The Balance Sheet of the Entrepreneur
Webster’s provides the following definition of an entrepreneur – a person who assumes the risk and management of business. I would say this definition is only the starting place for defining a true entrepreneur.
As a former owner and operator of an ad agency for twelve years, I have worked with a broad range of entrepreneurs. I served clients like American Express, Steinway Pianos, Thomas Nelson Publishers and many smaller entrepreneurial companies and non-profits.
WORKING WITH SO MANY ENTREPRENEURS AND BEING ONE MYSELF, I HAVE DISCOVERED SOME COMMON TRAITS THAT ARE WORTH NOTING:
- They are risk takers.
- They don’t always consider what it will take to complete the task.
- They often size up opportunity based on intuition versus hard numbers or a leading by the Holy Spirit.
- They often don’t take into account what their actions will do to their support staff.
There should also be a very distinctive difference between the Christian entrepreneur and the non-Christian entrepreneur, although the above characteristics are common to both Christian and non-Christian. The Christian entrepreneur should be a person who has yielded his entrepreneurial life to God and seeks God for direction on new projects and the way to accomplish them.
Balancing the Natural with the Spiritual as an Entrepreneur
The entrepreneur who does not perform well is left behind in today’s competitive world. Not only is this typical of the world at large, but even many Christians promote the importance of identifying our strengths and encourage us to move in them to accomplish God’s will. Yet, throughout the Bible, we are discouraged from depending totally upon our own strengths. Instead, we are urged to rely totally upon the Lord.
This is a paradox. In Philippians 3:3, Paul tells us that we should not put our confidence in the flesh. Psalm 33:16-17 tells us not to put our confidence in things the world considers to be our protection, defense or strength. “No king is saved by the size of his army; no warrior escapes by his great strength. A horse is a vain hope for deliverance; despite all its great strength it cannot save.”
So, if we’re not supposed to look to the world or to ourselves, who or what are we supposed to depend on? Psalm 33:18-19 continues, “But the eyes of the Lord are on those who fear him, on those whose hope is in his unfailing love, to deliver them from death and keep them alive in famine.” This is echoed in Ephesians 6:10, where Paul states, “Finally, be strong in the Lord and in his mighty power.”
God wants us to depend upon Him, and He demonstrates this throughout Scripture. In 2 Samuel 24, God judged David when he counted his troops to determine the size of his army’s strength, apparently because David took the census out of pride or overconfidence in the strength of his army. In Joshua 6, God told Joshua to walk around Jericho seven times and blow trumpets instead of relying upon his mighty army to overpower his enemy.
In Judges 7, God wouldn’t let Gideon fight against another army until he reduced his own from 22,000 soldiers to a mere 300, so that Gideon could not boast about his army’s strength. I am sure that Gideon’s CPA was happy at the savings he would have from reducing the size of his army. But did he have the army necessary to successfully defeat the enemy?
On the other hand, Jesus instructed the disciples in due diligence through the parable of the builder, who is cautioned to consider the cost before beginning to build. “Suppose one of you wants to build a tower. Will he not first sit down and estimate the cost to see if he has enough money to complete it? For if he lays the foundation and is not able to finish it, everyone who sees it will ridicule him, saying, ‘This fellow began to build and was not able to finish’” (Luke 14:28-30). I recall starting a business in the late 90’s only to have to shut it down for lack of cash, because I failed to consider the real operational costs.
So how do we balance these seeming contradictions?
A CEO entrepreneur assigned his president the job of coming up with the next year's marketing plan for the company. The president worked hard at evaluating his market and what it would take to grow the company 20% in the next twelve months. He provided detailed projections and the income, expense and cash flow projections to accomplish the task. The CEO reviewed the plan and came back to the president and said these words: “This is not acceptable. You have given me what you can do through the course of normal operations. I am confident you can make those numbers without faith. I want to see what you are willing to trust God to accomplish through this company. Now, go back and mix your plan with faith!”
This same CEO once cautioned me to avoid overuse of my natural skill in my entrepreneurial gifting. He gave me a wonderful piece of wisdom: “You almost have to withhold your natural gifting to insure God is in it.” What he was saying to me is that it is so important that our entrepreneurial activities are God-activities and not just “good activities.” It is important to see God in the midst of these activities to know He is working through us to accomplish the task. Most entrepreneurs I know move quickly without thought of the cost or consequences to their actions on themselves or others. Many a financial failure has resulted from these actions.
The problem with business is that the market makes us accountable to our actions. Many an entrepreneur has launched out on an endeavor based on a whim and a prayer–especially Christian entrepreneurs. We are often guilty of presumption instead of faith. Os Hillman
We often fail to use solid accounting principles and rationalize our behavior as faith instead of using wisdom that God calls us to use. We fail to get counsel from those who can assist us. So, there is a constant pull from two sides–faith and risk taking versus using wisdom combined with professional accounting practices.
THE NEXT TIME YOU HAVE A PROJECT YOU FEEL CALLED TO BEGIN, ASK SOME KEY QUESTIONS:
- Do we have the funding necessary to accomplish the task? If not, what will it take? What existing resources can be designated to this versus what new resources are required?
- What problem does this product or service solve?
- Do we have the staff to complete the project?
- What additions and impact will this have on our existing business?
- Am I prepared to invest my time to make it successful? Do I have the bandwidth with my current responsibilities so I can give time to this new endeavor?
- Do I have confirmation from God that I am called to this project?
IF YOU FOLLOW THESE SIMPLE GUIDELINES, YOU WILL BE ASSURED OF A HIGHER DEGREE OF SUCCESS PROFESSIONALLY AND SPIRITUALLY.
By: Os Hillman
Os Hillman is Founder and President of Marketplace Leaders Ministries. He is also an internationally recognized speaker, author, and consultant on the subject of faith at work. Hillman has written 12 books on faith and work subjects and a daily workplace email devotional entitled TGIF–Today God Is First. For more information on Os and his ministry work, visit: www.MarketplaceLeaders.orgRead More Articles by Os Hillman