Chris Hobgood’s work varies weekly. On any given day, his job may take him to a hospital, a courtroom or a jail. He often goes to weddings or funerals during work hours. At other times he’s at HomeBanc Mortgage, a private mortgage lending company in Atlanta, where he’s available to counsel HomeBanc’s 821 employees on everything from difficult supervisors to domestic abuse.
Hobgood is an ordained minister from the Corporate Chaplains of America, a nonprofit based in Raleigh, N.C. Since HomeBanc hired him five months ago, he has made 277 visits to HomeBanc locations. At the request of employees, he has provided escort for 56 hospital and 42 court visits on the company’s dime. He’s a one-man support group on 24-hour call.
“I’ve received impromptu counseling calls at 2 a.m.,” Hobgood says.
Some CEOs would see Hobgood’s presence as a workplace distraction or a breach of privacy. But for Pat Flood, HomeBanc’s president and CEO since 1995, having a chaplain in the house is one of many ways he blends his beliefs with his business.
“My faith requires me to be authentic and to live my life in a certain way 24/7, not just at home with my family,” explains Flood, a Catholic who now worships in a nondenominational church. His beliefs are evident on the walls of his office, which bear passages of Scripture reminding him to build his business on sturdy foundations and to remain humble.
Flood’s values are antithetical to the self-dealing, greed and deceit of today’s headline-grabbing chiefs. He eschews layoffs and refuses to call his associates “employees” because he considers the term demeaning. He teaches his associates that good customer service results from a “servant” mindset similar to the Christian observance of humility before God. Not above a bit of loving interference, Flood prides himself on having saved the marriage of an employee who was romantically “misbehaving.”
HomeBanc employees contacted for this article cheered the company’s religious openness. Even Linda Jones, senior vice president of the company’s South Florida operations and an avowed agnostic who believes religion doesn’t belong in the workplace, admits HomeBanc makes her feel cared for. “There isn’t a secret agenda,” she vows.
“Every business has a culture,” Flood adds. “Some cultures encourage partying and drinking. Some encourage money as the most important thing. Ours is built on serving someone else before yourself.”