Tag Archives: Risk

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

So, You Want to Start a Business?

OK. You’ve made up your mind. You’re going to be your own boss. You’re going to live the dream. You’re going to start your own business and work for yourself. No more corporate politics. No more long commutes. You’ll work out of your house and maybe get a small office somewhere close by. Or perhaps you’ll open that restaurant you’ve always wanted to try. Now is the time. You’re ready to take the risk.

If this is you, then you’re joining nearly 28 million fellow Americans who own a small business (defined by the SBA as 500 or fewer employees). You’ll be one of the 543,000 new businesses that start each month and the life expectancy of your business is less than 10 years. Only a third survive past 10 years with only 25% staying in business 15 or more years. Roughly 10% of these businesses have gross receipts of more than $100,000, so if you’re planning to earn your bread-winning income out of this business, then you’ll need to target that six-figure income for your business. You’re personal income will be less because the business itself will incur costs that will need to be paid before you are paid.

Call of God

So, what do you need to do now to make sure your business lasts more than 10 years? In other words, what do you need to do now to make sure your business is successful? If you’re a Christian Business Owner, then you need to ensure that you’re called by God to venture out into your own business. You need to be sure that you’re following the Lord on this, because there will be times when you’ll wonder why you did this and if you should shut down and go back to working for someone else. Believe us when we say that you’ll need the rock solid foundation of knowing God has called you to small business ownership. Without that calling, you’ll lack a significant mooring when the waves get rough and you get tossed about.

You Must Be Competent

Next, you must be good at something. And that something must be valuable enough for others to pay for. And you’ll need to convince them that you are the right person to deliver that something to them at a price point they are willing to pay and you are willing to work for. If you can’t get alignment on this, then you’re doomed from the start. This is why franchising is so popular – they will teach you how to be good at what they do. They will give you the processes, marketing and such to get started. But you’ll need upfront cash – in some cases, over $100,000 just to get started.

You Must Be Willing to Risk

Starting a business will have upfront costs. You will pay them or your business will never get off the ground. The costs will include incorporating (we highly recommend), getting a web site, business cards and so forth. But there is another cost – and it’s huge: time. You will spend inordinate amounts of time working on the initial structure of your business. If you choose to do everything yourself, then you’ll be working overtime to not only do your day job that earns income, but you’ll also be working evening and weekend hours working on the business.

For example, you’ll need to choose a name for your business. Your personal name might be fine if you’re in professional services such as accounting or the law. But if you’re starting a dog-sitting business or a training business or a consulting business, chances are you’ll need a name for that business. Aligning your business name that can be trademarked with an internet domain name that is available can be a very frustrating experience. Word of advice: make it easier by not trying to find a .com domain name. Go with one of the new 96 domains, such as .company or .fund and so forth. You’ll find these domain names in use more and more as time passes.

Jack of All Trades

In starting your new business, you’re signing up to work in a number of areas: accounting, marketing, human resources, the law, product development, sales, product and/or service delivery, customer service, business development, leadership, supply chain and so forth. The size of your business will not necessarily preclude you from having to spend time in each of these areas to get started and keep your business going. Please don’t minimize this point. Don’t say, for example, “well, I won’t have to do sales since this and that will do it for me” or something like “I don’t need to worry about leadership since I won’t have employees”. Not taking seriously the many hats that you will wear will only cost you in the long run and probably will be one of the core reasons you’re business doesn’t last as long as it could.

Start with the End in Mind

Plan for how you want to wrap up your business. How you plan to end your business will directly impact how you maximize the value of your business for yourself personally. For example, if you plan to grow your business and then realize the value out of it when you sell it, then you’ll make certain choices along the way to maximize the value of your business at the time of sale. But if you plan to work for yourself over the next X number of years and you don’t plan to grow your business, then there will be nothing to sell at the end, so you’ll need to pull out additional value from your business incrementally and consistently. For example, many CPAs who work for themselves pay into their retirement funds on a monthly basis and over a twenty or thirty year time period, they are able to comfortably retire because they pulled additional value out of their business on a monthly basis and tucked it away into a saving instrument of some type.

Don’t run a business where all you have at the end is the memory of some good income years. You’ll enjoy the ride, but you won’t enjoy the landing. Recognize that your business must support you now and in the future, even if the business doesn’t exist in the future.

Running your own business will be the toughest job you’ll ever love. We offer this advice out of experience, not some book. We’ve made every mistake in this post. If you’d like help getting your business off the ground, just contact us. We’d love to help.

Bill English,
CEO and Founder, Elevate
Founder, Bible and Business

Leadership Lessons Part XV: Building Your Team While Taking Greater Risks

David begins to build his team right after his disgraceful journey through Philistine territory and having to act insane in order to evade capture and death. Our text comes from 1 Samuel 22.1-5:

David left Gath and escaped to the cave of Adullam. When his brothers and his father’s household heard about it, they went down to him there. 2 All those who were in distress or in debt or discontented gathered around him, and he became their commander. About four hundred men were with him. 3 From there David went to Mizpah in Moab and said to the king of Moab, “Would you let my father and mother come and stay with you until I learn what God will do for me?” 4 So he left them with the king of Moab, and they stayed with him as long as David was in the stronghold. 5 But the prophet Gad said to David, “Do not stay in the stronghold. Go into the land of Judah.” So David left and went to the forest of Hereth.

Now that David is following God and not relying on himself to make critical leadership decisions, we see him taking care of several core problems. And he begins the process of building his team.

Who joins David? We’re told his family, those who are distressed, in debt or generally discontented (bitter) with life are joining him. Not exactly the cream of society was joining David, yet in them, David found the team that God wanted him to have. There were roughly 400 men, so assume their families were with them. From a Christian Business Owner’s perspective, we can learn that God can find “top talent” from any source. I’m confident that how God and American business defines “top talent” are two different things. God looks at who you can become whereas business usually looks at what you can do for them today. When God is the Human Resource Director, you can be confident that He’ll bring you people for work in your business that, at first, may not appear to be what you need. Yet, if you rely on God to help you build your team, you’ll find that He’ll bring you the right people at the right time.

Movement

David crosses the area of Jerusalem several times. He first goes to another country – Moab – who are more friendly to him than the Philistines. He’s now listening to God. Note the phrase “…until I learn what God will do for me?” He first takes care of his immediate family and then begins to focus on solving other problems.

God sends Gad

God sends messengers to leaders. In this story, God sent Gad to David to deliver His messages. Today, we have the Holy Spirit and, I believe, we can hear the voice of God directly for making better decisions. As usual, one of God’s first directives is to put us into a place of greater dependence on Him. Don’t less this transition here lose focus for you: the first thing God told David to do was to leave the stronghold. Get away from the structures that you have built to fortify yourself. Get away from the man-made elements that provide you a sense of security. Let them go. Do not stay in the stronghold. As Christian Business owners, we’re often risking in order to grow our businesses. I’m fond of saying that I’m usually only three to five decisions away from bankruptcy. Growing a business requires taking risk. God will ask us to take risks as well. If we’re serious about fulfilling the four purposes of business (Products, Passions, Profits and Philanthropy), then God will ask us to leave our strongholds and move to a place of much greater dependence on Him. This will be a test He will give you to pass.

“Do not stay in the stronghold” is only part of the message. The rest of is this: “Go live in Judea” – the place where there are forests and caves but also a place that is closer to danger. In Judea, Saul is closer to David. The man and King who wants to kill David will be in closer proximity to David. Yet God calls David to Judea. There will be times when, in order to fulfill the four purposes of business, God will ask you to risk more and move closer to the danger. Bear in mind that no significant ministry is ever accomplished without taking significant risk. And when you are led by God, He shoulders the risk with you and is responsible for the outcomes.

Summary

In this story, we see the less-than-desirable of society gravitating to David. Believe it or not, it is this group that will form the core of his team and eventually, his government. But we also see God moving David into a position of greater personal risk. Most would say the combination of these two elements is a terrible way to start a movement, yet David follows God. The larger lesson is this: when God speaks, you follow Him, unwaveringly so. And count on God’s ways to be different than what you’d expect – but follow Him anyways. If He is calling you to significant ministry, He will also call you to significant risk. Count on it. Plan on it. But only take on that risk when you’re directed to by God Himself.

Leadership Lessons Part XIII: Ignoring Your Intuition

After David has lied to Ahimelek and Saul kills him for not reporting where David was (see the balance of 1 Samuel 22), David was informed that Ahimelek had been killed and his response was recorded for us in the last part of 1 Samuel 22:

“But one son of Ahimelek son of Ahitub, named Abiathar, escaped and fled to join David. 21 He told David that Saul had killed the priests of the LORD. 22 Then David said to Abiathar, “That day, when Doeg the Edomite was there, I knew he would be sure to tell Saul. I am responsible for the death of your whole family. 23 Stay with me; don’t be afraid. The man who wants to kill you is trying to kill me too. You will be safe with me.”

Through the death of another, David learned that his influence was far greater than his position. He knew better than to speak in front of Doeg and yet he ignored his intuition. He spoke anyways. His emotions got the best of him and instead of paying attention to his intuition, he spoke. Yes, Saul was responsible for Ahimelek’s death, but so was David.

As Christian Business Owners, our carelessness can cost others dearly in ways that we can never repay. Our words and actions matter. And when we ignore our intuition, we do so at our peril and usually to the peril of others. God gives us intuition for our own good. When we walk with the Holy Spirit, He informs and directs our intuition to better lead us.

In situations similar to what David faced, hold your tongue and pay attention to your intuition. You’ll be better off in the long run.

Porn Proceeds Don’t Excite the Banks

As Christian Business Owners, we understand that we often do business with people of different beliefs and lifestyles. But when it comes to risk management in business-to-business relationships, one needs to think a bit differently. A recent article in the Wall Street Journal (subscriber content) highlights the risks associated with doing business with high-risk businesses. Recently, several in the porn industry received letters from J.P. Morgan Chase & Co. saying their accounts were being closed. The move appears to be a standard practice by a major bank aimed at limiting risk more than anything else. The risks outweighed the revenue streams. Risk management is nothing new and shutting down accounts with customers in certain industries, such as the medical marijuana industry, is not uncommon.

The risks of doing business with those in the vice industries are real. The first risk is reputational: vice industries are considered high-risk because they are fertile rounds for human trafficking and money laundering. Many in these industries are dealing in nefarious businesses as well and they launder their money through these legal businesses. The second risk relates to chargebacks and customer disputes. It is not uncommon for men to patronize adult entertainment businesses only to later say that someone stole their card and dispute the transaction because they don’t want their spouses and others to know what they have done. Ultimately, it is the merchant who is on the hook for those charges, which can lead to uncertain income and potentially, significant losses that are sudden and damaging to the viability of the business.

Banks counsel high-risk businesses to take simple steps to lower these risks. One such step is for the business’ legal name to be something like “Steve’s Bar and Grill” and then do business as (DBA) <name_of_club> or “North Woods Medical Supplies” that has a DBA of <insert_medical_marijuana_name_here>. Note: Where ever you find vice, you’ll find money. The greater the vice, the more money you’ll find associated with it.

If you’re a Christian Business Owner, you may want to be on the look-out for those customers with common-sounding names but who seem to be abnormally cash-rich. Anytime you find an abnormal about of cash in a business relative to how that business is presenting itself, you’re likely to find either an ongoing vice or an ongoing fraud (think Enron). When evaluating the credit-worthiness of a customer, it’s a good idea to pay attention to those signs of businesses that might appear to be “normal” but who seem to have bags of money to spend. If their credit seems to be too-good, that is a sign that you should dive more deeply into that customer’s business to learn more about what they do.

Only the Lord can tell you who you should be doing business with. In a retail establishment, you have less legal lee-way to make this decision, but in a B2B relationship, you have ample room to choose your customers with little threat of a discrimination claim. Part of your job is to minimize the assumption of risk for your company, so be prudent about who you do business with and when it doubt, get on your knees and ask the Lord after you have done your due diligence in fully investigating your (potential) customer.

Bill English
CEO, Mindsharp

Reputational Risk, Brand Strength and Persecution

While abortion remains a divisive issue after 30+ years in our society, the issue of gay marriage has become even more divisive and at the same time, a uniting issue for those on one side or the other. By vast majorities, the younger generation is pro-gay marriage, seeing it as a civil rights issue. By a lesser plurality, older folks see gay marriage as a moral or natural law issue, one in which civil unions can be endorsed, but marriage should be reserved for heterosexual couples.

Social issues are now corporate risk issues. Managing your company’s reputation is now a core element of managing risk. Privately held companies by Christians will face increasing pressure and reputational risk when they follow their Christian beliefs in the marketplace. Just as most non-profit organizations are an outgrowth of the founder’s beliefs and personas, so are most small businesses: they are an outgrowth of the owner’s skills, talents and moral/religious beliefs. As the extreme pro-gay element in our society went after Chick-Fil-A in 2012 and more recently, Mozilla’s Barry Eich who resigned under pressure for having donated to a 2008 California ballot initiate that defined marriage as being “between one man and one woman”, those who run their businesses God’s way will find increasing pressure and opposition from the gay community as they live out their beliefs in the marketplace.

Chick-Fil-A is a good example of how a strong brand – which represents a strong emotional connection between the customer and the brand – can help weather attacks from various groups who are hell-bent on transforming society into their utopia while silencing any opposing viewpoints. But knowing how to engage in spiritual warfare is the Christian Business Owner’s most effective tool in navigating troubled waters. “For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms” says Paul in Ephesians 6.12. The battle that was fought by Chick-Fil-A and the one now being fought by Hobby Lobby and Conestoga Wood Specialties is, at its’ core, a spiritual battle. In short, Satan wants to destroy and silence all who oppose him. God is on the other side and while He tolerates evil today, He will one day rule in authority, power and righteousness. Every knee will bow to Jesus Christ and every tongue will confess Him as the Lord “in heaven, on earth and under the earth” (Philippians 2).

Staying quiet in the marketplace in order to maintain your business is tantamount to surrender. God has not called the Christian Business Owner to quiescence. Staying focused on the four core purposes for businesses is essential for you, your employees and your community. But being salt and light in your business and community will sometimes mean taking a stand on social issues. Some are called to be prophets in the business world. If it costs you your business, is that any worse that what other prophets have endured in the past? We need to be faithful to God and His Word before all else. If you are facing opposition or even persecution today because our society thinks you’re on the wrong side of a social issue, then work to strength your brand, but also spend time in spiritual warfare for yourself, your family and your business. Ask God to bring a sweeping revival in our country and commit yourself to faithfulness and perseverance to God and His Word. Hold out the Word of truth to a lost and dying world, but hold it out with love and respect for those who oppose you and with humility as your represent the Lord in the marketplace.

Bill English

Leadership Lessons – Part VI: David Fights Goliath – Part III

Being Yourself in Your Calling

Reading from 1 Samuel 17.15-40:

Now the Israelites had been saying, “Do you see how this man keeps coming out? He comes out to defy Israel. The king will give great wealth to the man who kills him. He will also give him his daughter in marriage and will exempt his family from taxes in Israel.”

26 David asked the men standing near him, “What will be done for the man who kills this Philistine and removes this disgrace from Israel? Who is this uncircumcised Philistine that he should defy the armies of the living God?”

27 They repeated to him what they had been saying and told him, “This is what will be done for the man who kills him.”

28 When Eliab, David’s oldest brother, heard him speaking with the men, he burned with anger at him and asked, “Why have you come down here? And with whom did you leave those few sheep in the wilderness? I know how conceited you are and how wicked your heart is; you came down only to watch the battle.”

29 “Now what have I done?” said David. “Can’t I even speak?” 30 He then turned away to someone else and brought up the same matter, and the men answered him as before. 31 What David said was overheard and reported to Saul, and Saul sent for him.

32 David said to Saul, “Let no one lose heart on account of this Philistine; your servant will go and fight him.”

33 Saul replied, “You are not able to go out against this Philistine and fight him; you are only a young man, and he has been a warrior from his youth.”

34 But David said to Saul, “Your servant has been keeping his father’s sheep. When a lion or a bear came and carried off a sheep from the flock, 35 I went after it, struck it and rescued the sheep from its mouth. When it turned on me, I seized it by its hair, struck it and killed it. 36 Your servant has killed both the lion and the bear; this uncircumcised Philistine will be like one of them, because he has defied the armies of the living God. 37 The Lord who rescued me from the paw of the lion and the paw of the bear will rescue me from the hand of this Philistine.”

Saul said to David, “Go, and the Lord be with you.”

38 Then Saul dressed David in his own tunic. He put a coat of armor on him and a bronze helmet on his head. 39 David fastened on his sword over the tunic and tried walking around, because he was not used to them.

“I cannot go in these,” he said to Saul, “because I am not used to them.” So he took them off. 40 Then he took his staff in his hand, chose five smooth stones from the stream, put them in the pouch of his shepherd’s bag and, with his sling in his hand, approached the Philistine.

41Meanwhile, the Philistine, with his shield bearer in front of him, kept coming closer to David. 42 He looked David over and saw that he was little more than a boy, glowing with health and handsome, and he despised him. 43 He said to David, “Am I a dog, that you come at me with sticks?” And the Philistine cursed David by his gods. 44 “Come here,” he said, “and I’ll give your flesh to the birds and the wild animals!”

45 David said to the Philistine, “You come against me with sword and spear and javelin, but I come against you in the name of the Lord Almighty, the God of the armies of Israel, whom you have defied. 46 This day the Lord will deliver you into my hands, and I’ll strike you down and cut off your head. This very day I will give the carcasses of the Philistine army to the birds and the wild animals, and the whole world will know that there is a God in Israel. 47 All those gathered here will know that it is not by sword or spear that the Lord saves; for the battle is the Lord’s, and he will give all of you into our hands.”

48 As the Philistine moved closer to attack him, David ran quickly toward the battle line to meet him. 49 Reaching into his bag and taking out a stone, he slung it and struck the Philistine on the forehead. The stone sank into his forehead, and he fell facedown on the ground.

50 So David triumphed over the Philistine with a sling and a stone; without a sword in his hand he struck down the Philistine and killed him.

51 David ran and stood over him. He took hold of the Philistine’s sword and drew it from the sheath. After he killed him, he cut off his head with the sword.

In this study on the leadership lessons that God taught David as he was preparing to be King of a nation, David had learned:

The lesson of being underestimated: People may underestimate what a leader can accomplish based on any number of factors.

The lesson of submission: In order to be a good leader, one must first be a good follower

The lesson of knowing when to risk: Leaders take risk in order to lead. Knowing when to assume risk and when to demur from risk is essential for good leadership

The Lesson of Authenticity: Being Yourself in Your Calling

After David had learned what Goliath was doing day after day – defying Israel and the Lord Himself, David inquires about the reward for the man who would take out Goliath. One wonders if David hadn’t already decided in his heart to go fight, but was asking this question in almost as a sidebar. David’s larger motivation, it seems, is to defend the name of the Lord and defeat a rather annoying and arrogant person in the process: Who is this uncircumcised Philistine that he should defy the armies of the living God?”

His own brother’s “despised” him. The text doesn’t tell us why, so we are left to speculation. It seems to me that they despised him because, in part, he was showing a faith in God and a confidence that (in their minds) bordered on arrogance. There is often a fine line between confidence and arrogance and those who are not walking closely with God often get the two confused. David learns that those who most oppose you as you move out for God may be those who are closest to you. And we also learn that it is not unbiblical to be motivated by rewards – cf. Matt 6.19-24.

So David volunteers to fight Goliath. He is probably around 20 at this point. When he is taken to Saul, the King, who himself is terrified of Goliath, Saul discounts David to his face. He tells him he is too Young to fight and that he lacks the proper experience to handle a difficult situation like this. Doesn’t David know that Goliath is older, wiser, and more experienced at fighting? It is so often true that those in leadership who demonstrate an inability to solve tough problems will still discount those who think they can. Saul is portrayed as a man hanging onto a no-win situation – something that leaders who move projects, teams, organizations or countries forward – cannot afford to do. And we learn that those who have deep faith in God never find themselves in a no-win situation because with God, all things are possible.

So David gives his resume to Saul. He has killed lion and bear and besides, God will kill Goliath for His own glory. David couches this in terms of rescue: God will rescue me from Goliath. The only possible way that God could do this without bringing shame on His name is to ensure that David kills Goliath.

Consenting to this seemingly foolish plan, Saul nevertheless wants to give David every chance possible to win. So, Saul dresses David in His armor. Now, remember that Israel didn’t have swords and spears for every fighting man. Only Saul had such weapons. In this context, a sword was the latest and greatest weapon of warfare. The Philistines had them – the Israelites did not. The present day analogies are clear: To be successful, one must adopt the latest techniques and technologies. So, do this ministry this way and you’ll be successful using our methods and our tools and our philosophies. But David is right to throw off such things: If the present leader’s methods, tools and philosophies have rendered that leader (in this case, Saul) impotent to lead a nation against a Goliath (or any seemingly insurmountable problem), why would those who believe that Goliath can be defeated depend on that leader’s ways? If the leader’s dependence on the latest techniques and technologies, methods, tools and philosophies have rendered that leader unable to act, why would we adopt those elements if we intend to win? Saul is the picture of a leader who is paralyzed by the belief that there is no winnable solution. And this is because he lacks faith and confidence in the power of God.

David rejects the armor and will kill Goliath as he had the lion and bear – with the King’s armor. David will trust God for deliverance. So he goes to the brook and picks up five stones , though he will need only one. David approaches Goliath alone. Note the contrast: Goliath – big, bold and bombastic – has a shield bearer in front of him. David – confident and swift – comes alone. David predicts victory and gives the glory to God before it happens: This day the Lord will deliver you into my hands, and I’ll strike you down and cut off your head. This very day I will give the carcasses of the Philistine army to the birds and the wild animals, and the whole world will know that there is a God in Israel.

David “ran quickly” toward Goliath. Note the contrast: Israel “ran” from Goliath while David “ran” toward him. We learn from this that Godly leaders “run toward the bullets” and take care of problems quickly and decisively. David slings his stone and kills Goliath, who falls face down, just as Dagon had fallen earlier (5.1-5). For those who don’t walk with the Lord (both unsaved and carnal Christians), God’s way seems foolish to them. Yet, often, God’s way is one of comparative loneliness and risk. David didn’t ask Saul to “back him up” – David had the Lord and that was enough for him.

This victory defied natural explanations. David didn’t use conventional techniques or the latest technologies. Yet this victory brought to each nation what they needed: Israel needed to see God at work and the Philistines needed to know that God exists and is more powerful than any of their gods. America is such a stunningly unbelieving nation: we search high and low for natural explanations for miracles. We defy faith, unless it is faith in ourselves. And some Christians make it worse: they are only interested in miracles of healing or other “cool” stuff that provides immediate excitement but little long-term glory to God. But if you want to see the full power of God at work, then consider this: the greatest miracle that God ever performs is a life changed because God has regenerated them and given them a new heart and a new nature (cf 2 Corinthians 4).

At the end, the writer doesn’t tell us that Saul thanks David or is pleased with David’s faith and what God accomplished through him, instead, Saul appears to not know who David’s father is and is most concerned about having him join his court. Saul is the picture of a leader who has the form of Godliness but lacks its’ real power. Saul is the picture of a self-centered leader who intended to follow God but who really doesn’t. The church has many such leaders.

Learning the lesson of Authenticity:

  • Being faithful to the experiences that God has given you
  • Being faithful with the gifts that God has given you
  • Being true to the methods you feel comfortable with and which have stood the test of time

What we learn from David’s route of Goliath is this:

  • Don’t be surprised if opposition to your ministry efforts come from those closest to you
  • Rewards are sometimes a proper motivation
  • Godly leaders “run toward the bullets” and take care of problems quickly and decisively
  • Greatest miracle is a life changed because God has regenerated them
  • Godly leaders factor in God’s presence and power: Ungodly leaders do the opposite
  • Faith in God plus your willingness to follow God is a greater combination than anything the world can throw at you

Bill English, CEO
Mindsharp

Leadership Lessons Part V – David Fights Goliath – Part II

What David Can Teach Us About Assuming Risk in Business

 

Consider the text of our story in this post from 1 Samuel 17. 12-24:

Now David was the son of an Ephrathite named Jesse, who was from Bethlehem in Judah. Jesse had eight sons, and in Saul’s time he was very old. 13 Jesse’s three oldest sons had followed Saul to the war: The firstborn was Eliab; the second, Abinadab; and the third, Shammah. 14 David was the youngest. The three oldest followed Saul, 15 but David went back and forth from Saul to tend his father’s sheep at Bethlehem.

16 For forty days the Philistine came forward every morning and evening and took his stand.

17 Now Jesse said to his son David, “Take this ephah w of roasted grain and these ten loaves of bread for your brothers and hurry to their camp. 18 Take along these ten cheeses to the commander of their unit. See how your brothers are and bring back some assurance from them. 19 They are with Saul and all the men of Israel in the Valley of Elah, fighting against the Philistines.”

20 Early in the morning David left the flock in the care of a shepherd, loaded up and set out, as Jesse had directed. He reached the camp as the army was going out to its battle positions, shouting the war cry. 21 Israel and the Philistines were drawing up their lines facing each other. 22 David left his things with the keeper of supplies, ran to the battle lines and asked his brothers how they were. 23 As he was talking with them, Goliath, the Philistine champion from Gath, stepped out from his lines and shouted his usual defiance, and David heard it. 24 Whenever the Israelites saw the man, they all fled from him in great fear.

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David goes to check on his brothers as directed by his father, Jesse. Goliath has been challenging Israel for 40 days – twice each day. David arrives as they are going to their battle lines with a shout – which is just for show since Israel runs in fear when they hear Goliath’s shouts. We find that David is surprised that the army is putting up with Goliath’s rantings and is afraid of him. Including Saul, David is the only one with God’s perspective on Goliath, so David volunteers to fight him. Saul consents and David fights Goliath. God delivers Israel, not David.

God had prepared David for this moment back when he was tending sheep: God delivers David from the lion/bear, in which David learned faith, confidence and integrity. He was stretched into comfort zones and as he matures, God is constantly stretching him. Increasingly, God places David in a situation where he must demonstrate faith, confidence and integrity. It is true of all leaders who are developed by God: He asks leaders to live out publicly what He has taught them privately and asks them to serve through example.

Note also, that David wasn’t expecting this event when he started out that morning. But he was able to respond because he had been developed by God in Discerning the real issue, knowing God’s character, experiencing God’s deliverance and freedom from the bondage of sin. As a result, David developed a Godly integrity which allowed him to take on increasing levels of responsibility for the Lord’s work.

What can we learn about assuming risk?

David took a real risk in this story by putting himself out in front as the person who would fight Goliath. So, what are the elements in this story that allowed David to take on this risk? I would submit to you that David took this risk because:

  1. He had God’s leading to do so
  2. He understood the core issues and elements from God’s perspective
  3. He had a clear plan for success that was both reasonable and attainable
  4. He was able to draw on his own experience and talent that had been previously developed
  5. The potential reward was worth the risk

When you’re facing a decision about whether or not to risk, the first thing you should not is if you have God’s clear leading to take on the risk. The other 4 points are moot if you don’t have God’s leading. But if you do have God’s leading, check yourself on the other four points. Usually God will supply sufficient resources in those four points that the assumption of the risk is a reasonable decision.

Bill English, CEO
Mindsharp

Cultivating a Risk Intelligent Culture

I was talking with a colleague this morning about common threads in businesses that need to be turned around. One of the common threads we discussed briefly was that of risk and agency costs. It should come as no surprise that in the privately-held business, estimating $50M and under in annual sales, one of the elements that is least managed and yet represents real harm to the business is that of agency cost – the ability of a key employee or an owner or partner to engage in activities that are personally beneficial but hurt the organization at-large.

In an interesting article published by Deloitte within the frame work of the Wall Street Journal, they suggest that owners take responsibility to build a “risk intelligent” culture – one in which each employee takes “personal responsibility for management risk in their work every day”. Costly errors often occur when well-intentioned employees make decisions without regard to the risks involved. For example, John was a fairly competent controller for his $9M/year company. But when the company started to experience cash flow problems due to declining sales, he became behind in making small tax payments to various states. None of these payments were over $100, but over time, as he ignored the repeated demand notices, the fines and interest costs levied by the various states grew to a collective payout of several thousand dollars. While sales continued to decline to less than half of what they were, John’s inactions came to light. Needless to say, John was fired. On his way out, in his own defense, John commented on how he didn’t have any money to pay the taxes in the first place, so “what was I supposed to do?” This statement was revealing on several levels, but at a minimum, it reveals that John didn’t have any appreciation for the risks involved in not paying taxes when they are due.

While John’s example (a real case scenario, I might add) is a bit extreme, it does illustrate the point that employees should understand and appreciate the core risks inherent in their decisions. John didn’t even connect what he was doing (or not doing) to any risks he was creating for the company. And since his CEO had too much trust in his person and work (another risk that the CEO himself only saw in hindsight), it made for the perfect storm. So at a time when the total tax bills would have been less than $1000, John’s actions created a total tax bill of nearly $5000 as well as incurring another ~$2500 in legal fees.

Cultivating a risk intelligent culture would have meant that John would have known and understood the risks he was creating and instead of being silent, he would have informed the CEO of his decisions and discussed them with him. In addition, it would have meant that the CEO would have trusted less and verified more the quality of John’s work. Early detection would have saved the company thousands of dollars.

So, take a look at the Deloitte article. I recommend it to you for your consideration.

Bill English, CEO
Mindsharp

Risk and Uncertainty for the Christian Business Owner

Risk management is changing substantially. Henry Hu, the found and inaugural director of the Securities and Exchange Commissions’ Division of Risk, Strategy and Financial Innovation is now suggesting that businesses are having to manage risk and uncertainty. He differentiates between the two as follows:

“I think one of the biggest risks right now … is what happens when the Fed eventually moves away from its extraordinary quantitative easing. The economy has basically been on steroids for a number of years. The amount of intervention by the Fed has affected all asset prices, bonds and stocks. It has caused large distortions. I don’t think anybody could quite put a handle on what will happen when this all ends. This brings to mind the classic distinction between risk and uncertainty. With risk you can assign probabilities to different things happening. With uncertainty, you can’t even assign probabilities. We’re really talking about uncertainty.”

Hu goes on to say this:

“In the wake of the government shutdown and the debate over the debt ceiling increase, can you actually assume now that the Treasury has no credit risk? Absolutely not. A lot of anchors have given way.”

The normal reaction to risk and uncertainty is to do what one thinks is necessary to secure one’s future. For the Christian Business Owner, this means running a more conservative shop – perhaps not expanding as aggressively as planned. It means building cash for the future. It means getting out of debt. And it means getting ready for the storm. All of this is good and necessary. But it is not enough.

Only by relying on Christ can one face the future with peace, confidence and hope. Christian Business owners don’t transfer our trust in the Lord to our risk-mitigation efforts. Instead, we understand that our hope for a secure future is in the Lord and in Him alone. One of the greatest promises that Christ gave us was when He said “In this world you will have trouble – but take heart, I have overcome the world!”

No matter what risks your facing today, be sure to place your full faith and trust in the Lord. He has overcome the world and its’ troubles. While you might have a rocky ride right now, your future can be certain and filled with hope.

Bill English, CEO
Mindsharp

 

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