Entrepreneurs: Are You Following In The Corporate Footsteps You Vowed Against?

Nov 12, 2010, Written by Sue Miley

We have launched out on our own.  Tired of the corporate rules and moving ethics we take a leap of faith and hang out our shingle.  Thus the birth of many small businesses.

When we start we proclaim “We will do it differently”.  We are fair and just.  We don’t live in the corporate glass tower.  In my business there will be no “they”.

The small business engine starts up and we begin operating on our own or with an employee or two.

In the beginning, with the picture of the corporate monster in our heads, we state:

  • I have Christian values.  Now no one can intimidate me from following them.
  • I care about my employees.  I will never skip their performance reviews or drag out giving raises.
  • I am in the trenches with my team.  I know what’s going on and can really support them.

Are We Any Different Than The Evil Corporations?

Our hearts truly want to be different.

Yet, reality sets in.

We are switching hats faster than a teenager can text.

I am in the trenches alright.  I can’t stop long enough to do that performance review.  I don’t have time to find out about your prospecting… I am following up on my own.

Soon we have a bad apple attitude problem in our barrel and it is spreading like a cancer.

The Conflict Avoider Speaks Up

Soon we here ourselves saying “I hate conflict.  I’m not good at it.  I know I need to deal with this problem, but if we don’t close these deals we will all have bigger problems than a past due raise.”

And so goes the story….time and time again.

It keeps happening even though it isn’t what we want to happen.

In the quiet of the night we call out to God. “I thought this was your plan for me?  This was your vision Lord!”

True Confession

I so desperately want to get on my high horse and say “stop it now before it’s too late!”

But the truth is that I too have fallen into the trap.  I have been here.

I have been so busy that I forgot to follow-up with a client or call back in a timely manner.

I have asked forgiveness for a late performance review, but given myself grace because I was putting in so many hours.

I have ignored employees to the point that they were actually unproductive because they didn’t have enough direction.

It Really Is Hard to Keep Our Values First

The reality is that it takes incredible discipline, lot’s of prayer, and divine guidance to really make our own business actually live up to the values and culture we believed in when we started it all.

But, I can also say from experience, that when I really dug deep and basically forced myself to do the things I knew were important, they worked.  It can be done.  Here is the quick start:

  1. We have to start now wherever we are in the process.  I know.  You are saying I have no idea where your business is and how difficult it would be to stop the merry go round of hat changing. If you keep going the way you are though, we do know for sure that 9 out of 10 small businesses don’t make it.  Things never change unless you make them change.
  2. Pick your top 3 principles and make them top priority. The bible tells us to treat others as we would want to be treated.  Pick this one principle and you will be living out your Christian values in your business.  You won’t miss a performance review and you will make time to help your employees no matter what.
  3. Make a 3 month plan. Doing #2 will either require more of your time or one of the hats will be left sitting on the hat rack.  A mentor once told me we can sustain almost anything for a set period of time.  Working an extra ten hours a week to get these principles in place can be sustained for awhile- maybe 90 days.  Keeping at your current hat changing pace forever will only occur until you burnout or your business closes.  We have to choose!

We Have To Change The Current Path

I know this feels harsh.  And I wish I could say it is a one-time experience.  For me it is a process that has to be revisited every few years.  Things will get on track and suddenly old patterns re-emerge.  But I believe wholeheartedly that the path can be changed.  Even during the chaos.  And, having experienced the burnout from staying on the wrong path too long, I am praying I can help someone not have to experience it.

If your own business, the one you took great risk for, doesn’t even match your values or the culture you envisioned, you won’t be able to sustain it.  It becomes even more draining than the hard work.

The Bible is the Truth

I believe that the bible has the answers.  And, therefore, I trust that if we follow it, we will bear fruit.  Whether that fruit is actual improved business performance or peace knowing that you are following your values, I am not sure.  But I know from experience that when I have followed my human nature ways, the results were short-lived, exhausting, ineffective or a hundred other adjectives that do not follow eternal thinking.

When I have followed God’s ways, I have had peace, harmony, improved relationships and feel as if my business glorifies God, or at least tries to every day.  To me I see success!

Keep The Vision if it’s a God Vision

I read once that when we have a God vision, the vision shouldn’t change, but the plans can.

When you started your own business God gave you a vision.  It is the right vision, don’t change it.

Modify Your Plans

Modify your plans.  Go back to God and ask Him how you can achieve it.

I know you are working hard.  That’s obvious or you wouldn’t struggle putting your foundation of Christian values and your culture in place.  But the trajectory of business operations will always pull you away from what Stephen Covey calls Quadrant II activities (important/not urgent).  Yet, it is these very activities that build success.

What is important to you?  Do you remember?  I know you think it can wait, but the longer you wait the harder it will be.

Reader Interactions


  1. David@RedLetterBelievers says

    Another excellent, in-depth post.

    I think corporations are too often bashed unfairly. They produce products and services that are needed and along the way create jobs. They are in the business of making money, not making us feel good.

    We all recognize those that do both, but they are rare.

    I agree that Christian business owners should first be committed to biblical principles — and then the profits will follow.

    • S_Miley says

      I do agree David. My husband and I are very thankful for his corporate job even though shareholder value is a key focus. So I better watch out and not seem ungrateful. My hope and prayer is for those that can do both. That we can create more businesses that are committed to biblical principles, the profits do follow, and they are able to create supply of what we need and create jobs for others. It’s a lofty ambition, but not to big for our God!

      Thanks as always for your comments!

  2. Bradley J. Moore says

    The 2nd law of thermodynamics says that entropy and chaos will increase without energy being introduced to the system. So it is with our life, our business – if we don’t purposefully direct energy towards an organized intention, the old patterns of entropy and chaos will set in. You lay out a good path here to avoid that. And this law is exactly why you have to do it on an ongoing basis.

    Very, very nice, Sue!

  3. Brad Harmon says

    After Bradley’s comment about the 2nd law of thermodynamics I’m a little afraid to comment. Wow! What a great comment – and smart too.

    I was struck by your 90 day plan suggestion. It’s something I’ve used in the past, and it works very well. It’s so easy to get overwhelmed by the scope of a five year plan to the point that we don’t even want to take the first step. Limiting it to 90 days at a time is much less daunting, actionable, and perhaps more importantly – accountable.

  4. S_Miley says

    Brad and Bradley, Thanks for two good comments! I get caught up sometimes in whether to mention plans or actions steps because it seems like it takes people from faith to works. But, honestly, we all have different temperaments and some of us need some structure to stay focused on what is important. I am a really non-structured person. I use structure as a coping mechanism – meaning I make myself do plans and action steps so that I am not too “all over the board” in every facet of my life. I know everyone won’t be like me, but maybe a few people will benefit.

    90 days seems to be the max for me before I am looking at a new plan. I try to have long term directional plans with shorter i.e. 90 day plans for implementation and tactics.

    Thanks for sharing guys.

  5. RevTrev says

    Focus, refocus, keep focus…if only I could remember what I know 🙂

    I’ve been thinking a lot today about what an eagle goes through to molt to live 30 extra years. It seems so painful to change, and yet the reward is worth it.

    Sue, you’re on the right track. Love following you while your following God.

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Sue Miley

Sue Miley MBA, MA, LPC helps small business owners build successful businesses on a foundation of Christian values. After 20 years in business, and 10 years as a Christian counselor, Sue uses a combination of faith, business and psychology to help clients in business and in life.

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