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Julian Richer – what a Christian public leader

Richer Sounds founder’s generosity is a good example of Christian public leadership, says Abi Jarvis

Entertainment retail chain Richer Sounds has hit the news over the last week or so after Julian Richer, who founded the company when he was 19, decided to transfer 60 per cent of his shares to a trust co-owned by employees.

In addition to this, a third of the £9.2m he received for the shares is being given back to the staff (excluding the directors), who will receive £1,000 for every year they have worked for the retailer. The average pay-out will be £8,000 but there are 39 employees with more than 20 years’ service. As one employee put it, This amount of money is life-changing for anyone. I was nearly in tears, but it doesn’t surprise me. Julian is an amazing person.”

This clearly isn’t a case of someone making a one-off grand gesture to get some good press. A committed Christian who calls his faith practical Christianity”, Richer has demonstrated time and again that the welfare of his employees is more important than the temptation to increase his personal fortune by keeping staff costs low. 

Richer Sounds refuses to use zero-hour contracts and has paid the real living wage to all employees since 2014. Employee perks include access to company holiday homes around the world, contributions to driving lessons, and much more. Richer, meanwhile, is reportedly considering funding a test case against zero-hours contracts. 

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Richer’s commitment to practical Christianity is expressed in his personal actions as well as his company’s policies. The company donates 15 per cent of profits to a number of charities, has been awarded a fair tax mark accreditation, and says it is founded on the ethical principles of being decent, honest and truthful, and hopefully [this] runs through everything we do”.

These actions hardly leave Richer penniless, but there is no question that he could have made far more money by selling the company to an aggressive” outside investor who may have chang[ed] the strategy” of the company. 

After decades in leadership, Richer has different priorities to many people in similar positions. In the early days, I had jets, helicopters, cars and all that… I had two helicopters at the same time. One wasn’t enough.” But now, he is on a mission to make the world a better place… The gap between the rich and poor is getting much bigger and people hate it. I hate it.”

Julian Richer was baptised when he was 47. His faith isn’t the only reason for his compassion for his staff, and many of these company policies were in places long before then. But it’s hard to think of many people who better exemplify public leadership. Richer has used his position to empower those who work for him, to advocate for systemic change within the business industry, and to follow the example of Abraham: His faith and his actions were working together” (James 2:22).

Through the Evangelical Alliance’s public leader course, we strive to nurture the growth of Christian leaders so that they, like Richer, have the confidence to allow God’s ethics to motivate what they do in their professional and personal lives, despite cultural norms that keep self-protection and self-aggrandisement front and centre. Applications are currently being accepted so click here to find out more.

Check out the Richer Culture’ and Richer Ways’ sections of the Richer Sounds website for more information about their company ethos.

About the author

Abi Jarvis is the public leadership coordinator at the Evangelical Alliance, seeking to equip Christians with the skills and confidence to be leaders in the places where God has called them. She has a BA in Ancient History and a MSc in Political Communication. Abi loves going to the theatre, watches too many American TV dramas and somehow became responsible for daily office exercises despite her hatred of all things sporty. Much to her dismay, she ticks the box for pretty much every stereotypical feature of a PK - a pastor's kid.

See more from Abi Jarvis

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