Surviving in the business world doesn’t just happen automatically. Here are four things Christian businesspeople should remember on their way to success.
The plane is going down. You recall the flight attendant’s seemingly inane demonstration while you were still on the tarmac, but now you’re grateful for that one piece of advice. Amidst the chaos you retain enough clarity of mind to reach for your own oxygen mask first. And that makes all the difference.
1. Put your needs before your client’s, but the client’s desires come first.
I’ve quickly learned this “serve self then others” concept while running my own communications company; I’ve had to invent and implement standards, systems, and expectations that look after me. Otherwise, I’m incapacitated and unable to help others. It’s been my experience that Christians suck at this more than most. There’s an unspoken mandate in some Christian circles (you may be thinking it right now in fact) that as we serve others — and practice Christ-like humility — we must say “Yes” to any job, for every client, for any price.
Not only is that unwise, I believe it could be a fatal flaw.
The practice of “serve self then others” is really a protective measure against things that are counter-productive or a potential threat to an operation. We practice this art of protection all the time in other spheres (or at least we ought to): parents create boundaries for their children believing them to be helpful for maturity; spouses create relational boundaries with others to cause their own unions to strengthen. God Himself has set boundaries for humanity and has called some things good and others bad. Likewise, businesspeople need to set parameters that will enable them to succeed.
Once the parameters are set, the tables turn and it’s all about the client. And while that part is fairly straightforward, it’s certainly not easy. Now you get to “die to self” all you like (and then some!). Patience is a virtue you’ll have to have when this part is all said and done.
2. Dress the part.
A good friend of mine described his business’s most recent hire.
“He’s young but he’s a real winner.”
“How do you know?” I asked.
“You can tell by the way he dresses.”
Call it shallow. Call it vain. But I live in the marketing and communications world and what you say about yourself starts with the first impression. Oh sure, the first impression could come from a website, an email, even your voice on the phone; these are all important, don’t get me wrong. But a well-dressed businessperson with a smile and a firm handshake can do a lot in this world.
Do your hair. Don’t wear jeans. Buy two or three nice shirts. If it causes someone to trust you then it’s worth it, don’t you think?
After the bank manager finishes opening up a business account for me, I wonder aloud to him: “Ryan, you must see a lot of folks coming in here doing exactly what I’m doing,” I say. “Oh yeah,” he replies, “Hundreds.” Wow. More than I thought! “What advice do you usually give them?” I’m hoping to avoid a bump in the dark. “I tell them all the same thing:” he pauses for dramatic effect. “Get a good accountant.”
3. Get an accountant.
For someone who works with words for a living, this might come as seemingly slanted advice, but I’m convinced that it’s universal: get number help. Even if you’re good with numbers, the bank manger’s advice was excellent on two fronts.
Firstly, assess your numbers on a regular basis. A good friend of mine is in the manufacturing industry and runs an extremely profitable venture. He says he checks his numbers every month to make sure he’s still making money. Seem like an elementary or even unnecessary concept? You’d be surprised how easy it is not to stay informed and to eventually have no idea about the health of your business.
Secondly, accountants can save you money. Come tax time, accountants know the ins and outs of expenditures that I won’t even begin to describe here. But trust me (or just the guy at the bank): getting a good accountant is a worthwhile investment.
“Hey buddy, how’s the business going?” says my oldest friend over the phone. “It’s going well,” I reply coolly, not letting on to the fact that I’ve increased staff dramatically this week. “Come on, tell me,” he probes. After divulging my recent success, he’s perturbed. “Man, you gotta’ celebrate these things!”
4. Give thanks.
It’s so simple, so vital, and so good for us as human beings. Gratitude precedes the miracle. Gratitude prompts faith. Gratitude is in and of itself a blessing.
And that’s not to say gratitude has nothing to do with our own efforts; it does. We work hard, we carry ourselves professionally, and we do good work. But it’s God who made us, God who prepared the way, and God who gets the glory at the end of the day.
My friend follows our conversation with a simple text: “Rejoice, stay focused, and give God all the glory.”
Now that’s good advice.
Flickr photo (cc) by smswigart