April 20, 2012
Starting a business can be one of the most stressful, yet rewarding, thing to do. Many people have dreamed of putting up their own businesses, yet only a few have survived through this pocket-emptying, worry-filled journey of business venturing. I don’t know if I will survive with Mori Notes, but oh well, I’m writing this as a (hopefully) helpful piece to you, and a constant reminder for me.
Here are 10 lessons I’ve learned when starting a business. 🙂
1. To worry about the future may seem normal, but it really isn’t. Underneath it lies a sinful desire that must be uncovered.
Many books ask what do you worry about? One major worry in starting a business is sustenance, or in simple terms, money. In a book (“What the Heck am I Going to do with my Life?”) I was reading, it took a step further and asked, “Why do you worry about money? What do you really want from money?”
Is it security? Self-worth? Self-confidence? Significance? Power? Freedom? Importance? Love? Acceptance? Acclaim? Friends? Approval? Protection? Well-being?
Beneath the innocent worries of the future is a big possibility of having an unhealthy relationship with money, making money the source of security, therefore making money more powerful than God. I realized my reason beneath all the worries was really my lack of CONTROL. I wanted to earn money so that I could have the liberty to control my direction in life (where I want to live, work or study) or in business (should I diversify or do forward integration, etc). I then repented, realizing that I wanted to create a route for my own future. And guess what, from then on my worries lessened significantly.
2. Be patient. Rarely does success come overnight, in a month, or in a year.
Thanks to a very honest and caring sister-in-Christ, I was reminded to be patient. The big plans made in a week cannot be accomplished in the next week. I cannot attain in weeks or months what others have worked for in years. Perhaps, it would be better for me to divide the workload into chunks and celebrate after each swallowed chunk. Perhaps, I should remember it’s also my character, more than the business, being worked out here. Perhaps, it really is not about my timing, and the world’s pacing, but God’s pleasant and perfect timing.
So, it’s okay to take your time. Wake up each morning and ask God to “paint colors to my day today.”
3. When experiencing anxiety attacks, look back.
What kept me from moving forward was the thought, “What if nobody would buy???” A cousin of mine told me to look back on what has already been overcome and accomplished. “Oh! The remembering back method!” Here goes.. God provided me a product idea that has ignited interest in a niche market… God has provided me with workers. God has provided me with great suppliers… So, if God has provided all these, what’s making me doubt that God couldn’t provide in the future?
If you also get attacks like these (filling you with all sorts of fears and worries), follow the Psalmist in chapter 77 who was groaning in distress, “I will remember the deeds of the Lord; yes, I will remember your miracles of long ago. I will consider all your works and meditate on all your mighty deeds.”
4. Sounds cliché, but it is indeed about the journey and not the destination.
The world may want us to aspire to be a millionaire before the age 30, or have a business up and running by the age of 25, but that is not what God wants us to aspire first and foremost in life. God’s will is to save us, sanctify us, and enable us to pursue Christ-likeness.
A journey is composed of sub pockets of adventures, trials and challenges; and in each of these mini-journeys is an opportunity to showcase Christ-likeness. To deny oneself and be like Christ is to be at the center of God’s will, and this is the goal we need to pursue every second of life. Pursue humility more than higher positions. Pursue character more than cash. Although our work and efforts may lead to success, many times catching a good business opportunity, and joining an effective work team comes in an “as it turns out” moment.
5. Don’t discount the “as it turned out” moments.
Reality is God works. Sometimes it can be as upfront as the parting of the red sea or Jesus’ ascension. Other times, it can be as subtle as an “as it turned out” moment.
“As it turned out, Ruth found herself working in a field belonging to Boaz, who was from the clan of Elimelech” (Ruth 2:3). As it turned out.. like a divine appointment.. a God-ordained set-up. It all started with Ruth going out to the fields to pick up some leftover grains. God had used this ordinary day for Boaz to see her, to take a second look at her, to give her favor, to become her husband, and to ultimately become a forefather of Jesus Christ.
One time, I woke up extra early to attend a conference with my mom. I prayed, “please paint colors to my day today.” It seemed like an ordinary day, but “as it turned out” God made me meet a woman who then introduced me to willing partners (i.e. housewives) for Mori Notes.
6. As a daughter (or son) of Abraham, there will be more people who will bless you than curse you. This is a promise.
Being the descendant of Abraham through the faith-in-Jesus-Christ line, we can also claim the promise God has given to Abraham and His bloodline. One of the promises is God will bless those who bless us and curse him who curses us so that we can become a blessing.
Based on the NIV Study Bible, the plurality in “those” signifies that there will be more people blessing us than cursing us in our journey. Looking back, I can only say “amen” to that!
7. There’s no need to give God time, since God owns time.
In a recent Bible Study I attended, this very good point was raised up. The pastor said, many of us set a time once or twice a day to spend it with God and we leave the remaining all to ourselves. It is only when we see that time belongs to Him, and all of our life belongs to Him, can our work give glory to Him.
8. By all means, take the risk.
If God has called you to a social enterprise, to reach out to the marginalized, by all means take the risk. Risk is a healthy part of life. Risk enables us to trust Someone greater than ourselves. A life without risk would be a life without God. If we can do everything and be sure of its outcome, there’s no need for God. We’d be complete robots.
I’m a very risk-averse person. I delay as much as possible before I make decisions. I want all my options open, since deciding would mean risking a better choice and foregoing other options. I hadn’t fully committed to this Mori Notes idea, until I felt God (and even the books I’m reading) was telling me to make decisions by faith now. I checked my motives. I sought counsel. I prayed, “whether win or lose, may this business glorify You and make me closer to You.” I realized, plunging into this business will increase my faith. This is a better decision.The final draw was when I realized, Jesus made the greatest risk of all. He risked His life just to save a poor, unworthy, not-always-faithful girl like me. Shouldn’t I take the risk for Him and the society as well?
9. Focus on your strengths, gifts and talents. It’s okay to look for people whose strengths can complement yours.
God has given us certain gifts to build up the body of Christ. Whether we are placed in business or in a corporation, in school or at home, we are to use these gifts to build up the universal church (not to be used solely inside a church building). And since we are given different gifts, we need to work together with people with complementing gifts so that our work will be done more efficiently.
As the African proverb goes, “If you want to go quickly, go alone; if you want to go far, go together.” Pray for the right people to join the team. That’s what I’ve been doing for the past months. Indeed, God has blessed me with partners holding the same values and burdens.
10. Thank God always.
In starting a business, it’s almost always that we focus on and worry about the upcoming events. There were a lot of nagging questions tiring me out each day: How can I meet and train housewives to help out? Where can I find them? Can I trust them? When God was able to provide me with people, questions turned to: Will I be able to sustain these people? Will there be people who will buy the pursebooks?
Looking back, I realized I’ve wasted countless energies in worrying. Worry can be never-ending. The good news is, once you pop it, there’s still a way to stop it. “By prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God” and you will be filled with peace (Philippians 4:6). The phrase “with thanksgiving” is very powerful as it allows us to praise Him and, consequently, shift our thoughts from our worries and problems to God’s greatness and power. To have a heart of thanksgiving, “Remember the Lord your God, for it is He who gives you the ability [gifts, skills, people, resources] to produce wealth, and so confirms his covenant, which he swore to your ancestors, as it is today” (Deuteronomy 8:18).