When things do not go the way we plan in our business, it is sometimes hard to distinguish between a Christian in business and a non-Christian. We may not have our faith in common, however, we are all human. Our flesh and humanity win out in times of stress if we do not consciously stay focused on God.
There are too many things that can happen in business that we don’t want to happen… I couldn’t possibly list them all. To focus this post here are a couple:
- You have lost several customers or sales are down in general and you aren’t sure why.
- Your gross margin on jobs is down significantly due to higher labor and missing deadlines.
- You have been losing team members and don’t know if it is money, culture, or competition.
These examples all feel like a trend to you. They have happened more than once and you know that a continued trajectory in this direction will really start to deteriorate the health of your business.
This is where our humanity comes in. Whether you are the type that worries, gets depressed, or outright panics, internally the pressure feels like a vice on your chest. Most of us do try to give it to God at the very beginning. We send up the fast and furious “God please help” prayers.
This seems to be simultaneous to Satan whispering his well-known lies;
- God helps those who help themselves.
- You know God doesn’t care about your business––it is about money, it is evil.
- You are a failure.
At least this is where Satan begins. And with his lies, our flesh kicks in. We usually do one of three things:
- Take control and try to start fixing things immediately. We have to do something, so we start making changes to right the ship, only we don’t really know what the problem is or if it is a problem with our business. We also work on so many quick fixes we can’t tell what is working and what is making things worse. Ultimately, we are taking control when we should be depending even more on God. Even though we have learned this lesson the hard way in the past, we can’t seem to help ourselves, our Type-A, fix-it characteristic takes over. And God lets us.
- Ignore it and hide our head in the sand. It is painful to watch our business suffer. For some reason we hope that if we don’t acknowledge it, and keep doing what we have been doing, the problems will disappear. After all, it wasn’t about us anyway. It was some other factor outside of our control. By taking no responsibility, we end up potentially continuing to do something that is not working for our clients and customers. And, even though we are trying our best to ignore it, the decline is quietly eating away at our confidence and this will show up eventually in our business.
- Get depressed and dejected quickly and stop doing everything. We try to play it safe and end up doing mediocre work at best, not satisfying anyone. We stop doing what has been effective in the past even though we have no reason to believe that is the problem. We don’t try to understand the issue. We have lost confidence. We are afraid to try anything new. We become paralyzed and move toward the downward spiral–our worst fears becoming a self-fulfilling prophesy.
These are normal human reactions that both Christian and non-Christian business owners follow. Yet Christian business owners know there is another choice. If we can just keep Satan’s lies at bay, we can choose a different path.
We can trust.
We can put our trust in the One who is in control.
Christian business owners know that God is in control. We know He does care about our business and He wants to guide us and He wants us to trust Him. We need to trust that His will is what is best for us and our business. We can’t just expect to get what we want. We have to trust His will for us.
This sounds great philosophically, but in practice, how would this response to a bad business trend be any different than number 2 above: ignoring it? If we just let go and give it to God, aren’t we ignoring the problem? Yes, probably.
It is subtle, and I don’t have the magic formula, however, this is what I try to get myself to do in these situations:
- Start with praying to God about the issue. This simple step of asking God to help. Putting him first in the situation. And praying for His will, not our own, has multiple benefits. First, it tells God that you know He is the only one in control. You need Him and depend on Him for the right direction and response. Secondly, it may dissuade Satan from even messing with you. When Satan sees us immediately connect to God, he may not see an opening to develop his weave of lies in our head.
- Use the talent and skills God has given you. You are in the business for a reason. Go back to the basics and do the fundamentals you learned regarding whatever your business does. If it is accounting, go back to accounting fundamentals and do the very best technical accounting you know how to do. If it is building homes, make sure you are doing the highest quality, attention to detail, work you have ever done. We know doing high quality work is always a plus and isn’t the actual problem in the business. However, when we are worried about our business trajectory, we some times focus on other things and actually stop doing quality work. That is never going to be the answer or God’s plan.
- We listen for God’s direction. This is the nebulous one. I wish I could be specific, but this all depends. God could direct you to find out more about the problems. Is it internal? Is it external? He may help by providing a specific answer to what the core problem really is when you seek it. He may just open doors as you seek new opportunities to right the ship. He may help you hold your own in a down market, when others are going down with it. I know that listening to God is about taking cautious steps to understand, pray for understanding, and go at a slow enough pace and consistent enough process, to see and find the solutions.
- Try one thing at a time. We all want perfect clarity, but sometimes in God’s refinement of us, it isn’t perfectly clear. Or sometimes we let Satan in a little and do not accept God’s guidance and clarification immediately. I do know that it is easier to discern if something is working if we are not trying multiple things at once. We have to try, continue to pray, measure and then seek the next step. This isn’t an exact science. If sales are down because the oil and gas industry is down and, out of fear, we laid off our key talent because they were most expensive, God may direct us to diversify into other industries and focus on talent (which may be more expensive) over quantity of people. He may give two steps but He isn’t likely going to give us two steps or ten steps in as many different directions.
- Continue to pray, be willing, and be obedient. A lot of it is our attitude. Even if it is just how our attitude affects us and our team.
If we focus on God, continue to do high quality work, and try things that we feel the Holy Spirit is leading us to, we will usually A) not make things worse, B) head in the right direction, and C) be at peace because we trust God to provide what we need, even if it isn’t what we want.
When bad things happen to Christian business owners we have the King of the Universe to help us through and guide us to His perfect will.