In addition to wealth generation and Kingdom impact (such as we see with the Cook’s Pest Control case), having your own business – especially a family business – can also reform the family economy and relationships. A family business can reverse the conditioning by our consumer-driven economy to spend our earnings on wood, hay, and stubble rather than invest for a future return. Further, a family business can re-integrate the family, since one of the unfortunate consequences of the industrial age has been the “disintegration” of the family as we typically go in opposite directions to work. Finally, a family working together can provide a platform for a more unified family vision, improved relationships, and our children’s character development.
But, there is no guarantee of wealth or perfect family dynamics. God may instead choose to discipline us, refine us, or sanctify us according to His providence through the thorns and thistles of a small business environment. Challenges might come in small doses such as losing key customers or employees, or in big, painful failures such as a business shut-down. The important thing is that we count it all joy and learn from our mistakes. Thankfully, God has given us numerous examples of dealing with adversity throughout scripture.
So given the opportunities and the risks, whether you are trying to create a business or merely augment your income, this step-by-step process should help you to “count the cost” and increase your chances of success:
- Define – First, define criteria – such as laid out below – for the evaluation of each opportunity to avoid the temptation to compromise later when you generate ideas:
- Spiritual evaluation criteria – Seek to build Kingdom value and honor God in all you do. Does this business honor God? Will it cause anyone to stumble? Does the product or service add value? Is it healthy? Does it fit with scripture for how we should live our lives and manage our affairs?
- Personal evaluation criteria – Seek alignment between you, your family, and the opportunity. Is the context of the business idea consistent with your goals? Is this venture a good fit with the combination of spiritual gifts, passion for serving others, abilities, personality, experiences, knowledge, and available resources of time and money?
- Business evaluation criteria – Develop a set of criteria to help craft the best possible business model. What are the industry, financial, and operational characteristics of the venture? How will your offering provide value for customers? What will the customer relationship look like? (For 50 of the most critical criteria of how to analyze an opportunity, see Venture Academy Course #10 – Venture Analysis)
- Generate – Second, generate ideas with a focus on the value to the customer. The more ideas, the better, as some will be rejected when fully vetted. Look at unsolved problems and unmet needs and determine how you will solve them or meet them. See Tips to Becoming a More Entrepreneurial Family for suggestions on setting the stage for thinking more entrepreneurially as a family.
- Evaluate – In this phase, the ideas generated in Step 2 are evaluated using the criteria established in Step 1. This is the serious research and business planning stage, and while it is not necessary to have an elegant business plan, you must do the critical customer research to fully test your vision. It is much better to have customers and lack a plan, than have a plan with no customers. Don’t invest any more time in an idea if it is an obvious no. By using this methodical process of starting a business – and with God’s guidance – you will hopefully develop a high-quality business idea that can be pursued with confidence and enthusiasm.
- Launch – Acquiring customers is the most difficult step along the entrepreneurial journey. Planning is easy, but getting someone to pay you for your offering is much harder. At this point, you may feel a natural reluctance to sell, but you must force yourself to stay in front of customers to gain valuable feedback, refine your offering, and generate revenue. All of the other components of the business will also need to be filled out at this stage as you ramp up including employees, advisors, providers, suppliers, and partners. The specifics of the business model, unit economics, and sales and marketing strategy also need to be nailed down.
- Grow – In this season, a business seeks predictable, profitable, and sustainable growth. This requires detailed specifications for the offering, a clearly articulated value proposition, detailed financial plans, informative reports, tight controls, and well managed sales and hiring pipelines that are in sync.
- Harvest – In this final stage, you exit the business and “harvest” its value, which may include passing the business along to the next generation or selling the business. Either way, the entrepreneur needs to plan for this prior to the Launch phase. What is the best way to transition out of the business? Who are the likely buyers of the business? How do I preserve the value that is created?
So what happens if things don’t go as planned? Simply pick yourself up, refine, redirect, and repeat the process with a better idea. Given everything else, it is still up to God to prosper the venture, so it is critical for you and your family’s faith journey to dedicate your business efforts to Him. After all, unless the Lord builds the business, they labor in vain that build it.
Continue on to Part 2 of this series for more on the process and specifically how to come up with a great idea if you don’t already have one.
- See Venture Academy Course #11 – Building a Business from Start to Finish for detailed video instruction.