Photo above, Brian Miller
April 2021 – Doors, windows, siding, stone, and roofing. What do these materials have to do with seeds … or the gospel?
ProVia is an Ohio-based manufacturer of building supplies, but there is much more than doors and windows to the story. President and CEO Brian Miller shared the backstory with AFA Journal.
When a Fortune 500 company that had employed him for 17 years offered him a promotion working at its world headquarters in Switzerland, something just didn’t sit right.
“It just didn’t feel like that’s what God was calling me to do,” Miller said. “I remember driving home and God speaking to me and saying, ‘I have different plans for you.’”
Unsure of what that meant, he began networking with business people he knew. In 2006, he met Bill Mullet, founder of ProVia. After several months of meeting and discussing possibilities, a new position was created for Miller. He has been there ever since.
For ProVia, it’s about serving. Its employees are unified under one glorious purpose: “To let our light shine before others, so that they may see our good works and give glory to our Father who is in heaven” (based on Matthew 5:16). As part of that mission, ProVia’s leadership instills in its employees a determination to serve by caring about details others tend to overlook.
In light of increased hostility toward Christian values over the years, Miller is often asked how he is able to lead a business from a faith-based standard.
“We can’t expect to hire based on what somebody’s belief system is,” he clarified. But job applicants are presented with the company’s mission and vision, and simply asked if they will be able to support leaders who operate within that established value system.
“Christianity is coming under some hard fire right now,” he said, “but we are called to produce the fruit of the Spirit as Christians. What company, family, community, city, or nation wouldn’t want more love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, or goodness?”
As COVID-19 ravaged the nation in 2020, ProVia leaders expected a 50% drop in sales. As they watched competitors initiating massive layoffs, they were forced to sit down and make hard decisions.
“We measured those decisions against our purpose, vision, mission, and values,” said Miller. “And that allowed us to uphold our moral standard even in the face of a crisis – especially in the face of a crisis.”
Though they considered a reduction in hours and wages to offset the oncoming loss, they refused to let their employees take the hit. “We were in this together,” said Miller, “and we were determined to find a way.”
What happened next was completely unexpected. The company experienced a surge in orders.
“As a result, we’ve called on our employees to work very long hours and put in a lot of hard work to try to get through the backlog,” explained Miller. “And they’ve been incredible. I attribute that, in part, to their nature – they are just really good employees – but also because we treated them like they deserve to be treated.”
Beyond their dedication to their jobs, their love for each other was evidenced during the pandemic. When an employee contracted COVID-19 and struggled with symptoms for months, his co-workers responded by donating their vacation time to him.
Not a paycheck was missed.
Caught, not taught
“At the heart of servant leadership is following Christ and leading as Christ loved,” said Miller. Because Christ’s love is not intended to be compartmentalized, ProVia resolves to integrate His character into every facet of the business.
“That doesn’t mean you’re walking around sharing the gospel with everybody you run into within your company,” he explained.
“It means you’re loving them, that you have joy, that you’re forgiving them. That’s how people see – it’s caught better than it’s taught.”
And ProVia is determined to exemplify Christ’s character to customers, always giving what the company had agreed to and more, but never less.
As founder and chairman of the board, Mullet explained ProVia’s driving force: “People want to do business with those they know will treat them fairly and justly. We are committed to doing the right thing for God, the customer, the employee, the community and yes, the company.”
Whether impacting employees or customers, the lost or found, ProVia is in the business of planting life-giving seeds for the glory of God.
“But others fell on good ground and yielded a crop: some a hundredfold, some sixty, some thirty.” (Matthew 13:8, NKJV).
In 2018, Brian Miller began to recognize a calling to extend the values of ProVia across the globe. He partnered with author and leadership expert Dan Owolabi to form Branches Worldwide, a nonprofit with a goal to locate 30 leaders in 30 countries and pour into them for 30 years.
Selected leaders must be Christians who have exhibited leadership potential. They are partnered with mentors who have shown success in business and have a strong, active faith. The ministry hit the ground running in 2020 with the first 4 of the 30 leaders participating in virtual Bible studies, prayer meetings, and mentoring sessions.
One leader is Narlly Mendez who operates a Christian school in Nicaragua. Though the Nicaraguan government looks unfavorably on Christianity, she is thriving in her leadership role, with many viewing the school as a hallmark for private schools.
Another leader is Christian Bolan‥os, who operates a seafood distributorship in Costa Rica. He is mentored by a U.S. business leader with 40 years of experience in a successful food distribution company.
Leaders and mentors meet regularly through virtual means with a goal to meet in small regional sessions annually and larger worldwide meetings every five years.
“We’re looking to transform communities through Christian leaders who are operating their businesses with servant leadership,” said Miller.
Learn more at provia.com and branchesworldwide.org.
Eight Days of Hope
Former ProVia executive Steve Tybor worked in the building materials industry for 30 years and had his dream job. But in December 2005, he had also started Eight Days of Hope, (EDOH) a disaster relief ministry that was growing exponentially, and he was trying to juggle both job and ministry at the same time.
More than a decade later, when Brian Miller sat down with Tybor for his annual evaluation, Miller posed an unexpected question: “Steve, if you could do anything in the world and money wasn’t an object, what would you do?”
Before that meeting was over, Miller helped Tybor see it was possible to fully devote himself to the work of EDOH.
In 2017, Tybor transitioned to full-time CEO of EDOH. Its growth has exploded ever since, expanding its reach and vision. More than 39,000 volunteers have been the hands and feet of Jesus. Countless lives – both physical and spiritual – will continue to be rescued through its disaster relief work and building of safe houses for trafficking victims.
“ProVia was an unbelievable company to work for,” said Tybor. “Brian always puts others’ needs in front of his own. And he’s modeled that, not only for me, but for other leaders. EDOH is a much better organization now because of their support and continued partnership.”
Learn more at eightdaysofhope.com.