Babson 2019 – Conger, Smith, Peets

THEME 1: Imprinting Identity of Founders

“Everybody on this team, on our staff knows where my direction comes from. Everybody on the team knows that at the end of day Jesus runs this company. They know that because I am transparent about it.”

(Co-Founder)

“Bringing faith into the workplace is core to The Startup Gang because it is core to the founders…a faith-based mission is inherently linked to who the co-founders are.” (Co-Founder)

“And since they were the first two employees, [faith] is built into the fabric of our company.” (Employee)

“I think both of us have a strong spiritual walk. And, like so I don’t know that we just said, hey, we’re setting out to build a faith-based business in any way. I think it’s just who we are authentically…Like it is what it is, and it’s kind of intertwined. I don’t see them as separate at all. So, there wasn’t an intentionality to say we want to build a faith-based business, but just because of the way we’re wired…it’s just kind of baked in there.” (Co-Founder)

“The co-founders practice what they preach and are welcoming to everyone and accepting everyone for who they are.” (Employee)

THEME 2: Creating an Identity Reservoir

“All of our competencies are based on our values, like humility and generosity and all that kind of stuff. Our co-founders would say all of those things were derived in faith or Scripture, but again, all of those things I just listed are like just good business values, you know? They are all secular.”

(Employee)

“Who’s to say what our identity is? All I’m doing is planting seeds.” (Co-Founder)

“We’ve been ruthless on the mission and the values, but then we let it play out, like the whole faith thing.” (Co-Founder)

“I see all five of [the competencies] as having a faith-basis and all five of them as being very entrepreneurial.” (Co-Founder)

“So it’s like okay, yeah, we adopted a family. We did this. You know we donate our profits. Those are like concrete things of doing, but whether you associate that with faith or not would be left up to you.” (Employee)

THEME 3: Offering an Optional Identity Choice

“I say that there are nuances of the faith thing at TSG, but it’s not like on our wall, you know, like listed in our values or anything like that. Obviously all the principles are, they are coming from some of the big Biblical principles. We’re just not necessarily calling it that. I think we have strived to leave a lot of space for people.”

(Co-Founder)

“We consider every team member to be a pioneer, granting each other the permission to forge ahead into a more innovative future.” (Co-Founder)

“You do not have to attend this meeting every week. In fact, you don’t have to attend at all if you don’t want to or don’t feel comfortable. There is no job requirement element of this at all. Simply, I’m inviting you into pray over what God is doing with our skills, talents and passion for TSG.” (Co-Founder)

“I’m still aligned to what we do as a company and what I think our ultimate mission is. If people choose to interpret that a certain way, that’s totally fine because I’ve chosen to interpret it a certain way.” (Employee)

THEME 4: Selecting Multiple Conceptualizations

“We never have talked about any sort of affiliation between The Startup Gang and faith, nor do I think that I work for a religious organization… I am still aligned to our values and [entrepreneurial] mission as a company, regardless of any sort of faith or religious sort of spin.”

(Employee)

“My home me is the same as my work me, where I didn’t feel the freedom to do that in past companies.” (Employee)

“The growth of The Startup Gang has been amazing and the co-founders will say like we couldn’t have done this, obviously, it is thanks to God, because there’s no way like we could have done this on our own. And I think like, great, that’s one interpretation. I also think like you guys have really smart people, like they are so equipped, they have put a ton of hard work into it and a lot of time. So my interpretation of that exact same statement would be like, yeah, absolutely if that’s the way that you believe or feel like there’s some greater power over you, great. I also think like this is a lot of hard work. My interpretation is you put a lot of positive energy out there and you know you’ve started on this journey.” (Employee)

THEME 5: Prioritizing Own Conceptualization

“You don’t pray, that’s fine. I’m going to. Sorry it offends you. Like you chew with your mouth open, I don’t. That offends me, okay, I’m going to get over it.”

(Employee)

“Would you hire someone that wasn’t a Christian? And I said, ‘Yeah, as long as they’re not haters. That’s fine. I’m not going to bring somebody in here that’s going to hate on us. Just like I wouldn’t hate on somebody who is gay or somebody who is Muslim. That’s their life, that’s not my place to judge. But, I’m not going to bring somebody in here who is going to be judgmental because it’s a violation of our values. If they live by our values, I don’t care what they believe. It’s not my place.” (Co-Founder)

“My beliefs outside of work are the same as my beliefs in work of like, okay, like you don’t pray, that’s fine. I’m going to. Sorry it offends you. Like you chew with your mouth open, I don’t. That offends me, okay, I’m going to get over it.” (Employee)

“I am conscious of like if everybody came, does that set a tone for like the one or two people that don’t? You know at this point there’s almost enough of a following on both sides — you know, like there’s enough people that don’t come and there’s enough people do come to where it doesn’t feel like exclusive.” (Co-Founder)

THEME 6: Perceiving Threats to Optional Identity

“I’ve been kind of like bracing myself for maybe the prayer meeting changes, maybe a co-founder’s not going to share any Scripture or going to stop talking about God.”

(Employee)

“Because it was optional when I started, that was before all this other stuff had gone down. And then, it ends up on Slack occasionally or at the Christmas party and like keep going and to pray and all that, and I then start to question and say, ‘Is it really optional?’”

(Employee)

“We were kind of like, if we’re going to take this like hard right into this [faith-based] belief system being like a bit more prominent and externally facing, then this is just different than the company we thought we joined.” (Employee)

“I’ve been kind of like bracing myself for maybe the prayer meeting changes, maybe a co-founder’s not going to share any Scripture or going to stop talking about God. And that to me feels like we’re like walking away from some of our values or like closing the door on it, and that just doesn’t feel right to me.” (Employee)

“I think that when you don’t have the opportunity to opt out is a little uncomfortable. So, at the Christmas party, for instance, that would be an opportunity where nobody in that room had the opportunity to opt out of that.” (Employee)

“Because it was optional when I started, that was before all this other stuff had gone down. And then, it ends up on Slack occasionally or at the Christmas party and like keep going and to pray and all that, and I then start to question and say, ‘Is it really optional?’” (Employee)

THEME 7: Mitigating Optional Identity Threats

“I have an informal role. I feel like people come and share things with me that they would like it to get to the co-founders, but they’re not comfortable going and sharing it with them”

(Employee)

“But it is kind of funny, I even took the MMPM off my calendar just so I don’t have to think about it each week.”

(Employee)

“I really appreciate that these are the virtues that TSG lays out. But I’m not going to tie it in the back my head to faith.” (Employee)

“It would have been cool to be able to vote on who the money went to because we know that’s not everyone — like I’m a religious person but I’m not overt. But, I also know there are some people that we work with that are not religious at all. And so I think – using my empathy muscles here, from their perspective it might have felt a little weird giving to a [Christian organization].” (Employee)

THEME 8: Restoring an Optional Identity Choice

“The prayer meeting used to be in the main room. Sometimes, it would break out and you could get caught in it whether or not you wanted to be. Now, it is always in the back room and that is good so people can choose.” (Employee)

“I didn’t teach directly out of the Bible this year. We did list things we were grateful for but it was not super overt. I did weave some things in there and if you were listening you knew where it was coming from and Jesus was part of our DNA. But, it wasn’t like, ‘Let me teach you all about Scripture.’” (Co-Founder)

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