh family, owners of Day & Zimmermann — a Philadelphia-based company that offers services to the engineering, construction, maintenance, staffing and defense industries — are diverse in their beliefs. Yoh family members include those who follow several different Christian denominations as well as those who consider themselves more spiritual than religious or simply feel a connection to something larger than themselves.

We posed this question to Stacy Mello, who leads two business divisions at A. Duda & Sons and serves as family council chair, and Bill Yoh, who held a number of leadership roles at Day & Zimmermann and leads the Yoh family’s governance and succession efforts: How do your family and business address the issue of faith?

Stacy Mello, A. Duda & Sons:
“One of our strongest values is our Christian faith. It’s kind of the foundation to everything else. It’s what our legacy is based on.

“We pray at the opening of board meetings and at the opening of family meetings. We feel God is our go-to for guidance and leadership in our personal and professional lives.

“ ‘To grow Christian faith and business integrity’ is the first plank on our mission card. One of our core values is ‘faith in the Lord, who richly blesses us all.’ Employees are aware of that. When we have a companywide meeting, we open with prayer.

“[Christian faith] is maybe not shared by all of our employees, and it’s certainly not a requirement, but it is something that we see from our employees as well.

“It’s always been part of who the family is and who the company is. And I think the reason it’s still so strong for us today is just how strong of an example the founders set. That  formed so much of our culture as a business and influenced so much of what we try to do as a business.

“When you look at things at a micro level, we [the family] may not always agree on things, but when you zoom out and look at the macro, when you have that foundation of Christian faith, it does bring you together.”

Bill Yoh, Day & Zimmermann:
“We’re very proud of the diversity of our family, and we’re very proud of the priority that diversity and inclusion have in our family business. Both within the family and within the family business, diversity and inclusion are central to what we do.

“We want people as engaged as possible. We want to be able to attract, retain and engage employees and retain and engage family members as much as we can. We like to talk about people bringing their whole selves to a conversation, bringing their whole selves to work, bringing their whole selves to the family, and feeling safe to bring their whole selves and to share. So we intentionally keep faith out of those conversations, and we instead focus on core values.

“The values that we focus on and talk about are secular. They’re core values, not core faith. We think they have more of a universal appeal, where people can see how our family and how our company operates. It’s clear that we’re not ascribing to one doctrine, which may be at odds with another.

“A lot of this is around not just diversity and inclusion, but the whole idea of respect, and that applies within our family, as well. Because even though there aren’t a whole lot of us in the family, we represent a whole lot of different political spectrums and ideologies, and beliefs.”

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July/August 2020

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