I was one year old when my father started FONA International, so I’ve lived my entire life in the shadow of this great company. I remember the excitement we all sensed when we moved from the smaller Northbrook (Illinois) facility to the cavernous 80,000-square-foot facility in Geneva (Illinois). Looking back on it, it seems like a blur.
Now that I have my own company, I realize how many things my father did that I took for granted. I remember how he started most of his meetings with prayer and did so without making people uncomfortable. I remember how he cherished the holiday meals when he and my mother joined all the FONA employees, even when the team had hundreds of people.
His willingness to trust God and walk away from his successful career to launch FONA is inspirational. That kind of calculated risk was unique, considering we were a young family with a toddler and a baby (me)! He and my mom moved in faith, and God honored it.
Dad stood for Christ in the workplace he created and represented Him well, but he never pushed it. He was always available for anyone who had questions about the company or his faith. Dad’s well-stocked library would never run low of recommended reading, and he always gave away books to those who visited him.
How he led the company was how he led our family, with God and the scriptures at the foundation. When he built the facility in Geneva, I remember how we buried bibles in the foundation of every corner of the FONA building and in the auditorium. My father’s company was literally built on the Scriptures!
A few years ago, Dad wrote a book on how to be successful in life, and he often challenged me to read it. I told him I didn’t have to because I had heard the audiobook my entire life! When I did finally read it, I realized I was right!
It cracks me up now when I often hear my dad’s voice in my own as I lead my company. The values that he planted in me as his son were the same ones that he instilled in the team at FONA. He modeled radical generosity and genuine care for all of us. And he always believes in the best in people.
I’m so proud of my father’s work, and even though the FONA chapter of our story came to an end a few years back when he sold the company to McCormick, the story God is writing here on earth through him continues. And, for that, we are all grateful.
Kirk Slawek is the third child and second son of Joe and Mary Slawek. Kirk is the founder and Executive Producer at Gear Seven Studios, a video production company in Nashville, Tennessee. He also operates Eleven Willow, a coworking space for community and individual offices, serving as an incubator for small businesses and entrepreneurs in Nashville.