Tag Archives: Business

Do You Have a Council of Counselors?

It is the time of year that we typically look back over the last twelve months and take stock of what went well and what didn’t quite measure up to our ideas of success. We hopefully spend some time using the lessons of the past and planning for future accomplishments in the coming year. This is an exercise successful business owners definitely engage in. The most fruitful ones have some form of a council to help them, not only during this annual evaluation and planning time, but on a regular basis.

Why should you have some kind of council of counselors? God tells us through His instructions to us in the Bible that we should have trustworthy people giving us advice. Proverbs 12:15 states it this way in the New Living Translation: “Fools think their own way is right, but the wise listen to others.” There are many other such statements in Proverbs. As imperfect people, we tend to have weaknesses and blind spots that prevent us from making the right decision or doing the right thing 100% of the time. If we have some wise people around us as we go through life making these decisions and doing these things, they can hopefully help us avoid the wrong ones or at least make a proper course correction in the wake of mistakes.

Here are some suggestions from a C12 Group segment on how a Christian business owner can put together that helpful council of counselors:

■ Formal Board of Directors – common for large or public companies

■ Christian Peer Advisory Board – A group such as C12 provides a readymade format for asking and receiving counsel, being challenged by best practice ideas, and submitting issues and plans to other committed Christians for feedback. C12 also provides a degree of accountability, prayer, planning, and one-on-one counsel.

■ Council of Advisors – Another resource that can complement either of the prior two alternatives is meeting with a smaller group of trustworthy colleagues (often two to four local C12 members and/or church members). Real benefit can be generated by meeting together regularly for counsel, accountability, and prayer. Due to their informality and small size, a COA can provide an opportunity for deeper intimacy which many C12 members have found to be extremely helpful.

■ Mentor – More than teachers, mentors are generally role models with more experience or authority in areas where we desire to grow. Teachers impart knowledge; mentors impart life. Long-term mentors are difficult to come by, but they can be hugely beneficial.

If you aren’t a business owner you can still benefit from having a council of counselors. I’ve found that having a group of three additional people of the same sex that meet together at least twice a month for at least 90 minutes each time provide a good format for sharing life and getting advice on the challenges we all face. Having a small number of all men or all women in the group fosters a higher degree of transparency and trust that is difficult to achieve in a larger group of men and women.

As you gather together with your council, here are six common characteristics of finishing well that you could pose to them, asking if there is evidence of these characteristics in your life.

 The Six Common Characteristics of Finishing Well

Develop and fight to:

  1. Hold an Eternal Perspective. Don’t get caught up in the short term thinking of the culture. Eternity is considerably longer than even the longest life we could possibly have.
  2. Build Intimacy with Jesus Christ. In Philippians 4:13 we are told “For I can do everything through Christ, who gives me strength.” A relationship requires time conversing. To converse with Jesus Christ you need to read His words in the Bible and spend time talking to Him through prayer.
  3. Maintain Self-Discipline. The self-discipline being raised here is avoiding “many foolish and harmful desires that plunge them into ruin and destruction” Timothy warns us about.
  4. Maintain Open and Accountable Relationships. This is a key part of having a council you can trust and be transparent with. They also need to be able to challenge you when you have a blind spot.
  5. Maintain a Teachable Spirit and a Lifetime of Learning. Proverbs 11:2 is one of a number of verses that tell us “Pride leads to disgrace, but with humility comes wisdom.” I can trace nearly all my worst mistakes back to pride and arrogance. I can trace nearly all of my successes to wisdom that came from someone else that I acted on.
  6. Maintain a Heart to Help Others Finish Well. Since others need a council of counselors, invest time, energy and prayer in being a wise counselor for someone else, sharing the benefits that you are receiving from your council.

Best wishes for a fruitful and blessed year, one that is focused on relationships, both earthly and eternal!

 

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Filed under Business, Christian Life, Coaching, Discipleship, Mentoring, Self-improvement

What’s My “Why”?

Why do I do what I do for a living? Why did I sell my three businesses and start over in a new business? Why did I leave the security of a successful, prospering company providing information technology products and services to the business world for a start-up, one man consulting business franchise focused on Christian business owners?

In truth, part of that answer is due to my belief in myself, in my own abilities, skills, talents and determination; all of which are given me by God. But that is not the only reason, because if it were, I would be doomed to failure. The primary reason is that God called me to do it and rely on Him more than me. I didn’t even realize it at first when I decided to pursue being a C12 Chair. When I was interviewed via phone by Buck Jacobs, founder of C12, he asked me if I was called to do this. I was honest in my answer and gave all the logical reasons and shared the sequence of events that seemed to point me in this direction, but couldn’t say with complete conviction that I was called. I believe that my own misunderstanding of what it meant to be called contributed to my lack of clarity on the answer to the question. A severe case of jet lag after returning from Indonesia didn’t help either.

Buck helped me through the fog a little with a couple articles he had written on the topic, specifically for C12 Chairs and C12 members, explaining in detail the concept of calling for a business guy like me. My experiences preparing for the chair role and being a chair have confirmed that I have indeed been called to do this. That doesn’t mean it’s been easy or that I haven’t made mistakes. It does mean that I have to do it, no matter what.

I have now spent a little more than eighteen months in this role of C12 Chair, facilitating one group of ten Christian business owners. In addition to running the monthly group meeting, I meet with each of them individually for a ninety minute one-on-one coaching and accountability session. Each one of these men has grown in some way in the short time they have been a part of the C12 Group. The most rewarding thing to see is their determination to be a better servant of God, making a difference in the lives of their employees and their families, building businesses that are well run and prosperous, but more importantly, being Christ-like examples in the business community and the world. They care, and they care a lot.

So, my “why” is that I have been called by God to be a C12 chair, building groups of C12 members who have been called to be more than typical business owners. My “why” is helping them discover that calling and helping them live it out in their business, with their families, in their churches and in their ministries. I too, care, and care a lot. It sometimes feels like a burden, and sometimes a very heavy one, but only for a short while, especially when I remember the eternal perspective.

We are serving the God who created the universe, we are serving Jesus Christ, who gave us a way to be with God in a new heaven and a new earth for all of eternity, and we are serving the Holy Spirit, who gives us guidance and direction, when we can get rid of the noise and clutter in our lives enough to hear Him. We are making a difference in our communities today and for all of eternity.

If you are a Christian business owner or CEO reading this, what is your “why”? Why are you in business? Who is your business serving? How are you employees and their families being impacted by being a part of your business? What are you doing with the profits from your business? What difference are you making in this world and more importantly, what difference are you making for eternity?

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Use Your Business Platform to Educate

At our December C12 Group meeting I facilitated a spirited discussion about the misunderstandings that a significant portion of the population had of the fiscal cliff situation. The elements of the fiscal cliff problem combined government overspending, a weak economy, poor communication, arrogance and a lack of business knowledge, among other things. We spent a good deal of the time in our discussion about the gap between business owners and much of the population in understanding economic issues. So how do we close this gap, how do we help people understand that free enterprise is the economic engine of our country and taking more money from it and giving it to the government will make things worse, not better?

As I have written before, the core of these truths are biblically based and we need to continue to share the Gospel and disciple people so they can learn them, understand them and apply them to the world around us. We also have to keep the eternal perspective a higher priority than the temporary one of this life.

Beyond sharing the Gospel, we Christian business leaders should be using our platform to educate our employees, customers, suppliers and vendors. We can do this through company meetings, newsletters, corporate web sites and social media. We need to educate ourselves, arm ourselves with knowledge and information and share it in a productive way.

What are some of the areas that we should focus our time on? One of the first should be that the federal government is not good at solving problems or taking care of people. Given that truth, giving them more money doesn’t make sense either. Compare how poorly the government does at just about anything with how well private companies and ministries do solving problems and caring for those in need.

A key to understanding free enterprise and its positive impact on everyone is basic business math. Use your own business’s numbers or use hypothetical numbers if you prefer, but spend some time teaching the basics of revenues, cost of goods, gross profit, expenses and net profit. In the discussion of expenses highlight how much of those expenses are payroll and benefit expenses and how those are impacted by the decisions of our federal government. Explain how small business owners are taxed on corporate profits that most of the time don’t make it to the owner’s personal bank account.

One of the biggest issues that no one in government at least seems willing to tackle is the size of the federal debt and its continued growth unabated. We need to make clear the consequences of letting this continue which include downgraded credit ratings, devalued currency, and the size of the debt eclipsing the gross domestic product and ultimately more recession or even depression.

Here are some sources to help you educate people on these issues:

Take some time to read through the information from these sources. Use the platform that you have to share it with people through meetings, seminars, newsletters, blogs, and social media (LinkedIn, Facebook, Twitter, etc.). Do something else you probably haven’t done in a while, share it and your opinion with your elected government officials, including our president. (http://www.usa.gov/Contact.shtml)

Someone has to lead our nation through these obstacles; Christian business leaders have the talents, tools and biblical wisdom to do it. Step up to the challenge!

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Filed under Business, Christian Life, Discipleship, Economy, Government

The Potential Impact of a Christian Business

What is the role of a Christian business owner in today’s economy? In this election you will hear politicians share about their plans to create jobs. Unfortunately, the government doesn’t create jobs; businesses and their owners create jobs. Here are some statistics from the U.S. Small Business Administration (http://web.sba.gov/faqs/faqIndexAll.cfm?areaid=24).

 Small firms:

•    Represent 99.7 percent of all employer firms.
•    Employ half of all private sector employees.
•    Pay 44 percent of total U.S. private payroll.
•    Generated 65 percent of net new jobs over the past 17 years.
•    Create more than half of the nonfarm private GDP.
•    Hire 43 percent of high tech workers
•    Made up 97.5 % of all identified exporters and produced 31 % of export value in FY 2008.
•    Produce 13 times more patents per employee than large patenting firms.

 These are all good things, especially in much of our state of Wisconsin where there aren’t many 5,000+ employee large corporations. Without government interference, we can do a lot of economic good.

 But, what else does God have for us to do? He has a purpose for us and our businesses beyond employing people. He even tells us that in His Word, “For we are God’s workmanship, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.” Ephesians 2:10, NIV 1984. How do we live out that purpose, what are these good works? We are to be Jesus’ hands and feet as we live out our calling through family, friends, the Church and those we serve in the marketplace. Note that a calling is not just for pastors, missionaries, or other professional ministry leaders. Christian business owners are called to be effective stewards of the financial resources God has blessed us with. We are called to transform our culture one relationship at a time. We are called to use our influence to share the message of the Gospel near and far.

 Consider how God built His Church. As recounted in “Why Work?” (Nancy & Howard Olsen, M3 Planning, 2006), the Christian faith was birthed and flourished in the marketplace. Jesus, a small town carpenter, recruited His disciples in the marketplace where He also made 122 of His 132 New Testament public appearances. Of His 52 parables, 45 had workplace settings. The gospels were written by workplace professionals. After Pentecost, the explosion of believers happened all over the city. Those working with Paul to reach the Gentiles typically led lives which blended business and ministry. Of the 40 divine interventions recorded in Acts, 39 occurred in the marketplace. When the Jerusalem temple was destroyed in 70 A.D., the early Church moved its center to Antioch, a vital merchant trading center. Fast-forwarding to America, our founders coupled faith with work in establishing a free nation under God. The subsequent great awakenings in our history gained their momentum in the marketplace.

What does this mean for us? It is certainly far more comfortable to view our vocation as simply a 40-60 hour-per-week job. But, there is no separation of faith and work. The Puritans had it right in seeing our vocation broadly as God’s call to social, economic, civil, and church engagement as we serve His purpose, using our God-given talents and opportunities to serve others. Jesus did not say “go to church,” but rather He called His people to “be the Church and go out”! We all have areas of our lives where we like to spend time and devote energy, often to the exclusion of other priorities. Whether we’re workaholics, doting parents, “can’t say no” church volunteers or obsessive hobbyists, we must be careful not to reshape God’s call on our life into a lopsided focus on one or two things while ignoring others. Read the Bible daily, pray for direction, guidance and wisdom, be accountable to other Christians and live out what Paul wrote to the Ephesians. You will be blessed and through you your employees, their families, your customers, vendors and ultimately, the nation will be blessed.

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Filed under Business, Christian Life, Economy, Government, Uncategorized