How does one man with one dream result in 560 stores, 23,000 employees, and $3.8 billion per year in revenue? One answer: Simple Man, Simple Vision. With a large portion of all profits going to charity, David Green has encapsulated the American dream and turned it into a mission field. Open 66 hours a week and closed on Sundays, Hobby Lobby is one of America’s go-to stores for crafting and home décor.
With a love of retail beginning early in life, David Green has become one of the premiere businessmen in the American Home and Craft Superstore business. What began as a $600 startup investment grew into one of the largest crafting chains in the country. But it all started with a passion to work and a giving heart.
“When I was young and working for $.60/hour at the local five-and-dime (McClellan’s), there was nothing I would enjoy more than to give my earnings away,” said David. “Most of my early paychecks were spent on furniture for our home. I bought my mother a complete dining set, a sofa, and a refrigerator. I did splurge a little, however, on a pretty, young part-timer in the stationary department; today, that young clerk is my wife,Barbara, who deserves as much credit for Hobby Lobby’s growth and success as anyone.”
After a quick few years of Active Duty at Sheppard Air Force Base in Wichita Falls, Texas, David married Barbara, and they set off on their first retail adventure as the manager of a new branch of the five-and-dime store, TG&Y, in Oklahoma City. After several years learning retail management, David and Barbara decided it was time to start out on their own and in 1970, opened Greco Products, a miniature picture frame manufacturing company.
Two years later, David and Barbara opened the first Hobby Lobby store in a 300-square-foot building dedicated to arts and crafts. Soon, the business outgrew the small location, and they began the journey of expansion—a journey that continues to this day.
“It’s so easy to make things complicated in business. We operate on simple metrics; we are very transparent... By seeing ourselves as servants, we go beyond retail and meet the needs of our clients.” David Green
Why It Succeeds: Putting the Customer First
“From the very beginning, I loved the work—and that’s an important point: To succeed in retail, you have to love it,” said David, aptly describing the foundation of Hobby Lobby’s success. “The process of bringing items in, displaying them attractively, and seeing them miraculously change into actual cash in the drawer has to get your blood racing.”
One of David’s favorite verses, Ecclesiastes 9:10, states: “Whatever your hand finds to do, do it with all your might.” From this verse, he has crafted a company-wide policy to effectively run a business. Whether sweeping the break room floor or dealing with a customer, each employee is expected to work to the best of their ability. This unique, biblical system creates a memorable experience for the customer while completely meeting their needs. Above all, Hobby Lobby operates to honor God, to please the client, and to bring quality crafts and home décor to the American customer at a reasonable price.
One of the ways that David keeps the customer in mind is to stay abreast of the competition. “I always have my ‘I pad’ with me,” said David as he pulls out a small paper notebook from his pocket. “In this little pad I keep the names and financial stats of some of Forbes Top 50 businesses. This ‘I pad’ is the way I obey Ecclesiastes 9:10. By carrying it, I am reminded of my financial competitors, and it helps me continuously strive to be better, more conscious of my products, my customers, and my responsibility to run this company in a way that honors God.”
Hobby Lobby operates on biblical principles of profit and labor, because David Green follows Ecclesiastes 9:10. By focusing on hard work, diligent customer service, and a positive environment, employees honor and serve the customer. Within an industry of instant gratification and 24-hour supercenters, David has created a unique shopping experience geared towards the satisfaction of his client. This simple system not only guarantees repeat business, but also marketability and financial stability within an ever-changing economy.
“It’s so easy to make things complicated in business,” said David. “We operate on simple metrics; we are very transparent. I like to think of us as an old-fashioned General Store. In Hobby Lobby, our customers will find employees that not only know their product, but also are trained to assist in any way possible. By seeing ourselves as servants, we go beyond retail and meet the needs of our clients.”
With a starting wage of $15 per hour, David Green has made it a priority to take care of his employees. “Many of my employees are single moms,” he said. “The last thing I want is for them to have to work two jobs and take away time from their children. By paying a bit more than the going rate, that single mom may not have to get a second job. That’s worth it to me.”
Hobby Lobby is only open 66 hours a week: 9am – 8pm, Monday through Saturday. All locations are closed on Sunday to allow employees to attend church and spend a day of rest with their families. This revolutionary concept naturally evolved from David Green’s personal experiences in the early days of the company.
After finding himself losing precious moments with his own children during their formidable growing years, David decided to make a change. “I knew I was going against the tide of American retail, but I couldn’t get away from the human toll that a traditional retail schedule extracts. If I could give my store managers and floor staff just one more hour to be home—maybe to put their kids to bed—it would be a positive thing. If I could somehow reduce the stress on family life and help my employees be more balanced, I’d rather do that than bring in a little extra profit.”
At Hobby Lobby, they do not practice “sloppy agape”; employees are expected to work hard and own their departments. By demanding excellence and operating on grace, Hobby Lobby is creating a safe, positive work environment as well as a tranquil shopping experience for the customer.
Choosing to focus on fair-priced products and customer satisfaction, the corporate headquarters in Oklahoma City continues to operate with a hometown feel and has remained a “down to earth” business. Located inside a single story building, there are no extra bells and whistles, no ivory towers or parking garages; rather, one of the most impressive features about the corporate headquarters is located inside David Green’s office—a big, wooden desk.
“This is my favorite piece of furniture in the whole building,” said David. “Why is it my favorite? Because it is just big enough for me to get under and pray. It’s ground zero for me. I have to be transparent about my dependence upon Christ; without Him, all my labors would be for naught. Both in this business and in my life, nothing happens without prayer.”
Within a society that masks insecurity in a veil of false confidence, David Green humbles himself and crawls under a wooden desk to beg the power of God upon his company. That is why Hobby Lobby is successful.
What It Stands For: The Heart of the Lobby
Hobby Lobby is unique in the retail industry. Rather than setting out to make as much profit as possible, the company exists to further the Gospel of Christ. David Green believes that God belongs inside the company, in the nitty-gritty details of running a successful business. Not willing to separate his Christianity from his work, he has created a unique opportunity for missions.
“I realize that a lot of business leaders may disagree with me, but I truly believe that God belongs in what my company does,” said David. “By putting Him first in my operations, He can bless what I attempt. He doesn’t want me to think I’m so intelligent that I can run this place without Him. When I admit my weakness, He seizes the opportunity to be strong.”
David unashamedly stands upon his Christianity, even in his corporate advertising initiatives. Every Christmas and Easter, Hobby Lobby releases an ad that clearly presents Christianity to readers. He said, “I am a merchant who believes and respects Jesus Christ. There is no getting around the fact that Jesus offends some people. Nevertheless, He is too important in my life for me to cower in fear of mentioning His name. If I’m willing to spend money every other week of the year talking to fortyone million people about throw pillows, birdhouses, and wicker baskets, I ought to be willing to spend money twice a year talking to the same forty-one million about my Lord.”
By relying upon the almighty power of God at the corporate level, Hobby Lobby has become one of the largest, most outspoken proponents of biblical standards and Christian living in the American marketplace. With a company-wide vision to impact the world for Christ, Hobby Lobby currently donates a large portion of their proceeds to charity organizations across the globe, including OneHope, an international ministry organization that provides Bibles to children in impoverished countries; Wycliffe Bible Translators; and Need Him, a 24-hour counseling center that helps callers with spiritual questions and prayer support. David Green, and his family, are also in construction of a personal project, the Museum of the Bible, a facility dedicated to his private collection of biblical artifacts, to be located in Washington D.C. With over 44,000 volumes, artifacts, and biblical antiquities, it promises to be one of the largest, most extensive displays of Bible history.
"Our mission is to love God intimately and to live extravagant generosity. I believe this is how the Bible calls us to live personally and professionally." David Green
How to Succeed in Business Without Sacrificing Significance
“A voice says, ‘Cry!’ And I said, ‘What shall I cry?’ All flesh is grass, and all its beauty is like the flower of the field. The grass withers, the flower fades when the breath of the Lord blows on it; surely the people are grass. The grass withers, the flower fades, but the word of our God will stand forever.” (Isaiah 40:6-8 ESV)
More than anything, David and Barbara Green are interested in significance. Yes, they are the successful owners of one of the largest arts and crafts retail chains in the country; but, in their eyes, if they do not make a significant impact upon the world for Christ, all the temporal pursuits of building a crafting empire will be in vain. Hobby Lobby is more than art supplies and picture frames; Hobby Lobby is making a difference.
“I want to matter; I want to impact eternity. Barbara and I determined early on that if selling artificial flowers and craft supplies is what it takes for us to win just one soul for Christ, we would sell flowers with all our hearts for the rest of our lives,” said David. “Some things will matter forever, while others will fade in less than a week. Figuring out which is which—and then doing something about it—is a task that I cannot overlook.”
"My advice to a young person starting out in business would be this: find what purpose God has for your life and do it. By faithfully working in His will, you will find His favor. Don’t expect to earn the favor of God while operating outside His principles. Pray without ceasing and rest in His compassionate care. He will sustain you.” David Green
By allowing God to control the development of Hobby Lobby, by honoring Him in the corporate schedule, and by seeking His direction through constant prayer, David and Barbara have built a lasting legacy for the next generation.
At the bottom line, Hobby Lobby does not believe in compartmentalizing the Christianity of a man and his career; rather, they firmly uphold the belief that God should be a part of every aspect of life, both personal and professional. By living a public Christian life in the workplace, David Green has created a unique opportunity for global ministry. By releasing the reins of his corporation, he has effectively given God the green light of blessings. God honors those that honor Him.