MT 21 Gospel-Driven Business: Cardone Industries

Michael Cardone III

Ministry Today commends a different group of kingdom-minded people or organizations each year in our MT21 issue. In 2014, when we launched MT21, we honored churches and ministries that were influencing the 21st-century church.

In 2015, we highlighted 21 congregations that were "culturally diverse on purpose." This year, however, we're taking a different approach and naming 21 businesses whose leaders are a witness for Christ in some way through their professional platforms. From cupcake makers to insurance agency owners to roofers, we have covered a wide range of businesses in this year's MT21 feature.

Today, we are highlighting Cardone Industries

After working for the founder of Cardone Industries and his son, longtime employee Therlowe Paulin calls it a joy to see third-generation leader Michael Cardone III carrying on his family's faith tradition.

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"He recognizes we're not serving him, but he's serving us," says Paulin, a former operations manager at Cardone's Philadelphia headquarters and now the director of chaplaincy services at the company. "He knows that somebody is going through something, and by God's grace, we have the ability to help that person. That's normal here—for the owner to take an interest in the lives of his people."

An automotive parts remanufacturer, Cardone Industries was founded some 46 years ago by Michael Cardone Sr. He raised his family in the Assemblies of God, a family tradition passed down to his grandson.

The company includes servant leadership in its statement of core values. Living that out includes such touches as maintaining an emergency assistance program for employees and tithing from company profits through the Cardone Foundation.

The latter enables employees to direct a portion of those gifts to a favorite charitable cause such as Christian schools, prison ministries and United Way. However, the linchpin of its outreach to employees—whom the company calls "factory family members"—is its chaplaincy department. In addition to Paulin, that includes nine full-time chaplains based in Philadelphia, Dallas and Matamoros, Mexico.

Instead of missing work to tend to personal problems ranging from a mortgage foreclosure to a pending divorce, employees bring their concerns to the chaplains. These workplace pastors, who also conduct weekly pre-work worship services, help run interference with various institutions and government agencies. As a result, the Cardone plants have a 1.6 percent rate of unplanned absenteeism, compared to a national average of 9 percent.

"I worked under Michael Sr., Junior and now Michael III," Paulin says. "One thing Michael Sr. recognized years ago is that people are not robots; they're human. If they're going through a divorce, they bring that to work."

Indeed, helping those who work for him is the essence of Michael III's ministry.

"My outreach is my factories," says the executive chairman, whose company also has operations in Harlingen, Texas; Los Angeles; and Canada. "That's my congregation.

"The people who walk in my door? While on the professional side there are probably a lot of believers, in my factories, there are probably not a lot of believers. But they know walking in the door we're going to be overt about our faith. It's going to be in our corporate publications and (expressed in) other ways."

Maintaining an outspoken stance about one's Christianity can stir controversy in modern-day America. Yet through the years, Michael III has discovered that his company's standing as an industry leader automatically opens doors to talk about his faith.

In addition, he has prayed with a number of customers whose tough exteriors and colorful language made them some of the last people he expected would ask for intercession. The bottom line is they know when serious problems strike and they're in pain, they can call him for support, Michael III says.

"It's a good opportunity to affect lives," says Michael III, who, like his father, is a graduate of Oral Roberts University. "I knew guys and gals in the industry who have foul mouths like sailors all the time, and as soon as they get around me, they clean up their language."

But that kind of profile demands Michael III keep an awareness of his own actions and consider ways to show the love of Christ. He wonders how believers can go about acting out of anger or moping over their problems and then expect to witness to someone else.

This kind of stance also requires an attitude of excellence. Michael III realizes that many Christians work in an atmosphere hostile to faith, which means they will have to go "above and beyond" to do their best and be the most positive person in the room.

"Show you're really good, and opportunities will always present themselves," he says—like they have with Michael Cardone III.

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