Category Archives: Core Processes

Planning in Proverbs

Planning is an essential part of leading a business. There are two basic concepts of planning in Proverbs: Plotting (תַּחֲרֹ֣שׁ, literally to plan secretly, usually something wicked) and Planning (מַחְשְׁב֣וֹת, literally the content of what a person is thinking about). The first word focuses more on how the evil plan their future. The second word is more instructive for us as Disciples of Jesus Christ. Proverbs has much to say about planning, so let’s get started.

Proverbs 3.29

Do not plot harm against your neighbor,
who lives trustfully near you

This is one of four verses that gives four prohibitions against malevolent behavior. Verses 27-28 command the reader not to fail to do good whereas 29-30 prohibit malicious activity. Hence, in these four verses (27-30) we find four commands:

  1. Do not withhold good from those whom it is due when it is in your power to act
  2. Do not withhold giving to your neighbor
  3. Do not plan to do harm against your neighbor
  4. Do not falsely accuse your neighbor

For our discussion here, 3.29 is best illustrated by Jezebel’s conspiracy against Naboth and Haman’s designs on Mordecai in Esther.

Note also that the concept of deceit is assumed – the contrast between plotting harm against your neighbors who trust you indicates that deceit will be employed as part of your plan to harm your neighbor. The element of surprise via deceit is in view here.

Proverbs 6.12-15

12 A troublemaker and a villain,
who goes about with a corrupt mouth,
13 who winks maliciously with his eye,
signals with his feet
and motions with his fingers,
14 who plots evil with deceit in his heart—
he always stirs up conflict.
15 Therefore disaster will overtake him in an instant;
he will suddenly be destroyed—without remedy

In this section, a troublemaker and a villain is described by a cluster of character traits:

  • Corrupt (עִקְּשׁוּת, literally the act of perverting something by turning it to a wrong use) talk
  • Sinister non-verbal’s (winking, shuffling feet, motions with fingers – remember the movie The Sting?)
  • Plots evil with deceit
  • Stirs up conflict

Consider this cluster or matrix of character traits – if you see two or more of the six, be on guard for the others and stay far away from a person like this.

Proverbs 12.5

The plans of the righteous are just,
but the advice of the wicked is deceitful

Here, the plans of a just (righteous) person is compared with that of a wicked person whose plans deceive others. Note also that the concept of a “plan” and “advice” are compared, instructing us that when we create plans, we’re advising those who charged with implementing the plan. A righteous plan does not deceive – it does not mislead or contain deceptions.

Proverbs 12.20

Deceit is in the hearts of those who plot evil,
but those who promote peace have joy

This is the third time we’re seeing the connection between evil plans and deceit. We’re also seeing that evil plans create strife and conflict because the contrast is with those who promote peace. The opposite of evil plans with deceit is the promotion of peace that results in joy. The follower of God will be aware of this command to avoid deceit and evil and will take intentional actions to ensure that is not part of his/her business.

In business, we must be careful to ensure our marketing, sales and contracts do not deceive or mislead others. We should be intentional about not overstating the quality of our products and services or the positive effects our customers will experience after engaging us. When you hear marketing that sounds too good to be true, your guard should be very high.

Proverbs 14.22

Do not those who plot evil go astray?
But those who plan what is good find love and faithfulness

One’s moral behavior is usually the result of planning. When we plan evil, we go astray. But when we plan that which is good, we find love and faithfulness. Both love and faithfulness are characteristics of God and help us understand that planning “good” will also point us to God and demonstrates these two aspects of His character to a lost and broken world.

Proverbs 15.22

Plans fail for lack of counsel,
but with many advisers they succeed

Plans that are created without proper input from those with the right experience and expertise will likely fail, but if you include the right advisors, your plans will succeed. This instructs the business owner and leader to have a team of advisors around them who are allowed to speak into the owner’s plans and business. This is often a serious short coming of most business owners: they are often too proud and too independent to seek out help and collaboration with a team of trusted advisors.

Proverbs 16.1

To humans belong the plans of the heart,
but from the LORD comes the proper answer of the tongue

Biblical righteousness is fundamentally an attitude of trusting in God. We will “feel” that a certain plan is the right way to go – our intuition may point us in a specific direction. But from God comes the answer of logic and speech. God doesn’t intuit His way through time or our lives.

Proverbs 16.3

Commit to the LORD whatever you do,
and he will establish your plans

Similar to Proverbs 16.1, we find that when we commit all of our work to God, that He will “establish” our plans. The word for establish (יִכֹּ֗נוּ, literally, to stand up, to sit erect, to set up) gives a flavor of God making one’s plans firm and strong: when God establishes our plans, the storms of life will not sway them.

Proverbs 16.9

In their hearts humans plan their course,
but the LORD establishes their steps

Again, we make our plans, but God’s sovereignty determines our steps. This verse wraps up both major lines of theology into one verse: free will and God’s sovereignty. The Doctrine of Concurrency is so helpful at this point – the notion that both are true. We make our plans, but God determines our steps. Both are true.

Proverbs 16.27

A scoundrel plots evil,
and on their lips it is like a scorching fire

Slander is in view in this verse. Scoundrels (בְּ֭לִיַּעַל אִישׁ, literally a man of no worth, especially in regards to righteous behavior – “the term describes deep depravity and wickedness” (EBC)) plot evil and they have no problem slandering others. Slander is described like a “scorching fire” which speaks of the devastating effect of his words. This person digs for scandal and then propagates it with words which are on fire. Investigative reporting borders on this activity. Finding out dirt about a competitor and then spreading it around exemplifies the actions condemned in this verse.

Proverbs 19.21

Many are the plans in a person’s heart,
but it is the LORD’s purpose that prevails

Plans represent purposes. Plans try to accomplish that which is purposeful. Let’s remember that no matter what our purposes are, God’s purposes will prevail. Ultimately, this verse teaches the same core truth as that of 16.9: we make our plans, but God’s sovereignty will win every time. When it matters, God does not lose out to man’s efforts.

Proverbs 20.18

Plans are established by seeking advice;
so if you wage war, obtain guidance

True plans incorporate the wisdom of trusted advisors. Business leaders who draw up their own plans without input of advisors do so at their own peril. This need for advice is heightened when waging war. Business is sometimes war. If you’re going to compete head-to-head, be sure to seek the advice of other leaders and owners – you’ll need it to be successful.

Proverbs 21.5

The plans of the diligent lead to profit
as surely as haste leads to poverty

Plans, by themselves, are worthless. While they represent purposes and advice, in order to bear fruit, plans must be executed. This is where so many businesses fail – they spent time and money on building great plans – but then they don’t execute well. Poorly executed plans lead to poverty. Executing a plan is an intentional activity. Just like being intentional to spend time with God, tell your spouse you love him/her or saving for retirement, executing a business plan requires intentionality.

Proverbs 21.30

There is no wisdom, no insight,
no plan that can succeed against the LORD

There no nuance in this verse: God’s plans will win every time when in conflict with man’s plans.

Summary

  1. God’s purposes will prevail when our plans are in conflict with His
  2. We should seek advice from others in order to ensure our plans will succeed
  3. We must execute our plans well
  4. We must never plan evil or allow for evil in our plans
  5. We must be intentional in planning and execution of our plans

The Unvarnished Truth

One of my undeniable truths of business ownership is #69: The moment you hire your first employee is the moment at which you stop knowing about everything in your business.

Most owners really like to know what’s going on in their business and all owners need to know what’s going on in their business, but most do not know – and they don’t know how to get to the full truth from their employees. From my own personal experience, I’ve had employees lie directly to my face about important facts which, had I known them would have altered decisions I made.

When an owner makes a decision based on information given to him/her by employees who are lying to save face, then the owner has multiple problems to content with:

  1. Lying employee
  2. Making a decision based on false information
  3. You don’t know what you don’t know
  4. You find out it was the wrong decision long after the damage has been done

Proverbs 16.13 says this: “Kings take pleasure in honest lips; they value a man who speaks the truth”.

If you’re not getting the full, unvarnished truth from your staff, you need to ask yourself “why?” Why do they not tell you the full truth? Let me offer several suggestions for your consideration.

First, the problem might be you. Most entrepreneurs are highly talented people who are highly competent at something. Often, they wrongly assume that their competence in their given area extends to all areas of the business, including people management, marketing, sales and so forth. I’ve met more than a few owners who beat up their staff verbally, discount new or conflicting ideas and essentially killing collaboration and teamwork in their business. Perhaps you become angry or irritated with new ideas, thinking that since you’re the owner, all new ideas should come from you. Obviously, these owners are totally unaware of the negative effects of their arrogance, but if check yourself on this: if people rarely or never give you ideas on how to improve operations, sales, marketing and so forth, then ask yourself “why?”. You might find that you are your largest obstacle to getting the full truth.

Second, the problem is they don’t think to tell you because you don’t ask. There’s a phrase “what gets measured is what gets done.” If you’re not measuring it (whatever “it” is) or if you’re not asking about it, then they might think you’re not interested, so they can let it slide.

Thirdly, the problem is you don’t have system in place to surface dysfunction in your business. I see this more often than I care to talk about: business owners whose world is only what they can see and touch. While they are highly interested in their product or service, they lack curiosity about the business aspects of their business. Besides, most of them are too cheap (not frugal – there is a difference) to spend adequate money on infrastructure systems. As long as they can live the lifestyle they want, they really don’t care all that much about the health of their business.

Fourthly, the problem is they confuse accounting reports with an accounting system. I can’t tell you how many businesses simply send their bank statements and receipts to an accountant who magically transforms their data into a monthly income statement with a balance sheet. I can’t begin to tell you how short-sighted this is (sorry to all you CPAs out there) because A) the owner really doesn’t read the statements and B) taillights information only goes so far. Without an accounting system, an owner can’t go in to look at the current numbers. The owner can’t slice and dice the numbers to see where they are really at. And in these scenarios, you can forget cash management. As long as they have money in the checking account, they’re fine.

Lastly, the problem is they trust their employees too much. I see this often as well: owners who don’t check in with their employees because they don’t want to micromanage, so they rarely, if ever, hold the employee accountable for anything. They employee creates his or her own little kingdom within the company and doesn’t share information as s/he should, so the flow of critical information becomes constipated.

Nearly all of this can be mitigated by a few simple, but profound actions on the part of the owner:

  1. The owner should become curious about his or her business and stay in touch with the critical systems of the business
  2. The owner should have systems in place to surface health or dysfunction across the core processes and accounting practices
  3. The owner should have clear, outcome-based expectations for his senior leadership team and hold them to achieving those outcomes on a regular basis
  4. The owner should have a balance between trusting his employees and verifying their work product

Owners who don’t get the unvarnished truth are often the reason for it. Most employees are not nefarious. They simply meld into the culture and processes of the organization. They next time you don’t have all the information you need to make a good decision, ask yourself the question “why?” and then see if you need to change your behavior first before trying to change the behavior of others in your company.

Bill English, Founder
Bible and Business

Using Social Media in the Hiring Process

The question is this: “Is it ethical to search for data about a candidate on Facebook, Twitter and other sources? We’ll assume the candidate has not submitted this digital information about themselves.

From where I sit, this is not an ethical problem.  If they freely post information about themselves and don’t privatize it using the tools within Facebook or other social platforms, then I think it is safe to assume that they intend for non-friends and non-family to view their information.  If they didn’t know or didn’t think about setting privacy features in these platforms, then that alone might give me pause about their candidacy.

In the old days, we asked for references and talked with those references about the candidate.  Those references were supplied by the candidate, but were also prescreened (presumably), so I always wondered if I got the real truth when talking with a reference.

Today, we can bypass references (I find they are not that helpful, frankly) and I can learn more about a person just be looking through social media than I can by talking with references.  Again, these posts are voluntary and are in the public domain.  Seems to me that if one’s trash is public information, then one’s posts on social media are as well.

Now, having said all this, the book Delete: The Virtue of Forgetting in the Digital Age  makes the argument (among several) that it is not a social good for us to have a medium where our past follows us perfectly (an argument with which I agree):

“Since the beginning of time, for us humans, forgetting has been the norm and remembering the exception. Because of digital technology and global networks, however, this balance has shifted. Today, with the help of widespread technology, forgetting has become the exception, and remembering the default…Do we want a future that is forever unforgiving because it is unforgetting? “Now a stupid adolescent mistake can take on major implications and go on their records for the rest of their lives,” comments Catherine Davis, a PTA co-president. If we had to worry that any information about us would be remembered for longer than we live, would we still express our views on matters of trivial gossip, share personal experiences, make various political comments, or would we self-censor? The chilling effect of perfect memory alters our behavior…the demise of forgetting has consequences much wider and more troubling than a frontal onslaught on how humans have constructed and maintained their reputation over time. If all our past activities, transgressions or not, are always present, how can we disentangle ourselves from them in our thinking and decision-making? Might perfect remembering make us as unforgiving to ourselves as to others? (Mayer-Schönberger, Viktor. Delete: The Virtue of Forgetting in the Digital Age. Princeton University Press. Kindle Edition.)

These are important questions because the opportunity to “start over” – create a “clean slate” or “rebrand” yourself is far more difficult in a world where memory is perfect, searchable and just a click away.  Those who browse through a candidates’ posts should browse through their own first just to remind themselves of the (probable) double standard they are likely to employ:  “I’ll be hard on this guy but would expect others to be forgiving of my past”.

I get posts now in Facebook with pictures I’ve long forgotten were there.  I’m honestly thinking of killing my FaceBook and Twitter accounts because of the perfect memory of the internet.  Why have that sitting around?  It does me little good. This is why many politicians just kill their social media accounts – too dangerous to have out there in the wild internet and have past posts and pictures used against them.

Mayer goes on to write:

“Google knows for each one of us what we searched for and when, and what search results we found promising enough that we clicked on them. Google knows about the big changes in our lives—that you shopped for a house in 2000 after your wedding, had a health scare in 2003, and a new baby the year later. But Google also knows minute details about us. Details we have long forgotten, discarded from our mind as irrelevant, but which nevertheless shed light on our past: perhaps that we once searched for an employment attorney when we considered legal action against a former employer, researched a mental health issue, looked for a steamy novel, or booked ourselves into a secluded motel room to meet a date while still in another relationship. Each of these information bits we have put out of our mind, but chances are Google hasn’t. Quite literally, Google knows more about us than we can remember ourselves. (Mayer-Schönberger, Viktor. Delete: The Virtue of Forgetting in the Digital Age. Princeton University Press. Kindle Edition.)

Everytime you go online, every time you search, every time you do anything on the internet – someone isn’t just watching, they are recording what you’re doing.  Is this not the thrust of the argument against our Federal Government when Greenwald writes in his book No Place to Hide: Edward Snowden, the NSA, and the US Surveillance State in his chapter the Harm of Surveillance: 

“When Google CEO Eric Schmidt was asked in a 2009 CNBC interview about concerns over his company’s retention of user data, he infamously replied: “If you have something that you don’t want anyone to know, maybe you shouldn’t be doing it in the first place.” With equal dismissiveness, Facebook founder and CEO Mark Zuckerberg said in a 2010 interview that “people have really gotten comfortable not only sharing more information and different kinds, but more openly and with more people.” Privacy in the digital age is no longer a “social norm,” he claimed, a notion that handily serves the interests of a tech company trading on personal information…A comprehensive experiment conducted in 1975 by Stanford University psychologists Gregory White and Philip Zimbardo, entitled “The Chilling Effects of Surveillance,” sought to assess whether being watched had an impact on the expression of controversial political opinions. The impetus for the study was Americans’ concerns about surveillance by the government: The Watergate scandal, revelations of White House bugging, and Congressional investigations of domestic spying by the Central Intelligence Agency have served to underscore the developing paranoid theme of American life: Big Brother may be watching you! Proposals for national data banks, uses of surveillance helicopters by urban police forces, the presence of observation cameras in banks and supermarkets, and airport security searches of person and property are but some of the signs that our private lives are under such increasing scrutiny. The participants were placed under varying levels of surveillance and asked to give their views on the legalization of marijuana. It turned out that “threatened” subjects—those who were told that their statements would be shared with the police “for training purposes”—were more likely to condemn marijuana usage and to use second- and third-person pronouns (“you,” “they,” “people”) in their language. Only 44 percent of subjects under surveillance advocated for legalization, compared to 77 percent of those not so “threatened.” Tellingly, percent of the participants being monitored spontaneously sought approval from the researchers (asking, for example, “Is that all right?”), whereas only 7 percent of the other group did so. Participants who were “threatened” also scored significantly higher on feelings of anxiety and inhibition. White and Zimbardo noted in their conclusion that the “threat or actuality of government surveillance may psychologically inhibit freedom of speech.” They added that while their “research design did not allow for the possibility of ‘avoiding assembly,'” they expected that “the anxiety generated by the threat of surveillance would cause many people to totally avoid situations” in which they might be monitored. “Since such assumptions are limited only by one’s imagination and are encouraged daily by revelations of government and institutional invasion of privacy,” they wrote, “the boundaries between paranoid delusions and justified cautions indeed become tenuous.” (Greenwald, Glenn. No Place to Hide: Edward Snowden, the NSA, and the U.S. Surveillance State. Henry Holt and Co.. Kindle Edition.)

Once a person truly understands what they are doing when they post in social media and how the internet *never* forgives and can make an action 10 years old current simply by referencing what is held in storage on some hard drive, then it becomes easy to see why people are starting to get off social media or carefully choreograph their social interactions.

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

When you Think about your Business, Think about the BOSS

When most people think about their boss, they think about an individual. Some bosses are great – others – not so much. But in this post, I want to propose that a Christian Business Owner should use the BOSS as a way to think about the fuller system in which their business exists and interacts.

You’ll recall that one of the four purposes for business is Productsthat business exists to provide a means to produce goods and services that allows the community to flourish. When one considers the ripple effects of a business within the broader system context, it easy to see how attention to delivering products and services that builds-up the community is serious business.

So, what is this larger system? It’s called the BOSS (Note: I am using this term as it is used in the training materials published by Interpersonal Communication Programs, Inc. 800-328-5099):

Business

Others

Self

Stakeholders

A comprehensive look at any business will include consideration of at least these elements:

  • Cash flow
  • Break even
  • Profitability
  • Process
  • Product and Service mix
  • Organizational structure
  • Plant and equipment
  • Employee morale and satisfaction
  • Risk mitigation
  • Governance
  • Business Development
  • Core Values
  • Short and long-term goals
  • Strategic plan

But often, the ripple effects of the business are not considered – at least not in a strategic sense. I would suggest that the wider system includes:

  • Extended family
  • Customers
  • Partners
  • Vendors
  • Shareholders
  • Board of Directors
  • The general community
  • The next generations (if family owned)
  • Church, ministries and charitable organizations supported by the payroll and profits of the business

When we consider the larger BOSS system, we start to realize that a single business with 40 employees (for example) doesn’t just touch 40 families, it like touches 100 or more families to one degree of intensity or another. Each part of this system contains its own critical information. In order for your business to function well, all parts of the system must be in place, functioning as they should. For example, if you’re not good at finding reputable vendors who deliver products and services at a decent price, then you’re likely to overpay for goods and services or purchase inferior products or services. Supply chain management is a serious aspect of having a well-functioning business.

What you’ll find is that your actions and decisions will seldom involve or impact only one part of the system. And if differences across the system are not managed well, the potential for conflict will only increase.

So, the next time you take your team off-site to do long-term planning, place your business at the center of the larger BOSS system and take a look at the ripple effects of your business within the BOSS system. Then ask the difficult question: is God pleased with the effects my business is having in the marketplace? Do I have a well-functioning system? He’ll answer you directly and clearly. Celebrate what you’re doing write and ask the Lord (and perhaps some outside advisors) what you can do to improve.

Bill English

Sorry, Christians Don’t Get to Retire

I have referenced how I believe that we will need to work well into our 70’s because I simply don’t believe that most have saved enough to be independently wealthy and whatever safety nets that are provided by the Federal Government will have negligible effect in 15 or 20 years.

But I’ve not dealt with retirement, as a concept, directly until now. So let me be direct and blunt:

The Scriptures do not support the notion of retirement.

Retirement implies stagnation, non-productivity and ceasing of growth. It has been retired. It is no longer useful. No longer helpful. No longer “part of the game”.

Sorry, Christians don’t get to become useless, unhelpful, irrelevant and unproductive. It’s not part of God’s plan and it’s not part of His will.

Work is a gift from God. Work existed before the Fall, so work is not a result of the fall nor is work part of the curse that God placed on Adam. I can find no place in the Bible where there is even a hint of support for our American concept of retirement – sitting back, relaxing every day, being non-productive and living off the money we have saved or inherited.

What I do find are passages like this:

Isaiah 60.21-22:

They are the shoot I have planted,

the work of my hands,

for the display of my splendor.

The least of you will become a thousand,

the smallest a mighty nation.

In Psalm 1.3, the Godly person is one who:

…is like a tree planted by streams of water,

which yields its fruit in season

and whose leaf does not wither—

whatever they do prospers

In 1 Corinthians 3.6, Paul uses the imagery of growth when he talks about him planting a seed, Apollos water but giving glory to God because He is the one who causes a person to grow.

One can even point to Philippians 1.3-5, where Paul writes:

“I thank my God every time I remember you. In all my prayers for all of you, I always pray with joy because of your partnership in the gospel from the first day until now, being confident of this, that he who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus.

The idea is that God never stops working in us to grow the “good work” and that He does so until the “day of Christ Jesus”.

The passages I have cited at the tip of the iceberg. There are literally dozens of passages that indicate that God is creative and that He wants us to work and grow until we reach heaven.

Now, this doesn’t mean you can’t sell your business as you get older, but it does mean that as a Christian, you’re not allowed to sit back and do nothing. You must be growing – developing – learning – becoming – until the day you see Christ face to face.

Sorry, Christians don’t get to retire.

Essential Planning: Management, Directors and Advisors

Proverbs 24.3-6 says this:

3By wisdom a house is built, and through understanding it is established;

through knowledge its rooms are filled with rare and beautiful treasures.

The wise prevail through great power, and those who have knowledge muster their strength.

Surely you need guidance to wage war, and victory is won through many advisers.

If these verses are applied to running a small, family-owned business, it is clear that a business (just like a “house” literally, a place or dwelling for one or more families) is built through wisdom, understanding, knowledge, guidance and advice. It is by knowledge that the rooms are filled with “rare and beautiful treasures”.

You might recall that when Peyton Manning was a two-time Super Bowl winner and was the MVP of the NFL several times. Peyton never lost sight of his need to be coached and to learn from those who were willing to pour into him their knowledge and wisdom. If only small business owners could grasp how important it is to be always learning, growing and improving – not just their technical skills – but their business skills as well.

This is why I recommend that small business owners realize and accept that as their business grows, they will need to develop and invest time with three different groups.

Management Team

The first group small business owners need to invest in is a management team. The management team runs the day-to-day operations of the business and the folks paid to lay awake at night and worry about the business. If you don’t have a management team, then most decisions will route through the owner and the business will only scale to a certain size, then stagnate. When your business is $250K/year, that’s not a big deal. But it will be rather difficult to run a $5M or $10M business without a management team. The largest I’ve ever seen is $23M – but they were paying the price in people leaving the company for better environments.

How you management team is comprised is up to you, but there are two basic ways: Organizational Chart and the Value Process. Most business owners will build their management team off of standard organization charts: managers for sales, operations, supply chain, finance and so forth. They departmentalize their company and then appoint people to manage parts of their company. It’s very common to see this. How well it works all depends on how well the business owner is able to build a team.

Advisors

This is usually the second group that most small business owners put together, but they do so grudgingly and really don’t like it because the cost of engaging and building a team of trusted advisors. Many take the position that advisors – consultants – are just there to take their money and not offer much of anything in the way of value. And while it is possible to waste money with trusted advisors, my experience is that most business owners end up paying more in other costs when they don’t properly build and engage their team of trusted advisors. Good trusted advisors will save you money, even though they have up-front costs.

Most small business owners are really good at what they do, but they are not good at accounting, contracts, compliance, hiring, firing, benefits, financial reports, banking and so forth, so it really is a good idea for them to have a team of trusted advisors who can help them work better “on” their business. And they will offer real expertise at a fraction of the cost of having the business owner him/herself read and learn the same information on their own.

Your trusted advisors should include:

  • Law firm – look for those who can help with contracts, policies, shareholder disputes (if you have a partner(s)) and HR/employment law.
  • Accounting firm – Have them do your quarterly and annual filings. Be sure to ask them about things you can do to lower taxes. And they should help you with your personal will, since that will be highly affected by the size and profitability of your business
  • Banking – look for a bank that can scale with your projected sales and size for the next five years
  • Financial Planner – be sure to pull out value out of your company on a regular basis and invest it personally for your retirement
  • HR/Benefits – you *will* need someone to help you with human resource elements such as payroll, policy manuals, job descriptions, benefits and so forth
  • Executive coach – believe it or not, an EC is become more and more common as small business owners look to sell or transition their business to their children. While most second or third generations know how to run the business, they often don’t know how to lead or how to think outside of what they have seen in their mom and dad. And often, the coaching has to help mitigate the family’s dysfunction so that the business can survive.

Board of Directors

As a business grows, so does the need for accountability and outside perspectives. A small business – even if completely owned by family members – will need outside perspectives both at the management and at the governance layers. While this is usually the last of the three groups to form, it is an important one for ensuring that proper governance is followed. Why is this important? Well, for family businesses, it is important for the family members to have a place where they can put their owner hat on and express themselves on matters pertaining to their role as an owner. What should not be happening is family members acting as owners during the day when their employee position doesn’t require it and, in fact, would negate that role for them during the day. For example, if one of the family members is an owner of 20% of the business but is employed as the Vice President of Sales, they s/he shouldn’t be talking or acting as an owner during the day.

Be aware the “outsiders” should be on your board – not just family and friends. You may want to include some trusted advisors on your board, but the board is there mainly to hold you – the business owner – accountable to accomplish certain things that you wouldn’t normally do yourself but you know you need to do. It’s a form of self-discipline. If your business is owned by your family, we highly recommend having non-family members on your board in order to get outside perspectives at the Board layer.

Summary

As your business grows, you will need to build and engage these three groups. And you, as a small business owner, will need to value what they bring to your business. Yes, it will cost you some money, but in the long run, these groups will save you money as they help you grow, become more profitable, streamline your operations and mitigate risk.

One caveat – as your business grows and you groups are formed, remember that your role will necessarily change and through delegation, you will need to know how to get more done through people than doing it yourself. This is where many entrepreneurs flinch and just say that they’ll stop growing the business so they can stay in control. That’s a legitimate business decision. But if you want to grow and sell for millions in the future, you’ll need to recognize that your role will change and you will be surprised as little you actually control after these three groups are formed. Your focus will be working “on” the business more than “in” the business, so reserving the things to yourself that allow you to work within your strengths will be very important.

Bill English

Kano Model and Christian Business Ownership

The Kano model is a theory of product development and customer satisfaction developed in the 1980s by Professor Noriaki Kano, which classifies customer preferences into several categories. The core idea is that customers come to a purchase decision with certain expectations about the mix of price, feature and quality. Depending on what they find, they might become delighted, discouraged or have a neutral, “ho-hum” experience.

Fundamental (green line)

These attributes are taken for granted when fulfilled but result in dissatisfaction when not fulfilled. An example of this would be a new flat-screen TV that doesn’t contain a remote. When I was growing up, a remote was a big deal – it was an innovation that customers found exciting and new. Today, it is an expected part of the TV package. Lack of a remote will result in dissatisfaction.

Linear (light blue line)

These attributes result in satisfaction when fulfilled and dissatisfaction when not fulfilled. In the TV example, this means enjoying the latest in pixilation for High Definition. You’ll enjoy it when it’s there, but will be dissatisfied if it’s not what you expected.

Exciter (red line)

These attributes provide satisfaction when achieved fully, but do not cause dissatisfaction when not fulfilled. In the TV example, perhaps it has additional inputs that you weren’t expecting or the remote also has the feature of running your other media devices. Generally speaking, you would not have been dissatisfied if these features were not present, but you’re additionally happy if they are.

Christian Business Ownership and the Kano Model

When it comes to a customer’s perception of your business, we would suggest that when the business fulfills God’s four purposes for business (Products, Passions, Profits and Philanthrophy), that your customers will find themselves rating your business on the Delighter line rather than the other two lines. In addition, we would suggest that this “delightful innovation” would not be something that diminishes over time. Instead, their delight will remain constant because, at our base, we’re always attracted to that which God has created us for, even if we don’t know it. People will naturally be attracted to a company that balances and fulfills these four purposes because we’re always looking for that which achieves at a high level and yet doesn’t fade or spoil.

As a Christian business owner, you won’t achieve a Delighted customer base with high loyalty only through persistent innovation, as important as this is. You see, product innovation is the fulfillment of only one of the four principles. Instead, you’ll need to be succeeding on the other three as well and doing it with authenticity and transparency. Once your there, those on the outside will want to align with your company, either as customers or partners and over time, you’ll develop a strong base of Delighted supporters who are, sometimes, also customers.

Assuming Risk as a Christian Business Owner

Risk can be defined as the exposure to chance of injury or loss.  Everyone who runs a business assumes a certain amount of risk.  In traditional economic thinking about this topic, most Americans would agree that those who assume the most risk in a business venture are also entitled to the most compensation should the venture turn out to be successful.  I personally would agree with this principle.  Generally speaking, our economy rewards the value that we give to the economy, so those who take a larger risk often provide jobs for others and a new product or service to the economy, so they would in turn be compensated at a higher rate than those who did not assume that risk.   There are two sides to risk:  one is the assumption of risk (usually based on an educated belief that there is a good chance that injury or loss will not be experienced) and the other is trusting in the Lord.  At a high level, when risk is assumed, the one assuming the risk must trust in something to offset the assumption of that risk.  For many of us, we purchase insurance to help offset the risk that we assume.  For others of us, we simply trust the Lord, understanding that His love for us and His sovereignty in our lives is a sufficient basis for assuming risk.  And still, there are others of us who do both – we purchase insurance and trust the Lord for the outcome.   The Scriptures also speak to risk, although in more general terms. However, I believe that there are some Scriptural principles that can be gleaned about risk and trust.

Assumption of Risk

Proverbs 22.3 says that a prudent man sees danger and takes refuge, but the simple keep going and suffer for it.  When it comes to running a Christian business, the Scriptures teach that it is an act of prudence to look into the future, assess the potential dangers and see what you can do to take refuge from those dangers.  The dangers can take many forms, from employees taking your IP and creating competitive businesses to new product or technologies penetrating the market in a way that reduces your customer base or makes your product/service obsolete.  It might also be purchasing key man insurance or cross purchase agreement (buy/sell) insurance to cover the cost of purchasing stock between partners in the event one of them dies prematurely.  In all of these situations and more, it is prudent to assess the danger and take proactive steps to guard yourself from those dangers.  (This same thought is repeated nearly verbatim in Proverbs 27.12).

Trusting in the Lord

There are many verses in the Scriptures about trusting in the Lord. Verses that discuss God’s provision for those who trust in Him are numerous.  For example, Proverbs 10.3 states that “the Lord does not let the righteous go hungry…” and Philippians 4.19 says that “God will meet all your needs according to his glorious riches in Christ Jesus”.  These two verses – and many others – apply to those who own businesses.  The promise is clear:  God will not allow His people to go without the basics that are needed in life.  I personally don’t think this can be applied to mean that your business will always succeed.  These verses of provision discuss God’s protection of us personally, not protection of our possessions (assuming our business is a possession).

Ongoing Risk as a Business Owner

As a business owner, you will find that you’ll need to risk over and over again.  Just as success isn’t final, risk never ends.  Growth will require certain levels of risk.  There will always be times when you’ll need to risk in order to keep your business going.  Every time you risk, be sure to hear clearly from the Lord about your decisions and be sure they are bathed in prayer.  Knowing and understanding what risk is and when it is a good to assume it will help you avoid unnecessary loss.

Principles of Risk for the Christian Business Owner

What follows here is a brief outline of the principles that should govern our decision-making processes when we consider taking on additional risk:

  1. The risk assumed should support and further your core purposes for running the business
  2. The risk assumed should not require you to violate your core values
  3. The potential negative consequences should be proportional to the potential positive rewards
  4. Mitigating risk is normal and natural
  5. Risk is shared when we are acting under the direction of the Lord.  In other words, when following God’s direction, the risk is real, but the “shouldering” of that risk is shared between God and us.  While He may not protect us from the negative consequences of assuming a risk He’s asked us to assume, we can be assured He will meet our needs (Phil 4) and will reward us in heaven for obedience.

Bill English, CEO Mindsharp

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