Stanley Tam says that God runs his business and he is an employee. Business owners aren't usually that humble. Tam is a deeply religious man, however, and has no qualms giving God the credit for his success. People, religious or secular, could learn a great deal from Tam's philosophy. Tam's company, United States Plastics Corporation, serves a client base of over 85,000, yet maintains its foundation in the faith it was built upon; being gracious can be profitable.
Stanley Tam was born in the San Francisco Bay area in 1915. Tam remained a California resident until age nine when his family moved to Lima, Ohio. Tam notes that his family was religious, but only to the extent of going to church regularly and not smoking, drinking, or swearing. Tam never felt a true connection with God during his childhood.
Tam graduated from high school in 1933, and two key things happened that permanently altered his life: He dedicated his life fully to God, and he witnessed the struggles of The Great Depression. Tam credits both events as shaping his adult life and career. God came first.
Tam became a door-to-door salesman following his high school graduation. Tam sold Stanley products and other household necessities. During one of Tam's sales calls, a farmer's wife witnessed to Tam about Jesus Christ. Six weeks later, Tam accepted Jesus Christ as his personal savior while attending church. The career followed.
Tam never lost touch with the struggle his parents faced during The Great Depression. The images of their trials during the country's worst financial crisis stayed with Tam and propelled a desire to become a successful entrepreneur. Tam's first business venture was a reclamation project of sorts. His first business partner was a Cleveland-area inventor.
An emulsion comprised of silver halide salts and gelatin coats photographic film. Eastman Kodak Company used 20 tons of silver a week to develop the emulsion. Eighty percent of the emulsion was rinsed away during the film development process. Tam saw a way to recycle the silver with the help of the Cleveland inventor's silver reclaiming device.
In 1936, Tam approached the inventor and requested several of the silver reclaiming devices. Tam approached photo studios and set up royalty agreements for the reclaimed silver. Tam's idea was a good one, but as Tam explains, " … distribution became more costly than production," and the business failed. Tam returned to Lima disappointed, but not broken.
Tam recounts that his desire to succeed in business was affirmed by God during his trip back home. It was at this point, Tam says, that God told Tam to become his business partner. Tam did so, despite the fact he only had $25 in his pocket. Tam also promised to give God the credit for the business' success.
God's wasn't the only help Tam enlisted. Tam's father added $12 to Tam's $25, and Tam began his next business venture for a total of $37. This business was the humble beginning of the United States Plastics Company, and the new business owner kept his word. Whenever he had the chance, Tam focused on evangelical outreach.
During one of his many evangelical trips, Tam had another conversation with God. Tam recalls this time God asked Tam to be an "employee" of his, and allow God to run the business. Tam discussed the proposal with his wife, who agreed it was the right thing to do. They decided together that God needed more room to work, and legally made God the owner of the business.
Tam immediately built a plastics plant over five acres. Tam placed, "CHRIST IS THE ANSWER" in huge lettering on the side of the building. U.S. Plastics Corporation kept up with the expansion, growing into the online market, as well. God's portion of the profits goes to build churches in third world countries. Perhaps Tam's greatest legacy is not opening a plastics manufacturing plant with $37, but showing that faith really can move mountains.