Pay Attention!

One core purpose of business is to create services and products that enable the community to thrive. This means that a Christian Business Owner should be focused on good product development, not just because it makes good business sense (it obviously does) but also because the Bible speaks to this part of business as well. When your product is your people, it becomes even more important.

Proverbs 27.23-24 says this: “Be sure to know the condition of your flocks, give careful attention to your herds; for riches do not endure forever and a crown is not secure for all generations”.  Two lessons jump out from these two verses regarding product development and more generally, about your business.

First, we are to be careful to know the condition of our business and its’ products/services.  It is something we are expected to pay attention to. As an owner, I’m in my checking account every day and am looking at the sales and financial numbers every day. To do otherwise is not wise and will lead to ruin.

One of the main reasons that businesses fail is because the owner doesn’t pay attention to the financial, legal and HR details that ensue with running any business.  Most entrepreneurs get into businesses because they have a talent in a given area and that talent is needed in the marketplace.  But when it comes to paying attention to the details of running a business, they tend to not do as well in these areas. For example, I know of one fast-growing company right now that is nearly 30 people and has roughly $4M/year in sales. (They are not in the same vertical I work in right now, so if you’re reading this and own a business, it’s probably not you). Their owner has a “results oriented” culture that at times, disregards the work-life balance of his employees. As a result, he does not have a vacation policy. So when people try to get permission to take time off, it is always denied because they don’t do vacations at his company: “Take the time off if you wish, but you’ll be expected to deliver results anyways.” I have friend who works 60+ hours/week in that business and found himself being called into meetings during his two week vacation in Hawaii. Needless to say, he wasn’t happy.

This is an owner who is out-of-balance in the purposes for business, prioritizing profits over people. And he isn’t paying attention to a core part of his company – his employee’s personal welfare. He would do himself a world of good to spend some time shoring up his Paid Time Off policy and showing some restraint when people are on vacation or are enjoying a Saturday at home, futzing in the yard.

When you run a service-oriented business, your people are your product. So paying attention to them is paramount to your success. If your product is something tangible, then you need to know the quality of your products and how the manufacturing process is coming along. Give careful attention to it and you’ll have a better business for it.

Secondly, we are reminded that riches (profits) do not endure forever and your position as a business owner is not secure forever either.  The obvious analogy is that if you do not pay attention to the condition of your business and its’ products/services, your profits and position will not endure. But even if you do, there will come a time when you won’t be an owner of any business. Understanding this will help you treat your business at an arm’s-length and gives room for you to treat it more as an entrustment from God than as an extension of your personhood.

Bill English, CEO