Editor's Note: Ashot is a good friend of FDE, a new entrepreneur who has a growing/thriving business, albeit with some struggles along the way. We're going to look to get some entries from some folks that are in the midst of it.....looking to fully rely on God as they hope to make their new business flourish. Let us know if you know of others that fit that bill who have a burden to share with others their story of faith driven entrepreneurship.
Biblical business has always been an oxymoron for me. I’ve struggled to reconcile my preconceived notions of large, profit-thirsty corporations with biblical principles of gentleness, servitude, and forgiveness.
For a season, I even put aside the notion that God would ever call me to be a business owner because, well, I’m a Christian. Christians don’t lead businesses because businesses are inherently un-Christian.
Throughout my journey, three concepts helped me reconcile my Christian faith with a for-profit objective as I strived to create internal alignment and think biblically about my own company.
1 - First Things First
The first thing that allowed the foundation and the framework to click into place for me was a conscious, written and agreed upon commitment to follow Matthew 6:33 - “Seek first His Kingdom and His righteousness and all these things will be given to you as well.” It became my north star.
I initially struggled with this, as, at the time, my wife and I had three children, were on a single income in the Silicon Valley and had only raised 4 months of runway when I quit my job. Life was chaotic, making the exercise to seek the Kingdom challenging and unappealing. We decided that if we could only focus on one thing — seeking the Kingdom — the rest should and would fall into place.
What was interesting was that my wife and I decided to also make that the company’s north star as well. This helped tightly weave biblical values between me and the company and intentionally kill the dividing lines that had existed between the two. It helped purposefully place God above both, previously separate, worlds.
The primary way this manifested itself was that in the mornings, instead of checking my email first, I would get in the Word and instead of reaching out to mentors or investors for advice when stressed out, I would pray.
2 - Value vs. Dollars
The second thing that helped me create alignment was choosing to view the company as a vehicle to create value versus a vehicle to make a dollar. Viewing the company as a cash-centric machine had created a false dichotomy between my faith and running a business.
This slight but important modification removed cash from the pedestal and re-emphasized that cash is a byproduct of value creation. This still allowed cash to act as a unit of measure for the value we create, but importantly, the new approach placed cash in its rightful context as a derivative. The new approach also opened up doors to valuable things we could do and activities we could participate in that may not have a high monetary ROI.
3 - Value for Purpose
With value at the pedestal, I could now reframe the narrative of the company’s mission and desire to give back. With my wife’s and my desire to serve our community, we wanted it to be more than with just dollars.
The narrative on building the Kingdom and creating value inherently demands more than just dollars to a charity or donation to help a cause; it requires that we fully engage and utilize our connections, our time, our corporate body, our money and our energy to serve someone.
With our company, we intentionally created a program called Maintenance for Moms, where we service and subsidize vehicle repairs for low-income single moms. Apart from the repairs, we use this opportunity to come alongside these women to pray for them, understand their struggle, resource them appropriately and connect them with others that may be able to help. This was our way of purposefully serving our community through the value we created with more than just money.
Before I felt comfortable running a business, I wanted to resolve and reconcile the tension I had between running a business and being a Christ follower. These three concepts helped alleviate my internal conflict, weave my faith with my work and gain a unified perspective on how to utilize my God-given talents. Importantly, the focus on value ensured that I think holistically about my business and that I never make cash the ultimate.
--Ashot Iskandarian (bio here)