Feedback

Bonnie Wurzbacher: Bringing Meaning to Work

wurzbacher-lgBonnie Wurzbacher is senior vice president, Global Customer Leadership, at The Coca-Cola Company, where she leads the global business of a $1.5 billion portfolio of retail customers, reporting to the company’s chief customer and commercial officer. Her global customer team is responsible for accelerating the profitable growth of the company’s beverage business with their largest retail customers around the world, working in partnership with their franchised bottlers.

During her 25-year tenure at the company, Wurzbacher has held various sales, marketing, and management positions of increasing responsibility including corporate vice president and director, customer strategy; region vice president, Southeast Area; vice president, McDonald’s Account; and assistant vice president, Education Market. She joined The Coca-Cola Company in 1984 in Chicago as a national account executive with the Minute Maid division. Wurzbacher also serves on the company’s global advisory councils for customer and commercial leadership, women’s leadership, and corporate social responsibility. She is an accomplished public speaker, known for her passion and advocacy for the critical role of successful, ethical, and sustainable business around the world.

Wurzbacher graduated from Wheaton College (Wheaton, Illinois) with a B.A. in education in 1977 and received her M.B.A. in general management from Emory University, Atlanta, Georgia, in 1990. She has served on several local and national boards including Gordon Foodservice Inc., the March of Dimes, the Network of Executive Women, the National Kidney Foundation, the Wheaton College board of visitors, and Theatrical Outfit. She currently serves as chairperson of The Georgia Foundation of Independent Colleges and as a board member of The Leaders Lyceum and the international committee of the National Association of Convenience Stores.

◊ ◊ ◊ ◊ ◊

This Conversation took place in Seattle on April 30, 2009. Participating were Bonnie Wurzbacher, Denise Daniels (Professor, School of Business and Economics, Seattle Pacific University), and Al Erisman (Ethix executive editor and executive in residence, School of Business and Economics, Seattle Pacific University).

Global Business

Ethix: Your title is senior vice-president, Global Customer Leadership. Will you tell us what that means?

Bonnie Wurzbacher: Global Customer Leadership encompasses the responsibility for calling on our 20 largest global retailers. Half are based in the U.S. and half are based in Europe, but they do business with us all around the world. I am responsible for most of those that are based in the U.S. I also have a team of people who support growth initiatives in areas such as shopper marketing, supply chain, sustainability, customer marketing, and category management. They support long-term growth initiatives with those customers. They are also what I call the voice of the customer back to our global marketing colleagues.

While we are a global enterprise, we actually do business on a very local basis in more than 200 countries through 300 bottlers.

So, my team represents the needs of our retailers in areas such as innovation or in new equipment development. Retailers include everything from grocery and convenience stores to large restaurants to large food-service caterers. In addition to representing the needs of our customer base to our global marketing people, we also represent the Coca-Cola system and work on accelerating our growth back to those customers on a global basis. I say the Coca-Cola system because many people don’t realize that we are a franchise business. So, while we are a global enterprise, we actually do business on a very local basis in more than 200 countries through 300 bottlers.

Are all of your bottlers locally owned?

They are not all locally owned, but they are all located in the countries that they serve. We own 20 percent of our bottlers outright. We have a nonmajority equity stake in another 50 percent, owning somewhere between 30 percent and 49 percent of them and the others are completely independent. Some are very small, and some are very large publically held companies on their own such as Coca-Cola Amatil, or Coca-Cola Enterprises here in the U.S. It’s a relatively simple product that we sell through a complex, multilocal group of businesses. Our job is to simplify that for our retailers.

Don’t take this question wrong, but let me overstate something in order for you to respond to it. Coca-Cola products are a commodity, in a sense, and I thought all commodities were purchased on reverse auctions. You don’t even need to meet anyone, customers just place orders.

Understanding local tastes and being able to sell and deliver those brands and packages in a way that meets local needs is why we have 3000 packages.

Coca-Cola is anything but a commodity. It’s the world’s number-one brand and a brand is never a commodity. A commodity would be something that you could buy in the open market, at market priced rates and ship around the world. What we do is build brands and distribute them through arguably the world’s most effective and most widespread manufacturing and distribution system. So not only can you not buy it on a commodity market, you can’t ship it as a commodity either. We have franchised territories and the products are actually made in the countries where they sell. We make our money selling the concentrate that is the basic ingredient for that product, and we build the brands. Our bottlers add the water and the sweetner and the packaging, sell it, distribute it, and provide the equipment and 80 percent of the capital involved in selling it. We make nearly 500 brands in 3,000 packages that are delivered, with a few exceptions, on a direct store delivery basis to millions of outlets around the world.

Your website has a very long list of products, which is really impressive, but it also means it is fairly complicated for a global company. Let’s take McDonald’s, for example. When they buy products from you, they are really buying products from lots of different companies. So, your job is to help them sort this out?

We have a separate team for McDonald’s, and it is not one of the customers that I am responsible for. But it is a good example of how we call on global customers. We call on their global headquarters and work with them on business and growth plans. Our job is to make sure we are servicing them well everywhere, solving problems where we can, working with them on growth opportunities to build their beverage growth, including marketing programs, and developing or co-developing equipment with them. Often if our bottlers’ local people change, we work to help the new people understand and the customer’s global needs what they need to know in order to serve them well.

That’s a pretty complex interconnection between the companies.

Yes it is. Our sales people tend to be employed by bottlers, and our bottlers are responsible for a specific geographic territory. So the reason we call it “Global Customer Leadership” is because we lead on behalf of our franchise system. While the company’s day-to-day responsibilities tend to be around marketing and brand building, at the end of the day, we have to ensure the success of our global enterprise, the success of our bottling partners, and ultimately the success of our customers.

Global vs. Local

What are some of the advantages of having a hybrid model where you have responsibility all over the world, but you’ve got these local constituents that are responsible for their own businesses?

It’s a huge advantage. Across our company and our bottling partners, we have over a million employees. We indirectly create many more millions of jobs. Our local employees and our local offices are in a great position to understand the local needs, what people are buying, and tastes and traditions of the market place. They are also in a great position to figure out the best route to market. In Africa for example, we have a route-to-market that we call “Manual Distribution Routes,” where salespeople are given a small territory and, because there is little infrastructure, they use manual means of distribution (e.g., bicycles, push carts, wheel barrows) and literally hand-deliver products to people in their neighborhoods. In Mexico, 30 percent of our business is done through a channel that we call “Sale From Home” where, there is a home in the neighborhood that has a little convenience store in its garage, which services the neighborhood. You can’t do that in Atlanta!

If we don’t have people there [in another country], it’s easy to think that everything is like it is here.

The fact that there is this local infrastructure is partly why we have nearly 500 brands – they are not all global brands. Our portfolio includes Coca-Cola and 12 other billion-dollar (USD) brands right now, most of which are global, but the rest of the brands tend to be local. Understanding local tastes and being able to sell and deliver those brands and packages in a way that meets local needs is why we have 3,000 packages. If you have ever gone to another country and found a Coca-Cola product in a tiny little can or in returnable glass, it’s because they are meeting the local needs and tastes and affordability measures of that market. That’s why the local part is so important.

The global part is important because it gives us global scale. Not in all cases — it doesn’t give us global scale in manufacturing because we manufacture locally. But in our brand-building and purchasing efforts it does. So we focus on the things that give us scale globally and keep most other things local.

Are there cultural challenges that have surprised you?

Oh, sure! There are all kinds of cultural challenges. There are a lot of big global trends going on right now: Big growth of the middle class, urbanization, aging populations, and so on, but these trends play out very differently in every market. If we don’t have people there, it’s easy to think that everything is like it is here.

Sustainable Business

You’ve written about the culture that Coke has for corporate citizenship, and their ideal of being a good corporate citizen in several different realms, whether that’s in the marketplace or the workplace or the environment, or in the community. Is it possible for a business to be a good citizen if it’s not making money?

No. Because it won’t survive.

In today’s economic context, we have a lot of businesses that are currently not making money. That may or may not have implications for long-term sustainability.

Oh, it will definitely have implications. Businesses exist to create economic value and they won’t survive for long if they don’t.

Coke’s Sustainability Strategy

Does The Coca-Cola Company think explicitly about this issue of sustainability in its business plan?

Absolutely, it’s one of our core strategic platforms. Internally the name for our sustainability strategy is “Live Positively.” We focus on four quadrants: the marketplace, the workplace, the community, and the environment. And we have very specific philosophies and initiatives around each. So in the marketplace, our strategy is to make sure that, economically, our business is sustainable: that we are continuing to make products that people want and need, that we are addressing the opportunities to expand into other areas of health and wellness, and that we are clear on the beverage benefits and that we keep up with what’s needed — that we don’t just rest on our laurels.

The workplace strategy is about being a great place to work for everyone. We want to ensure that our workplaces are safe, particularly in our plants and with our trucks (our system has the largest truck fleet in the world, by the way);that workplace rights are upheld, that equal opportunity exits, and that our bottlers are complying with all of those things it takes to do business in 200 countries.

The Coca-Cola Company does give to the community, and it tries to do it in a way that can really make a difference. A business can only be as sustainable as the communities it serves.

As I said, we gave about $100 million dollars in community projects last year. Many of these projects are local and focus on education, disaster relief, and on poverty alleviation. Our system employees also spend countless hours volunteering in their local workplaces — and the company encourages them to do so.

And through jobs directly.

Yes. So, the marketplace and workplace are closely tied together here.

It’s not just about giving back, but we certainly recognize that our business is only as strong and sustainable as the communities in which we operate. One could argue that having a sustainable business model that creates jobs and generates the salaries, revenues, and taxes for society is all business really needs to do.

Milton Friedman would agree with that.

And I would agree that is the first thing. But the ability to give back to the community over and above that is really the frosting on the cake. Our company’s goal is to do that, the employees want to do that, but, a sustainable business model is required before a business can do any of that.

Yes, you could say it is really not a business’s role to give away the profits that it doesn’t need to reinvest in its operation. But The Coca-Cola Company does give to the community, and it tries to do it in a way that can really make a difference. A business can only be as sustainable as the communities it serves. This is a really good bridge to the fourth pillar, which is the environment. If we don’t have access to abundant and clean water, we can’t make our products. We have a significant partnership — millions of dollars — with The World Wildlife Fund to clean up seven major water river systems in the world, from the Amazon to the Mekong. We are also committed to that as well as to be “water neutral” in all of our operations.

We generate a package that is highly recyclable and returnable. In order for this to work, we help support the consumer habit of recycling and, at times, the infrastructure that allows for more of it. Our packages can be recycled either into other products — we recycle them back into bottles — or the material from the packaging can be used to make all kinds of things: clothing, mosquito netting, all kinds of things with PET. We focus on recycling as well as reducing and reusing packaging, because it very much relates to our products.

Of course, we, like most other companies, care a lot about the climate. The part of our system that generates the most carbon emissions are coolers. Some of those coolers are provided by our bottlers and some are owned by retailers that sell our products. We work to reduce carbon emissions from coolers, and we are making good progress on that too.

Long Term vs. Short Term

How do you maintain a long-term view when analysts are pressuring you for short-term results?

I would say that last point is a big barrier. Sustainability by its very definition is long term. I’ve heard all kinds of crazy definitions of sustainability like “doing more with less.” That’s productivity not sustainability. Sustainability by its very nature — take it out of the business context for a minute and use it for your health, your exercise routines, your family — it means long-term survival and health. So it can’t be short term. Many people are misusing the word because it’s a hot topic right now. But sustainability means the long-term ongoing viability of an enterprise in a healthy way. While there are some good things that the stock market does, one of the downsides is that it rewards short-term gains and doesn’t always reward long-term sustainability. I think that’s probably why some companies choose to not go public right now. Publicly held companies have to find ways to keep the long-term perspective.

One of the things Coke started to do is not set short-term targets, only long-term profit targets. We don’t set quarterly targets, we don’t give quarterly guidance anymore. We always say what our long-term growth targets are; that’s one way of getting out of making short-term decisions that you know aren’t good for the long-term health of the business. I think companies need to look at how they are rewarding their employees, and balance short- and long-term. You have to balance volume and revenue. You have to balance immediate survival with sustainable survival. I don’t think there is an easy answer to that. It is a particular challenge with a publicly held company that spends a lot of resources trying to make sure that that balance is there. And I think boards specifically need to be held accountable for ensuring that long-term health, and speaking up more and being proactive in that regard.

Ethics in Business

How do you deal with bribery and corruption as you do business in certain parts of the world where that is the norm?

Our company has a very, strict code of conduct and it requires all employees to be accountable for it. It clearly guides the ethical practices of our business that we require in every market. You can’t cover every single possibility, but it is very straightforward, and the company takes, very seriously, the consequences of people who don’t follow it, because it jeopardizes the health of the business. We assign what we call a “local ethics officer” to every department in every country to answer personal questions about it. We also have an 1-800-ethics line to call with question about an issue you may face. When in doubt, always ask — that is the culture that Coke has built.

I think of ethics as being more than not doing bad, because ethics is about doing good. How do you go further than “not doing bad” toward creating a healthy culture?

Well, that’s a good question. The main thing we have done is we have very clearly articulated our values, and we reinforce them consistently. Our values are leadership, collaboration, integrity, accountability, quality, passion, and innovation. And we try to highlight stories on the Internet of people who are living out those values. We go out to 2020 in terms of what we are trying to accomplish. Our mission as a company is “to refresh people all over the world in body, mind, and in spirit, to inspire moments of optimism and happiness, and to create value and make a difference everywhere we engage.” Not just to sell soft drinks and make profit. Of course that is the first thing we have to do, but from the mission to the positive modeling of our values, I would say that our company has done a great job of inspiring people to make a difference in their communities.

Impact of Social Networking

How do Twitter, Facebook, and other new social networking technologies affect marketing for a large company like Coca-Cola?

In a big way. In some ways negatively and in some ways positively. First, negative ways: There are all kinds of rumors out there, things that aren’t fact-based, that someone has just started to blog . We’ve had to figure out how to deal with getting the facts out there. We have also helped our own employees to understand the facts so that they feel confident about the company’s behavior, actions, the ingredients in our products, and things like that.

On the positive side, it’s an unbelievably effective marketing vehicle —so much more effective than TV is these days. We actually have a head of social media at the company and this person’s job is to ensure that we are really leveraging and using the grassroots viral marketing that occurs through the use of those technologies. We are trying to use it effectively not only to share accurate information, but also to reach consumers in a way that we couldn’t by more traditional methods.

Developing Women in Leadership

Do you have a particular role at Coke with women executives?

I do. About two years ago, our chairman and CEO created a Global Women’s Leadership Council of 15 senior women at the company. We are charged with helping him and his direct reports to develop, advance, and retain women in leadership, particularly in operating roles; those that own the P&Ls in markets or in parts of our business that do. This is where we’ve had the hardest time. We are starting to make some real progress. Personally, I have mentored a lot of people and speak to just about anybody who would like to hear what I have to say on this subject. But this council has given us a real platform to be able to make a difference in our company. I’ve served on the board of a couple of different women’s groups, but right now I am most excited about what I am doing within my own company.

What are some examples of progress that you have made at Coca-Cola?

Our ultimate progress will be when the percentages of women at the top of the organization are equal to the percentages of women at the bottom of the organization. We track that and update it quarterly, and hold people accountable. While we are definitely making some progress, it is not consistent. It’s easier to make progress in some parts of the world than others.

The second thing our council has done is to align each of us with functional heads and presidents of our groups around the world to help them put some teeth into what they’re going to do in their part of the world. We rotate where we have our meetings so we can get deeper into what all parts of the world are doing. The company has established what we call People Development Forums. A lot of it is partnering with HR to make sure that the people-talent processes in place have a specific women’s lens to it, so that when we are talking about succession planning or about our high-potential employees that we are making a concerted effort to make sure that we have representative numbers of women in that group. And if not, why not? We have established a very intentional mentoring program with all of our high-potential women and the senior management in the part of the world where they work in order to start connecting them better. We ensure that our interview slates for key roles are diverse, not only in gender and in race, but also in other ways as well. We’ve recently implemented flexible work arrangements in the U.S. And in many other countries around the world we are starting to see allowance for a wider range of flexibility in when and how people work.

The things we are doing are not just benefiting women, but benefiting all employees; the men really like the flexible benefits too. Since all of the new technology calls for more flexibility at work it is important to keep balance on the personal side as well. It’s more about effectiveness than it is about balance. Everybody benefits by more talent development and succession planning focus. Everybody benefits by mentoring. Ultimately, the things we are doing to help advance women are going to be good for advancing better talent development and focus for all.

Creating Meaning at Work

You have said how proud you are of your product, and yet there are lot of people who make jokes about your product — that it’s just sugar water. But you see something more important in it. Can you say a little about that?

Well, I am very proud of the product, but first and foremost I’m proud to work with The Coca-Cola Company, and I’m proud of the Coca-Cola system — the business system.

Some people will say, “Oh, I love to work for my company because I love the brand or I love the product or service.” The thing I love most about what I do is the sense of meaning I get from understanding the important role the company plays in the world. And I think having a sense of greater meaning at work is what many people are after.

We have been talking about how The Coca-Cola Company and its bottlers do business around the world and how the company creates jobs, including the salaries, taxes, and wealth that advance the economic well-being of people in communities in 200 countries all around the world. Eighty percent of our business is done outside the U.S. and has been that way for many years. We do business in the most remote tiny communities all around the world, primarily through family-owned businesses. So, the wealth that our products create for families and communities around the world advances their economic well being and that is the first thing that I love about our business. We are creating local businesses. From my perspective, the biggest role of business is to advance the economic well being of communities around the world and I think the Coca-Cola system does that exceptionally well.

Now, you asked about the product. The first thing is that no company survives without products and services that people need and want. If you don’t have that, you have nothing. So, nothing works long term without a basic value proposition that is needed or wanted in the world, and I think that’s where we have seen some of the major problems. One is when there is an ethical problem; two is when the basic fundamental need or desire for that product or service goes away

So, yes, products and services are very important, because if they are not needed and wanted business is not sustainable. As it relates to Coca-Cola, it is a wonderful brand and a great tasting, refreshing beverage that people have enjoyed for more than 123 years.

If you look at the alternatives to it around the world, you begin to see its value more clearly. One of the first things you see when people begin to move out of poverty into the middle class is a desire for more convenient products. They finally have enough wealth to be able to change their life from being focused just on their own sustainability — for example, spending their time living from hand to mouth — to actually being able to do something else with their life and often to start or work for businesses. That’s what going on with all this micro-lending around the world. People — predominantly women — who want to pull their children out of poverty, are taking these loans and starting small businesses.

Among our biggest public commitments is clean water in underserved communities around the world, and water conservation in developed countries. That’s because the majority of our products are predominantly water. Our commitment is to use it responsibly and to return it in better condition than we found it. One of the things we do, as part of that commitment, is to build wells and give access to clean water in communities all around the world. The fascinating thing is that in many of these communities in remote rural locations in emerging parts of the world women who were spending five to six hours per day going for water now have time on their hands. Some of them start businesses in order to help create wealth, to pull their families out of poverty.

Our product plays an important role in refreshing people in a simple and easy way. We have all kinds of products from juice to water. We are not only the No 1 sparkling drink provider in the world, we are No. 1 in coffees and teas, we are the No. 1 juice manufacturer in the world, and we are the No 3 water provider. We make all kinds of beverages. So, I’m proud of the product, yes, and I am proud of the impact that our business system has on the world because I think it is an ethical, sustainable, global model that plays the role business is supposed to play in the world. That helps me to bring lots of meaning to what I do each day.

Employee Engagement

When talking about Coke’s workplace strategy, you emphasized the ways that you focus on keeping people safe and making sure the rules are being followed. You were just talking about your own personal purpose in work and how that is important to you and how you view what Coke does in a very meaningful way. Is that notion of purpose and meaning at work something that Coke as a company tries to develop with its employees?

The company believes that employees need to be highly engaged. Every other year, we take a global employee-engagement survey which measures engagement of the heart, the mind, and the hands. We recognize that unless people can bring all of who they are to the workplace and be excited and valued and appreciated for the work that they do, they are not going to be the kind of employees we want over the long term. Managers are held accountable to their employee-engagement scores and there is a lot of work associated with this.

Personal Influences

Who has influenced your own thinking?

Lots of people. First and foremost would be the ministers at our church. We’re very blessed to go to a fantastic church, Peachtree Presbyterian Church. Dr. Vic Pentz is our senior minister and has made a serious commitment to “missional theology” at our church. This means that the purpose of the church is to equip us to make a difference in the world where we live and work. We call it “My95” because it focuses us on the 95 percent of our time that we’re not in church!

Dr. Frank Harrington, who was our former pastor, was the one who presented this concept that you don’t get meaning from your work, you bring meaning to your work. With the exception of unethical work, you can to learn to bring meaning to what you do. If you can’t, you need to find a place of work where you can. The ultimate story about this is the story of the three stone masons. They were asked, “What are you doing?” and the first one said, “I’m earning my daily bread.” The second one said, “I am building a wall.” The third one said, “I’m building a great cathedral.” So for one, it was just a job and for the other it was just a wall, but the third was able to bring a sense of meaning to what he did. To what is typically considered a very menial task. If you can bring meaning to bricklaying, you can bring meaning to all sorts of things.

The second influence on my thinking would be through a lot of good authors. The very first book that I read on the subject was Michael Novak’s Business as a Calling. Our previous CEO at Coke, Roberto Goizueta, was often seen carrying this book and was deeply influenced by him. Goizueta was very articulate on this topic. In The Coca-Cola Company’s 1994 or 1995 Annual Report, Goizueta published his perspective on the role of business in the world. Let me read it to you:

“We live in a democratic capitalist society and here people create specific institutions to help meet specific needs. Governments are created to help meet civic needs. Philanthropies are created to help meet social needs. Churches are created to help meet spiritual needs and companies are created to help meet economic needs. Business distributes the lifeblood that flows through our economic system, not only in the form of goods and services, but also in the form of taxes, salaries, and philanthropy. While a healthy company can have a positive and seemingly infinite impact on others, a sick company is a drag on the social order of things. It cannot serve customers. It cannot give to philanthropic causes, and it cannot contribute anything to society.”

I remember when I read it thinking, Wow! Mr. Goizueta actually has a lot more to say on the subject, but I use a thought from Michael Novak in my talks, too, and let me describe it rather quickly here. In Business as a Calling he writes:

“A business enterprise is primarily a community of people who in various ways are trying to provide for their basic needs and to serve the needs of others. The truth is that the creator made us to work in community and to cooperate freely with and for others. This creative community, business, is with the exception of Christianity, the greatest transforming power over the condition of the poor on earth. Business seeks out people of talent, initiative, and enterprise, who want to better their condition and that of others.”

It is also a hugely important role for government is to uphold the rule of law — to allow and encourage ethical business practices to exist.

Some other authors I’ve read that have really influenced me include Nancy Pearcey, who wrote Total Truth, and the book with Chuck Colson, How Now Shall We Live? John Beckett is another influential author, and there are a number of others.

Leadership Advice

What advice do you have for the next generation of leaders?

I try to share the lessons that I have learned in life. I particularly love to share with young people who are considering or should be considering going into business, with a particular passion for women. The reason is not only because I am one, but because there is a huge gap in leadership in most institutions — business, church, politics, almost everywhere — in terms of using their female talent. In this country, while 50 percent of the professional work force is female, 50 percent of the leadership is most definitely not female. Now why would that be? There are a whole series of reasons, but in large part, I think it is a talent-development failure. Being able to take the talent of the women working in our institutions and ensuring that they are encouraged and inspired to use their gifts in all walks of life and in leadership — this is something that is not reinforced in many cultures.

One of the first things I try to share is that people need to identify and recognize their calling. In other words, bringing meaning to what you do. I say a calling is a combination of your gifts and abilities, your interests and passions, and where you are led. I call it the “can do,” the “want to,” and the “led to,” and I think all three of those are important to figure out in your life. I also think any ethical sustainable work vocation is a way to serve. That is my only caveat, that it’s ethical and sustainable. So, that’s the first lesson I try to share.

Another lesson I try to share is the importance of choosing your life partner wisely and then making your marriage all it was intended to be. I went through two failed engagements and didn’t marry until I was 37. Fortunately I think I married the exact right person who is my soul mate and with whom I have been able to build a great partnership in my life. My husband has been hugely instrumental in my professional success, as well as my personal success. So, I think one of the most important life decisions you will make is who you marry and how you invest in your marriage relationship. You will probably spend more time with a spouse over the course of your life than you do in your job.

Work-Life Balance

Work is an important aspect of our lives but it is only one aspect of our lives. From a whole life perspective, how do you balance other activities? How do you think about rest?

Roughly 10 years ago I began reading quite a bit about how we can honor God in business. [Author] Nancy Pearcey introduced me to the idea that most of us divide the world into sacred or secular categories and this resonated with my experience; it put into words what I was feeling. Christian Overman argues that anything in life, from politics to religion to sex to sports to business can be sacred. This opened my eyes to the idea that the sacred-secular split not only applies to work, but also to all aspects of life. So when you think about it that way, that means looking at all parts of the world and understanding that every product and process in life can be honoring to God.

Golf would be an example. I have always enjoyed golf. My husband really loves it, and we enjoy that together. I used to feel a little bit of guilt from my pastor’s-daughter-Type-A-personality, wondering am I just wasting time here? But I have learned to glorify God in a number of ways through my golf. I love being outside in God’s creation. We do all of our golf walking with our bags on our back, so we get exercise. I love to play in beautiful places because that’s our way of appreciating the beauty of creation. My husband and I have used it to build a very strong marriage, because we play together. We walk together and talk about work together and solve problems together. We use it to relax and have fun together. We have built dozens of friendships by playing with other couples. We intentionally try to reach out to people we want to get to know better. We have established very close, great friendships through playing golf together. Do I think you could overdo it? Would I feel guilty if I woke up everyday and played golf everyday? I probably would. But I have learned to honor God through golf. If we understand how God made this world, we can embrace all of it — including golf or rest.

2 Responses to “Bonnie Wurzbacher: Bringing Meaning to Work”

Share Your Thoughts