Entrepreneur Club, Week 5 “Customer Zero”

July 25, 2014 § Leave a comment

The theme for next week is “Listening to God.
As Christian Entrepreneurs, we have an unfair advantage:  God is both our primary sponsor (“Investor Zero”) and ultimate customer (“Customer Zero”). Thus, we ought be paying even more attention to Him than we do the humans we rely upon for financial backing.  So why don’t we?
Please join us if you can. If not, I encourage you to keep praying through your critical decisions over the next few weeks, and letting us know what you hear!

Entrepreneur Club, Week 3 “Product Marketing”

July 14, 2014 § Leave a comment

Last week I had three major epiphanies about growth while preparing for our weekly meeting.  While largely inspired by my work at Kingsway Church, I’ve found these insights also very relevant for my professional and family lives.

I. Why We Grow

E-Myth Mastery by Michael E. Gerber

the marketing leader is the one in the organization who is most passionately committed to growth

Since I become Growth Pastor at Kingsway Church a few months ago, I’ve been wrestling with what “growth” means — particularly the tension between “intensive” growth (helping existing members grow deeper in Christ) and “extensive” group (bring more people into the church).

When I read the passage above, it hit me like a lightning bolt. I finally understood what I was supposed to be doing, and why God placed me in this role.

You see — in case you didn’t know —  I’ve spent the bulk of my professional career doing Product Marketing.  At my company, this covers both the inbound (product definition) and outbound (product advertising) aspects of Marketing.  In other words, one person makes sure we have the right product for the market AND makes sure the market knows about it.  I’ve never understood why many companies split those roles in to, as that makes it extremely difficult to close the loop.

From that perspective, intensive and extensive growth are really just two sides of the same coin.  My job is to define what it means to be a member of Kingsway Church, so that people inside know what they’re supposed to do and people outside know what we’re inviting them to become.  Easier said than done, of course, but at least I now have a clear vision what I must do (and a deep well of relevant experience and role models to draw upon).

II. Where We Grow

Creativity, Inc.: Overcoming the Unseen Forces That Stand in the Way of True Inspiration

What makes Pixar special is that we acknowledge we will always have problems, many of them hidden from our view; that we work hard to uncover these problems, even if doing so means making ourselves uncomfortable; and that, when we come across a problem, we marshal all of our energies to solve it.

Amen!  This was also a key message of Turn the Ship Around!: A True Story of Turning Followers into Leaders by David Marquet.  But while Captain Marquet’s book was a brilliant illustration of many key leadership themes, Ed Catmull’s history of Pixar makes it clear that he sees confronting uncomfortable truths as his primary job as President and CEO.

This was enormously validating for me, because of I often feel like a royal pain in the neck because I obsess over failure.  I hate failing — even though I consider it inevitable, given our finite minds and fallen nature.  I cope by trying to squeeze every last ounce of learning from each failure, so that I can fail better the next time around.  It seems the only rational response.

Alas, very few people seem to share that obsession.  In fact, I get the distinct impression that most people prefer to forget about failure, or attribute it to “bad luck”.  I’ve always wondered whether I was being unreasonable.

But no more.  I still need to work on being more compassionate, sensitive, and gracious.  But I will no longer feel ashamed of my desire to “marshall all our energies” to “work hard to uncover these problems”, because of Pixar’s evidence that confronting failure is surest route to sustaining creative excellence.

III. How We Grow

Romans 12:1-5

12 Therefore, I urge you, brothers and sisters, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God—this is your true and proper worship. 2 Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will.

3 For by the grace given me I say to every one of you: Do not think of yourself more highly than you ought, but rather think of yourself with sober judgment, in accordance with the faith God has distributed to each of you. 4 For just as each of us has one body with many members, and these members do not all have the same function, 5 so in Christ we, though many, form one body, and each member belongs to all the others.

This all came together for me when I listened to the audio recording of Romans 12 on my YouVersion app.  I was focused on verse 2, where it talks about “renewing” our minds — the same Latin word as “innovate!”  I was stunned by the connection with verse 3 — that renewing our minds and approving God’s will is somehow connected to NOT thinking more highly of ourselves than we ought.  Which is intimately tied to accepting our places as just one of the members of Christ’s body.

This also shed light on a problem in information theory I was wrestling with at the time.  Our brains can only process a few concepts at a time, and even those are often based on incomplete facts or mistaken interpretations; the same is even true of the computers and robots we build!  The solution is not to ‘think more highly of ourselves’ by attempting to get a perfect picture of the world, but submit to our role as merely one of many.

Lessons Learned

  • We innovate by learning from others who see things differently.
  • We grow by confronting unpleasant truths that hinder creativity.
  • We inspire others to grow by showing them how (and why) we grow.

Easier to say than to do. But at least I’ve learned how to say it.

Entrepreneur Club, Week 2 “Caring but Not Caring”

July 7, 2014 § Leave a comment

Dear budding Entrepreneurs,
Last week we took a brief diversion from E-Myth Mastery to discuss another book I stayed up until 2 AM reading:

David Marquet – Creating leadership at every level.

His basic premise is that leaders should be creating “sub-leaders” rather than followers, by giving up Control (through providing Clarity and Competence). Doing that successfully requires an attitude of “Caring but not Caring.”  We have to care about the Mission and the People we serve — but NOT care about our own Ego!
Each of shared and prayed for each other with how we’re wrestling with fear, performance, and impatience because we still tend to care about (and trust) “us” rather than God.
This tied in incredibly well with Anne Delke’s sermon at Kingsway Moreland yesterday, about how we can easily commit to “Good ideas” rather than “God’s ideas” — and how that can lead to things going horribly, irrevocably wrong…

Entrepreneur Club, Week 1 Devotional

July 2, 2014 § Leave a comment

Psalm 121:1 I lift up my eyes to the mountains– where does my help come from?

One common theme that came up at Entrepreneurs Club is that most of us tend to be “heads-down technicians.” We obsess over the work we need to do, the products we need to deliver to our customers, and how to become better at our craft.

At one level, that is a positive trait. That’s why we’re good at what we do, why people value our services, and why we have the self-confidence to even consider running our own business.

But it can also give us tunnel vision, making it easy to forget that:

  • God is in control
  • People are more important than products
  • Working on the business is more central than working in the business

Michael Gerber’s previous book, E-Myth Revisited, focused on #3. He talked about how most small businesses are started by “technicians with an entrepreneurial seizure”, who are primarily interested in working for themselves, rather than “true entrepreneurs” who are serious about growing a business that is bigger than themselves.

His latest book, E-Myth Mastery, addresses the second problem: we can become so obsessed with working on the business, with the result that we burn ourselves out. The solution is to get in touch with our inner passion, align it with a meaningful purpose, and keep that purpose strictly aligned with a bigger vision. Otherwise, either our passion will steer us out of control, or our purpose will drive us into the ground. An over-arching vision is essential to ensuring our business is making both ourselves and other people healthy, happier, more productive human beings.

Concerning the third problem: Michael and his books are deeply spiritual, but appears to draw mostly on Jewish and Eastern mysticism. As such, it doesn’t recognize that our passions are given to us by a loving Father whose ultimate purpose is for us to find our fulfillment in knowing Him and spreading His glory. In theory, Christians should be even better entrepreneurs, because we have a community of faith to help us discern God’s will for our lives and business, and His Spirit and Scripture to channel our passion, purpose and vision.

Tragically, that is not always the case. Apparently theology is known for being the least entrepreneurial major. I sometimes worry that church culture may have become too inward-focused and risk-avoidant.

Let’s see what we can do to change that!

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