Jim Dotson, Executive Director of Mission Increase Raleigh, discusses his personal story in corporate America, and his work now, helping organizations be effective stewards of the gifts and talents God has given them to maximize the Kingdom impact of their ministry.
THOMAS GRAHAM: Thank you for joining us for this week’s special Focus on Faith edition of Family Policy Matters. Today, I am excited to have as my guest a gentleman who is using the success and skills he gained in a 20-year career in corporate America to now help corporate, non-profit, ministry and church clients apply biblical leadership principles and truths within their organizations.
Jim Dotson currently serves as the Raleigh Executive Director for the Mission Increase Raleigh. He is also the author of a terrific book, Taking on Goliath: Dotson vs. Pfizer—A Collision of Personal and Corporate Values.
Jim Dotson, welcome to Family Policy Matters. It’s great to have you on the show.
JIM DOTSON: Thank you, Thomas. It’s great to be here on this beautiful fall afternoon and I’m happy to participate! Thanks for having me.
THOMAS GRAHAM: Jim, we like to tell stories on this show and the most important story we all have to tell is the way our personal story led us into a life in relationship with Jesus. Please share with our listeners today a little about your personal story and the experiences that have shaped you into the man of faith you are today?
JIM DOTSON: Sure, Thomas. I grew up in Reidsville, North Carolina, so just north of Greensboro, in a preacher’s home. So my dad is a pastor—was a pastor until he retired at age 65. I was one of two children. So I feel as though I grew up in the church because literally, until I was age 18, I was in the church at least three times a week, if not more. I did accept Jesus as my personal savior at age four, and honestly, that is all I have ever known and I can’t imagine life apart from the Lord and the local church. Growing up as a preacher’s kid, as you can imagine, I had the opportunity to meet many wonderful and fascinating people as they would come through our home: missionaries, pastors, teachers. There was a common theme that I often heard when they were in our home sharing about the wonderful things that God was doing in their ministry. But there always a catch, and that catch was, “If only we had more resources…” “If only we had more dollars we could do…,” whatever. Well, growing up as a preacher’s kid and kind of having a bent toward business and sales, I was determined that that was going to be my piece; I was going to solve the money problem for Kingdom ministries. So, I took off and went to UNC-Chapel Hill, graduated from the business school at Chapel Hill. My senior year, met my wife of 31 years, Ann Loudermilk, now Ann Dotson. And after graduation in 1986, she went to D.C. to work for the late Senator John East and then moved over to Senator Helms’ staff. I went to Columbus, Ohio, to be a part of Procter & Gamble’s management training program. We married after a year, I moved to D.C. and eventually found my way to Pfizer Pharmaceuticals in 1988. And that started a great journey in my corporate career with Pfizer. We have three biological children and then our fourth came a few years after when we adopted our daughter, Ascelia, from Russia.
THOMAS GRAHAM: That’s great! I know you’ve had a very interesting and convicting experience in corporate America, so interesting, in fact, that you wrote a book about it. We still want people to read your book, but tell us about that experience and why it was such a turning point in your life, Jim.
JIM DOTSON: Sure Thomas. I’ll underscore the words “interesting” and “convicting.” I had a wonderful 15-year career with Pfizer Pharmaceuticals in sales and marketing and leadership training. And I was with Pfizer during the late 80’s and 90’s during the pharmaceutical heyday. And during that period of time, Pfizer rose from the fourteenth largest pharmaceutical company in the world to the world’s largest pharmaceutical company. And I benefited greatly from being in the right place at the right time and being somewhat successful. And so through the first 13 years, I was given the opportunity many times for a promotion and each promotion required a relocation. And again, I was determined to solve the money problem of Kingdom ministries, and so with each promotion came more money. And I didn’t even slow down enough to consider the impact that yet another move might have on my wife and my children. And we were faithful to continue to give, to give faithfully to our church and non-profit ministries, and I thought, again, that I was doing my part by funding and fueling Christian non-profits. Pfizer is known for having one of the strongest leadership programs in corporate America, and as I was benefiting from that training, I would write in my prayer journal numerous times, after a week-long session at Harvard or Princeton or some training class, I would make a note that one day upon my retirement, I can’t wait to take some of these principles and skills that I am learning and provide them at no cost to the church or Christian non-profits. But at my retirement. Well, that’s the way that life was progressing and then September 11 of 2001, we all remember that day.
THOMAS GRAHAM: Yes, we do.
JIM DOTSON: I was at a corporate meeting—not in New York City. Our headquarters was in New York City and I was in Florida with a number of headquarter personnel. And as the World Trade Centers fell, many of the headquarter staff members were losing family members, neighbors, loved ones. Ann and the kids were living in D.C. at the time. She saw smoke coming from the Pentagon. We were stuck in Florida and as everyone recalls, life just came to a standstill for many of us. And in that period of pause, many of us asked the question, “What if that had been us? What if my life had ended abruptly?” Well, at that point, I had to fact the facts. I had to recognize the fact that my life was not reflecting my heart. Corporate America, Pfizer was getting everything I had to give. While I was giving financially, my life didn’t reflect my heart for God’s Kingdom-building work. And so after September 11, over the next few months, my wife and I made a decision to get off the corporate treadmill and to dial back and really regain control of life. So, we decided that we wanted to move back to Raleigh. We’d been in and out of Raleigh a few times with our career with Pfizer. We wanted to raise our three children here. And as we started listening to God and moved back to Raleigh, God started laying on our heart, adoption. We’d always been strong proponents of the cause of Life and God just led us to engage with the cause of Life by giving a home to an orphan that otherwise wouldn’t have a family. But there was—something happened. Within a few days of returning from Russian in October of 2003 with our daughter, I was called into a special meeting and there I saw the vice president of my division, vice president of human resources, and a corporate attorney. And at that moment I was told that I was being terminated immediately for exchanging Pfizer pharmaceutical drugs for the child that we had just adopted from a Russian orphanage.
THOMAS GRAHAM: Oh my goodness! Wow!
JIM DOTSON: I knew it wasn’t true, Thomas, and so did they. I thought that we’ll get this misunderstanding straightened out and everything will return to normal. Well, the vice president of human resources handed me a separation agreement offering me a significant amount of money if I would sign the separation agreement and agree to go away quietly. Well, with a family of six, a large lifestyle that I wanted to maintain and keep this afloat, I was scared to death and I felt like I had no choice but to sign and accept this separation agreement. Fortunately, I had seven days within which I could renege. And for the first three days, I could not sleep because I knew, again, that I had done nothing wrong. And I knew that I had not traded drugs for our child. And God just led me to stand for the truth regardless of the cost. And so I reneged on that separation agreement and made a decision that, regardless of the cost, I would stand for truth.
THOMAS GRAHAM: As you think back on that experience, can you recall some of the—I’m sure there were many Scripture passages that God gave to you—that gave you motivation and strength and kept your faith up? Can you recall what some of those verses were and share them with our audience?
JIM DOTSON: Thomas, that is a challenging question because there were so many but I would love to share a few. Because this termination actually resulted in a six-year journey, six-year legal battle that went from a federal jury trial to the Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals, all the way to the U.S. Supreme Court at the end of 2009. And, during this season of life I had known scripture, but scripture came to life in this season. David and Goliath, of course, based on the title of my book. David had five smooth stones; I was taking on a corporate giant. Pfizer, the largest pharmaceutical company in the world, had a team of 300 staff attorneys— unlimited resources. I was armed with the truth. A local law firm was willing to take my case and armed with the truth, for seven years in this journey, we were able to go to the Supreme Court and win at every level.
THOMAS GRAHAM: Wow, that’s amazing!
JIM DOTSON: Genesis 50:20. Joseph. How he responded to his brothers who sold him to slavery. And the last one, Thomas, I’ll end with this. The morning that I was preparing for opening arguments, I was reading in Jeremiah. And Jeremiah 51:36 says, “Thus says the Lord, behold I am going to plead your case for you.” For an eight-day trial, I clung to that promise.
THOMAS GRAHAM: Yes, oh goodness. Now let’s turn a corner here and let’s talk specifically about Mission Increase Foundation. For any listener that might be tuned in right now and is unaware of just exactly what this wonderful organization does, give us an overview. Give us a look.
JIM DOTSON: Sure! We’re simply an equipping organization. We exist to help expand non-profit ministries, Kingdom impact, by helping them become healthy, strong, and sustainable. We say that Mission Increase’s distinct advantage is serving at the intersection of business and ministry with a commitment to biblical stewardship. So, that allows us to take corporate best practices, best practices from academia, and the non-profit sector, and to look at them through the lens of Scripture to discuss and consider how would a Christian organization apply these principles. So, we provide teaching first on core competencies that will help a non-profit become healthy and sustainable. So, we provide workshops once a quarter. Then, we provide coaching and consulting to help the organization apply what we are teaching. And for those who are making progress, we will invite—we may invite them to apply for a grant to learn a particular skill that we feel is essential for them to learn. And everything that we offer is at no cost to the Christian non-profits and the community. So, we hope every non-profit—especially Christian non-profits in the Triangle—knows about us, because what we offer is at no cost to them.
THOMAS GRAHAM: Jim, that’s just excellent! I love it and I so appreciate—and I’m sure many of our listeners appreciate—this wonderful contribution that you’ve made today to their lives. We’re about to wrap up this radio broadcast for today, Jim. Where can they go to learn more about Mission Increase Foundation or even to get a copy of your book?
JIM DOTSON: For Mission Increase you can go to miraleigh.org, and at that website hit the “Events” tab and you will see our upcoming workshops. Second of all, you can join our Facebook page: Mission Increase Foundation Raleigh. And in regards to Taking on Goliath, you can go to jmdotson.net. You can purchase the book there, you can get it on Amazon. But again, I just thank you, Thomas, for this opportunity to come and share my journey with your audience today. And I want to encourage, again, every listener to make sure that they’re engaged somewhere in Kingdom-building work, because we have no “bye’s” from loving our neighbor and making disciples.
THOMAS GRAHAM: Excellent! I couldn’t agree with you more, Jim. Thank you brother! And may He prosper the work of your hands.
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