Category Archives: Reference Architecture

Foundations of Christian Stewardship Part II: It’s about God’s Agenda

The second element in understanding Biblical stewardship for Christian business owners is a natural follow-on to the first element, which was God owns everything and it is this:

All events are orchestrated by God to serve God’s agenda

This can be a bit disconcerting to us Type A people who like to control everything. We like to roll up our sleeves and get stuff done. But Proverbs 16.4 is clear: “The Lord works out everything for His own ends – even the wicked for a day of disaster.” (There are other passages that could be cited beyond this one)

As Christian business owners, we need to understand that trusting in God and replacing our agenda with His is the essence of trusting in God. Garrett writes:

“Biblical righteousness is fundamentally an attitude of trust in God, an attitude implicitly and explicitly demanded in 16:1, 3. Wickedness, too, is more than simple disobedience to the commandments; it is above all manifest in an attitude of pride” (Garrett, D. A. (1993). Proverbs, Ecclesiastes, Song of songs (Vol. 14, pp. 152–153). Nashville: Broadman & Holman Publishers).

It is natural for us business owners to think about our agenda for our business. But have you ever taken time to learn from God what His agenda is for His business that He has entrusted to you? This directly goes to the core purposes for business: Passions, Products, Profits and Philanthropy. The four core purposes for business, collectively, need to be the organizing principle to which our businesses – our entrustment from the Lord – are tethered.

What is the Lord asking you to do with His business? How is He asking you to manage it, grow it, use it to further His kingdom? Are you developing the passions and talents in the people God has brought to you? Are you developing new products and services that will enable your community to flourish? Are you using your profits as directed by God – perhaps giving away more than is normal because God wants to bless you as a giver and wants to bless others engaged in other ministries? Does God’s agenda for your business drive your strategy and tactics?

Take time today to do an inventory of your person and work. Remember that God owns everything – including your business – and He will orchestrate the events of your life and your business so that you are working in concert with Him to accomplish His agenda.

Bill English

Are you Called or Driven?

In our Bible class yesterday at church, we discussed James 2.14-26:

“14 What good is it, my brothers and sisters, if someone claims to have faith but has no deeds? Can such faith save them? 15 Suppose a brother or a sister is without clothes and daily food. 16 If one of you says to them, “Go in peace; keep warm and well fed,” but does nothing about their physical needs, what good is it? 17 In the same way, faith by itself, if it is not accompanied by action, is dead. 18 But someone will say, “You have faith; I have deeds.” Show me your faith without deeds, and I will show you my faith by my deeds. 19 You believe that there is one God. Good! Even the demons believe that—and shudder. 20 You foolish person, do you want evidence that faith without deeds is useless? 21 Was not our father Abraham considered righteous for what he did when he offered his son Isaac on the altar? 22 You see that his faith and his actions were working together, and his faith was made complete by what he did. 23 And the scripture was fulfilled that says, “Abraham believed God, and it was credited to him as righteousness,” a and he was called God’s friend. 24 You see that a person is considered righteous by what they do and not by faith alone. 25 In the same way, was not even Rahab the prostitute considered righteous for what she did when she gave lodging to the spies and sent them off in a different direction? 26 As the body without the spirit is dead, so faith without deeds is dead.”

We also looked at Ephesians 2.8-10:

“8 For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God—9 not by works, so that no one can boast. 10 For we are God’s handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.”

The thrust of what our teacher was saying is that we are saved only by grace, but our salvation, our faith, is evidenced by “good works” which God has prepared for us to do.

For whatever reason, during the class, the Holy Spirit was bringing to my mind the warning passage in Matthew 7:21-23:

“21 “Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but only the one who does the will of my Father who is in heaven. 22 Many will say to me on that day, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name and in your name drive out demons and in your name perform many miracles?’ 23 Then I will tell them plainly, ‘I never knew you. Away from me, you evildoers!’ ”

How are the connected, if at all? How could people do such wonderful things and NOT know Christ? I believe the answer is as follows:

Those in Matthew 7 focused on the results, not on knowing God. I wonder, honestly, if some who do so many great things for Christ really knew him. I recall spending my freshman year at Grace College in Winona Lake, Indiana. Their motto is this: “To know Him and to make Him known”. That’s the right focus and the right order. I will suggest that no matter what we accomplish on this year, none of it matters if we don’t know Christ on an intimate and personal level.

Those in Matthew 7 were highly talented people who were likely seen as being very spiritual and rather successful. I think it would be tough to imagine that these folks were not both popular and seen as spiritual leaders since they could drive out demons and perform miracles.

Those in Matthew 7 were NOT accomplishing the Will of God. It’s hard to imagine that God didn’t want demons driving out or miracles performed, but then again, we have trouble understanding how evil spirits could be sent by God to torment Saul or incite David to take a census or be allowed to afflict Job. It’s not as if once the demons are eradicated that God can now do His work. That is such an immature view of God. No, God can do His work and accomplish His will just fine even when the demonic are present.

We are saved with a view to us doing “good works”. The catch here is that we don’t get to choose or define what a “good work” is. Only God gets to do that. And Ephesians 2.10 is clear: He is preparing us for the work and He is at work in the future preparing the work for us so that when we are called to do the work, the work is prepared for us to be successful and we are prepared to do the work successfully.

Now, we can mess this up in a number of ways. One way that Christian Business Owners – people who are highly talented, smart, energetic and so forth – can mess this up is to see into the future what could be and then decide that it should be and that the combination of the two represents God’s call on our business. I would suggest that we can be led astray from what God is calling us to do when we mistake our drive to be successful for God’s call on our lives.

A “good work” has the following characteristics:

  1. It is a work which God has prepared in advance for us to do
  2. It is a work that God has prepared us to do
  3. It is a work that we learn about through time spent with God
  4. It is a work that is an outgrowth of our faith

With reference to #2, let’s bear in mind that if we can accomplish the work solely through our own talent, then I would question if it is a “good work”. There is much we can accomplish apart from God, but our achievement in “good works” simply must be born in our relationship with God. What is God calling you and I to do? What “good work” has He prepared for us to do?

Our faith in Christ is evidenced by our doing good works. Good works are those which accomplish the will of God. We can do spectacular things which appear to be accomplishing God’s will without ever knowing Christ. We will only know what those good works that God has prepared for us to do are by spending time with God, hearing His voice, knowing Him intimately.

If you do the latter – no matter what you accomplish – you will be doing good works. If you do not do the latter, you are in danger of being told to leave His presence because He “never knew you”.

Bill English

When Leadership Provides Status, Meaning and Power, it’s Hard to Give Up

For the senior generation in a family business, their leadership in their business and family has provided status, meaning, power, and other rewards. Hence, the greatest impediments to peaceful transitions are the senior leaders’ fear of losing it all.

Their dual role as a leader in the family gives them a sense of “specialness” that comes with the leader’s belief that he or she is uniquely qualified to lead. Status and specialness reinforce each other and the two combined is a core reason why the senior generation often stays on in the family business well after they should. Couple that with the second generation’s ambivalence as to when is the right time to ask mom and dad to step aside and it becomes easy to see why the family system supports the putting off of the necessary transition until there is no other choice.

This is why Christian Business Owners are taught to hold their business with an open hand – an entrustment from the Lord who is the ultimate HR director of their company. When a business owner walks closely with the Lord and values His direction more than the perks of ownership, when God calls the owner to retire and focus on something else, the owner more easily lets go of his position.

I’m not saying it is easy – just that it is easier because the personal value system of a Christian Business Owner is different from others – or at least it should be.

Status and power are fleeting. Meaning in life should come from our identity in Christ and a deep sense of fulfilling our calling before Him. Leadership is about service to others – not being the top-dog who gets the limelight. For Christians, our transformation in the Lord ought to change us to recognize what status and power really are: temporary and worldly constructs that will not last into eternity.

Think about men such as Napoleon, Hitler, Charlemagne, Nebuchadnezzar, Mao Zedong and others….men who would have become God had they been able to. Yet only one God became man – Jesus Christ. Our example of leadership, power and status is one who gave it all up in order to accomplish God’s will. We should be the same as Him. Philippians is helpful at this point:

5 In your relationships with one another, have the same mindset as Christ Jesus:

Who, being in very nature God,

did not consider equality with God something to be used to his own advantage;

rather, he made himself nothing

by taking the very nature of a servant,

being made in human likeness.

And being found in appearance as a man,

he humbled himself

by becoming obedient to death—

even death on a cross!

The mature Christian Business Owner will recognize when it is time to move on – time to leave his business to his children (or sell it) and take the next steps of obedience to Christ. Power, status, meaning and rewards will pale in comparison to what he (or she) has with the Lord.

If you’re a Christian Business Owner who knows it is time to transition out of your business but you’re having a hard time doing so, then please draw near to God and let Him transform your hear, your values, your identity – everything about you. You’ll then find that giving up the business when He calls you to do so will be the right step and you’ll take it in boldness and confidence, knowing that God has His hand on you and is working “all things together for good”.

Bill English

An Important Truth for First Generations to Learn in Family Businesses

When an entrepreneur starts his own business, from an ownership perspective, one of the key hurdles to overcome is securing enough capital to survive, then thrive. The principle sources of this capital are usually the savings and assets of the owner plus “sweat equity” invested by the owner and perhaps family and friends. The owner usually makes significant, personal sacrifices which help him and his family survive while their business is being built into a thriving, growing entity.

When ownership is passed to the second generation and the entrepreneur decides to share ownership between his children, the complexities at the ownership level increase exponentially. This complexity is a key hurdle for the second generation to overcome. Whereas the entrepreneur had sole control and could offer clarity in direction and decision, now that the ownership is shared, roles must be established and siblings must negotiate how they will cooperate in a shared power, shared authority model.

This complexity only increases if the entrepreneur decides to stay involved in the business without a clearly defined role. If he is vague about when full control will be passed to his children or if he is prone to take a extended time away from the business only to come back and start ordering his old staff and his children around, he will effectively create such havoc that his children may decide the family business isn’t worth their effort and time.

After passing control to his children, you might hear him talk about the old days – the work and sacrifice that was needed to get the business off the ground and make it successful. What’s ironic is that he’ll likely talk in such a way as to indicate that his children have no idea how much he has sacrificed and how they really don’t understand just how much has been given to them. In short, he’ll likely talk with an attitude of “they just don’t appreciate what they have”.

In this scenario, what isn’t appreciated is the comparison of apples to oranges. Yes, the entrepreneur sacrificed much to get the business to a thriving, sustainable state. But what he is passing to his children is not only a thriving business, but a set of complex, emotionally-charged elements that affect both their business and their families. He never had to negotiate power, control and the dual (sometimes triple) relationships that his children are negotiating. In short, he doesn’t appreciate what he is passing on and the potentialities for failure that could destroy his children’s and grand-children’s family relationships. Not only does a family business have the potential unify and support an extended family and their community, but a family business also has the potential to divide and destroy an extended family and damage the broader community in which they live.

This important truth sometimes is not appreciated by the members of the first generation. This is why clarity and intentionality in a succession plan is so important. If the children of the entrepreneur seemed to have harmonious relationships while growing up, one cannot assume that they will be free of conflict in their business roles. On multiple occasions where siblings who grew up together in happy, harmonious relationships, I have seen siblings never talking again in life because conflicts in the business drove a deep wedge between them.

So, what can be done? Here are several ideas:

First, the entrepreneur should have his children assessed for their real strengths and passions. Just because they inherited his DNA doesn’t mean they are the right people to lead his business moving forward. I’m not talking about just a matrix of psychological tests, which can be helpful. Instead, I’m referring to having his children work for someone else for at least five years, preferably ten, to have an objective, real-world assessment of their abilities, talents, passions and interests. Incidentally, this has the added benefit of giving them an opportunity to observe and learn from managers other than their father.

Secondly, don’t assume children in the second generation are the right people to lead the company moving forward. There are a number of family owned businesses that fail who could have succeeded had they decided to have nonfamily leadership run their family business. In a nutshell: be willing to be “family owned”, but not “family operated”.

Thirdly, give the children a “trial” period of running the family business before passing legal ownership to them – say two or three years. See how they interact. See who emerges as a peacemaker or a troublemaker. See if running the business changes their relationships. Then assess and make a decision about passing ownership to the next generation. The entrepreneur may be surprised by the decisions he ends up making.

Appreciating the key hurdles that the second generation will face and helping them over those hurdles will be one of the greatest, most enduring acts of love and kindness an entrepreneur will ever accomplish.

Bill English

Blowing Off Steam

Have you ever “vented” or “blown off some steam” to another person about your frustrations and ended up saying something that, after you calmed down, you disagreed with yourself? Because of the intensity of your frustration and some temporary lack of self-control, you said something that you knew wasn’t true: it simply represented how frustrated you were.

We all get frustrated at times. We all need someone to “unload” on who will listen, understand and perhaps empathize. We’ve all done it. And if there is one characteristic about venting, it is this: when we vent, we do it all the way – 100% – totally unvarnished – we just “let it fly”. People who are good at sarcasm can be funny when they are venting, but most of us are not and we say things that is not intended for public consumption.

But what do you do when you, a Christian Business Owner, overhear your employees venting about you, their boss? That 100%, totally unvarnished talk may hurt you deeply. You may not like it, but there is probably some truth in what they are saying, even if it is wrapped in a thick layer of sarcasm, hurt and/or anger.

If you’re like most bosses, you’ll swiftly acquire an air of superiority and self-righteousness. You may confront that employee directly or you may go away and sulk, promising to get revenge later is some passive way (we call this passive-aggressive). But if you’re mature, you’ll realize that your employee is just venting and that after a day or two, his old, likable self will come back.

The Bible speaks to this in Ecclesiastes 7.21-22:

“Do not pay attention to every word people say, or you may hear your servant cursing you – for you know in your heart that many times you yourself have cursed others”.

Well, now.

What Solomon is saying is that we should overlook the offense – let it go. Why? Because we have done it ourselves and so who are we to suddenly correct another person for doing what we have done many times? At this point, something about taking the log out of your own eye before taking the spec out of another’s eye comes to mind.

Your employees will blow off steam about you. Get over it. As a business owner – even a Christian one – you’re not universally liked. Not everyone has an enthusiastic opinion of you or your work product. And sometimes, you do and say things that are worthy of a venting session among your employees. Solomon’s advice is sound: if you hear about an employee or another person venting about you, your policies, your processes, your decisions and so forth – let it go because you yourself have done this many times too.

Bill English

I’ll Get to It Later: The High Cost of not Planning your Exit from your Business

John’s father, Dan, started their family business during the depression. Dan had figured out how to improve the process of generating usable materials from the earth’s raw materials, like minerals, food waste and so forth. While his invention didn’t generate billions in sales, his customers found his invention to be, literally, the only thing on earth that could help their production processes achieve what they had hoped for.

Dan died in the early sixties. He left his business to John who ran is successfully and profitably until 2015, when he suddenly passed away. His successor, Mike, was his right-hand-man who had worked in the business with him since the early sixties. While Mike knew the business well and had run their engineering department for nearly 40 years, their customer relationships were primarily with John. Sales immediately began to slip and no one knew what to do about.

In 2016, John’s children decided to sell their father’s business along with the land and buildings. Because the business had declined in sales and profitability over the ensuing 12 months after John’s death, they learned that it was only worth a fraction of what it had been worth. Truth was, it was taking on debt and had lost half of their employee base – many of those leaving had been key engineers who knew how Dan’s invention worked and what their improvements had been.

In the end, each of the three children ended up with ~ $400K after the business, land and buildings were sold.

$400K, you say? Not a bad deal, eh?

Well, it is when you consider that had John developed and implemented a succession plan, his children could have had ~ $100K/year for the next 20 or 30 years.

Would you rather have $400K now or $3M over 20 years. I don’t know about you, but I’ll take the latter. In real terms, John cost his heirs the chance to receive at least $2M more each than what they did receive.  The  cost of not having a succession plan was very high.

John had no succession plan. None of his children were interested in his business. While their family relationships were good, none of them wanted to work in “dad’s business”. They had their own dreams and ambitions. John didn’t mind – he wanted his kids to be happy, so he was happy to support them in their pursuits.

But think about it for a moment: What if his kids had been offered the opportunity to continue to own the business while hiring an outside, trusted person to run it? Truth is, they never considered this option and it cost them dearly.

There’s only three ways an owner will leave his/her business:

  • Sell
  • Die
  • Liquidate (bankruptcy)

Obviously, the first is the best option since the owner gets in cash the equivalent to the value s/he built in his/her business.

Now, we’ve all heard about “family owned and operated” businesses. This is often held up as the ideal for small businesses. It has a romantic flavor to it – Dad starts a business, the family joins in, the clouds part, the angels sing, butterflies flutter about each morning and all is right with the world.

But there is another option and it is this: have the family own the business but have non-family personnel run the business. The family assumes two of the four roles in any corporation: shareholder and board members. The non-family personnel assume the other two roles: corporate officer(s) (think CEO, President, CFO) and employees.

So, the family members – who are the owners and board members – hire a good CEO, name her as the top Corporate Officer and entrust to her the responsibility to carry out their vision of the company, bake in their values and return a profit to them each year. This is not unlike what the master did in Luke 19 with the parable of the talents.

Let’s assume this is a $12M/year business and it has a net profit of ~ 8%/year, or ~ $960,000. While the family members don’t get salaries, as owners they can take was is called an “Owner Draw”, which is ordinary income to them, but is money taken out of the business for their personal use. So, let’s give each of the three children $150,000/year in an Owner Draw. This would leave the CEO with $510,000 of working capital to us in the next year to help build and grow the business.

Here’s the catch: it’s not up to the kids to implement this succession plan – it’s up their parents – whoever was an owner in the previous generation.

Think about it: If you own a business today and you know that your kids are probably not going to want your business, you can still provide for them by hiring non-family to run it and then having your kids take out a certain percentage of the net cash profit each year. Your business can continue to provide for you children and grandchildren long after your departure from this earth simply by thinking ahead and implementing a thoughtful succession plan. It will take at least 5 years to implement, so if you’re past 50, it’s time to start thinking about.

There are other options, of course. You can sell your business or you can wind it down and liquidate it. But all things being equal, I have a difficult time understanding why you wouldn’t want to provide for your children and grandchildren by hiring competent, non-family executives to run your business.

And best of all, you can designate a certain portion of the profits be placed either into a family foundation focused on giving to Christian ministries or given directly to certain ministries you want to support. And you can continue to support them long after you have passed.

Now, you might ask: “is leaving an inheritance supported in the Bible?”  I think the answer is “yes”.  Consider Ecclesiastes 5. 13-15:

13 “I have seen a grievous evil under the sun: wealth hoarded to the harm of its owners,  14 or wealth lost through some misfortune,
so that when they have children  there is nothing left for them to inherit.  15 Everyone comes naked from their mother’s womb,
and as everyone comes, so they depart.  They take nothing from their toil that they can carry in their hands.”

For my purposes in this article, please note that it is a “grievous evil” is a “misfortune” creates a situation in which a parent’s wealth is not passed on to their children.  To my way of thinking, “misfortune” can easily cover situations in which the parent’s laziness and lack of planning creates a less-then-optimal inheritance for their children.

If you own a business and need to discuss a succession plan, contact me at bill.english @ theplatinumgrp.com. It will cost you nothing to have a conversation with me and it may help you achieve some of your most important goals.

But for sure, don’t die without a succession plan that has been implemented for your business. That, in my opinion, is horrible Christian Stewardship.

Bill English

Best Practices for Hiring an Interim CEO

Having run several businesses, I’ll say that the process to being a successful CEO in an interim situation includes attention to several key areas. But the change for the owner who is hiring the interim CEO is significant. This article outlines the foci of an interim CEO and also lays out the best practices for the ownership group.

People

There is a plethora of relationships that need attention by the CEO, whether s/he is interim or permanent. The first is his relationship with the ownership group and the Board of Directors (if the board exists in practicality). It is key that these relationships be strong and supportive from the beginning of the engagement. But it is also true that the ownership group and the Board of Directors need to “get out of the way” of the CEO and let that individual run their company. When owners in closely held businesses keep stepping on an interim CEO by making decisions outside their new role (whatever that role is), they “step on” and can, at times, cut the legs out from under their interim CEO. These engagements don’t last long, for obvious reasons.

The second relationship is with employees. Why should they follow you? Why should they trust you? Why should they follow you? What is the direction you’re taking the company? What is your plan? These are legitimate questions that only the CEO can answer and they need to be discussed with the employees in an open, honest way.

The third relationship is with vendors and supply chain influencers. If this business is large enough, a Chief Operating Officer will likely handle these relationships. If it is a smaller company, the CEO will be managing these relationships. A company needs strong supplier relationships in order to thrive. If the previous ownership group or CEO has damaged these relationships through untimely payments or interpersonal dealings that were negative, the new CEO’s presence will be a welcome breath of fresh air.

Depending on the situation, other relationships will need to be addressed, such as media, trusted advisors, partners and so forth.

In short, the CEOs job is one of building positive relationships. If they cannot be built properly, the interim engagement will not succeed.

Potentials

Every organization has potentialities that are unleveraged. The question is not whether they exist, but where they are and what opportunities to they represent? In discovering an organization’s potential, one will also uncover (perhaps systemic) problems that need to be resolved. In other words, what are the problems we must resolve in order to pursue new opportunities. These two elements – opportunities and problems – usually exist together. An interim CEO will need to discover both and then figure out A) is the pursuit of the opportunity worth the cost (financial, cultural, systems and so forth) of solving the problem? Interim CEOs are usually presented with tradeoff decisions where the value of the “trade” is often not fully understood either because the interim CEO simply doesn’t have the depth of experience in the organization that is needed or the systems and people in the organization are so dysfunctional that the information needed to fully understand the trade is not available.

For example, one organization had the opportunity to move their existing product line into a new customer vertical. But the problems to resolve in order to pursue this opportunity were twofold: A) the products would need to be redesigned to meet this vertical’s specific requirements and B) a long-standing relationship with a reseller in that vertical that represented more of a good friendship with the family that owned the business. Moving into this new vertical would mean permanently damaging that relationship and then spending resources on redesigning their product. Overall, it would take 6-9 months before any sales were realized. Was the tradeoff worth it?

In this true story, I concluded the tradeoff was worth it and authorized the sales team to move forward. We resolved the relationship issue by offering this individual’s company an opportunity to participate with us. We resolved the design issues through normal processes by gathering requirements and ensuring we had the proper specifications against which to design. Before I came on board, the family was unwilling to consider or discuss going into this vertical because the personal relationship with the reseller was long-standing. An interim CEO needs to understand the emotional dynamics of a situation before taking action. What he will discover is that most of the long-standing problems in an organization exist, in part, because of emotions within the leadership he is replacing and as a result, the potential of the organization is never fully realized.

Processes

How we get things done is a result of our processes, whether or not they are codified in writing. Healthy management has healthy processes that are both repeatable and lean. An interim CEO will find that he likely is inheriting broken processes that need to be fixed. In our technology saturated world, this usually means the computer systems are either outdated, disconnected and/or inferior. In niche markets, you’ll find that industry-specific technology platforms may be immature, regardless of which vendor is writing the code.

When computer systems don’t talk to each other, you’ll necessarily have manual processes to move information from one system to another. Those manual processes represent your Centers of Mistakes. Expecting people to get “it” right every time is nonsense. People make mistakes. Computers execute code. The two are not synonymous.

Fixing processes may mean capital outlays. An interim CEO will need to understand what costs are recovered from improving the processes. Some recoveries will be obvious – others will not. Estimates may be based on judgments that come from experience. In the end, there will be a decision and the interim CEO may need to work hard to make his decision the right one.

Cash Management

Like it or not, the first thing we do at Platinum is get our hands around cash using the Break Even and our Cash Flow Forecast. Coming into a business as an interim CEO, one must understand the company’s cash position because almost all decisions involving either spending or saving cash. Usually, it is not as good as what was first presented. Knowing how to stretch vendors, how to work with the bank and so forth is essential to the success of an interim CEO.

What the Business Owner Needs to Understand and Do: Best Practices

If you’re a business owner and you’re hiring an interim CEO to run your business, you need to understand the following:

  • You’re adding (what is likely an) unanticipated cost to your budget. Interim CEOs are not cheap. They parachute in on quick notice, are handed difficult problems to resolve and they rarely even get a “thank you” from anyone in the organization. Make sure you get a great ROI on this investment by doing what you need to do (more on this in a moment)
  • Your world is about to change – dramatically. Do not hire them if you expect him to simply do what you were doing. Only hire him if you need significant change in order to solve significant problems and achieve big opportunities. Do not expect that much will stay the same in your business. Some of it will, but more likely, most of it will not. Your culture is going to change. Processes are going to change. Cash management is going to change. Problems are going to be resolved. Key relationships are going to shift to this interim CEO. Your world will change.
  • You’re no longer in charge. I can’t stress this enough. If you’re the owner and you’re hiring an interim CEO, then understand you’re no longer in charge of your business. Your interim CEO is. If you get into a power-struggle which him, you’ll win because you’re the owner. But you’ll also lose because you’ll either leave him in place but render him ineffective or you’ll let him go and will have wasted serious dollars on his tenure. If you’re not ready to give up power in your business, then don’t hire an interim CEO. If you enjoy the power and prestige of being an owner, being in on all the decisions, telling others what to do – and you can’t let all this go – then don’t hire an interim CEO. It will end up being an exercise in futility.
  • It’s no longer about you, it’s about your business. An interim CEO will be there to improve your business, not your ego. He will make difficult decisions, some of which you were unable or unwilling to make. His focus, if properly placed, will be on improving the value of your business.

What you need to do is pretty simple but often very difficult to do:

  • Empower the interim CEO to do his job well. This means giving him clear spending authority, hiring/firing authority, contracting authority and so forth. What would a CEO normally have in terms of power and responsibility? This is what you give to your interim CEO
  • Have clearly identified, measurable goals for your interim CEO to achieve. Remember, he is interim, which means he’ll be there for a few months or even a few years. What is he to accomplish? Hold him accountable to these goals.
  • Get out of the way and don’t meddle in his affairs. Hold him accountable to achieve his goals. How he achieves his goals is up to him. Don’t micromanage and don’t meddle in his day-to-day work. You need to get out of the way. If you’re an owner and yet your position reports to the interim CEO, then understand that you cannot put on your owner hat during the day. Stay in your swim lane and don’t cross over into your CEO’s swim lane. Have the self-control and maturity to put your owner hat on only during the Board meetings.

Summary

Hiring an interim CEO can be a positive experience for you and your business. Interim CEOs can often accomplish goals that owners of closely held businesses cannot. An Interim CEO is a great idea when a family is transitioning the business but the next generation is not ready to lead or when the business needs to be turned around or when the current owner has a health event and you need someone to step in and run the business. Interim CEOs bring a wealth of experience and knowledge that an owner will never have. But hiring an interim CEO will also ask the owner to step outside his or her’s comfort zone and relate to his/her business in a fundamentally different way.

Bill English

Keeping Yourself Pure and Why it Matters

What happens to a Christian Business Owner when he is in bondage to impurity?

Even though the current DSM-5 (Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, Revision 5) publish by the APA (American Psychiatric Association) does not include sexual addictions as a stand-alone diagnosis (http://www.projectknow.com/research/sex-addiction-effects/), the effects of constant attention to sex and sexual elements in one’s life has devastating effects on a Christian Business Owner’s ability to fulfill his role as a steward of that which God has given to him.

Note: Even though I’m using the male gender in this article, it should be noted that the population of women who are addicted to sex is on the rise. While their numbers dwarf in comparison to the numbers of addicts for males, it is a growing problem that will need to be addressed by the Christian community.

Paraphilia is a word used in this area to describe (also known as sexual perversion and sexual deviation) the experience of intense sexual arousal to atypical objects, situations, fantasies, behaviors, or individuals. Such attraction may be labeled sexual fetishism. The previous version of the DSM (DSM-IV-TR) describes paraphilias as “recurrent, intense sexually arousing fantasies, sexual urges or behaviors generally involving nonhuman objects, the suffering or humiliation of oneself or one’s partner, or children or other nonconsenting persons that occur over a period of six months” (criterion A), which “cause clinically significant distress or impairment in social, occupational, or other important areas of functioning” (criterion B).

Note: The DSM-IV-TR names eight specific paraphilic disorders (exhibitionism, fetishism, frotteurism, pedophilia, sexual masochism, sexual sadism, voyeurism, and transvestic fetishism, plus a residual category, paraphilia—not otherwise specified). Criterion B differs for exhibitionism, frotteurism, and pedophilia to include acting on these urges, and for sadism, acting on these urges with a nonconsenting person. Some paraphilias may interfere with the capacity for sexual activity with consenting adult partners. Noe that in the DSM, a paraphilia is not diagnosable as a psychiatric disorder unless it causes distress to the individual or harm to others.

The negative effects of impurity are as follows:

  • Less time spent doing hobbies or hanging out with friends and loved ones.
  • Loss of productivity at work and at home due to the distraction of the sexual addiction.
  • Financial problems related to overspending in an attempt to satisfy the sexual addiction.
  • Loss of employment due to absences, accessing restricted content on the job, workplace sexual harassment, or any other problem related to sexual addiction.
  • Increased chance that substances will be abused.

People who are in bondage to sex and impurity often describe their lives as:

  • Abnormal.
  • Sick.
  • Guilty.
  • Anxious.
  • Ashamed.
  • Regretful.
  • Depressed.
  • Uncomfortable.
  • Numb.
  • Hollow.
  • Empty.

But the relational side-effects are difficult as well:

  • Loss of trust because of lies, deceit, and denial of hurtful things being done.
  • Difficulty in achieving real intimacy, either because of violations of trust that have occurred or because sexual partners are looked at more as objects than as individuals.
  • Failed relationships due to infidelity, lies, or lack of trust.
  • The chance that sexual addiction will lead to legal problems if the behaviors escalate to illegal activities, such as child pornography, soliciting sex, exposing yourself, rape, or any other violation of the law.

So, now that we’ve taken a look at the general effects of bondage to impurity, we need to ask the question with which we started: How does living in bondage to sexual impurity manifest itself in Christian Business Owners? I will suggest that there are five devastating effects:

Lose God’s blessing and start to live under curses (2 Chronicles 7.14)

I have written about 2 Chronicles 7.14 elsewhere on this blog (here, here, here and here), so I won’t repeat myself. Suffice to say that until you repent of your sin and turn away from it, God will not be able to bless you. Instead, you will live under His curses. You don’t want to live under God’s curses.

The larger point, from 2 Chronicles 7.14 is that your “land” (think “my business”) will not be healed (assume your sin is causing problems in your business) until you repent of your sin. Keep living in sin and your business will continue to be unhealthy – sick – diseased and so forth. Your cash flow problems might look like a collection problem, but consider that God is causing your customers to pay late. Your employee problems might look like training and maturity issues, but consider that God is causing enmity to exist between yourself and your employees that cannot be resolved by training courses. It may be that, no matter what you do, your business is deteriorating. You’re living under the confusion, curses and rebuke (Deuteronomy 28.20, 28) that comes from God when we, as Christians, live in sin.

I would suggest you get on your knees and see what sin you have that needs to be confessed before God, repent of your sin, then listen to His voice to see what your next steps are, both in life and in your business.

We lose our strength to discern and fight the spiritual battles that a Steward of God will need to fight

Your business does not belong to you – it belongs to God. Everything we have comes from God. We are merely stewards of that which God has given to us. When we live in sin, we lose our sensibilities (Deuteronomy 28.20, 28) and our arrogance kicks in, causing us to think that we can handle it – we can do it on our own. You know, Samson killed over 1000 men in his defense of Israel, but it took only one woman to bring him down. If you can no longer spot the spiritual battles that you’re in because you’ve lost your spiritual radar due to your own sin, then it will be no wonder that Satan will play you like a puppet. As a business owner, can you discern when you’re in a spiritual battle?

Lose your honor and dignity

Assuming your sin comes to light, you’ll lose your honor and dignity in the company of your church, your personal network and your business network. Is your impurity worth it?

Lose your wealth

You’ll lose your wealth either by spending it on one or more women or by your business deteriorating to the point of bankruptcy. But either way, the Bible promises that you’ll lose your wealth. Just consider the first part of Proverbs 5:

7 Now then, my sons, listen to me; do not turn aside from what I say.

8 Keep to a path far from her, do not go near the door of her house,

9 lest you lose your honor to others and your dignity to one who is cruel,

10 lest strangers feast on your wealth and your toil enrich the house of another.

11 At the end of your life you will groan, when your flesh and body are spent.

12 You will say, “How I hated discipline! How my heart spurned correction!

13 I would not obey my teachers or turn my ear to my instructors.

14 And I was soon in serious trouble in the assembly of God’s people

If you’re in bondage to impurity – then do whatever it takes to get free. Do it today. We recommend using Resolute’s Video series to help you get started.   It’s the only way you can steward your business for God in a way that will be pleasing to Him.

Bill English

The Top 10 Things Business Owners Do that Demoralizes Their Employees

Drawn from my experience of working with business owners in my consulting work at the Platinum Group, I’ve developed the top ten things that business owners do that drives their staff crazy and eventually, drives them out of their business.

#10: You’re a moving target

You’ll tell your staff to focus on task A this week and then blow your stack that they didn’t focus on task B. Or worse, you “lay down the law” and tell them that they “must do” task “A” a certain way, only to instruct them a few weeks later how to do it differently. You can shift quickly on what you want and you get upset when your staff gets confused.

Matthew 5.37: But let your statement be, ‘Yes, yes’ or ‘No, no’; anything beyond these is of evil.

#9: You act childishly

Speaking of blowing your stack, when you don’t get your way, you get angry. You through a fit over minor infractions and have little tolerance for normal differences of opinion. But since you don’t know how to approach conflict and employee management in a mature way, you fume and fuss to yourself, spending way too much emotional energy and thinking time on how crummy and incompetent your employees are. As a result, you stay in bad moods much longer than you should. Others will describe you as being “moody”.

Psalm 37.8: Refrain from anger and turn from wrath; do not fret—it leads only to evil.

Ecclesiastes 7.9: Do not be quickly provoked in your spirit, for anger resides in the lap of fools

#8: You have a low opinion of your employees and a high opinion of yourself

You honestly believe that no one can do it (it doesn’t matter what “it” is) nearly as well as you. You may be a “happy arrogant” in which, through your charisma, you’re able to mask some of your arrogance, but it comes out in your thoughts, conclusions and emails to trusted advisors. You describe your employees as those who act stupidly. They are incompetent, they try to “milk you” for additional pay or incentives and they have bad attitudes. You think you’re able to hide your true opinions of your employees from your employees, but what you think about them eventually gets communicated, even if you never say anything to them directly. Your actions and attitudes will bleed through.

Isaiah 13.11: I will punish the world for its evil, the wicked for their sins. I will put an end to the arrogance of the haughty and will humble the pride of the ruthless.

#7: You are insecure

In the quietness of your own mind, you’re highly afraid of being incompetent. When asked a question to which you don’t know the answer, you’ll “make up” an answer to appear knowledgeable and in control. You think you’re fooling others, but you’re not.

Proverbs 17.28: Even fools are thought wise if they keep silent and discerning if they hold their tongues

#6: You are selfish

You often underpay your employees and yet expect them to flex for your needs while ignoring theirs. For example, if you’re having a slow afternoon, you’ll call your employees and have them come in later in the day to save on payroll, but if your busy, you’ll call them to come in early. It’s all about you and your business.

Philippians 2.3-4: Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit. Rather, in humility value others above yourselves, 4 not looking to your own interests but each of you to the interests of the others.

#5: You’re egocentric

You interpret events around your only as they relate to you. You lack clear understanding of how these same events relate to others in your life. in the business only as it affects them – they do not understand how these events affect others or how another’s action affects others in the office. As a result, you’ll hear advice, but you won’t listen to it. You’ll often discount sage advice.

Proverbs 12.15: The way of fools seems right to them, but the wise listen to advice

#4: You rarely praise or encourage your employees

You don’t notice when they do something well or go above and beyond their normal job duties. You only notice when they do something poorly or act out of line with your rules.

1 Thessalonians 5.11: Therefore encourage one another and build each other up, just as in fact you are doing.

#3: You pass out titles and responsibilities, but you don’t resource your employees properly

Resourcing is more than telling them to take on a responsibility. Properly resourcing your employees includes giving them authority to make decisions, giving them authority to spend appropriately or giving them the opportunity to fail. If they don’t have this, they will never succeed.

1 Timothy 5.18: For Scripture says, “Do not muzzle an ox while it is treading out the grain,” e and “The worker deserves his wages

#2: You are a micro manager

You hire smart people and then tell them what to do, how to do it and monitor every aspect of their employee’s work performance. In short, you micromanage. Smart, talented people don’t put up with this stuff, so they stay a while, then submit their resignations and move to greener pastures where they can flourish.

Luke 19.12-27: Parable of the ten talents where the master entrusts wealth to several servants, then leaves and gives them the opportunity to grow his money

#1: More than likely, you have significant abuse and family of origin issues that are unresolved

Most of these traits are learned in childhood and are the result of growing up in a highly dysfunctional family system. Perhaps your parents yelled at you. Perhaps they abandoned you. Perhaps they were addicted to alcohol or drugs or sex and introduced you to vices you should have never learned about. Whatever the situation, you need the healing power of Jesus Christ in your life and you need to get some counseling. Until you resolve the anxieties, fears and other emotions inside you, you’ll find that you’re unable to change your behaviors in your business.

What you believe about people and relationships is lived out both at home and in your business. If you find that even two or three of these top 10 items are characteristic of you, then you need to get some help. Don’t delay. You’ll be a better person and a better business owner for straight-forwardly addressing your derailers.

Bill English

Scalability, Power, Control and Risk

Along with his wife, Mark is co-owner of a $1.8M retail establishment that they built from the ground up by investing their own monies and getting two SBA (Small Business Administration) loans. One is a “7A” loan designed to make initial investments into the business. Of the initial $320K, after 2.5 years, Mark still has $220K of that money sitting in a bank account.

Mark has a difficult time trusting other people. His father abandoned him at birth and his mother died when he was twelve years old. He’s on his third marriage (this is her second) and working together in their business over the last few years has taken its’ toll on both of them. Because it is a retail business, they have been at their business seven days/week for over two years. By all appearances, they are not doing well. The jury is out on whether or not their marriage can survive working together in the business they have built. It is profitable and growing. But the personal toll it has taken on them is substantial.

As a business grows, more managers need to be brought in to run parts of the business. You don’t hire good people to tell them what to do, you hire good people so they can tell you what to do. Mark is good at hiring good people, but then he micro manages them right out of the business. He always blames them for his failures. Mark is a moving target with his directives and selectively enforces his rules. His employees don’t like him and don’t like working for him. They avoid him as much as possible, which can be difficult to do when he is roving around the store all day.

Mark wears multiple hats – marketing, floor manager, cash management, vendor relations, facilities manager and so forth. It appears that he loves working all the time. But again, their business is killing their marriage.

Mark and Nancy have reached the “Transition Point” – the point at which they need to either be happy with the size and scope of their business or they need to let go and allow someone else to run their business. They readily admit that they are unable to “take it to the next level” yet they won’t let go of simple spending decisions, hiring decisions or firing decisions. They have hired an outside consultant to be their CEO, but he is CEO in title only. They simply won’t step back and allow others to make important decisions. “If he (the hired CEO) fails, we’re the ones left holding the bag”. They’re right.

From my perspective, their most important priority here is their marriage. Businesses come and go, but marriages do not (or at least, should not). But since their life savings is wrapped up in this business, it has become the core of their marriage. If the business fails, they lose everything – their marriage, money and livelihood. At age 60, they will not be able to recover from such a failure.

So, what should they do?

First, they should take time away from their business to work on their marriage.

Secondly, they need to make a basic decision about growing their business vs. selling it. If they choose to grow, then they need to choose to trust other people to make decisions with “their baby”. If they choose to sell, it will take at least a year to get the business ready for sale, which means they will need to continue to work in the business long enough to sell it. They put at risk their marriage by doing so.

Thirdly, they need to develop some personal, outside activities so that they are growing personally, not always being together every hour of every day.

Lastly, if they choose to keep their business, they need to learn to step aside and let others run their business. They need to stop micro managing every aspect of their business. The problem they will face here is an emotional one: can they let go and trust? Can they manage the anxiety this step creates in them in a positive and mature way?

The worst situation for them is what they have now: they have hired a CEO but won’t get out of the way and let him manage their business. They won’t let go. They won’t risk. Mark is too tied emotionally to the $200K as his security. The CEO is unable to make sensible infrastructure investments, so they continue to struggle with manual processes fraught with mistakes. They have weekly power struggles, paying good money for a highly talented person whom they are micro managing. He won’t last long – he’s too talented and smart to be micro managed. But without a true leader in their business, it won’t scale up and while they might win the power struggles (because they are, after all, the owners), they will have defeated themselves.

If you’re a Christian Business Owner and you find yourself in a similar situation, its’ imperative that you learn to trust others and let go when needed. Good stewardship sometimes requires us to trust and allow others to lead in our business. Only then will you find yourself able to scale up your business and increase it as God asks of us in Luke 19.

Bill English

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