Owning and operating your own business is not for the faint of heart. There is certainly the potential for long-term peace, financial reward, and making an impact in God’s Kingdom, but the beginning of the journey, and for some of us, intermittently throughout, there are many less attractive potential outcomes.
There is much fear, worry, and sweat equity invested. Yet, it feels like we are alone in this side of success. It feels like everyone around you believes that you have it made. You are making all of the money at the expense of your hardworking employees and customers.
Where are they on the late nights that you are up trying to make the math work to cover payroll or invest in decent equipment for them to use? Doesn’t anyone else realize that there are occupancy taxes to pay, rent to cover, and mistakes to absorb. And if there is not enough money in the bank, who do you think doesn’t get paid?
I know many Christian business owners feel conflicted by their employees attitudes, comments, and reactions. I know you also feel frustrated when customers and clients try to talk you below market rates.
Wouldn’t it be nice if you could write to your employees and explain it all? Would they finally get it?
I don’t think it is our place to put our concerns on our employees, but I know it feels like you are just stuffing it and stuffing it. You may be worried that what goes in might come out…in an unplanned, unproductive way.
So I took the time to write the letter to your employees for you. Just a short cathartic exercise.
A Letter to Your Employees
I know things are difficult right now with the economy and surviving in the world today on employee wages. I feel like you look at me with eyes of disdain. I know you think I am raking in the big bucks. You see me come and go as I please, not adhering to a specific schedule.
You also give me looks when you work out the profitability on a specific quote.
You think with these profits, we must be making a killing. And yes, sometimes there are good financial seasons. Sometimes the momentum works and the company is profitable. But, it isn’t the easy windfall you would imagine.
When I started this business, my family had to do without for many years. Not only did we invest our savings to get the business off the ground, when things went wrong I had to mortgage my house. Even when things are going well, and I need to buy equipment and resources for the company, the bank makes me put up my home and first born child.
I am all-in on this business. If someone quits on us, I have to make up the work and simultaneously find someone new. If we lose a big client, I still pay your payroll. When something breaks, I have to get it fixed.
I stay up more nights than I care to admit, re-running the numbers and trying to figure out if we are going to be positive this year…this month.
And I know it isn’t your problem, but I was in marriage counseling for 6 months a few years back because I was stressed and working and not taking care of my family and relationships like I should.
It isn’t your fault and I don’t really want you to worry about me…it’s just that I truly hate that you feel I am taking advantage of you. That you feel like I am maximizing profits every year, never have a minute of worry, while you feel like you are not being treated fairly.
Yes, it was my choice to go into business for myself. Yes, it was my choice to make all of these investments. And yes, we do have some good years. As a good steward, when we have a good year, I try to save some of it for the not so good years. And yes, sometimes I have to spend some because of the huge amount of taxes that are taken out if I don’t.
And, if I am truly honest, I did start this business to get some personal gain. I do want my family to not have to worry and for them to have some benefit to my long hours and late nights that I may not be fully present with them
I know God doesn’t want me to worry, and ultimately, I feel terrible about that also. I know God has us. He has the business, He has my family, and He has your family. But I can’t help it sometimes. I still worry about you. I still want the business to do well so I don’t have to cut back. I want to be able to pay you more and to add the people we need.
The sad thing is I can’t even get excited when we are doing well, because then you just feel like you are getting the raw end of the deal. That is sad for both of us.
I guess I just want you to know I am not such a bad person. I love God and I want to be a good steward. I want you and the rest of the team to trust me. Trust that I am doing the best I can to balance it all out for the most good. And, I really am trying to honor God in the process.
I will probably never send you this letter, but it was on my heart and I wanted you to know.
Your Christian Business Owner
You Are Not Alone
You see, you are not the only one who feels this way. Not a month goes by that I don’t talk to a business owner feeling conflicted. Ultimately though, we shouldn’t worry. God really doesn’t want us to. And we should save for bad times. And we should try to take care of our employees. And we should stay connected to our family and our other relationships.
It may feel impossible. Peace, with all of the overwhelming needs of everyone you are trying to take care of, may feel elusive. However, our God is bigger than that. He is bigger than our circumstances. He knows all of the things we want to explain to our employees. And, He truly is the one we need to please.
My advice to myself and you, is to put God first, stay focused on Him, seek Him for what we should do in our businesses. He cares about our business, too. He will guide us. And if it is His path, it is the best path for all concerned.
Which again, takes the worry out of our hands, hearts and minds! What a great God!
Carolyn Brown says
Thanks Sue for saying exactly what me and my husband feel regarding our business and employees. Because I am a believer and put my full trust in God, I don’t worry, even in the tough times. As you mentioned in your letter, we have good seasons and tough ones. We are going through another transition in our counseling business because our largest reimbursements are through Liuisiana Medicaid, with almost zero reimbursement for the first month during the transition. We faced many challenges in this business we’ve operated for more than 16 years, and through the grace and blessings of God, never missed a payroll, but many times we had to miss paying ourselves. Thanks for the letter.
WOW….it’s like you wrote out the past 3 months of our Company for me. Make that the last year…..no….5 years.
In the past 3 or 4 months we’ve seen our company go from our highest grossing Fiscal year in the 25 year of our company…to having to lay off all employees but myself and one other. Despite the high revenue’s…we paid out an unbelievable portion in wages, mistakes and rework, despite our best efforts to manage and train. We ended posting a small loss at years end.
To top it off…the one main key employee we made every effort to keep (and keep happy)…walked in to the office and announced they were quitting at the end of the day. No notice…nothing. As they were to be starting and managing a new project the very next day…it left us in very difficult position…but I manged to get thru it.
It’s interesting because we now have very little work running thru the shop. In the last few years we have seen a large amount of competition open it’s doors in our area. We service a relatively high end market segment but the new comers have driven down the pricing making it difficult to provide the Quality of craftsmanship and service for a reasonable price. So….while our business has seen a drastic drop in new projects….it’s forced both my wife and myself back into a place of re-evaluating the Business, our lives and our understanding of just what it is God wants us to be doing. There is a very real possibility of losing all that we have built. There is a possibility of losing our home. The next month or two will determine it, one way or the other
Yet somehow…there is a peace…hard as it may seem. My main concern is how to make good with our creditors and suppliers and existing Clients. I’d sleep better at night knowing there was a plan in place to guarantee payment of all that is owed.
So…we keep praying for that outcome….that despite what could happen…that we would at least be able to make right our obligations. After 25 years of struggle to run and manage the business…the possible ending of it does not seem as big a thing as it once did. Doing right by those that placed their faith in us is paramount.
Anyways…thanks for writing this…I doubt I’d have sent the letter to any of our former employees either…but it does feel good to express it.