Ten Principles to Remember When You’re Vocal about Your Faith as a Christian Business Owner

I walked into a business in Indianapolis when I was in high school that was owned by a classmate’ father. There on the wall, in raised lettering was this: “This business is dedicated to the glory of Jesus Christ”. If I remember correctly, this man had an affair and ended up divorcing his wife. I’ve often thought about that scenario and what those who were not believers walked away with from their experience with this man.

Whatever level of integration of faith and business you feel led to live out, it is sure that you will fail to live up to the standards in public. You’re human. Those who oppose your faith will use your failings to fan the flames of ridicule and finger-pointing. Others will be disappointed in you – a few might conclude that you’re Satan’s gift to Christian Business Ownership. The risks of being vocal about your faith in the marketplace are real. People are watching and judging. It’s natural that they would do so.

I’m probably more vocal than most. I’ve lost business due to how vocal I am about my faith. A few are nice to my face but spiteful behind my back. But those who get to know me understand that I can be agreeable with those with whom I disagree and will still work with them if possible. I tend to not cut off relationships unless there is a clear loss of trust and confidence in the relationship. Then there seems to be no use to keep trying. Some endings are necessary.

The vocality of your faith is your decision before God. Whatever levels He calls you to should be followed. But as you live out your faith in the workplace, here are some principles for you to remember:

  1. Your faith is your faith – while you can testify to what you believe, count on most people disagreeing with you – and that’s OK
  2. Your faith should lead to humility in public and love for those who believe and act differently than you
  3. Your faith is dead without works – the vast majority of your testimony should be actions, not words. If all you’re doing is talking, no one will listen.
  4. Your faith is compromised by sin – God cannot and will not bless your business if you’re living in sin
  5. Your faith will be opposed by Satan – He will attempt to destroy you, which is why spiritual warfare is so very important
  6. Your faith should cause amplified generosity – since it is God who gives us our wealth in the first place, it’s His to do with as He pleases. We’re simply stewards.
  7. Your faith is all you’ll have on your death bed, so keep in mind that your business is temporary, but being faithful to God is eternal
  8. Your faith defines who you are – who you are, at your core, should be non-negotiable
  9. Your faith is worth more than silver or gold – so don’t deny your faith to gain new business or keep existing business – it’s not worth it
  10. Your faith should be offered, not argued. It’s best to accept others differences than to debate or argue with them.

When God calls you to live out your faith in the marketplace, you’re entering one of the greatest mission fields in the world. May God richly bless you as a Business Owners – regardless of what level of openness to which He calls you.

Bill English

Starting a New Business through New Relationships

Business is all about relationships. When an entrepreneur starts a new business, his/her most important asset is not cash or a list of potential customer purchased from some data-producing vendor. Nope. The most important asset is his reputation and ability to build relationships. Those relationships can be with customers, partners, vendors and/or referral sources. The more oriented toward advisory/professional services your business is, the more likely it is you’ll need other trusted advisors to be referring to you. The more oriented your business is toward offering services directly customers, the more you’ll be building customer relationships through marketing while working on supplier and vendor relationships.

Nearly all businesses are built on solving problems for others. Whether we offer a product or service, they are nearly always designed to solve a problem that someone else is experiencing. Given this, the question becomes somewhat simple: how do you get your potential customer base to choose your service or product to solve their problem and to part with their money to get their problem solved? What you’re asking them to do is to adopt your service or product and to give you money in exchange for this. The more pain that is required on the part of the customer before they choose your product or service (or one of your competitors), the more trust they will need to have in your persona and product. In other words, you will need a strong brand. Usually, significant felt-pain before the purchase requires significant trust in the one solving their pain. For example, its’ one thing to solve the problem of long hair by being able to cut another’s hair, it’s quite another to solve the problem of a failing business or a heart condition that could kill you. One of the best ways to find customers with high felt-pain is by having someone they trust refer them to you.

Usually, people experiencing high pain turn to trusted advisors in the midst of their pain. Networking with those trusted advisors can help you sell your products or services when your business is focused on reaching those in highly painful situations. Networking is a time intensive effort with a long-term focus. Nearly everyone will take the time to meet with you and grab a cup of coffee. But taking the relationship further – one where you’re not leaching but adding value in multiples for both parties – takes additional time, effort and creativity. Your purpose for building relationships needs to be clear, but cannot be selfish. You build relationships to further your new business, of course. But you can’t have that as your sole focus when building these business relationships. If all you’re asking for is “gimme, gimme, gimme”, then people will understand that and you’ll drink a lot of coffee and not ever receive one referral. You must take the initiative and invest in that relationship before they do. You’ll find that most will not invest in you, so you’ll have to take the first step and invest further in them.

 

For example, everyone understands when you tell them that you’re starting a new business and you’re building out your network. All professionals will get this because they have all done the same thing themselves. But they will likely have established networks with folks they already rely on, so you’re also selling yourself to them as well as to any potential customer. You’ll initiate the relationship through an introductory conversation, but you’ll build that relationship through adding value to the goals and needs of your new contact. So, during the initial meeting, it’s good to ask questions like:

  • Who is your target customer? What are their core characteristics?
  • What is the “sweet spot” for your services?
  • If I could refer someone to you, what problem would they have and how would that customer describe it?
  • What could I do to help build your business?

The last question helps you understand how you might “fit” into their network. Sometimes – especially as a “new kid on the block” – you need to understand what role you’ll play on their team – how do you fit in? What value do you bring to their world? The more you can figure out how to add value to their world and be consistently seen as someone who is referring to them, the more necessary you’ll become to their business, causing them to refer back to you. If they have no ability to refer back to you, then you’ve built a new business relationship with the wrong person.

After you have established the initial relationship, as you meet more people, you’ll start to see connections between your new relationships. If you can’t refer new business to them, you can play the role of “connector” by introducing people to others who can add value to their own business. It’s important that the introduction be given between people who can help each other in roughly equal levels and ways. You’re connection of two other professionals needs to be apparently helpful to both of them as well as being a meeting they will engage in because of their trust in you.

One way to enhance your role of being a connector is to form an informal group of people in your network whom you’ve connected with that meets 2x – 3x/year. This group’s sole purpose is to share new networking contacts that might be helpful to one or more members of your group. It is also a way to stay in contact with those who are in contact with your potential customer base.

Finally, another way to build relationships with your new customer base is through speaking. You’ll need to develop topics that are interesting and are offered for free to groups that your target market frequents. Speaking is a way for potential customers to size you up and get to you know you in a non-threatening way. If you offer real value that they can immediately use, you’re more likely to have them ask you about your services. If your customer base doesn’t have meeting groups built into their ethos, such as those who have just been diagnosed with cancer, then you’ll need to try to speak to groups of those who can refer customers to you, in this case, doctors and nurses.

Building relationships in business can be a full-time job. As your business grows, you’ll have less time to engage in this activity, but you should still make it a priority to have at least one networking breakfast or lunch each week. Businesses that heavily rely on relationships and referrals can slowly die on the vine if they don’t keep networking and building new relationships.

Bill English
Association, The Platinum Group

 

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