The Power of Love – The Foundation of Ethical Business

We regret to inform our readers that our Founder, Christine Garbett passed away on the 31st of March, 2018 after a long battle with cancer, Christine will be missed. Please find a link to her obituary here.


Presented at the Caux initiatives for Business 7Th biennial conference 5th to 8th February 2018

By Rob Garbett

History, and certainly the personal experiences of sensible people, has demonstrated that love is the ultimate positive weapon.

Love, like a diamond, is multifaceted and covers, in this one word, what the leading prophet’s, philosophers and positive thinking minds, over the ages, have encompassed in their writings, deeds and by the way of their example. The tragic irony is that the blessing of love is often disregarded, scorned upon and thrown aside. It is as if many are willingly lured away from the light towards the cold emptiness of darkness which leads to oblivion unless reversed.

Love and religion are intertwined in an eternal embrace.

Stephan Hawking, who was known as the greatest living scientist, said:

“Religion is a fairy story for people afraid of the dark which that great Christian thinker, Professor John Lennox, replied “Atheism is a fairy tale for people afraid of the light”.

I know that all of you here are followers of the light, followers of the light have a sacred duty to nurture and practice the spread of the light in everything we, as followers, do. Show people the light in every action we take.

The writer Kile Jones, in his essay defining religion stated:

“It is apparent that religion can be seen as theological, philosophical, anthropological, sociological, and psychological phenomenon of human kind. To limit religion to only one of these categories is to miss its multifaceted nature and lose out on the complete definition”.

Some of you may have read the article I wrote entitled “Business and Love” covering partly, our experience in Mozambique which appeared in the CIB E Script publication in 2015. You will know, from what I wrote, that although the experience, which was essentially a fight against corruption, was massively painful financially and, emotionally a most traumatic experience but, as followers of the light, the reward of keeping ourselves in the light provided sustenance to us in that ultra-marathon battle. The strength, and confidence, we gained, and the positive recognition that it is the light that is supreme, outweighed the pain by many multiples.

My business career started at the age of nineteen, after a stint in the army, when I was employed as a wharf clerk in the Duncan docks harbor in Cape Town. I became a director of the company, that employed me, at the age of twenty-two. I met my wife Christine in 1982 and for the last thirty-five years we have together, with a wonderful team, run a business which now employed around 650 people.


It is vital, if not fundamental, that the management team are, of course, skilled but, rising above that, they are people of like mind when it comes to integrity and truth. Diversification of personality and or character promotes diverse thinking. Teams are not born they are developed, formed, and matured over time. Extended interaction will enhance effectiveness and will reveal the strength of each member and those areas where support is required. Egos must be left outside the board room. Very little beats a cohesive, loyal interdependent group. I am very wary of individual leaders being placed in their position by title. The guidance, rather of an executive group unfettered by the prospect of overriding unilateral decisions of one person dampens enthusiasm. In our company the EXCO, by simple majority, takes major decisions and dispenses antibiotics as necessary. Every member is free to have their say, nobody is shut down. Strong guidance by an elder should be part of any team without the elder being overbearing or dictatorial.

Business, I need not tell you, has its hills and valleys but you gain more from the downside, as I have already said regarding our Mozambique experience, than the ups.

Welcome adversity –  the road to success is littered with failures which are the grease of triumph, if you make it so.

Failure, in many guises, hovers around, often unnoticed, I call it waiting for the Klap, (an Afrikaans word meaning a slap across the face). Prepare and be ready for the failure klap because it is sure to come. Never hide behind corporate liquidation to avoid settling with creditors, always settle, whether you are obliged to do so by law or not, no matter how long it may take.

It is very difficult not to be tempted by what seems like the silky-smooth attraction of corruption. Nobody will know, you tell yourself, you’ll make good money, you can do good with that money, and so on. The twin brother of corruption is deceit. Once you are enmeshed in the evil tentacles of corruption it is difficult to extract yourself. It is also clear that your colleagues, your clients, the government official with whom you do business, and even our family, will eventually become aware that you are morally corrupt, and this means capable of corrupt and dishonorable Practices of all kinds. This is to say nothing of the sub conscious moral beating that everybody, and I am sure that this applies to everybody, takes by practicing unethical business, the haunting fear of being caught that resides with you and the shame that you know will befall you, and your family, if you are exposed, walks alongside you, a constant companion. Once you have lost your reputation you are almost at the point of no return, in aviation, known as the PNR when referring to the fuel supply to complete the flight in an aircraft. India, south Africa, is known to be corrupt. If the two were to compete in the corruption stakes, I would think that south Africa would probably win the race. Why are people corrupt, I often ask myself, and of course there are a multitude of answers to this question. But, if objectively examined, the answers are always spurious. The positives that are attracted by uncorrupt business dealings run infinitely ahead of the perceived leg up produced by corruption.

I could have titled this the talk the power of truth, truth is another facet of love although, I will say, perhaps amongst the most sparking of facets. The power of truth cannot be over emphasized, do not tempted to lie – the truth found, even when it seems so easy to lie, always, I say again, always produces a positive outcome.


I started this talk by making the point that love is multi-faceted, each facet is perfect. The best way I can describe the way in which each aspect of a business should be treated is with constant striving for perfection, not always achieving perfection, but always striving. A diamond cannot be perfect if any one of the facets is flawed. All the elements, or facets, must be brought together in a business to ensure success, but also to provide the stimulus and satisfaction, brought by perfection, to give us comfort and knowledge that we have produced a work of art which is contributing to the welfare of our fellows.

I was once told, by the one of the richest men in South Africa, two things, firstly that striving to achieve one hundred per cent efficiency in a business is not advisable, “eighty percent is good enough”, he said, ‘’the other twenty percent is too costly to achieve’’. Secondly, he said “Bob, you are too good for business” going for one hundred percent is vital, compromise by setting a lower standard is an insult to your business, your client and yourself. I regarded his second remark as a compliment.

There is no such thing as business which does not require ongoing attention to the basics. The shifting sands of the market, for example, requires continues constant focus on this facet. I have frequently found myself chipping away to the coalface of our business operations completely disregarding that, perhaps, we should not be in the coal business at all or perhaps there was more efficient way of chipping at the coalface rather than what we had been doing over time. This is strategic thinking, and this requires discipline, motivation and determination to take one out of the comfort zone that surround all of us and plunging, if necessary, head first into the unknown but let me hasten to add it is also essential to investigate the unknown (especially the depth of the water!) and make it as known as possible before taking that head first plunge.

It would be seriously amiss if I did not touch upon the negative cash flow tsunami unless out flows are noted the waves come crashing back and will destroy your business unless you are well prepared. The danger is self- evident but is missed, or disregarded, by many – never be lax when it comes to expenditure, practice restraint.

The world famous South African golfer, Gary Player, was told by a spectator how lucky he was to which he replied;

“The more I practice, the luckier I get”

The reason I am not personally delivering this paper to you, it is being read by my dear friend Anthony Duigan, is that my wife contracted breast cancer a few years ago and is currently undergoing intensive treatment. Now I venture to say most people would think that this is a completely negative event but, some of you may be surprised to hear this, it has produced very positive element. The faith we have in the love of God and the absolute knowledge that God is there for all of us, filled with love and welcoming, has instructed our souls. It is indeed a mystery that pain almost always leads to strength and reward. Nelson Mandela, who my wife and I had the honor of meeting on three occasions, gained his structure, strength, and resilience from the pain he suffered during his incarceration. We all know that Jesus Christ suffered enormously as a man but just look what resulted from that suffering.

My son was a drug addict who committed the most heinous of crimes which has had devastating consequences for many people., he is presently experiencing the intense pain of guilt and incarceration which has turned him around one hundred per cent into a fine, God Loving, human Being.

Trouble proves a blessing, or a curse, depending on how it is received and treated by us.

Remember the rule, and welcome those times of business adversity, and it will happen, as opportunities to learn and develop. Complacency is the enemy of continued success breeds complacency.

If only I’d know, as a young man, about and payed attention to, the golden composite stream of rules, some of which I have mentioned, that flows through all successful businesses and effects every aspect of business whether it be staff relations, relations with clients, interplay with governments, harmony with fellow directors and managers and so on.

Christine and I enjoy visiting a well-known restaurant in Johannesburg which we have done for years. The waiter, who almost always serves us, one day said, “Mr. Garbett, why are you and your wife so kind and courteous to me” and I looked him in the eye and said, “Because when I look at you, I am looking at God’’. God made us all in his image. If I may have leave you with this, remember that treating your employees, and others, with dignity and kindness will produce a like response.

Martin Luther King once said:

“Darkness cannot drive out darkness, only light can do that. Hate cannot Drive out hate, only love can do that”.

The foundations, central core or heart of your business must be based on the principles that the good Lord has laid down for all of us without which, more times than not, you will just be whistling in the wind.

The philosophy of our business is to strive for the highest standard of service and in all respects to act with intergrity, kindness and Professionalism”.

Thank you for the privilege and honor that you have bestowed on me by allowing this paper to be presented at the conference.

May God bless all of you and may God give you a multitude of opportunities to practice love in all circumstances.

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