What makes entrepreneurs distinctive? How do they see things that others cannot see? What motivates them to keep going, in spite of obstacles? It is unlikely that they have special skills, or even special knowledge. My belief is that it comes down to experience, personality, and spiritual characteristics. While it is hard to control the first two aspects, we may be able to grow and develop spiritually.
Following are some of the spiritual characteristics of entrepreneurs that Seed has mentored, but I would like to make a distinction between spirit and soul. David Benner describes the spirit as being like a kite that wants to fly and dance in the wind. However, the spirit needs grounding, and that is the soul, which is like the string that connects to the earth. Without the soul, the spirit would fly off, detached. Without the kite, the soul would be limp, like string on the ground.
So, in tackling the idea of spiritual characteristics, I will talk both about their spirituality, and also the soulful characteristics that have kept them grounded.
Entrepreneurs have imagination. They don’t just see the future, they can describe a preferred future. Like the women of the Eve Project who imagined a complete solution for the survivors of domestic and family violence: treatment for trauma, a community, work to sustain them, and support for the family.
An abundance mentality
Most people have a scarcity mentality: they see life as a pie, and there are only so many pieces to go around. To feed everyone, you just keep cutting up smaller pieces of the pie. However, entrepreneurs think differently. They talk about how to make a bigger pie! Like Mel from Jesus Club who was concerned she couldn’t personally manage the number of clubs she had; but then realised she could multiply the number of clubs established by setting up clear policies, procedures and training. The number of clubs doubled within a year.
A foundation in the big Gospel of Jesus
Some people focus on the Gospel as a set of beliefs for individual salvation and entry into heaven after you die. Jesus in Luke 4 outlined the good news that he was ushering in, leading to a transformed society, thus giving people a taste of the coming kingdom. Through her work distributing exquisitely-made dolls and education packs for disadvantaged children via Project Kin, Maryann has invited more spiritual conversations in the community than she could ever have imagined.
With one or two setbacks, many people might give up, or think “God closed that door!” However, Dana and Ben overcame quite remarkable opposition to write and design and publish their book Jesus Loves Me, which brings spiritual nurture to those living with dementia.
Are motivated by compassion
There are many motivations for building organisations. However, integrity and compassion provide a solid foundation and enduring zeal. Take Mike, who watched his sister face job rejection after rejection because of her autism, and his fears for the future of his young son, diagnosed with Fragile X, motivated him to start Xceptional, an organisation dedicated to focusing on what people were able to do, rather than their disability.
Find their identity in Christ, not their business
Ultimately, all the imagination, zeal, persistence, compassion and integrity can come undone, if your identity becomes identified with your work rather than in Christ. Every entrepreneur faces the crisis point when they have to hold their idea lightly. While we all hear about the great successes of Christian entrepreneurs, we need to remember two things:
Firstly, beware treating entrepreneurs like celebrities, which tempts them to inflate their egos.
Secondly, beware forgetting all the failures that produced the learning that led to success. It often takes time, and many false starts, before success comes.
True Christian entrepreneurs keep their identity deeply rooted in Christ. That allows them to handle the rollercoaster of failure and success without becoming too focused on themselves. (Colossians 2:9–10)
Recognise the importance of the work itself.
Entrepreneurs often start by doing every aspect of the business. They muck in, and get their hands dirty, and persist with what might be considered drudgery. They recognise the importance of the work itself, offered as an act of worship, through which they are being shaped by God. Ordinary work keeps us grounded in God, and reminds us of the first work we were invited to do in the Garden of Eden: tilling the earth and keeping the garden (Genesis 2:15).