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Red Mill founder keeps focus on God and on putting people before profits

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By JOHN FORTMEYER
CNNW publisher

PORTLAND — Bob Moore was halfway through his talk to 185 people at a May 13 dinner event when he realized that he needed to re-emphasize a point.

“This is 50 percent of what I’m talking about tonight,” he said. “Give a share of a company’s profits to each employee every month!”

He said doing that is not only scriptural, but it also is a key to why his famed 42-year-old Oregon business — Bob’s Red Mill — has been hugely successful despite major challenges, including a disastrous arson fire in 1988.

“Love thy neighbor as thyself,” said the energetic 85-year-old. “Do unto others as they would have them do to you, What could be simpler?”

For Moore, his giving attitude toward employees is a natural outgrowth of the Christian faith that has guided him and his wife, Charlee, over the years. It inspired the title of his book, People Before Profits. And it made headlines four years ago when Moore announced that he was giving the whole company to his workers using an employee stock ownership plan.

Since then, the company has only continued to grow. Today it has almost 400 employees and operates out of a 500,000-square foot facility in Milwaukie. Bob’s Red Mill bills itself as “the nation’s leading miller of diverse whole grain foods.” Its products now go to 80 other countries as well.

Moore told his story at the annual dinner for Nehemiah Project International Ministries, a Lake Oswego-based development organization that works in partnership with churches, businesses and other national organizations. It provides Bible-based entrepreneurship curriculum and support for small- to medium-size businesses worldwide. The dinner benefits the agency’s scholarship fund for students needing assistance.

Patrice Tsague, chief servant officer, and his wife, Gina, moved the organization to Portland four years ago from Washington, D.C.

“I have to say that it was simply a sovereign act of God,” said Tsague. “Four years later, Nehemiah Project has been better for it.”

Tsague said his agency has “a passion to use entrepreneurship as a tool to fulfill the Great Commission” to reach the world with the Gospel of Christ.

“We want to raise up Kingdom companies that can be ‘salt and light,’ ’’ said Tsague. The goal is to see businesses that don’t just make money, but also “make a difference,” such as Moore’s, he said.

“For companies like Bob’s, it’s more than just people, planning and profit, but also about eternity.”

With that in mind, Tsague’s organization honored Moore at the dinner with their Kingdom Business Award.

KPDQ radio talk host Georgene Rice, who served as hostess for the dinner event, described Moore as “a man of faith” with “a passion for health and for taking care of one another.”

Moore said not everyone has easily understood his approach to business. He said his accountant “thought he was crazy” years ago when the budget was far tighter and he said he wanted to give each employee a monthly profit share. During the first year of following that policy, there were only three months that the company could do it. But for the past 23 years, it has consistently done so — changing his accountant’s attitude.

“I made a Christian out of that guy,” Moore quipped.

Moore also gives a great deal of credit for his success to his company’s strong focus on whole grains, which he said is emphasized in the opening chapter of Genesis.
“My wife and I have been Christians for a lot of years,” he said. “We turned to the Bible to find what we could do that we felt right about. Guess what? We found it in the first page of the Bible.”

Moore said whole grains work for him. “I’m 85 and not doing too bad,” he said. “I have more energy than I know what do do with.”

Retirement is a foreign concept to Moore, who still finds great fulfillment in coming to work each day: “Why don’t you work all your life, so that the older you get the more you enjoy it?”

“Business is a lot of fun,” he summarized.