In working with stressed businesses (those that are having cash problems, can’t pay their bills on time, have unending conflict and so forth), I have learned that nearly every stressed organization has a leader who rarely takes time for quality reflection. I choose to use the word “reflection” as opposed to the more common notion of “margin” because reflection indicates margin with a purpose and focus.
Times of reflection allow us to disconnect from the cares and schedules of this world and focus on something that is important to learn about, to understand and to eventually reach a place where we can make quality decisions or enter into rich experiences that will elude us if we don’t take quality time for reflection.
Reflection Time to Seek God’s Face
In order to seek God’s face (2 Chronicles 7.14), we necessarily must disconnect from the cares of this world. For a Christian Business Owner, this means disconnecting from his or her business – getting away to a gentle and quiet place where our sole focus can become God Himself. Quality times of reflection will ask us to slow down internally as well as externally – to slow down our mind and learn to focus it on God. “Be still and know that I am God.” wrote David in Psalm 46. We slow down our minds, focus on God, learn about Him as His Spirit teaches us supernaturally and we enter into His sweet presence that brings a peace that passes all understanding. Reflection time to see God’s face is essential if you’re going to run your business under the authority of God.
However, if you own a stressed business, it becomes even more difficult to take times of reflection to seek God’s face. A stressed business can be one of the “worries” (Matthew 13.1-23) of this world that causes the seed God has planted in the owner to be “choked out”. Worries about meeting payroll, paying vendors, closing deals and so forth can become all-consuming, robbing the owner of precious, needed times of reflection before the Lord.
The “deceitfulness of wealth” also chokes out the Word of God in business owners lives. Their business creates wealth. The owner increases his or her standard of living, become increasingly dependent on the comforts, conveniences and status that wealth affords. God becomes less and less and after a while, a Christian Business Owner can have the form of Christianity in his or her life, but lack the power and purity that only a close walk with God can produce.
For most business owners, their business is very consuming when it is going well. It can become all-consuming when it becomes stressed. Having been there, I can attest that a stressed business *will* consume you unless you purposefully manage your time to disconnect from it. Easy to say, hard to do. When we allow anything in this world – including a stressed business – to choke out the work that God is doing in our lives, we’ll not engage in reflective time to seek God’s face.
Reflection Time to Understand Your Business
In every stressed business that I’ve seen, the Christian Business owner rarely takes time away from the business to read reports, spot trends and pray through difficult situations. The owner naturally works harder and harder, thinking that through sheer hard work, she or he can turn around the business.
Often what is really needed is not harder work, but smarter work – work that is focused and informed through reflection and listening to advisors who can see things you can’t when you’re in the midst of the storm. Smarter work requires times of focus, times of prayer and time to hear the still, small voice of God after you have disconnected from your business and calmed down internally.
Reading through your profit/loss statements, cash flow statements, balance sheets in a calm time of reflection will yield insights that you’ll never get by reading them in your office. It’s a matter of perspective that is gained through disconnection and unrushed learning time.
Nearly every time we work with a new business, we have insights into that business that the folks running it will never get because they are too caught up in the swirl of their stressors to think clearly. I remember one retail establishment that I’m still working with had a complete lack of leadership and quality accounting skills. It was no wonder they were nearly bankrupt. Within the first two hours, I was able to relay this simple, but important feedback to the ownership group. It has formed the basis of our core work in turning around this company. No matter how much costs they cut or how much revenue they increased, they were doomed to failure until they resolved these two core, important issues. But they never saw it, in part, because they had worked in this business most of their adult lives. It just never occurred to them that they had a real business ($25+M/year). They always saw it as this little family business that didn’t need “all those big business titles and processes”. After getting them away from their business to our offices and having a series of discussions about their business, they began to see the need to resolve their leadership and accounting problems. Doing so has transformed their business. But they would have never taken these steps without quality times of reflection away from their office.
So, What Should You Do?
First, take two consecutive business days away from your office each month and get to a quiet place where you can review your financials and other core reports. Take time to read them. Absorb what is being reported to you. Notice what is missing. And pray through these reports to align your perspective with God’s perspective. Allow the Holy Spirit to teach you about yourself and your business. Don’t let the swirl of your business rob you from hearing the voice of God and reflecting on what your systems and people are telling you about your business.
Secondly, purpose to never make important decisions quickly. For example, purpose to take 24 or 48 hours before deciding to spend in excess of $25K or $100K (whatever level makes sense to you in your business). When presented with difficult or important decisions, give yourself permission to clear your schedule and get away to a place where you can reflect and hear the voice of God.
Thirdly, develop a Board of Advisors or Directors who will invest time and wisdom in your business and your person. Give them information they need to give you quality feedback and then take the time to reflect with them in an unhurried, calm manner about the important challenges facing your business. Your advisors can be an important aspect of growing your business.
Finally, get an Executive Coach who can get to know you and help you see where your derailers are in your work habits, interpersonal skills and professional development. Look for ways to shore up your derailers or find ways to hire around yourself so that, as a team, your business is dealing with the least amount of dysfunction from your office as possible.
When Peyton Manning went to the Denver Broncos after winning a Super Bowl in Indianapolis, he asked the Denver coaching staff to coach him. “I want to be coached” he said. Now, here is a Super Bowl MVP and multi-million dollar athlete asking to be coached. Why? Because he wanted to be the best he could be. Why don’t business owners ask to be coached? Pride? Arrogance? Cost? I don’t know. But what I do know is that coached leaders are better leaders than uncoached leaders. Just look around and see who is being coached. You’ll find you’re looking at a growing, thriving leader of a business or organization.
Take quality time to reflect on your person and work. Listen to the Voice of God. Then see what God does. I think you’ll be glad you took the time to reflect on seeking God’s face and learning about your business. It will one of the best things you’ve ever done.