Publication: One-to-One, Autumn 2013
We like maps. They are comforting because they tell us when and if to change course. Considering our current course, it won’t be long before our cars drive themselves so we can sleep in the back and occasionally wake up to ask, “Are we there yet?”
Consider the following excerpt from a June 2, 2013, article in the Wall Street Journal entitled, “Risk-Averse Culture Infects U.S. Workers, Entrepreneurs”. The reporter says, “Three long-running trends suggest the U.S. economy has turned soft on risk: Companies add jobs more slowly, even in good times. Investors put less money into new ventures. And, more broadly, Americans start fewer businesses and are less inclined to change jobs or move for new opportunities.”
Americans increasingly employ “mapmakers” through schools, governments, and even some churches to “give us the answer.” Sometimes our map is, “the way it’s always been done.” These kinds of maps might have some use, but they can give us a false sense of security.
Mapmakers direct our change, steering us toward their target. Change sells, yet much of the change we see is decline. Sometimes it is safer to drive off the map. Our problem is not only that we need better maps; we need less map dependence.
Whatever direction America chooses, the Kingdom remains “the land of opportunity” and pioneers are its inhabitants.
There are no maps to the future, but there is a Guide. When the fullness of God became flesh and dwelt among us in Christ, the greatest opportunity and change on earth began. He chose to meet us where we are—a fallen world; to reveal Himself to us; to give us His humanity; and to connect with us more personally than ever before. If ever God could make Himself vulnerable, this was it. If ever the status quo was confronted, this was it. If ever a man gave unselfishly, this was it. And if ever our world was changed, this was it.
What is your real motive? We can’t make trust our pretty veneer, glued over self-centeredness.
Our greatest opportunity is to follow Jesus and put our trust in Him. Continually following Him means continual change. Thank God, He remains the same yesterday, today, and forever.
Share. Shift. Earn.
Pioneers in the Kingdom convert challenges into opportunities. The dead-end roads we are on will require us to get out and blaze new trails. Here are three practical entrepreneurial approaches to challenges facing us all, especially in business:
Our Challenge: Fragmentation
We have become an increasingly less cohesive society because we share fewer and fewer values. Unlike 60 years ago, we have vastly different beliefs and preferences. We are much less agreeable.
Our Opportunity: Share Our Cause
You need to share your cause so that others can share in it. A common cause brings unity and builds community. Ever go to a football game, classic car show, or pet adoption? It’s amazing the diversity of people that will come together around a common interest. My grandfather used to say, “The happiest people are those living for a cause beyond themselves.” People want a cause. Hopefully, there’s more that you can say about your cause than “making money.” Your cause will not appeal to everyone, so don’t spend your resources trying to push it to out the masses. Be specific and personalized with the market you choose. Mass is the old market; micro is the new.
Our Challenge: Consumers
We consume. We are takers, we are in debt, we want it free, we are entitled, and we throw it away when we’ve used it up.
Our Opportunity: Shift toward Participants
Is that the kind of clientele you want? Mere consumers? Your clients aren’t thrilled with the label either. Shift your mentality from developing consumers toward developing participants. Now you’re in it together.
Southwest Airlines is a great example of a company that invites participants. Frequent flyers of Southwest know that they might end up as an in-flight game contestant or part of a group sing-a-long. They are not afraid to let their customers play with their brand. They create an experience, not a transaction.
When we shift from selling our brand to building relationships we are enabling feedback. Feedback makes us better. Heavy branding can become a wall.
Our Challenge: Untrusting Culture
The Philip Morris (parent company of Marlboro cigarettes) values statement says: “Integrity, trust, and respect.” It used to be that a company could project who it wanted to be. Slick advertising went a long way. A company’s word was less disputed because information was slow and limited. Today, of course, information is fast and broad, and everything is questioned. People care less about who you say you are.
Our Opportunity: Earn Trust
Trust is more valuable than currency, especially today. People want to know, where is your humanity? How do you really see them? What’s your real motive? (By the way, God asks us these questions also!) Do you show interest only in others so that they will show interest back? Are you dependable, responsive, and consistent? Where is your fellowship, listening, transparency, vision, and vulnerability? We can’t make trust our pretty veneer, glued over our self-centeredness.
Where do we grow from here?
“Be careful not to practice your righteousness in front of others to be seen by them…do not announce it with trumpets.”
Your marketing team can’t “fix” this for you. These are core transformations. Nobody should know our business better than us. Real changes would need to start there. It’s an investment. We have to consider that it’s hard to skate where the puck is heading if we don’t invest in skates.
Perhaps the biggest hurdle that keeps us from sharing, shifting, and earning is control. It feels like we’re losing control. We’re letting go of our maps, and this is difficult. If we could loosen our grip on control, we might cling a little tighter to our Guide.
Unless time travel becomes a reality soon, our purpose and destiny is now. You and I were made for this time in history. The Kingdom and the marketplace beckon us to become pioneers and entrepreneurs. Pioneers to the future discover the opportunities of the present.
We have all see the picture of our galaxy with an arrow pointing to a dot that says, “You Are Here.” It’s easy to focus on that dot and our smallness, but a Kingdom perspective says, “How great is our God!” God help us to have a vision beyond the problems. As my brother, Stephen, says, “It doesn’t take a prophet to see the darkness, but it does take God’s grace to see the light.”
May the Lord bless your journey of discovering new opportunities with Him and encouraging others to become Kingdom pioneers!
Scripture Reference: Matthew 6:1-2
JONATHAN SIMPSON is a frequent contributing writer to CSM’s Marketplace Exchange.