Purveyor Of Business Wisdom

Purveyor Of Business Wisdom
Issue 10 // 2nd Quarter // 2015 Category:Business By: Mark Whitaker

One of the many ironies of the bible is the fact that King Solomon, with all of his infamous wisdom, wrote numerous proverbs on how to gain wisdom. The secret; seek the wisdom of others! Solomon knew that even HE didn’t know it all and sought the wisdom of others. Even today, professional athletes, who spend most of their lives training for their particular sport and get paid millions of dollars to be the best of the best, are still mentored and coached to improve their skills and knowledge.

Business Fundamentals

Phil Clements is a purveyor of wisdom in the world of business and is the Managing Director of Cathedral Consulting Group; wisdom is their business. Cathedral Consulting Group helps business owners identify areas of their business that need improvement and provide solutions to overcome them. Phil explains, “I spent the majority of my career working in large corporations, including Coopers and Lybrand, PricewaterhouseCoopers and Standard and Poor’s. At the large, corporate enterprise level, there are finance departments, human resource departments, marketing departments, real estate departments, etc. and all of the resources that go along with them. Small and mid-sized companies have the same technical needs but don’t have the same resources to address them.” 

Following God's Direction

A born-again believer since the age of seven, Phil has walked with the Lord practically his whole life. He has been married for 36 years and has three grown daughters and a grandchild. With such a deep-rooted spiritual foundation, it was only natural for Phil to incorporate his faith into his business.

Phil started his career in the fields of accounting and tax law after receiving a Master of Laws in Taxation from New York University Law School. His career was soaring when, in 2004, he was fired from Standard and Poor’s after a new president took over the company. While weighing his options and prayerfully considering the direction that God had in store for him, he started receiving calls from the owners of small companies seeking advice on various aspects of their businesses. Realizing that this was a legitimate need in the business community, he formed the Cathedral Consulting Group as a technical resource for businesses in need of advice and direction.

Oftentimes, it’s the business owners that must address financial issues, human resource issues, and all other aspects of running a business. It’s rare that a business owner is proficient in all of these fields. Trying to perform them all single-handily can actually be detrimental to the company.

The wise business owner seeks help in the areas where he or she lacks expertise. That’s where Cathedral Consulting Group comes in. They help to identify aspects of your business model that need help and provide solutions to rectify areas of weakness, allowing business owners to focus on what they do best. Phil said, “Business owners needed a way to get advice that was set up in a way that they could understand and implement. Advice that cannot be implemented is worthless.” 

The Cathedral Way

He and his team invested a lot of time developing a series of platforms that they refer to as “The Cathedral Way.” He said, “It allows our consultants to be very technical in their approach to a solution, very similar to the way a good CPA approaches an accounting project. We focus on areas of marketing, accounting, business structure, human resources, cash management, product mix, etc. We’ve designed training for our people so that they can be very technical in identifying issues and advising clients. After stepping back and looking at what we had developed, it was clear that what we had created was a new profession.”

The Cathedral Consulting Group went on to develop the Certified Small Enterprise Advisor program. It consists of a seven-year curriculum to train participants from entry level to partner. It is now available as a three-level professional development program available to the market at large.

“We describe ourselves as Christian-centric. Our practice is anchored in the principles that you’d find in the Christian faith. There is no policy that insists that our clients or staff have to be Christian. We welcome the opportunity to share the Truth with people who may have never heard it before.” Phil Clements

“We bring Christian theology and Christian passages into our discussions. There is great wisdom to be found in the Bible and we will bring up Proverbs or a parable that may be applicable to a situation to illustrate the fact that these principles are thousands of years old and still hold true today. We want to anchor ourselves in well-tested principles such as those found in the bible. In all the years that we’ve been in business, we’ve had very little push-back when bringing our faith into discussions.”

Just as the Bible says in Matthew 5:16, “In the same way, let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father who is in heaven.” Phil applies this principle to his business to always produce excellent work, saying “That’s just good business!” 

The Center

In addition to Cathedral Consulting, Phil is also Managing Director at the Center for Christian Business Ethics Today. The “Center” is a sister company to Cathedral Consulting Group and functions as a think-tank for what Cathedral helps clients apply every day.

In 2004, Jack Templeton of the Templeton Foundation, challenged Phil to read a book called Culture Matters: How Values Shape Human Progress, by Samuel P. Huntington. The book, based on Harvard studies showing global impact of the Protestant faith, presents the case that the Protestant faith affects the way that commerce is conducted and creates the highest flourishing economies among all the nations. Phil said, “I found the book very interesting and having run companies all over the world and sitting on the boards of large companies, we never talked about these things.” He enrolled at the Reformed Theological Seminary in Charlotte and obtained a Masters in Theology to increase his biblical knowledge and came to the same conclusion. The Bible holds a great deal of profound wisdom that is applicable and useful today, from our national economy down to the individual business owner.

Phil coordinated with the Westminster Theological Seminary and held a conference in 2010 on the impact that faith has on economies. There were a host of influential speakers and the concept was very well received, drawing 250-300 people; it was the launch pad for the Center. The Center helps to triangulate what the bible says about marketing, capital structure, and other aspects of a business organization in the context of the Ten Commandments. They then show how those principles connect and apply to what businesses do on a daily basis.

An accomplished author, Phil has written several books on business, as well as books about relating biblical principles and concepts to global and national economies. He is an Adjunct Professor at Rutgers University and has been a Distinguished Visiting Professor of Business at The King's College, New York City. He has also been a guest lecturer at Wheaton College, teaching real-world business and accounting principles. 

Leading With Love

Through his endeavors with Cathedral Consulting Group, Phil’s calling has been greater than to just offer sound business advice. He says, “We have adopted and incorporated a key principle: Love. Our job is to love our clients. I like to refer to the description of love found in 1 Corinthians 13. If God brings us a client, we will serve them in love. It’s a much different discourse than the normal business strategy of ‘What’s in it for me?’ or ‘What’s the profit margin?’ Our clients need encouragement to get back in the game tomorrow, to keep pressing on. The battle of business is weathering the storms and persevering through all of the daily hardships and challenges. Providing that encouragement is just as meaningful as the technical advice that we provide.

There isn’t a week that goes by where we don’t have a client in our office that is in tears over their business. It’s very emotional. They often come in with a sense of hopelessness and a sense of loss. Our consultants help them to see a way out and give them courage to keep going.” Phil Clements

For Phil Clements and the Cathedral Consulting Group, their mission is to build something greater than just the individual or just the paycheck. It’s about making an eternal impact.