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When Dave Palmer launched Palmer Software, he gathered his leadership team together for the first time and asked them a question.
“Did you ever hear of a successful sports team getting ready for the big game and not developing a game plan?”
He followed that up with another question.
“Did you ever hear about an army preparing for war and not having a battle plan?”
Obviously, no one had heard of such a thing. Dave went on. “In a similar way, developing a business plan is crucial for the success of our company. A business plan is important—whether you’re the owner or CEO of a company or the manager of a department.”
Throughout the Bible we are encouraged to plan. “The plans of the diligent lead to profit as surely as haste leads to poverty” (Proverbs 21:5, NIV). Let’s face it. Planning requires effort, patience, and thought. It’s the opposite of making quick, on-the-fly decisions that are often geared to solving immediate problems.
In Luke 14:28-30, Jesus illustrates the importance of planning ahead when He asks, “For which one of you, when he wants to build a tower, does not first sit down and calculate the cost to see if he has enough to complete it? Otherwise, when he has laid a foundation and is not able to finish, all who observe it begin to ridicule him, saying, ‘This man began to build and was not able to finish.’”
“Write your plans in pencil, and then give the Lord the eraser!”
Author Larry Burkett
Biblical planning begins with recognizing God’s role in the business. Proverbs 3:5-6 reads, “Trust in the Lord with all your heart and do not lean on your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge Him, and He will make your paths straight.” When drawing up a plan for a startup or an existing business, you should “in all your ways acknowledge Him”—that is, welcome Him into every aspect of the enterprise.
We need God’s favor and guidance for the business to succeed. Proverbs 16:3 tells us, “Commit your works to the Lord and your plans will be established.” If we plan apart from seeking the Lord’s direction and only ask Him to rubber-stamp our plans, we will soon find ourselves in a dangerous place. We are to plan, but ultimately the Lord controls the outcome. Proverbs 16:9 reveals, “The mind of man plans his way, but the Lord directs his steps.” Author Larry Burkett observed, “Write your plans in pencil, and then give the Lord the eraser!”
In other words, go ahead and lay out the direction that seems best to you, but always leave the door open for the Lord to make tweaks—or hand you a new plan you’d never even dreamed of.
Business owners, entrepreneurs, and key managers are often consumed with running the day-to-day operations of their business and overlook developing or implementing a business plan. In the pages of this book, one of our objectives is to help you develop your business plan with enough detail to enable you to achieve your goals. The business plan consists of the four primary components we mentioned before: Values, Strategy, People, and Finances—all built upon the foundation of the truths found in the Bible.
Nehemiah is a terrific example of a person who prepared and executed a business plan well. It all began when he learned that the people of God in Jerusalem were vulnerable to attack by their enemies, because the city’s walls were “broken down and its gates are burned” (Nehemiah 1:3). Shattered walls and charred gates were a grave security concern in that day.
After carefully evaluating the situation and taking stock of his resources, Nehemiah waded into the chaos and implemented a step-by-step plan to restore order, safety, and hope in that discouraged community.
We can learn a great deal from the steps this wise official took as we begin developing our business plan.
1. Prayer. When Nehemiah learned of the problem, he “sat down and wept. For some days, [he] mourned and fasted and prayed before the God of heaven. . . . [He said] ‘Lord, let your ear be attentive to the prayer of this your servant . . . Give your servant success today by granting him favor in the presence of this man.’ I was cupbearer to the king” (Nehemiah 1: 4, 11, NIV).
The most critical ingredient in the success of any business is to pray.
This is especially true when starting a business, making crucial decisions, or grappling with a difficulty. Invite the Creator of the universe to give you guidance as you develop the business plan, and expect Him to respond. As we learned in the last chapter, He owns everything, including your business, and wants to be involved as you manage it.
Psalm 127:1 emphasizes the significance of God’s role in your business. It says, “Unless the Lord builds the house, they labor in vain who build it; unless the Lord guards the city, the watchman keeps awake in vain.” Stop reading for a few minutes and ask the Spirit of God to make this truth part of your thinking. Unless the Lord builds and protects your business, unless you allow Him in on the very ground floor of all that you attempt, you’re working in vain. That means it will all come up empty! All your work, all your planning, all your sacrifice, all your investment. This is the reason your business must be built on prayer.
When I was in the real estate development business, I realized the importance of confirming that the Lord wanted me to develop a project before launching it, because the financial cost of failure would have been catastrophic. On my last project, that meant literally getting down on my knees on the land of the potential project every day for six months. Finally, the Lord made it clear through a unique set of circumstances that He wanted us to go forward with the development. When you know for certain He is calling you to do something in business, it increases your confidence and courage, and you can experience peace even in the midst of challenges.
2. Purpose. Some months later, the king asked Nehemiah why he was sad. Taking a great risk, Nehemiah responded with candor, saying it was because Jerusalem had been reduced to rubble. “Then the king said to me, ‘What would you request?’ So I prayed to the God of heaven. I said to the king . . . ‘send me . . . that I may rebuild it.’” (Nehemiah 2:4-5).
Nehemiah concisely communicated to the king what he wanted to accomplish and why. This was his 30-second elevator speech that summarized his Mission and Vision.
3. Plan. Nehemiah told the king precisely how long he would be gone. Then, he asked the king for letters guaranteeing his safe passage for the long trip and requisitioning the timber needed to rebuild the city gates. It was so obvious that he had thought it all out (and prayed it all out) in advance. Nehemiah had planned ahead and identified what he would need to be successful.
Every business and organization should have clearly articulated Vision, Mission, and Values. This is the framework from which every decision, large and small, should be made. Companies often define Vision and Mission differently; therefore, you may need to adjust the headings to conform to your definitions.
Without a clear vision, people tend to drift away from the real purpose of the business. Proverbs 29:18 says it this way, “Where there is no vision, the people are unrestrained . . .” One of the biggest advantages of implementing clear vision, mission, and values is that they will attract the right people to your business—and repel others at the same time. As many of my colleagues and friends could testify down through the years, the only thing worse than being short-handed when you need extra help is hiring the wrong people!
A vision or purpose statement doesn’t describe “what we do,” it communicates why we exist. It should describe future outcomes, benefits, and what the business will look like. As you review the following vision statements, note carefully the way they define how they want to be viewed by the people and markets they serve. We have included Compass as an example for those who work in a church or non-profit charity
First Southern National Bank: We will use our example, our influence, and our resources to help others make wise financial decisions.
Alcoa: Our vision is to be the best company in the world—in the eyes of our customers, shareholders, communities and people. We expect and demand the best we have to offer by always keeping Alcoa’s values top of mind.
Chick-fil-A: To glorify God by being a faithful steward of all that is entrusted to us and to have a positive influence on all who come in contact with Chick-fil-A.
Compass—finances God’s way: To see everyone, everywhere, faithfully living by God’s financial principles in every area of their lives.
A business’s mission statement describes the primary activity that must occur consistently for a company to be successful. It defines what distinguishes your business and what should influence your effort to fulfill your purpose. When drafting a mission statement for your business or department, make it concise, realistic, and motivating.
The following are examples:
Joe Gibbs Racing: Our goal is to field for our sponsors and fans competitive race cars with the goal of winning races and championships. Our expectation is that we will be able to see in our growth and success, things that would have never been accomplished except by the direct intervention of God.
Walt Disney ’s mission statement used to be: To make people happy.
First Southern National Bank: First Southern is a team committed to affirming the dignity and value of all people, being responsible stewards, delivering more than is expected, and making our communities better places in which to live.
Compass—finances God’s way: Equipping people worldwide to faithfully apply God’s financial principles so they may know Christ more intimately, be free to serve Him, and help fund the Great Commission.
A business’s values are intended to govern how a business operates and deals with customers, vendors, employees, communities, and other stakeholders. The values help determine priorities and facilitate decision making.
Generosity. Giving is huge! We believe in sharing our time, our knowledge and our resources with others.
Relationships. They matter a lot—in our faith, our families, our friendships and our work.
Excellence. We strive for excellence in all we do, and we recognize that it comes only through continuous learning and effort.
Accountability. We believe that we should always do the right thing and we hold ourselves accountable to that.
Teamwork. We succeed as a Team. Personal ambition is important but each of us must be willing to sacrifice it for a Greater Good!
Pete Ochs, the founder of Capital III, is an entrepreneur with manufacturing, real estate, energy, and education companies in the US and Latin America.
Pete named the company Capital III because of his conviction that businesses should have a triple bottom line: economic, social, and spiritual. The economic bottom line is created by operating a profitable enterprise. The social bottom line occurs when the business uses its financial resources to creatively meet social needs. And the spiritual bottom line materializes when the company intentionally uses its platform to influence its employees, vendors, and customers for Christ.
Pete realized that the glue to ensure the businesses would remain focused on accomplishing the triple bottom line were Capital III’s Vision, Mission, and Values:
Our Vision is to help change the world through entrepreneurship.
Our Mission is to be an absolutely trusted business.
Our Values are to honor God by serving people, pursuing excellence, and stewarding resources.
In 2009, Capital III bought a bankrupt manufacturing business located in a small rural community. Their biggest dilemma was how to hire enough workers in a town with a very small labor force. To compound the problem, they needed employees that would work a completely flexible schedule—from 20 to 40 hours a week—depending entirely on the volume of business.
Every business managed by followers of Christ should have a triple bottom line: economic, social, and spiritual.
Before anything else — prior to any brainstorming, group discussions, or analysis— Pete and his leadership team prayed and sought the Lord’s direction. They made prayer
Not long after that, an out-of-the-box idea came to them.
They approached the local state-operated correctional facility about utilizing the prison population as the labor force. At the time, inmates were earning only about $7 a day, and Capital III could pay them a starting salary of about $10 an hour. Approximately thirty percent of their wage would be used to reimburse the state for their room and board. The rest they could spend, save, or send to help support their families.
This creative solution has accomplished all three bottom lines.
Economic: Because the labor force is flexible, the company is able to control its labor costs, meet the just-in-time demands of its customers, and reduce inventories, all of which contribute to the profitability of the business. The company also doesn’t need to compensate the work force with paid vacation time! Inmates can earn up to $100 per day, 14 times as much as they did while working for the state.
Social: The state and taxpayers benefit because a portion of what the prisoners earn defrays the cost of room and board. Prisoners are motivated to behave well while in prison, because anyone involved with a disciplinary problem is not eligible to work for Capital III. The prisoners also learn marketable skills that will help them earn a living once they are released from prison. Interestingly, the inmates have chosen to send a majority of what they receive in salary to help support their families.
Spiritual: Capital III is committed to treating the work force with respect and to help them in practical ways. They are helping to build a spiritual life center at the prison, in which life skill classes and Bible studies are conducted. Capital III also has been instrumental in starting a seminary inside the prison. The business also provides periodic meals and get-togethers for the workers and their families. Every two weeks, Capital III provides motivational and inspirational programs for its workers. In short, the workers have been valued and loved. This has influenced many to consider Christ as their Savior.
Pete Ochs has a big vision. He is praying for the Lord to replicate this model of valuing people and creating economic, social, and spiritual capital in businesses across America and around the world.