Article originally hosted and shared with permission by The Christian Economic Forum, a global network of leaders who join together to collaborate and introduce strategic ideas for the spread of God’s economic principles and the goodness of Jesus Christ. This article was from a collection of White Papers compiled for attendees of the CEF’s 2018 Global Event.
— by Matt Lesser
You have been an entrepreneur since you first figured out certain chores were worth more than others… and that your mom was a willing negotiator! As you start to make your dreams a reality, realize that everyone’s experiences are unique in the process of starting a business. Life has few guarantees, but one thing is sure: starting your own business will impact your life. It will challenge you in areas you never considered. It will require all the humility, hunger, and drive you have to offer. Stay true to who you are and focused on God—you will forever be better for this experience. It will make you a better spouse, parent, community member, friend, and Christ follower. I believe that because of technology, affluence, and accumulated knowledge, we have the opportunity and the responsibility to influence generations for God’s Kingdom through the marketplace. It will take concentration of effort and unified commitment to creating financial, cultural, and Kingdom returns…for such a time as this. As you embark on this journey, keep these principles at the forefront of your thinking: Vision, Impact, People, Balance, and Returns.
Cast an inspirational vision for your team and customers. Businesses and people fail because of lack of vision as noted in Proverbs 29:18, “Where there is no prophetic vision, the people cast off restraint, but blessed is he who keeps the law.” Without a leader clearly communicating vision, your team members will be free to develop their own vision to inspire them to action. These different visions can disrupt team unity and induce team conflict as team members struggle to achieve individual vision at the expense of another’s vision.
Vision will focus yourself and your team on a common goal. A team of individuals fully devoted to the vision of the business is no longer just a team: it is one unit moving in the same direction, providing accountability to constantly pursue the vision. A compelling vision becomes a foundation for actions and decisions—both on what to do…and what not to do.
Solve meaningful problems. People are attracted to organizations that are impact-driven. Your most valuable customers and team members will be driven by the impact of your business. Seek ways to add value to those around you. God has gifted you with unique talents to help you start your business. I urge you to display humility as you lead your business and team towards solving meaningful problems. Humility is accepting gratefully the gifts God gave you and using them every day to serve God and others… and fully accepting your limitations. When your business becomes about serving you, you will lose your edge.
When I had my business, I implored my team to be “solutions-driven,” not “product-driven.” When you help people identify, and solve, meaningful problems, they will be grateful and loyal; they will join you in your vision to make an impact that outlives you. Money is a means to an end—not the end itself. Help people solve their problems, and you will make a greater impact than you could by yourself.
Focus on “Who”…before “What” and “How.” Having the right people, professionally and personally, in your corner makes all the difference. Those around you are the people who will help you through some of your toughest times. Strive to build trusting, transparent relationships with your team because the strength of your relationships with individuals will determine the overall strength of your team. As a leader, it is your responsibility to demonstrate and build trust with those around you.
When building your team, look for team members who:
Create synergies: Look at personalities, views, and experiences that are not your natural strengths…and can mitigate your weaknesses.
Display Humble, Hungry, and Smart characteristics (Lencioni, 2016): Seek out well-rounded individuals who are constantly improving themselves.
Deserve your respect and trust: Pursue morally sound and relationally compatible individuals.
Challenge those around them to be better: Find those who are not afraid to challenge—“iron sharpens iron.”
Maintain an “end of life” perspective. It is easy to get caught up in never-ending task lists or meetings. Challenge yourself daily to live without regret. Find a girl you love more than your work, marry her, have a family, and pour into them to leave a legacy. Involve yourself with a ministry that energizes you. Build a life outside of work that is worth not missing. When you find balance in your life, you perform at a higher level. You also inspire others around you to do the same. Building a team that is fully devoted to being present where they work, live, play, and worship will drive your team forward as a unit.
Identify ways to achieve three returns: financial, cultural, kingdom. Your life is not your own. I learned this lesson the hard way. I took over the family business when I was in college out of obligation to my parents. The business failed…and I experienced a suicidal depression that forever changed my perspective and story. God is sovereign and works in ways you will never understand—never forget this. Everything you are and everything you have has been given to you by our Heavenly Father. If you lose the balance between these three returns, your community, family, faith, and business will all suffer.
In the end, if you build relationships with your team, serve your customers by helping solve their problems, and keep your eyes on God—no matter the results—you will have succeeded. Surround yourself with wise counselors, let God be your mentor, and may the Scriptures be your guide. Colossians 3:17 states, “And whatever you do, in word or deed, do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him.” Live and lead your business in a way that is glorifying to God, so one day you will hear from Him, “Well done, good and faithful servant.”
Your mom and I will always be here for you. I love you, my son.