Testimony of Mr. Graham Power
Hard Work Pays
My name is Graham Power. I am a Christian Businessman. We are into Civil Engineering, Highway Construction and Real Estate Development building thousands of homes for the populace.
I was born in Cape Town and I live there. I was the fourth out of the five children of our amazing hard working parents in Cape Town-South Africa. Music and laughter kept our family together. We lived in a modest home and had limited resources, so my two oldest siblings had to leave school at 15 to go and work so that the rest of us could complete High School. It was here that I learnt the value of hard work and perseverance.
I started my career as a Trainee Construction Surveyor at 18 years and progressed to be involved in Quantity Surveying and later Project Management. It was an exciting ten years working with the Company and I did what I could to climb the Corporate ladder and was privileged to manage large construction projects at pretty young age. I decided to give my children more than I had as a child, so I started chasing success and climbed the corporate ladder rather rapidly and the desire for more just kept coming; more cars, more farms, more boats and a comfortable and luxurious lifestyle.
Creating Wealth and Chasing Success
In 1983 at the age of 28 my wife Lauren and I ventured out to start our own Construction Company. It was a tough and difficult time leaving the security of a good job; selling a home and two plots of land we owned and with the help and encouragement of my father in law we purchased a farm which we used as collateral for our business.
We lived in the old farm house and our first office was a converted stable. We had accommodation for a small team of staff also on the farm.
At that time our primary focus was creating wealth and chasing success. We were not afraid to work 14 hours a day, 7days in a week doing whatever it took that the business would grow at a rapid rate.
My Company soon became one of the largest Construction Companies in South Africa. I thought I was Successful and had fulfilled my purpose for living. Money was no longer a concern. I could buy whatever I wanted. My family of course refused to be bought. I searched for meaning and hungered for inner peace and no matter how I tried and grew the business that eluded me. Up to that stage in my life I had no interest in spirituality or faith. I seldom attended church; I only went there for weddings and funerals but all these changed rapidly at the age of 43.
The Turning Point
At the age of 43, I made a public commitment to Christ and soon after that I had a personal encounter with God alone, one night in my study. That was when I realized that the success I had been chasing brought me no inner peace; and after I had turned off the light in my study and quietly moved into my bedroom, I knew I was a changed person and little did I dream of the new direction God would take my life.
It was during my second encounter with God that He gave me a clear vision, so clear that I deemed it an instruction instead of a vision. It was so large that it would consume my life.
The instruction was to rent the fifty thousand Newlands Rugby Stadium and invite all Christians from all denominations to join together as a day of repentance and prayer.
Even though there were many obstacles and frustrations, the meeting was very alive. On the 21st of March 2001, every seat was taken. Together we became a united church in the city of Cape Town. I would have been content to stop it then, but God had shown me clearly how it was going to be rolled out and in three waves.
The Three Fold Vision
The first one is to humble ourselves and pray seeking His face. The second one is involved in turning from our wicked ways, which is what we call Unashamedly Ethical Movement. The third one to come is Healing of our land. From one stadium in Cape Town, this vision had grown up throughout the world. I was amazed that regardless of my flaws and imperfections, God was able to grow this prayer movement from one country to the whole world involving 220 countries and islands making it the largest prayer meeting in all recorded history. The words of 2 Chronicles 7:14 has become the driving force of my life.
Unashamedly Ethical Movement
Unashamedly Ethical Movement is involved with men and women who live in dirty politics, underhanded business dealings who need to sign up and make a pledge to live and practice good ethics in all professions to get rid of corruption and dirty living and help turn the tide around.
Unashamedly Ethical movement has reached over hundred countries involving Government Officials, Business leaders and other private professionals. These are committed to good values, ethics and clean living.
In the Business front in 1999, I had some extremely challenging decisions. After my conversion I had to deal with major skeletons and other challenges I had to face. Ten years earlier in 1988, as part of the Construction Industry Club, we had met as an industry trying to find solutions to our challenges. However, it soon became a clandestine club, which had been manipulating tenders and bid for work along with major prominent Construction Companies in our city – Cape Town. We would prearrange who would do the work and how the cover pricing would be fixed and later loser fees would be paid to those who provided the cover prices. This went on for some time.
Parting With The Past
In 1999 when we were having our annual strategic planning with our leadership team we invited a Professor of one of the leading universities in Cape Town to address the team. This gentleman spoke on ethics in Business, challenging us on honesty in business. He told us several stories to buttress his point. Among other things he quoted Proverbs 11:1, which states that,
“A false balance is an abomination to the Lord, but an accurate weight is His delight”.
Knowing the collusions, corruption manipulations, fixing of bids etc that we were engaged in, I could not sleep that night, so I took my bible and began to read Proverbs 11:1. As I kept on reading I came across other challenging verses;
- When the righteous prosper the city rejoices,
- Dishonest money dwindles away but he who gathers money little by little helps it grow,
- The eyes of the Lord are everywhere keeping watch over the wicked and the good,
- A greedy man brings trouble to his family but he who hates bribe will live,
- Commit to the Lord whatever you do and your plans will succeed,
- Before his downfall, a man’s heart is proud but humility comes before honor;
The last straw of these quotes was Proverbs 20:17.
“Food gained by fraud tasted sweet to man but ends up with a mouth full of gravels”.
As a Road Contractor, I was shocked with those words. It was a two-day retreat so on the second day I confessed to the leaders who were all aware of our unethical dealings –the corruption, manipulations, collusions, tender fixing, putting in inflated claims and paying minimum taxes where possible etc. I told them that we had to clean up our Company and do things ethically honestly and cleanly. The team asked whether we could survive if we stopped. But they also complained that I was the ring leader who had taught them those unethical ways so they couldn’t fathom why they had to stop immediately. I made it known to them that if we did not change and mend our ways I would exit the Company even though I had 80% shares in it.
A few weeks later we put an Ethics Committee together with a mandate to interrogate every one of our methods and actions and to transform them ethically and come out with a code of ethics that would govern the company. I am happy to report that it was done and we still use that code to govern our Company. Now I had to contact each member of the construction club in the city, CEOs and Managing Directors to inform them that we were exiting the group and would not subscribe to the clandestine negotiations, tender manipulations and prize fixing.
Walking The Talk
It was a tough and rough call I had to make and it of course came along with abusive verbal remarks and heart breaking messages. I was accused of being a bible puncture, a hypocrite, a traitor and described with many other words which are unprintable in this forum. Now that we were no longer part of this club, our bids for government projects came under intense scrutiny as our previous partners were keenly watching to see if we were walking the talk. However whenever we were invited to tender, the club could not operate. We managed to survive the onslaught and managed to grow despite lack of these easy profits. We were regularly invited by large clients to do their key projects without calling for tenders as such. I think this was due to the reputation of being honest, fair and ethical in our dealings. We assumed that these Companies continued to manipulate tenders when they knew we were not in their midst.
Eventually, the unethical dealings of the Construction Club were exposed in 2011 with headlines in the National Dailies and Television about their clandestine behaviors during the world cup. Lots of Stadia and other infrastructure were built involving billions of dollars. Most of their leaders were sacked and hefty fines imposed on them. I sent a mail to all my directors thanking them and God for helping us clean our Company and saved us from that embarrassment and the huge fines.
We can only free Africa of sustaining poverty if we can get rid of sustaining corruption. This has changed the way I see my role in business and subsequently our purpose as a Power Group has been amended. We now strife to improve the quality of life in Africa. It is simple yet very complex. I realize, it is only by God’s grace and His mercy that we can dream of God restoring dignity to our Africa continent. Today my greatest joy is the joy of living in a restored and a renewed family with my wife, children and grandchildren as we laugh and live together worshiping Jesus Christ. This is a reflection of Psalms 133 and wherever there is Unity, God will command His blessing. I thank God for His blessings upon my family, our beautiful country of South Africa and the global community as a whole.