Category Archives: Strategy Development

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

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

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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