Henry Ford, the great industrialist inventor of the automobile, once said that he looked for men who had an infinite capacity to not know what couldn’t be done. Daryle Doden, CEO of Ambassador Enterprises, is a personification of this ideal.
It was with certain expectations that the TwoTen team arrived in Fort Wayne, Indiana, at the corporate headquarters of Ambassador Enterprises. The successful investment management and consultant group specializes in corporate evaluation and restructuring for the purpose of reawakening organizational performance. Expectations of grandeur were exceeded as the team was ushered into the executive conference room through a lobby that boasted a vast library of volumes describing ways to succeed in business. First impressions were of successful leadership within an atmosphere of corporate excellence and a deep commitment to ethics and morality, but Daryle Doden shattered the pre-existing notions of the untouchable nature of successful corporate America.
The son of a small-town preacher, Daryle was raised to believe that biblical principles should permeate every aspect of life, both personal and professional. “I saw Christ lived out every day in my father,” said Daryle. “He was an incredible man of God who spent an hour or two every day in Bible reading and prayer. He didn’t require me to be like him; he modeled Christ and I wanted to model the same character that he did.” This early character development morphed into the distinctive business principles that created Ambassador Enterprises.
Originally believing that he was destined for the ministry, Daryle attended Moody Bible Institute and earned his degree in Sacred Music. He met and married his wife, graduated, and entered the ministry, but was miserable. After taking a personality assessment, he discovered that his left-brain operating system rebelled against relational-type careers and realized that the ministry was not where he was uniquely designed to serve. At 26, he resigned from his pastoral position and began seeking God’s will for the next chapter of his life.
"Once I resigned from the ministry, I had no job, no insurance, a third child on the way, no savings, and I was too young to be scared"Daryle Doden
“That was in 1973. I had two months of severance that ended in October. In November, we had our baby and had no money to pay the hospital bills.” Throughout this financial test, Daryle never doubted that God had a plan and would provide what was necessary for his growing family.
Rolling Up the Sleeves: Ambassador Steel
In the early 1970’s, restrictions were imposed upon the export of steel. This created a production crisis and raised the demand for steel bars within manufacturing plants across the country. At the same time, Darlye began taking odd jobs to provide for his wife and children. One odd job led to another, until he was called upon to give a quote for steel reinforcement bars for a successful businessman.
“A friend of mine knew someone in the steel business,” said Daryle. “After three phone calls, and probably just to get rid of us, he said that he had found five tons in Chicago. He said that if we could find it, he would buy it. Since we had no money for the phone calls, we went to a phone booth at a gas station and starting making calls. We sold all the steel. I made more money that day than I had made in a month!” One day of phone calls paid November’s bills. Once again, God had provided for the Doden family.
As is the nature of bills, the next month came along, and the family was again in need of money. Another call was made, and five more tons of steel were sold. Recognizing that Daryle had talent, the businessman offered him a partnership: Ambassador Steel was born. God had blessed Daryle’s endeavors and rewarded the faithful pursuit of provision for his family.
Blossoming from the initial five-ton sale to an impossible 650,000-ton sale per year, Ambassador Steel became the owner of 5-7% of the domestic market and was the largest independently owned company in the field. Humble beginnings begat fantastic opportunities for greatness, but the Doden family remained dedicated to the biblical principles instilled into the fabric of their legacy.
The Next Step: Ambassador Enterprises
A combination of the economic temperature of the late twentieth century and corporate restructuring led to a plan to transfer ownership of the company to another vendor. “I knew that if I ever had the opportunity to not be in operations, I knew I wanted to start a private investment firm,” said Daryle. “So, in 2000 we developed a plan to not only develop middle management, but also to develop senior management so that we could exit the company.”
This unprecedented concern for the temperature of the company created a workplace in which not only professional ventures are rewarded, but also character-driven personal training for future leaders is cultivated. Daryle and his business partner were not willing to simply sell Ambassador Steel, but committed themselves to work alongside the future senior managers to cultivate the same commitment to character and business ethics upon their transference of leadership over a five-year period.
Once this five-year plan was complete, Nucor Corporation purchased Ambassador Steel for approximately $185 million, freeing Daryle to pursue a dream while retaining the character-driven workplace environment in which Ambassador Steel gained its reputation.
In 2006, Daryle started Ambassador Enterprises as a private equity firm that exists as a philanthropic, for-profit, private investment firm. Specializing in active investments, the corporation looks for businesses to coach and counsel until they are fully engaged in the governance of the organization. “We look for eternal returns in both non-profit and profit organizations. We look for three things in either a for profit or non-profit organization: a sustainable model for future revenue or income, access and influence as investors, and the acknowledgement and addressing of systemic issues in innovative ways in collaboration with others.”
Ambassador Enterprises is looking to make an eternal impact. Not limiting themselves to Christian organizations, they look for entities that are willing to allow faith as part of their organizational structure, not trying to exclude faith, and willing to let people of faith exude salt and light within the corporate structure. “If Christians are empowered within that type of environment, it can have tremendous influence in the marketplace,” said Daryle.
Work-Clothed Faith: Faith in Business
Taught by a godly man, supported by a faithful wife, and molded by character-building financial struggles, Daryle personifies Proverbs 13:4:
"The soul of the sluggard craves and gets nothing, while the soul of the diligent is richly supplied."Proverbs 13:4
“In my teens, I developed a mindset I that wanted to be practical, to live out the Christian life in a practical manner, and to be able to explain to others what I was doing and how I was doing it. I wanted to integrate my faith into everything that I did every day. When I got to the marketplace that concept was exhilarating, and I enjoyed finding out how to live that practicality out in every situation.”
By allowing Christian principles to order his life, Daryle has developed a business model that has been successfully implemented in numerous companies across the country. Ambassador Enterprises seeks to partner with businesses, corporations, and organizations and instruct them in ways to better capture their unique workplace environment for a successful future of their product, ministry, and global presence. Ambassador Enterprises is able to successfully figure out what makes corporations tick through in-depth evaluations, corporate assessments, and financial planning.
Faith is practical. Life is complex. Daryle Doden has found the way to integrate practical Christian principles into a simple business ethic. His golden ticket to Bible-based practicality is to model Proverbs 11 within his company. God has blessed Daryle Doden financially throughout his business ventures, but more importantly, Daryle has developed an organization that focuses on relationships, character-building, and the furtherance of biblical ethics within the workplace environment.
"We are very intentional. We desire to be called into account to live out our faith in the marketplace. It’s what drove us. It’s what continues to drive us. What does faith look like with work clothes on?"Daryle Doden