Archive for the “business” Category

I was leaving for a meeting this morning – a meeting whose outcome was anything but certain.

We had done a really good job on many projects for a client, but for reasons apart from our performance my client’s boss’s boss was considering giving future projects to another vendor. This client represents a significant portion of our business, so to lose future effort would not be a good thing for our company. So for the last few days I’ve been pulling together information, preparing charts and printing e-mails that documented how much the client liked working with us and what a great job we’ve been doing for them. The effort was encouraging. As I prepared to leave for the meeting, I knew our company had served the client well, but I was insecure about the outcome. I so wanted to go into the meeting positively, but sometimes it was a bit difficult not to be defensive.

So as I walked out the door, Phil knew I needed to re-focus. He stopped me and reminded me that my confidence wasn’t in the information and charts and testimonials I had in my briefcase. My response was to immediately quote one of my favorite verses:

Some trust in chariots and some in horses,
but we trust in the name of the LORD our God.

Psalm 20:7

He looked at me again – “Sandy, those charts are your chariots, and those testimonials are your horses.” Hearing him interpret the verse so bluntly made it more real. The charts I had prepared were just charts. They might impress or they might frustrate or hold a totally different message for my client’s boss’s boss. The testimonials were what my clients think of my work, but what do I know about what their bosses think of their opinions? Every level of management has a different responsibility, different goals and therefore, a different perspective. The same information can be viewed as good by one level of management and not-so-good by the next.

With that uncertainty, I’m glad that I can trust God – because there is certainty with Him. Not certainty that I’ll get the future effort with this client, but certainty that God will provide and that He uses all situations to grow me into the person He wants me to be.

Where is your trust today? My challenge today was business related. Perhaps yours relates to your health or the safety (or salvation) of your children or parents. Perhaps it is something I can’t even imagine. The specifics aren’t what’s important – what’s important is where you place your confidence. Our circumstances can cause us to scramble a bit to convince others (and ourselves) that we’re up to the challenges they present. Preparing well is important, and the preparation for my meeting helped it to go more-or-less smoothly. But God is the One who gives us favor with others, brings healing, protects, saves and holds all things in His hands – He is the One (and only One) in whom our confidence is secure.

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I read an unusual book a few weeks ago. Unusual in that it does such an excellent job of mixing business and faith. Written by Guy Richards, Talkable, describes itself as a book about “building your brand from the inside out” – but it’s about so much more than that. Richards is not the least bit shy about including comments that point to a Savior in the mist of a discussion about successful branding and marketing. Finding spiritual potato chips (i.e., making people thirsty) in the middle of business discussions is far from the norm.

In the interest of full disclosure, let me tell you that I received a free pre-release copy of Richard’s book on the promise that I would write a review of it on my blog. Beyond that, there were no stipulations or requirements placed on me to write a positive review. The book is being released in August.

I confess…I have an innate suspicion of marketing and branding. It comes from seeing inferior products win marketshare because of flashy marketing campaigns. And it comes from working with designers for whom how something looks is more important than how it functions. I am a hard-core “form follows function” advocate – figure out how to make something work efficiently, then make it look appealing.

The world according to Sandy: Pretty is good. Practical is better. Pretty and practical is the jackpot.

So I found Richard’s book incredibly refreshing. His entire premise is that uniqueness, quality, and integrity (as in deliver what you promise) is what makes a brand “talkable.” “Being positively Talkable means that your brand delivers such a uniquely great experience that the person on the receiving end can’t help but talk about it.” (back cover)

Richards delivers sixty short lessons in branding, leading with integrity and choosing God. In all honesty, I found his lessons in branding to be a bit weak at times, but I enjoyed the messages of faith and integrity so much, and the fact that they were combined with discussions about marketing, that overall I found the book to be encouraging, challenging and motivating. Richards, who owns a company named Abiah (which means God is our Father), is a man I’d like to get to know.

In a chapter called “The Art of Measurement” He talks about measuring ourselves against the “best of” whatever our category is. That’s how most people operate. But the “gifted visionary can paint the canvas of ‘GREAT’” that “pushes the bar of best-case scenario forever.” (p. 29) Then he follows with this paragraph:

No longer do the innovations of the competition cause the visionary business owner to fret. It’s because the measurement of this person is using is so far ahead of the standard that they are looking to God for what is possible. (p. 29)

Wow! I marketing book that inspires me! I want to be that visionary owner if for no other reason than I want to be the person who looks to God for what is possible instead of being satisfied with what is the best I can do or hope for.

Then he sucker punches the reader with the question “What is your life’s measurement standard?” (p. 29) I consider myself a person who pursues God daily (ok, almost every day) and who has a relatively high desire to apprehend all that He has for me – yet Richards’ question gave me pause. Do I set the bar in our business so high that I am looking to God to achieve our goals? Ummmm…..no. (forgive me, Lord)

This is a marketing and branding book I can like!

He discusses decision-making in a chapter titled “The Fork in the Road.” This is one of his blatantly God-centered chapters. He has a three-step approach:

  1. Ask God for wisdom.
  2. Evaluate your motives.
  3. “Err on the side that will make God smile.” (p. 55)

I like that. Lord, I want to err on the side that makes You smile.

And in a chapter that ostensibly has nothing to do with faith, Richards ends with this sentence: “Weak conviction = weak culture.” He’s talking about the culture associated with brands. A group’s culture, he says, is set “by the depth of the leadership’s conviction of their values. Weak conviction = weak culture.” The Holy Spirit whispered into my ear “How strong is your (God) culture?”

Learn more about Guy Richards at http://www.abiah.com/

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The Lord got ahold of my husband a few months ago and it is so interesting to watch! Phil’s been a Christian for a long time and he loves the Lord. But God gave him an idea and it has totally changed him!

First, the back story: This has been a tough year for us financially. Many of you are probably in similar circumstances. Add to the mix a friend who is planting a church. We want so much to give financially to the church plant but haven’t been able to. We don’t live near enough to provide physical support. Of course we’re praying, but it is such a blessing to give financially and we miss it.

Enter God. He gave Phil the idea to start an affiliate marketing website. That was about 2 months ago. Before getting the idea, he hadn’t even heard the term affiliate marketing. I’m aware of it, but only to the extent that you can purchase books from ChristianBook.com from my “Books I’m Recommending” page. I didn’t know that LOTS of companies allow you to sell their products from your site and even pay you a commission to do so!

A concept is born: create an affiliate marketing website and give 50% of our commissions to various ministries. They probably won’t get rich from it and neither will we, but it’s a way for us to give more than we are currently able to give. That makes it essentially “free money,” right?

Trust me, it’s not free money. Phil has spent almost every spare minute on his new website, and it’s finally taking shape. This is still version 1.0 – he has plans to upgrade the usability, he’s adding new online retailers every day and he’s pursuing additional ministries to partner with. Check it out: www.ShopOnline2Give.com. Click on one of the ministry partners listed and begin shopping!

The cool thing is that you are buying from retailers you’d probably be buying from anyway, and you’re going directly to their site to make your purchases so you’re paying the same price you’d pay if you started at their site. The only difference is that they will send us a (small) percentage of the price of your purchases and we’ll give 50% of it to the ministry you shopped from. We’re pretty excited to be able to give to these ministries in a way that we haven’t been able to. (I was actually praising God for the poor economy last week because without it we probably would not have been receptive to hearing God speak about this new endeavor.) We are trusting God that the 50% we keep will cover our costs of running the website.

Now the interesting part – Phil has never developed a website before. I’ve tried and tried to get him involved in developing on our company’s website but he hasn’t shown any interest in it or aptitude for it. Now he’s coding in HTML! There are other tasks associated with our primary business that he has never embraced (that’s putting it kindly – he’s actually avoided them like the plague!). He’s embracing those tasks as they relate to ShopOnline2Give. By nature, he’s not a planner, but he has great plans for ShopOnline2Give. Most curious of all is that I have never known him to be this obsessed with anything. We’ve been married more than thirty years, we’ve started several businesses together, we’ve ministered together, we’ve moved across the country twice to pursue our dreams together, we’ve taken “vacations of a lifetime” together, we’ve succeeded and failed together. Through all that, he has never been this obsessed with anything. ShopOnline2Give is nearly all he talks about and he is always thinking about it.

Yes, it can get a little frustrating – I’ve been a bit of a web widow lately – but there is no doubt in my mind that God is in this project, and it is incredibly fascinating to watch it develop…and in the process, change the one I’ve known and loved for over thirty years.

If you’ve ever wondered if God can really change a person or a situation, friend, believe that He can. I’m watching it in real time!

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As I am doing devotions today, I am aware that I need to call a customer imminently. He called yesterday afternoon when I was out and I feel pressured to call him back immediately this morning.

Wanting to focus on devotions and NOT on the work that must begin soon, I prayed “Lord, free me from the expectations of others.” My immediate thought was…I need to be freed from the expectations I put on myself first. In reality, it’s unlikely that the customer I need to call in a few minutes is really sitting by his phone waiting for the business day to start and watching to see if I call him at the stroke of 8am. (Well, 8:15 really, because I consider it a little rude to call before someone has time to get their work-head together, which I figure takes the first 15 minutes of the day!)

In the strive for excellence…notice I said excellence, not perfection – perfection is not attainable, only God is perfect; excellence is attainable – it doesn’t mean without error, rather with minimal error and a plan for correcting and making recompense for those errors. In the strive for excellence, I can often put more pressure on myself than others do. Perhaps you are like me. How do you deal with it?

 I find that I must continually do several things:

1) Evaluate the source of my striving for excellence. If it comes from a desire to impress or please other people, my focus is probably wrong. My job (both at my place of employment and in my personal life) is to please the Lord. Sometimes that means NOT pleasing other people. If I find that I have been operating from wrong motivations, I must turn to God in repentance, asking Him to forgive me for caring more about what people think than what He thinks.

2) Remind myself that God is in control of my business, not me. Sometimes I fall into the trap of believing that I’m responsible for the success of my business. The truth is that I do lots of the work, but God is the source of my ability to get work, my ability to accomplish it, and the favor shown to me by my customers. Again, repentance is often required here when I realize that I have again fallen for the enemy’s trap.

3) Consider my life and whether it is in balance (or at least some semblence of balance). I know that when my life is in balance, there will always be work that doesn’t get done. There will always be one more request that a customer makes or one more accounting task to complete before it’s time to say “I’ve worked enough today. Now it’s time for family.” If that customer call came in because I was pursuing other things the Lord has called me to, sometimes the most appropriate thing to do is thank God for the life He’s given me, ask for grace with the customer and call him back at the earliest opportunity.

That’s my remedy for dealing with the pressure I put on myself. If you have other suggestions, let me know. We can all learn from each other. As for me, I gotta go call my customer!

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Here’s the last paragraph from my blog on July 5, “Jumping Off the Anxiety Track:”

One other idea…I’ve decided to use the ring of the telephone at work as a reminder to praise God. Often when I’m over-busy, the telephone is a source of stress. That’s wrong thinking. Without the telephone I wouldn’t be able to talk to the clients God sends our way. The telephone is a source of blessing, giving us opportunities to meet our customers’ needs in a way that brings glory to God. Sounds like a good reason and opportunity to praise God. Imagine how different my day will be when I thank God every time the phone rings. I’m looking forward to it!

Wow has that been a good thing! I don’t always remember to do it, but every time I remember, whatever expression was on my face changes to a smile and a degree of peace enters my heart. Why didn’t I start this sooner? My next task is to find a visual reminder that I can put on my telephone that will help me to remember to praise God every time the phone rings.

I thought of the smiley face, of course, but that’s just a bit too cheesy for me to put on my phone. It’s fine in an e-mail, but on my phone? I don’t think so. 🙂

My preference would be something ethereal that reminds me of God’s shekinah glory.

There are also benefits from a business perspective. Since I was answering the phone on the first ring, now my clients have to wait 2 rings before I answer – no big deal. But when I answer, I’m more sincerely cheerful and full of positive hope than I was before. The rule in the office has always been to smile before answering the telephone. It changes your voice and communicates across the telephone lines. I’ve found that the true, inner smile that comes from having spent a few seconds praising and thanking God infuses my voice with an even greater degree of confidence, peace and pleasure that customers can sense.

Try it, folks! Praise God, thank Him or just worship Him before you answer every phone call.

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I’ve joined a business referral organization recently. I meet with this group of folks each week, and every week each person stands up and teaches the rest of us about their business so that we can appropriately and intelligently recommend their services to those we meet. Another of the disciplines the group strongly encourages is that each member meet with each other member one-on-one to get to know one another on a more personal level. We meet for about an hour and learn about their family, their values, their goals, their lifestyles, their hobbies, and their business and customer base.

I can’t help but think that both of these features would make the Church a better place. If I made a commitment to learn as much as I possibly can about each person, wouldn’t it spur me on to pray for them, help meet their needs when I can, rejoice with them, grieve with them, and just generally do all those “one another’s” we’re supposed to be doing? I think it would. Wouldn’t it also help newcomers to feel more welcome and accepted when I invite them to a “one-on-one” so I can get to know them better? I think it would.

One of the things I’m getting out of this business referral organization is an understanding that I need to change my mindset. I need to have a “how can I help grow your business?” mindset. Perhaps my church mindset needs to change a bit, too. I need to have more of a “how can I help you grow in Christ this week?” mindset. Instead of letting my mind focus on ministry activity, I need to focus on ministry — meeting the needs of others.

I agree that we need to be careful about bringing too many business practices and principles into the Church because an overabundance can squash the Spirit…but perhaps these business practices would help us be more like Christ to one another each week. And as Martha says, that’s a very good thing.

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