Philanthropy: God’s Purposes for Business – Part IV

After profits (Purposes #3) are created, what do we do with them? We believe that the thrust of the Biblical teaching would lead to this fourth purpose:

Business exists to help the poor fully participate in the community with dignity through philanthropic giving.

When a business creates profit, that profit will need to be put to work. The most common way to put profits to work is to invest in the business through expansion activities, such as starting another product line, acquiring another company or improving processes that lower overhead costs. The conventional thinking is that profits are usually reinvested into the business to increase net revenue and net profits.

But God has a different – and better – plan.  As Christian Business Owners, we’re commanded to give away a portion of our profits.  I’m not talking, necessarily, about a tithe, but rather joyful giving of that which God has given to us.  In many instances, the giving will be well above a 10% tithe.

Proverbs 3.9-10 says this:

9 Honor the LORD with your wealth,
with the first-fruits of all your crops;
10 then your barns will be filled to overflowing,
and your vats will brim over with new wine.

When we give away a portion of our profits, we honor the Lord and He, in turn, promises to make us even more financially successful.  Now, lest you think we’re prosperity gospel folks here, this passage needs to be balanced with other Scriptures that deal with suffering and death.  But the balancing of the passages doesn’t negate the command:  we are to give and give generously.

Consider Proverbs 3.27-28:

27 Do not withhold good from those to whom it is due,
when it is in your power to act.
28 Do not say to your neighbor,
“Come back tomorrow and I’ll give it to you”—
when you already have it with you.

When your business is highly profitable, you have the means and ability to do good to those in your church and community.  If you already have the money, verse 28 says, you should give it away and not withhold it.

A portion of the profits, we believe, should be put to work within the community, helping the poor and enabling the community to flourish in one way or another. While this is similar to our first purpose for business, it is broader in scope and has as its’ focus the responsibility that businesses should give away some of their profits to help alleviate the poor.

In another post, we reference the Jewish tradition of Tzedekah, which has at its’ core both the concepts of charity and justice. Poverty is seen as a collective failure of society. Business exists, in part, to help society achieve the elimination of poverty – to achieve both charity and justice together.

Now, some might argue that by investing in growth strategies alone, that business can achieve this fourth purpose. We would disagree. Some social problems cannot be solved by strong, healthy businesses. One size does not fit all. Supporting the weak and elderly is one of many ways that businesses can give back to the community. When combined with the other five purposes, we learn that healthy businesses can bring a host of benefits to society and the church.

Leadership Lessons Part XI: The Value of a Close Friend and Supporter

David had a huge gift from God in the form of Jonathan, his friend. Even though Jonathan was the rightful heir to the throne since he was Saul’s son, he God had long since given the kingdom to David because of his father’s sin. David learns the valuable lesson of having a close, lasting friendship who will supports his leadership. Our story comes from 1 Samuel 20:

Then David fled from Naioth at Ramah and went to Jonathan and asked, “What have I done? What is my crime? How have I wronged your father, that he is trying to kill me?” 2 “Never!” Jonathan replied. “You are not going to die! Look, my father doesn’t do anything, great or small, without letting me know. Why would he hide this from me? It isn’t so!” 3 But David took an oath and said, “Your father knows very well that I have found favor in your eyes, and he has said to himself, ‘Jonathan must not know this or he will be grieved.’ Yet as surely as the LORD lives and as you live, there is only a step between me and death.” 4 Jonathan said to David, “Whatever you want me to do, I’ll do for you.”

5 So David said, “Look, tomorrow is the New Moon feast, and I am supposed to dine with the king; but let me go and hide in the field until the evening of the day after tomorrow. 6 If your father misses me at all, tell him, ‘David earnestly asked my permission to hurry to Bethlehem, his hometown, because an annual sacrifice is being made there for his whole clan.’ 7 If he says, ‘Very well,’ then your servant is safe. But if he loses his temper, you can be sure that he is determined to harm me. 8 As for you, show kindness to your servant, for you have brought him into a covenant with you before the LORD. If I am guilty, then kill me yourself! Why hand me over to your father?” 9 “Never!” Jonathan said. “If I had the least inkling that my father was determined to harm you, wouldn’t I tell you?” 10 David asked, “Who will tell me if your father answers you harshly?”

11 “Come,” Jonathan said, “let’s go out into the field.” So they went there together. 12 Then Jonathan said to David, “I swear by the LORD, the God of Israel, that I will surely sound out my father by this time the day after tomorrow! If he is favorably disposed toward you, will I not send you word and let you know? 13 But if my father intends to harm you, may the LORD deal with Jonathan, be it ever so severely, if I do not let you know and send you away in peace. May the LORD be with you as he has been with my father. 14 But show me unfailing kindness like the LORD’s kindness as long as I live, so that I may not be killed, 15 and do not ever cut off your kindness from my family—not even when the LORD has cut off every one of David’s enemies from the face of the earth.” 16 So Jonathan made a covenant with the house of David, saying, “May the LORD call David’s enemies to account.” 17 And Jonathan had David reaffirm his oath out of love for him, because he loved him as he loved himself.

18 Then Jonathan said to David, “Tomorrow is the New Moon feast. You will be missed, because your seat will be empty. 19 The day after tomorrow, toward evening, go to the place where you hid when this trouble began, and wait by the stone Ezel. 20 I will shoot three arrows to the side of it, as though I were shooting at a target. 21 Then I will send a boy and say, ‘Go, find the arrows.’ If I say to him, ‘Look, the arrows are on this side of you; bring them here,’ then come, because, as surely as the LORD lives, you are safe; there is no danger. 22 But if I say to the boy, ‘Look, the arrows are beyond you,’ then you must go, because the LORD has sent you away. 23 And about the matter you and I discussed—remember, the LORD is witness between you and me forever.”

24 So David hid in the field, and when the New Moon feast came, the king sat down to eat. 25 He sat in his customary place by the wall, opposite Jonathan, and Abner sat next to Saul, but David’s place was empty. 26 Saul said nothing that day, for he thought, “Something must have happened to David to make him ceremonially unclean—surely he is unclean.” 27 But the next day, the second day of the month, David’s place was empty again. Then Saul said to his son Jonathan, “Why hasn’t the son of Jesse come to the meal, either yesterday or today?” 28 Jonathan answered, “David earnestly asked me for permission to go to Bethlehem. 29 He said, ‘Let me go, because our family is observing a sacrifice in the town and my brother has ordered me to be there. If I have found favor in your eyes, let me get away to see my brothers.’ That is why he has not come to the king’s table.”

30 Saul’s anger flared up at Jonathan and he said to him, “You son of a perverse and rebellious woman! Don’t I know that you have sided with the son of Jesse to your own shame and to the shame of the mother who bore you? 31 As long as the son of Jesse lives on this earth, neither you nor your kingdom will be established. Now send someone to bring him to me, for he must die!” 32 “Why should he be put to death? What has he done?” Jonathan asked his father. 33 But Saul hurled his spear at him to kill him. Then Jonathan knew that his father intended to kill David. 34 Jonathan got up from the table in fierce anger; on that second day of the feast he did not eat, because he was grieved at his father’s shameful treatment of David. 35 In the morning Jonathan went out to the field for his meeting with David. He had a small boy with him, 36 and he said to the boy, “Run and find the arrows I shoot.” As the boy ran, he shot an arrow beyond him. 37 When the boy came to the place where Jonathan’s arrow had fallen, Jonathan called out after him, “Isn’t the arrow beyond you?” 38 Then he shouted, “Hurry! Go quickly! Don’t stop!” The boy picked up the arrow and returned to his master. 39 (The boy knew nothing about all this; only Jonathan and David knew.) 40 Then Jonathan gave his weapons to the boy and said, “Go, carry them back to town.”

41 After the boy had gone, David got up from the south side of the stone and bowed down before Jonathan three times, with his face to the ground. Then they kissed each other and wept together—but David wept the most. 42 Jonathan said to David, “Go in peace, for we have sworn friendship with each other in the name of the LORD, saying, ‘The LORD is witness between you and me, and between your descendants and my descendants forever.’ ” Then David left, and Jonathan went back to the town.

An entire book could be written about the friendship between David and Jonathan. The larger point in this post, from a leadership perspective, is that David was well blessed by God with Jonathan’s friendship. As much as David didn’t trust Saul that was how much he trusted Jonathan, Saul’s son. He had already married Michel, Jonathan’s sister and Saul’s daughter. He was, in many respects, family. But still, God blessed him with a strategic and real friend and supporter in Jonathan.

Most effective leaders have significant friendships that turn out to be both strategic and intensely personal. I don’t believe David would have been the leader he turned out to be without Jonathan in his life. The love and support of a deeply personal friend can have significant, positive impact for the leader and indirectly, those whom are led by the leader. Jonathan proves to be that friend for David.

As a Christian Business Owner, do you have such a friend? I’m not talking about your spouse (if you’re married). Spouses are our friends, but they cannot be everything we need. No, I ask: do you have someone who supports you and yet will tell you when you’re off-base? Do you have a friend who will warn you of impending danger? Do you have someone who stands up for you to those who most want to see your demise, even at the risk of their own reputation? If you have such a friend, you are, indeed, a rich person.

But if you’re an island – a leader without such a friend – then ask God to send you a friend who will be this person for you. Ask God to give you a friend – a Jonathan. And when God brings this person into your life, don’t dismiss him or her. Foster that friendship and grow it. Make it one that you invest in. And then be sure to thank God every day for giving you this gift of a supporter and friend.

Leadership Lessons Part X: God’s Protection

God’s Preparation of David for leadership led Him to put David into a multi-year (well over a decade, actually) experience in which he was on-the-run and without a “base” that many of us take for granted: he was a hunted and wanted man by the government, he lacked a physical home and he spent years away from his first wife.

Leaders go through “desert” experiences. God refines His leaders for His own purposes – changing their definition of success, refining their character, weeding out pride and arrogance, building into them the ability to hear His voice and follow Him and so forth. Suffering is a part of leadership and leadership development because leading involves suffering. Leading means that you are sometimes the shock absorber of the dysfunction in the business. Leading means that at time, you live with the anger and gossip of the masses because you cannot fully explain yourself – hence, you live with being misunderstood. Desert experiences teach us these lessons – and they nearly always are taught while we are leading others.

Our text comes from 1 Samuel 19.11 and following:

Saul sent men to David’s house to watch it and to kill him in the morning. But Michal, David’s wife, warned him, “If you don’t run for your life tonight, tomorrow you’ll be killed.” 12 So Michal let David down through a window, and he fled and escaped. 13 Then Michal took an idol and laid it on the bed, covering it with a garment and putting some goats’ hair at the head. 14 When Saul sent the men to capture David, Michal said, “He is ill.” 15 Then Saul sent the men back to see David and told them, “Bring him up to me in his bed so that I may kill him.” 16 But when the men entered, there was the idol in the bed, and at the head was some goats’ hair. 17 Saul said to Michal, “Why did you deceive me like this and send my enemy away so that he escaped?” Michal told him, “He said to me, ‘Let me get away. Why should I kill you?’ “

18 When David had fled and made his escape, he went to Samuel at Ramah and told him all that Saul had done to him. Then he and Samuel went to Naioth and stayed there. 19 Word came to Saul: “David is in Naioth at Ramah”; 20 so he sent men to capture him. But when they saw a group of prophets prophesying, with Samuel standing there as their leader, the Spirit of God came on Saul’s men, and they also prophesied. 21 Saul was told about it, and he sent more men, and they prophesied too. Saul sent men a third time, and they also prophesied. 22 Finally, he himself left for Ramah and went to the great cistern at Seku. And he asked, “Where are Samuel and David?” “Over in Naioth at Ramah,” they said. 23 So Saul went to Naioth at Ramah. But the Spirit of God came even on him, and he walked along prophesying until he came to Naioth. 24 He stripped off his garments, and he too prophesied in Samuel’s presence. He lay naked all that day and all that night. This is why people say, “Is Saul also among the prophets?

After the test of the broken vow, God takes David into an extended time of trial, testing and development. He uses current events to push David into the desert. And the first lesson he learns in the desert is that God protects him.

David runs to Samuel’s abode in Ramah. He needs a safe place to “hole up” while he figures out his next steps. Naioth was the location was where Samuel ran a school for prophets – similar to Elijah at Gilgal and Jericho. Naioth is near Ramah – the birthplace for both Saul and Samuel – also Samuel’s permanent residence. So they both go to the school. Samuel was the recognized prophet in their day. They understood that a true prophet spoke God’s message to the people in God’s name and under the influence of the Holy Spirit. He called the people to faithfulness in their covenant with God and sometimes predicted future events and he ran a school to teach others about leading God’s people to God’s heart.

Now, Saul sends 3 different groups of men to capture David – the Spirit comes on all three – disabling and disarming them. In the end, Saul goes himself with the same result. God protects David because God’s purposes for David protected him from being killed or harmed at that time. God demonstrated His protection His Way. And we learn that God’s protection does not always include His resolution of the immediate problem. God protects David, but Saul will continue to hunt him for years to come.

It is not unusual for permanent conflict or problems to exist in a leader’s life. Why? Because inherent within leadership is the reality that the most difficult decisions and the most thorny relationships to managed bubble to the top of the organization. Some conflict is managed, not resolved. Some relationships cannot be resolved, they must be managed or ended. A leader must learn to sense the spiritual reality behind the physical reality and act as God would have the leader to act. The leader must learn that God’s call may include managing a difficult situation because there is no other solution.

Leaders often face opposition and unsolvable situations. God often takes leaders through “desert” experiences of intense opposition and/or difficulties to refine and mature them, yet in the midst of this, He protects them for His purposes and glory. God is easily able to strike the balance between allowing suffering into the life of the leader while ensuring that the leader is sustained and protected. During these seasons of extended trial, God leads us to see that leadership is less about what you do and much more about who you are. Character becomes paramount. Courage is forged in the fire of trials. And we learn the value of love, patience, endurance and perseverance in our leadership as we work with the short-comings of those we lead even while we ask God to forgive our own faults and failings.

As a Christian Business owner, you need to expect that God will take you through significant periods of suffering and trial to mature you and complete you in your faith. Such trials may come through a significant business downturn, employees who lie to you and end up costing you millions, competitors who undermine you with customers or other industry partners, vendors upon whom you depend for critical supplies prohibitively raise prices or suddenly go out of business and so forth. But the trials may also be personal: an affair, a divorce, a sudden health problem, a rebellious child and so forth. Know that God is not surprised by any of this. He might be taking you into the desert. Just remember, during this time – which may last months or even years – God will be with you, taking you to new places and asking you to trust Him like never before. As you emerge from your desert experience, you will have a strength, a maturity and a relationship with God that you could not have had without it. So, learn all you can while you’re in the desert. Don’t extend it unnecessarily. And be sure to hang in there – because the best is yet to come!

Inversion: What’s all the Hub-Bub About?

In recent weeks, corporations have been sharply criticized for domesticating their home country from the United States to a foreign country with (sometimes much) lower tax rates. Commonly referred to as Inversion, this legal action has the potential to save a company hundreds of millions in taxes over a period of years. Critics complain that companies who make a simple paper transaction to avoid paying taxes are hollowing out the corporate income tax base that the government relies on to fund its’ programs. Inversion is thought to be unpatriotic and unfair to the country as a whole. Critics believe that if a company does 90% of its’ business in the United States, it should pay 90% of its’ income taxes here in the US.

What is Inversion?

Inversion is the process by which a United States-based company buys another company in a foreign country, such as Canada, and then using that acquisition to move its’ overall headquarters to the foreign country. Normally, during most acquisitions, the buying company’s stock loses some value while the acquired company’s stock goes up. But in an inversion, both company’s stocks increase in value since the buying company will experience greater profits as a result of domiciling in a lower tax environment. Companies who have inverted have noted that they wouldn’t do it only for the tax savings – there is always another reason for the acquisition, such as product line expansion, entrance into new markets, overhead cost savings and so forth.

Inversion has a number of benefits:

  • Essentially it is a tax arbitrage trade
  • Lower cost of doing business
  • Increased profits
  • Greater market capitalization
  • Increased ability to invest and grow
  • Creates new jobs and new opportunities

Inversion is also fueled by the natural tendency of acquisition as a growth strategy. And as competitors invert and pair up, there is strong pressure on those who have not inverted to do the same. Inversion becomes a competitive advantage. Given the hub-bub on Capitol Hill and recent remarks by the President, it seems clear to many that if you’re going to invert, now is the time to do so. This illustrates how remarks by a President can fuel and even justify the precise action he is speaking against: the more indications he gives that current tax laws should be changed to remove the benefits of inversion, the more likely it is that companies will invert before the laws are changed.

One Christian’s ViewPoint

Small business owners don’t really have inversion on the top of their agenda these days. Inversion is for the big guys. But if you’re interested, here is one Christian Business Owner’s take on Inversion.

First, referencing the Christian Business Reference Architecture, we recall that one of the purposes of business is to give back to the community in which the business resides. If a company’s profits increase, this gives them greater opportunity to give back to their communities. In this model, the community is not necessarily the legal address of the organization’s headquarters. It really should be thought of as the location(s) where their employees live and work.

Secondly, there is, in our opinion, an inverted relationship between the amount of money spent by government on social programs and safety nets and the average American’s sense of social responsibility to his fellow man. We have no research to back this up, it is just a hunch on our part (though some articles argue in this direction, here and here). When giving back to the community is reframed in terms of taxes paid to a government, then duty to fellow man is replaced with fiscal obligations to pay as little tax as possible. Giving is reduced to a line-item expense. Taxes are not charity and forced charity through the taxation system is not charity at all. We see a need for less government spending on social programs while individuals and companies need to reframe their purpose for existence to include increased giving and philanthropy.

The government has not been bashful about demanding they take on the role of social safety net support and equalizing unfairness in our society. Why then would anyone be surprised that companies have a low sense of supporting their communities through giving? Why would we be surprised that companies support social causes rather than the poor in general? The latter is taken care of by the government through taxes, so companies that do give tend to do so to social causes that often represent political agendas.

Thirdly, many believe that too much profits (however that is defined) is inherently evil and oppressive. We fully disagree. Profits are good. Profits are a social good. Profits are a spiritual good. And profits are what is used to fuel charity and philanthropy. In our opinion, it’s not that profits are too high, it is that giving is too low. But since the government takes care of the poor, profits are spend in other ways – sometimes lavishing oneself or others with extravagance. But from this viewpoint of too-much-profit-is-evil springs the notion that companies have a moral responsibility to pay more taxes to support the poor. But their argument misses a core clash point: why would an organization want to pay taxes in order to support the poor when they can do it directly and much more efficiently?

Government management of social programs is widely known to be highly inefficient. Most programs in the Federal government have overhead costs that approach 50%, meaning that for every dollar in taxes collected for a program, 50 cents or less finds its’ way to the recipients of that program. Private charities are more efficient in administering philanthropy and giving. Taxing corporations to pay for social programs might make good politics in an election year, but it is the most inefficient way to distribute charitable dollars.

In the end, Inversion is the result of an onerous tax system coupled with a government that is too big to succeed. We have lost sight of the notion that God is the answer to our problems and that while government has a good and legitimate role, it too has limits on the good it can perform in society. Individuals and businesses are to be the main source of giving in God’s economy – through the church first and then directly through both formal and informal transactions. The Hebrew’s notion that there should be no poor among you is both noble and achievable, if government assumes its’ proper role and the population views it’s wealth as being owned by God, not by themselves. Inversion is a symptom, not the problem. Let’s focus on transforming the hearts of men so that both government and business understand their proper role in society as they live and walk before God.

A Battle of Wills

Recently, I watched a show called Epic American Castles about large, mammoth homes here in the United States. No doubt the homes are showcased as the pinnacle of success. In the episode I watched, the owners had the financial ability to enforce their will on everything associated with the building of their home. Money is power and they used that power to get what they wanted. I wonder now just how satisfied they are. I would be willing to bet my life savings that they are less than fulfilled.

A man came to Jacob during a night when Jacob was by himself. He wrestled with Jacob until morning and when he realized he couldn’t defeat Jacob, he touched his hip socket and permanently disabled him such that Jacob walked with a limp for the balance of his life (Genesis 32.22-32). After that, we’re told, Jacob was transformed in this event, having his name changed to Israel. At the end of the struggle, Jacob demanded that the man (who really was God) bless him – a blessing which he received. Jacob must have been a man of physical strength and exceptional, visceral fortitude to have wrestled all night with God.

You see, in the first story, the men who built these epic castles had (have?) such elaborate appetites that they are willing to spend millions on themselves. Personally, I think the size of their house reveals just how far they will go to fill the empty hole inside them. These attempts at satisfaction are elusive. They are truly men who have gained the whole world and are in danger of losing their own souls. In the second story, we have a man who knows God, but is far from fully submitted to God’s will for him. So he wrestles with God and at the end, demands a blessing (!!!). God has to permanently disfigure Jacob and change his identity before Jacob will be the man whom God has created him to be.

A battle of wills ensues within all of us. Without Christ, you’re battle is within yourself and you have no one who can help you alleviate your suffering. You’ll go on, throughout life, managing the battle between the parts of your persona – sometimes keeping them completely hidden from the view of others. But the struggle will never end.

If you know Christ, you might still battle with God. You’ll struggle for who is in control. You’ll have your ideas – your plans – your path to success. God will ask you to sacrifice this so that you follow, not struggle with, God. But you’ll resist that sacrifice. You’ll struggle because you know better. After all, you have it all worked out. You know what’s best, right? We have our MBA’s and consultants, we know how to make a good company great. We have developed the discipline of getting things done. We have learned to make the difficult and courageous decisions when there is no clear or easy answer. We have improved our processes and strengthened our balance sheets. We have established smart partnerships that increase net revenue and profit for both parties. We know how to do business. And tomorrow, we’re going to go to another city and transact business and create even more profit.

Yet God is calling us to something greater. Something that will involve ending the struggle of wills. Do you know what that “something” is? Read the life of Jacob and Israel and find out.

Bill English
CEO, Mindsharp
Associate, The Platinum Group

Federal Government Spending as a Percent of GDP: Why It Matters to the Small Business Owner

This chart – taken from globaleconomicanalysis.blogspot.com shows that our Federal government spends between 22% – 24% of our annual GDP. Because governments only transfer wealth via taxation, that percent of spending can be viewed as monies that were taken from private entities and spend either for the public good or for political purposes disguised as a public good.

Countries with the highest ratio of Government spending to total GDP tend to be known as the countries that are difficult within which to conduct business. Consider:

  • Zimbabwe – 98%
  • Cuba – 78%
  • Denmark, France and Sweden – 52%

While one would be foolish to invest in the first two countries, the last three have stable economies and represent good investment opportunities for the right investor. But running a business in any of these countries represents accepting an inherent partnership with the Government and their regulations.

As government spending increases, several things necessarily occur:

  1. Business is more likely to gain a growing portion of their income from one or more government contracts. Since the government is the “big dog” in every transaction, this puts the business at a power disadvantage, sometimes imposing process changes, disclosure requirements and over-the-top reporting and compliance costs that are not present in private transactions.
  2. As government spending increases, their ability to demand more and more adherence to regulations grows. The government’s ability to shape a market through onerous regulations and reporting requirements is enormous and can hurt small business.
  3. Governments often choose vendors for political reasons, not business reasons. They make tradeoff decisions without caring about those who are hurt by their decisions. Their power to codify into law who wins and losses by preferencing one group over another for new contracts will help the former while hurting the latter. Instead of creating a market in which businesses compete for government money based on merit, they end up competing based on status and knowledge on how to game the system.
  4. Inefficiencies and distortions are introduced into the market when politics drives spending decisions.

Small business often cannot compete for substantial government contracts because, in part, they don’t have (and can’t afford to hire) the contracting personnel needed to submit a bid for a contract in “government speak”. It is common knowledge in many subcontracting communities that the most important person in an organization who lands government contracts is the person who can consistently write a great bid document in a way that games the system through “government speak”. Given this, plus the preferencing of some groups over others, many small businesses feel “crowded out” by such high barriers of entry to the landing of government contracts. So as the government grows, the small businesses who realistically can’t compete for government contracts end up competing for a smaller part of the pie, making the market a less inviting place in which to conduct for-profit business activities. Should the government grow too large, many small businesses will simply go out of business, creating more unemployment and in turn, more government spending.

If you’re a small business owner, what can you do? Just run your business as lean and profitably as possible. Build cash. It’s your only defense during troubled times. If the opportunity presents itself, go after some government money by subcontracting with a larger prime contractor who will handle all of the headaches on your behalf and will manage the contract for you. And then be active in voicing your thoughts and opinions about the size and scope of the Federal government.

Bill English, M.A., M.Div.
Licensed Pychologist
CEO, Mindsharp
Associate, the Platinum Group

Courage, Clarity and Confidence: The Active Pursuit of God

In my own life, I can attest that my active pursuit of God parallels my growth in holiness and the ability to make courageous decisions as a CEO at work. When I drift from the Lord, I find myself shying away from conflict resolution. I don’t live up to the high ideals I’ve set for myself in my leadership philosophy. I lack the strength and courage to make tough decisions. And I find I don’t value my wife’s opinion and presence as much. God is the glue that holds together my life – and yours too, if you’re honest about it.

Making decisions is a core function of any Christian Business Owner. As in any organization, the toughest decisions bubble up to the top. If the decision is easy, you’ve probably hired someone else to handle it. CEOs make tough decisions – and that often requires courage:

“When my partners and I meet with entrepreneurs, the two key characteristics that we look for are brilliance and courage. In my experience as CEO, I found that the most important decisions tested my courage far more than my intelligence….Sometimes the decision itself is rather complicated, which makes the courage challenge even more difficult. CEOs possess a different set of data, knowledge, and perspective than anybody else in the company. Frequently, some of the employees and board members are more experienced and more intelligent than the CEO. The only reason the CEO can make a better decision is her superior knowledge. To make matters worse, when a CEO faces a particularly difficult decision, she may have only a slight preference for one choice over another— say 54 percent kill a product line, 46 percent keep it. If the really smart people on the board and on her staff take the other side, her courage will be severely tested. How can she kill the product when she is not even sure if she is making the right decision and everyone is against her? If she’s wrong, she will have been wrong in the face of advice from her top advisers. If she is right, will anybody even know?”

  • Horowitz, Ben (2014-03-04). The Hard Thing About Hard Things: Building a Business When There Are No Easy Answers (p. 209). HarperCollins. Kindle Edition.

To my way of thinking, courage comes either from arrogance, love or a strong sense of God’s leading. When it comes to the latter, we can’t know or understand the leading of God unless we are walking closely with Him. In order to hear His voice, we need to be actively pursuing God – every bit as much as we pursue our customers and excellence in our businesses. When we have the courage to meet the demands of reality, we set ourselves up for success – especially if that success is defined as us following God. When God is in the future creating a work for us to do and we are in the present letting God prepare us for that work, then if we continue to follow God – we will be successful even if this means our business struggles or doesn’t grow as some think it ought.

An active pursuit of God allows us to define success as being who God created us to be and doing what God has ordained we do. We jettison American views of success and we take on God’s definition instead. We stop trying to fit into a Christianized view of success that is grown in American business philosophies and we pursue God Himself and then pursue success in fulfilling the four purposes God has for our business. We also renounce sin and walk with God. We hear His voice and we know His leading. When this is our modus operando, we will have the courage to make tough decisions and through the enlightening work of the Holy Spirit, many of these tough decisions will be more clear-cut than we might have expected. We’ll more naturally live out our ideals and we’ll engage in peacemaking rather than conflict resolution. Oh – and our wives’s (or husband’s) opinions will matter a great deal more because we’ll understand that God does not lead two individuals in a marriage in different directions. He leads them as “one flesh”.

If you’re a Christian Business Owner and you’re drifting from God, then make it your first priority to pursue Him in prayer and through the Word. Let Him examine your life and confess any sins you have. Then turn your heart toward Him and follow His leading. By doing so, you will have the courage to make tough decisions, the clarity to know what God’s leading really is and the confidence that you will be successful in fulfilling God’s purposes for your life.

Assessing Enterprise Level Processes

Most organizations have little understand of their enterprise-level processes – and how those processes affect their success. Remember, most companies are organized by function but are experienced by their customers within a process. Aligning the customer experience with core processes will ensure a company is organized correct while also cutting needless process costs.

Enterprise processes are characterized by a strategic focus that occur at a global layer or within a major function of the organization. In their book, Execution, the Discipline of Getting Things Done, Larry Bossidy and Ram Charan assert that every company has three core – or global – processes: Strategy, people and talent and operations. Other’s will assert that there can be upwards to ten or even twenty global, core processes for an organization. More specific examples of global processes include revenue management, corporate governance and risk mitigation, management development programs, vision and mission planning (as defined in the CBRA) and so forth – these are processes that have both global and long-term effects on the business.

However, regardless of the number of processes, one should take a hard look at several aspects of those global processes:

  • External entities that the business touches – whether they are vendors, partners, customers, government or community constituents
  • Data flow into and out of those entities relative to the business itself
  • Prioritization of the major processes in terms of importance to the organization as well as importance to the customers
  • Accurate visual representation of these processes in written form

Taking a close look at these aspects will help us identity who the high impact parties are to our business – whether those parties are customers, partners and so forth.

But an assessment of enterprise processes will also have an inward focus in which we articulate the internal organizational units within the company and identify the various roles (sometimes called user types)
within those units. Identifying user locations is important to understanding business processes. From this information, an organization chart can be drawn that shows the relationships between organizational units. Note the organization chart is not built for function or reporting purposes – instead, it is drawn from a unit-relationship standpoint.

Both the external and internal assessments will help us understand who we serve, how data flows into and out of our organization and how that data flows within our company. Be sure to pay attention to data velocity as well as data security. By the former, you want to ensure you have good data flow as it moves through the processes as well as its’ own lifecycle. If velocity becomes constipated, then you have either a process or personnel issue to fix – neither of which may be an enjoyable experience.

As an overlay to the first two parts of the assessment (external and internal), you’ll want to map out the major functions of the organization and the major business processes performed by the organization. If you’d like, inserting a 4th layer (or a sub-overlay) focused on where monies are expended within these processes and functions will help you as a business owner or leader understand how “leaning up” a process can save you real dollars, even though a leaner process will not be seen directly on the Income Statement, Balance Sheet or the Cash Flow Statement.

Shared Services tend to me major, but horizontal functions in an organization – such as accounting, finance, human resources and so forth. Vertical functions tend to be those that are either service or product specific, such as research and development, sales, customer service and so forth. A functional diagram is then drawn to that the business understands what its’ critical functions really are. Be sure that the high-level responsibilities of each function are described in clear, unambiguous language.

Performing this type of assessment is absolutely visceral to understanding how an acquisition or a divestiture might impact the current business. You’ll also begin to see areas of redundancies and gaps – opportunity to cut costs and make processes more efficient. This information can be used for budgeting and resource allocation decisions as well. The net effect is a more profitable company, even if revenue is not increased.

This exercise is also used to assess whether an organization is “on track” to fulfilling its’ long-term vision that is derived from its’ core ideology.

There are some downsides to performing an Enterprise Process Assessment. For example, it is costly to maintain the integrity of the relationships over time that are derived from the initial assessment. Relationships take time and energy and usually cost both parties to maintain. Also, if the company is not strategically and process focused, this exercise will be of little use because they won’t value the information that is derived from this assessment.

However, for those companies who intend to be process and strategically focused, an enterprise level process assessment can be a strategic tool that is used to ensure the company stays on course with its’ core ideology while also surfacing opportunity costs inherent in fat or redundant processes.

Bill English, M.A., M. Div.
Licensed Psychologist
CEO, Mindsharp
Associate, The Platinum Group

Twelve G’s that Every Guy Needs

Since I doubt I’ll ever get around to writing this book, I decided to do an interview with Susie Larson to at least get the core content into the public domain. The interview was spontaneous – I bumped into Suzie in the hall and mentioned that we needed to do the interview sometime and before I knew it, we were done recording.

So here are the 12 G’s that every guy needs. One could at a 13th – Giving – but we did the interview on these 12.  You’ll need to listen to the interview to avoid drawing the wrong conclusions about this list.

Here goes:

  1. God
  2. Girl
  3. Guns
  4. Gold
  5. Guts
  6. Gears
  7. Golf
  8. Granola
  9. Goodness
  10. Greatness
  11. Gratitude
  12. Grit

Bill English, M.A., M.Div
Licensed Psychologist
CEO, Mindsharp
Associate, The Platinum Group

Customer Value, Business Functions and Process

“A process is a set of tasks that takes inputs, adds value to the inputs that customers are willing to pay for and then sells those outputs to customers.”

Many, many companies are organized around departments and functions: sales, marketing, research, accounting, and so forth. Most teams, departments and/or divisions have, as their primary interest, their own survival and sometimes, the acquiring of additional power and “territory” within an organization. Organizing a company around departments or functions almost always leads to a silo effect which negatively impacts cross-functional processes, teams and most importantly, customers.

You see, customers do not experience a function – they experience a process. Most businesses do not identify or understand the key processes that affect their customers, so there is a strong disconnect in how a company is organized vs. how a company is experienced. In our Christian Business Reference Architecture, we identify four core processes in every organization: Strategy, People & Talent Development, Operations and Value Creation. It is this last process that most companies fail to articulate and understand.

We advocate having a balance between process management and functional management. We’ll always need accounting, legal, human resources and so forth – in other words, shared services. But when it comes to sales, marketing, business development, research, product/service fulfillment and the like, those activities should be managed within a process rather than within a department. Process management helps you achieve greater effectiveness, greater customer satisfaction, and greater efficiency. Hence, the achievement of your business mission and vision can be realized.

If you organization your company around processes, then you’ll need a process owner – someone who is responsible for the design, improvement, monitoring and execution of the process. The outputs of the process are what the individual is measured and bonused on. If the process isn’t producing what it is supposed to produce, it is the process owner who is responsible to fix it. Organizing a company, in part, around processes may mean that some of the cherished titles no longer exist in your organization. For example, you may not have a Vice President of Sales. Instead, you might have a Process Director for Revenue. The difference is profound. Another example: you may not have a Vice President of Marketing, you might have a Process Owner for Lead Generation and Brand Enhancement. While these types of titles are rare, they do represent a shift in thinking about how we organize our companies.

Process owners should be subject matter experts, the one who experiences the most pain or gain when the process is broken or efficiently working, someone who has respect for upstream and downstream processes and someone who has an attitude toward continuous process improvement, which means they will need an open mind to change and criticism.

Highly effective organizations are customer, process and culture focused. Those companies that organize based on functions across shared services while organizing by process to improve customer experiences are those what will have a strategic advantage in the future.

Bill English, M.A., M.Div.
Licensed Psychologist
CEO, Mindsharp
Associate, The Platinum Group

 

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