By Tyler Reagin | 12-Apr-2017
GOSPEL DRIVEN: Tell us a little bit about yourself, personally.
TYLER: Even though we’re for leaders who love the church, it’s really an intentional thing for us. It’s not about church leaders, it’s
about leaders who love the church—the big C church. It’s bankers who serve with students on the weekends, and we believe in the local church.
I was a pastor for all those years; that’s my heartbeat. But I really believe that the church should be the best-run organization on the planet. So,
that’s what we’re trying to do and, luckily, I’ve got a family that’s as excited about that as I am.
I’ve got a wife of fourteen years. We met here. We’re from Atlanta; we’re Atlanta natives so we know the Atlanta area very well, and it’s even funny now,
because most of my team here at Catalyst are pretty young, and they live in the city. If you grew up in Atlanta, you did not live in the city.
Why don’t we live in the city? Have you been down there? Who lives in the city? But my wife and I both grew up in Gwinnett County, right out in a suburb
of Atlanta. We’ve been married fourteen years, and we met at the University of Georgia. We have two boys. They’re eight and five, and they are keeping
us non-stop busy.
My five-year-old does not stop asking questions, from the moment he wakes up in the morning till he goes to bed at night, but it’s pretty neat for me.
The other day, I was going to speak and someone said, “What do you think your dad will speak on?” They both kind of rolled their eyes, smiled, and
At least they hear about what I’m talking about a lot, and it’s such a great privilege that I really like I do what I do to equip the church, but it’s
also a privilege to be a dad and a husband. That’s my goal, and I love that part of my job. I get to do that, and we have a good time being here in
Atlanta. About three years ago, a guy called us to work with North Point, and for ten years, we had the incredible privilege to be a part of some really
neat things that started with that church. I happened to be a part of North Point for a season in which I got to watch some amazing things happen.
I moved over to full-time work, and I’ve been the director for about two years now.
GOSPEL DRIVEN: A lot of our listeners from around the States are huge fans of Catalyst and have been enjoying going to the conferences.
There’s a lot of insight and benefits from what you guys do and how you’re equipping leaders. We’re appreciative of it, too, what you and your team
I really believe that, especially in Western culture and society, vocation and the workforce can be the greatest mission field for bringing about the Kingdom
of Heaven on Earth. It’s amazing for churches and pastors, and if we create strong entrepreneurs in our community, it’s mutually beneficial. If they
succeed, we succeed, because if they’re successful financially, we have more money for resources and ministry.
Tell us about your journey over the years and how you transitioned from the church into running this organization called Catalyst. What did that look like
for you? This new season that you’re in at Catalyst, what do you hope that that is defined by? What do you hope to accomplish there?
TYLER: The funny thing is, once I got called by my ministry full-time, I never pictured not being in the church, the local church, full-time.
I started contracting with Catalyst as a producer about five years ago, and my wife said, “There’s something about you being a part of that organization
that feels like it’s going to be a long-term thing.” I was just doing it three weeks a year at that time, and I remember saying, “I don’t know, because
I don’t think I’d ever leave the church.” What’s been amazing is to watch God have a journey for me of combining this love of leadership and a passion
for understanding how leadership makes the kingdom and drives the kingdom further, faster.
I do believe what the Bible is quoting all the time, saying the local church is the hope of the world. It is the hands and feet. It’s the vehicle with
which Jesus presented this idea, and the local church is a gathering, a community, a body of believers. It’s not a building. The expression is many
times referring to a building, but I think that the word “church” needs to be reclaimed to the beauty that God created it to be.
It’s really God’s story for me to be sitting in this seat, running a business and organization that’s not a church.
What’s amazing about it is that He’s coupled my love for leadership, my gift in leading teams, and love for the church in this position of leading an organization
that leads leaders who love the church. Honestly, I can’t imagine being in a place where I feel more fulfilled in my calling than what I do right now.
It’s been a journey.
I came out of college, I had a technology education degree, which means I knew production and random stuff like that, but then I also had been leading
worship and small groups. Sometimes in our campus ministry, I was a better leader than I was a musician. I never thought I was called to that, but
it gave me an experience that lasted me and led me into the next few years.
When I went up to the seminary on Tuesdays, I’d lead worship in the chapel. On Thursdays, I’d run sound at the chapel. I’d preach some, and I worked in
sound. So, I just had this random conglomeration of stuff and experiences, but leadership was always something that came fairly natural to me. I remember
telling Carrie, my wife, “I don’t know what God’s doing with all these random experiences that I have. Like, what is He going to do with all of this?”
We went through a season of nine months where we thought we were going to plant a church with some friends. That fell through, and we ended up living with
my in-laws for nine months. That was awesome. I worked at my best friend’s dad’s boat shop, and God opened the right door, which was starting a little
North Point was going to put together something in Athens, Georgia, where I went to school, where I was part of campus ministry. I had never even heard
of this position called service programming. And then, lo and behold, what that is, is that you are basically in charge of music production and leading.
God just opened the right door at the right time. He took all that experience, and He weaved it into this beautiful gift.
After a year and a half at Athens, I moved out and helped start Browns Bridge, which was, at the time, one of the three campuses at North Point. It allowed
me to sit at the table with Andy for eight and a half years, and hear him process and think through leadership. I fell in love with the church even
more, and never thought I would leave, like I said.
I even pursued some other things in that time, and yet, God was saying, “Nope, not yet.” But in the midst of all that eight and a half years, I fell in
love with the idea of coaching leaders. What does it mean to really get involved in the lives of leaders and encourage them? What does it mean to coach
teams and make teams better? A good result with a bad process is a counterfeit win. As you’re building a business, building an organization, if you
don’t get the process right, the product might still come across to the public as an amazing thing. If it’s assumed that the leadership, organization,
and process is amazing because the product is amazing, that’s wrong. That’s a counterfeit win. It feels like a win, except no one wants to be in the
room together on Monday, because they don’t like each other.
One of the things that I got passionate about, and felt like God opened the doors for, was getting certified as a coach to work with leaders. I was going
to organizations and spending time with their leadership teams, saying, “Hey let’s work on you, this group, because the better you guys work together,
the better your organization is going to be.” I believe that’s true for the church, because how you lead affects people’s faith.
What you preach on Sundays is a big deal, especially if it’s not matching your Monday through Friday. But bigger than that are the leadership decisions
you’re making day in and day out that are affecting people’s faith, positively and negatively.
God opened the door, because I got involved producing this event and just had a contract for a couple of years. Brad Lomenick, who was my predecessor said,
“Hey, will you come over full-time, be our creative director and executive producer, and develop our staff?” Those were the two things I felt were
God’s gift to me. And the next thing I know, I’m sitting in the director’s seat a year later. I have zero business background. I’m still confused as
to what IRL means, but what I do know is that, in two years, my experience as a business leader has exponentially grown. I feel really honored to get
to sit in a seat and steward something like this.
GOSPEL DRIVEN: Leadership principles, in general, are pretty fluid in different realms of vocation and organizational leadership. What
are three key principles that every entrepreneurial leader must have?
TYLER: Whether I walk into this building, a different building, a church, my house, I’m going to come with three things, at all cost.
The first one will be no surprise to anybody that works with me. It’s fun, and I know that you might be the only one person in the building, but if you
don’t create a culture from the very beginning that’s fun, you’re just not going to have a lot of people who want to work there.
I believe Jesus talks about it in John 10:10. Have an abundant life, and one of those things is joy.
That requires having fun. I didn’t become a believer till late in high school, because I didn’t see a lot of believers that were fun. I believed in Jesus,
I grew up around him, I cared about him, I thought he was awesome. What I didn’t necessarily believe in was that people grew, that they followed him.
For me, why would I sign up not only for that set of rules, but to look and act like that? That seems like a no brainer. I’ve met some people where
there was a difference, and there was this joy, this light. I’d say fun is a huge part, no matter if there’s one person in the building, or a thousand
people. The more people there are, the harder it is to try to have fun because you feel like you’ve got to try to be so serious all the time.
The second thing that I would say, and honestly, this would be the highest value for me—is that you choose people over profit. A friend of mine,
Dale Partridge, uses that phrase: relationships are results, people over profit. How do we continue to make sure of that, at the end of the day? We’re
reminded, yes, business is business, but I cannot treat people as business. People are people, and I have to care for them, especially if God entrusted
me to care for them and their livelihood, if they’ve entrusted their season or career into my hands.
So many times, we see that’s the other way around. “We’re entrusting you.” But people are also saying, “I’m putting all these other opportunities on hold
because I feel like I’m supposed to be here.”
We’ve got to steward that really well, which means people need to take precedence over profit. If you do that well, profit only gets better. It goes back to the counterfeit win principle—if you get the process right, the product will not suffer.
But this product will absolutely suffer if the process continues to be crappy. It just will, and you might have some short-term gain, but that will not
get a long-term sustainable option. The way to make a process great is to put people over profit, and remember that relationships are results.
The third thing—at all costs, fight for integrity. At the very beginning of these organizations, you’re creating these ideas you have. There’s going to be so many opportunities to shortcut. You can do these things where you can get really close to that line. I’m the only one here. Nobody’s taking this. What? You are creating habits for a lifetime of business.
Fight for integrity. The way I describe integrity is consistency, who you are, what you say you are, and who people expect when they walk in the building.
It should be the same person. I don’t have a work personality, and I don’t have a home personality:
I do different things, but I want my team here at work to know who they’re going to get when I walk in this building. Now, I’ve got good days and bad days, but let those be an exception to the rule and not be what people expect.
Those are the three things: that you’d have fun, that you serve people, and that you have integrity in what you do.
GOSPEL DRIVEN: For many entrepreneurs, especially solo entrepreneurs who have a dream of one day building a team, when growing an organization there’s a tendency to want to invest in my team. I want to do this thing, but there’s this friction there. “But nobody can do it as good as I can do it.” Let other people run with the ball in those kinds of things.
One question is, how do you develop yourself? Both from an individual perspective, as well as from a team perspective? How do we develop ourselves at getting
better at investing in our teams and being intentional on exactly what you are talking about?
On creating, making sure that the process, whether you’re talking about developing new product, or just the process of investing in your team—how
do you create that type of culture for yourself as a leader and within your organization as a whole?
TYLER: That’s something that my attention centers on quite often, because I care about it tremendously.
The first thought I have is that, and what John Maxwell used to say, people don’t care how much you know, until they know how much you care.
At the end of the day, you can try to train, develop, and even disciple, or whatever, but if people feel like you don’t care, they’ll see right through
it. You have to start by choosing a lifestyle of serving, believing in people, and caring.
You’ve got to start with the fact that you can believe that they can do it, and maybe do it better than you. The reality is, most founders and entrepreneurs tend to turn into founders, and they tend to struggle with this ten years down the line, saying, “Oh, but I started this, I’ve got the best ideas.” That’s hard. Even as an entrepreneur, start thinking succession.
How can I get people in place so that, when the time comes, if I need to take my hands off the steering wheel of this thing, I’m ready to do that because
I’ve been thinking about that the whole time?
The other thing is, even though my team is probably tired of me beating this drum, you need to start by reading the emotional intelligence article by Daniel
Goldman, in Harvard Business Review from the 1990s. It was called “What Makes a Great Leader,” I think.
Emotional intelligence is one of those concepts that separate great leaders from good leaders. The best leaders of people are not just the ones who can
execute best, it’s the ones who know how to lead people best. There was data from these Fortune 500 companies, and the top CEOs were not necessarily
just the top-grossing CEOs, they were CEOS who were considered to be the best at leading people. Because emotional intelligence is these five concepts,
you can’t stop talking about these five things. It’s what separates out great leaders. So, it starts with self-awareness. You’ve got to be aware of
who you are, and that’s one of your jobs as the leader—to continue to bring out the best in your team and the people around you, so that they
know and they have self-awareness.
Then it moves to self-regulation. It’s not okay to just be self-aware; now you have to do more than just catch yourself being condescending, or rude, or
whatever, because you’re self-aware. It’s then about stopping that behavior, so you can move forward. Then you have to have motivation, empathy, and
social skills. Those are the five things.
As a leader, if I’m going to start fighting for those for myself, I’m going to see that in people around me. I’m going to continue to fight to say those
things, to encourage them, to equip them to be emotionally intelligent leaders, not just great at executing Excel documents or a marketing plan.
I hired you because you are an expert at what you do; you have competence. Obviously, you need training, and you’ll continue to grow and develop. I feel
like my job as a leader is to make sure I develop them as leaders and let their competency catch up, as they’re continually moving forward at being
I’ve got a few people on my team that didn’t necessarily have the experience yet for the position I’m putting them in. Based on my trusting them, it forces
me to invest in them, because the position is potentially outside of their experience and expertise. It forces me to invest in them, to fight for their
experience, and then also, I have to trust them to try some of this stuff. I think, for me, living in that emotional intelligence space and fighting
for that, that’s where I would start that conversation.
GOSPEL DRIVEN: We have a couple of more minutes left here. We want to know how the gospel drives your work. How does it sustain your work?
How do you continually lean in to the gospel, to get the job done?
TYLER: I believe that one of the central concepts in the Gospel is that Jesus came for people. He came for you and me, that everything
we do interacts with people. I mentioned this earlier, John 10:10 is probably the verse that drives me, in general. It is this idea that, as believers,
we aren’t just called to live a normal life. There’s something so much bigger and so much more for us, if we just continue to lean into the Holy Spirit
and into the Lord.
We have a hope and a joy that the world doesn’t necessarily get to experience, apart from Jesus. Every day that I walk into this building, I know that
I’ve got 25 people who I can impact in a positive or negative way. I can impact them toward abundant life, or I can impact them in a way that tends
to pull them away from that abundant life, because my actions are how I lead.
I want to create a space for a group of leaders to grow to become better leaders, to be better parents, to be better friends, and to be better at sharing
this news that we feel is so important, and it’s the best thing we’ve ever heard. Day in and day out, the Gospel really is driving me to treat people
correctly, to have integrity in what I do, and to try to create places where people can experience God and have that abundant joy-filled life. For
me, that is a constant thought in my mind.
GOSPEL DRIVEN: It’s time for some rapid-fire questions. Give us one success quote or verse that has inspired you. How does this quote
or verse drive all of your work?
TYLER: We’re about to move into a season at Catalyst, for a theme called Awaken the Wonder. It came out of a book called “Dangerous Wonder,”
by Mike Yaconelli. I read it in college, and it’s still probably one of my favorite books of all time. In the introduction, he says just one thing,
and I’m going to paraphrase it a little bit. He said that as spiritual leaders, as leaders, we have mastered the art of mimicking aliveness. It pierces
my heart every time I think about it, because so many of us are so good at acting. We’re so good at feeling one way and presenting ourselves in a different
Especially in a Christian, faith-based world, it’s okay to not be okay but, at the end the day, quit mimicking and mastering the art of mimicking this
aliveness, and be alive. Be alive, let God be awake in you, let him continue to move your life.
GOSPEL DRIVEN: What is one tool that you would highly recommend to entrepreneurs, leaders, and others who are trying to move their ideas
TYLER: That’s a really good question. I’ll be honest, I’m still a fairly analogue guy, even though I’m in a very digital world, so I use
a lot of digital things, but I always have a pen and pad right next to me. And I know that sounds old-school, and maybe I am. I told my team one time,
email is not a work-style, it is a communication tool. If you don’t get an email back, and I walk over and talk to you, consider that email closed.
Face-to-face relationships are more important than all these other tools. Try not to forget those things in the midst of trying to make sure you’re organizing
your business together.
GOSPEL DRIVEN: Well, what is one book that you would recommend to gospel driven leaders and entrepreneurs?
TYLER: If I could have written a leadership book, Simon Sinek beat me to it with, “Leaders Eat Last.” It’s my favorite book on leadership
right now, but it goes back to the concepts we talked about; you choose to put people before yourself in every business and venture, in everything
that you do. If you do that, boy, it will be amazing how people feel and how they want to follow you as a leader.
GOSPEL DRIVEN: Catalyst Conference is October 7th to the 9th. Where can our audience find both Catalyst online, social media, as well
as your personal data. How can they find what you got going on online as well?
TYLER: Go to www.catalystconference.com, and you can catch up with all of our
events, find out all their information. I tell you, one of the greatest places right now is the Catalyst App. You can download it in the iTunes App
Store, because we’re really 2.0 in a week, and it is unbelievable. It really is the center of what we are trying to communicate.
You can follow Catalyst @catalystleader on Instagram, Twitter, all the social media feeds. I’m on Instagram and Twitter @tylerreagin, but I’d really rather you go to @catalystleader; it’s way more fun and exciting.
By Mike Baer | 12-Apr-2017
If we or those around us define meaningful impact in the traditional way then we are limited to a small handful of areas. The main traditional definition is conversions. We are constantly asked, “How many people have come to Christ as a result of your ministry?” or “How many people have believed through your business in Boola Boola Land?” Having equated the Great Commission with soul winning it is not surprising that the Christian public wants to know the answer to this question.
We can fall victim to discouragement, misunderstanding, accusations of time wasting and so forth if we continue to define success in the same old tradition way. Stated bluntly, at some point in your career in BAM you will begin asking yourself, “Where are the converts? Where are the churches? Where are the Bible studies?” If your answers to those questions is minimal then you will feel like a failure and, to make matters worse, your network of friends will gather around you as Job’s counselors to pour on the guilt and condemnation.
What we need is to rethink our definition of success, of what true kingdom impact looks like.
“Now hold on, Mike,” you protest. “Didn’t you just say that these are not the metrics we need to use?” Actually, what I said was these are not the only metrics we need to consider. It is impossible to read the New Testament, especially the Gospels and the Acts of the Apostles, and not see the premium value God places on proclaiming the individual gospel and seeing men and women brought to saving faith in Jesus Christ. Luke’s version of the Great Commission is entirely about preaching the Good News: “Thus it is written, that the Christ should suffer and on the third day rise from the dead, and that repentance and forgiveness of sins should be proclaimed in his name to all nations…” (Luke 24:46-7, italics mine) Mark is even more explicit: And he said to them, “Go into all the world and proclaim the gospel to the whole creation.” (Mark 16:15, italics mine)
One of my favorite characters from Scripture is Barnabas. His very name means “Son of Encouragement” and that is just what he did. One new believer Barnabas encouraged was named Saul; we know how that story ended.
Whether you are a domestic BAMMER or working in an Indonesian company, you will likely be connected to believers in the workplace who lack the knowledge or the courage to truly live out their faith in the kinds of ways we’ve been studying. What a difference it makes when someone stands for Jesus in the right way. Others begin to come out of the woodwork, to find their voice, to embrace their calling.
One person who I delight to remember is Judy. Judy was a believer when she first came to our team but a very distant one. Her life was crumbling along with her marriage. As she worked God worked. She began to get serious about Christ and His Word. Judy’s marriage sadly fell apart but she later remarried an amazing Christian and together they are a brilliant light in their church, their company and the lives of many.
You might have to stretch a bit for this one at first but remember this: there is no aspect of life over which Jesus is not Master and about which He does not care. If we understand and embrace that there is no sacred-secular dichotomy in God’s Kingdom and that “the will of God...is good and acceptable and perfect” (Romans 12:2) regardless of category it falls in, then we can see that any number of things may in fact be Kingdom Impact.
A great sermon preached in the power of the Holy Spirit leads to Kingdom Outcomes. So does the successful translation of a book of the Bible into a tribal language. Agreed? Of course! Then how about the a successful ocular implant that enables a deaf child to hear his mother’s voice? How about a drug that cures River Blindness or Ebola? Or a pollution reducing technology for the power industry? Or the completion of a new office building? Or...you cannot draw a line can you? Any activity done for Jesus’ sake down to a cup of cold water (Matthew 10:42) is a legitimate Kingdom Activity and can lead to legitimate Kingdom Results.
According to a recent Gallup study, a staggering percentage of American workers are totally disengaged from their work and another staggering number are actively looking for another job. As I often tell audiences, if you don’t love your job then quit--either quit not loving it or quit the job. For your own sake, don’t stay in a job where your heart is disconnected.
I believe that one of the most exciting Kingdom Outcomes we can achieve, regardless of our corporate status, is an engaged workforce, a motivated team. Many years ago, the Chairman of the Board, who happened to be my boss, called me into his office to fuss at me because, as he put it, “Why does everyone want to transfer into your division?” I couldn’t keep from laughing when I said, “The question you should be asking me why don’t they want to stay in their current division?” We had built a solid team with a clear vision, shared values, deep concern for each other and our customers and we had fun! And it was true. People were lined up seeking a transfer in. I don’t blame them.
Societal Impact (Better Life)
Our company employees over 100,000 people a week on temporary assignments. In many cases they are unskilled, entry level or trying to get back into the workforce for some reason or another. In the course of the year we will employ over 500,000 such workers for at least a week, many of whom go on to get full time jobs with our clients. We rally around a meaningful mantra: Getting Good Jobs for Good People. It gives meaning to our work every day.
There is more, though. We have discovered that every worker we come in contact with represents, on average, a family of 3. That means that we touch in some way approximately 400,000 people per week--men women and children and that we touch about a half million people each year.
The question we constantly ask is “What is the impact of that touch?” Is it filled with respect? Is it filled with appreciation? Are we fighting to get them a safe job, a job that suits them, a job with a future? Are we pushing to get better wages? Better treatment? Out of these questions we have formulated what we refer to as “Better Life.” Our belief is that we can help each of our temporary employees and their families take a step or two toward a better, richer, fuller life.
As long as we take a myopic view of what life in the Kingdom of God looks like we will see very limited Kingdom Outcomes. However, the moment we are reoriented to what God’s reign really looks like as it is revealed in Scripture (instead of our evangelical traditions) we will be like Elisha’s servant at Dothan. Our eyes will be opened to see all kinds of wonderful things God is doing in and through us and we will see them everywhere!
By Kirk Bates | 12-Apr-2017
GOSPEL DRIVEN: Today we’re going to be talking about the topic of integrity in business, how to integrate integrity into your mission and vision for your business. It’s not so much going to be a step-by-step how-to of 1, 2, 3, but more of learning from Kirk’s example. I think it’s absolutely amazing. Tell us more about yourself, personally. About things like where you’re living, your family, and what you enjoy.
KIRK: I am the owner of Market 248. At a personal level, I live just outside of Chattanooga, Tennessee with my wife and kids. We have a grandson, Andrew, and life is good. I’ve been an entrepreneur now for about 20 years. I’ve been married 20 years, and, right after I got married, I started my first business, sold that business, and started my second business, which is a graphic design business.
After years of doing print media and so on, we started our websites, and eventually those web clients came back to us and said, “Hey, do you know how to get my website to the top of Google?” And my answer was, “No, I do not and neither does anyone else.” That turned out not to be true. And so, I kept getting asked that question, and, eventually, I decided I better do something about that.
I self-educated myself through a lot of trial and error. Eventually, we became a marketing company, which is Market 248. This is our 15th year as a graphic design company, now a marketing company, and we are so thankful for the way business has gone.
GOSPEL DRIVEN: There is this whole world of marketing, especially online marketing, and I know you know a lot of stuff about SEO, pay-per-click, and that type of thing. When anybody goes to, say, an agency or a third-party and tries to outsource this task, there seems to be a resounding consensus that, “Okay, I’m spending all this money for them to get me to the top of Google or whatever, to get me noticed, but I really have no idea what they’re doing. I am spending all this money but is it working? Is it doing anything?” How do you approach your customers and the people who are coming to you, and how do you communicate what you do with integrity? How is this idea of integrity and being transparent conveyed to these people as you help them market? How does that integrate into your business?
KIRK: That’s at the core of everything that we do, as Christians wanting to honor God with business every day. Integrity is paramount, of course, as I’m sure it is for all of your listeners. I work in an industry that is often so dishonest.
I’m talking about SEO now, and there are companies who have built a reputation for being dishonest. Probably everybody listening to your podcast has had, if they’re in business, telemarketing calls from SEO companies, saying, “I can make you number one on Google,” and that’s dishonest. They make multiple promises, and people call me with all these promises all the time.
From the beginning, we had a little bit of an uphill battle. How can we be the honest marketing company in a world of dishonest companies? And so, you know, from the very beginning, our day has to start with integrity, as you said, and transparency. We start with real conversations with our clients. I can only tell you that we take every single client on and make them our own. Their website becomes part of who we are. Their success, we celebrate as our success. When it doesn’t work, we dig deeper to find out why, and to figure out the problem, because we take that very seriously.
I think that’s one of the things that sets us apart. There are technical things we provide, like monthly transparent reports that are showing lots of things that people need to know. I get this call all the time. I get the call from the guy who says, “I was spending X amount of money with an SEO company for this much time, and I have no idea what they were doing.”
I went to my team and said, “This what I’m hearing all the time. We have to be the answer for that.” I think the short answer to your question is that we made ourselves the answer to that client question by being honest about what was going on, and proving feedback to our clients every single month.
One last thing about that. We hold ourselves accountable for the work that we do by showing them things like exactly where they ranked before we touched anything and where they ranked this month. We call that an initial ranking report. Those rankings stay on every single report we ever send them, for the life of that customer, so they always know where we started. I don’t know how to be more honest than that.
GOSPEL DRIVEN: What type of encouragement would you give to other entrepreneurs or business owners who may be in the internet marketing industry, but who are dealing with the same temptation to market themselves slightly dishonestly? What type of encouragement would you give them for running their business with as much integrity as possible?
KIRK: When you approach business, you have to understand a principle that we live by every day. In 1 Chronicles 29, David stood up before the entire assembly of Israel, as the king, as a very successful man, and as a man with a lot of wealth. He could have stood up there and said, “Look what I did, people. Bow down.” But he got up, and he bowed down and said, “This is what God did.”
He prayed in front of the entire nation of Israel to God to say, “Everything we have is yours. It all came from you.” If we approach business with the understanding that every single day is from God and everything we have is for God, you can’t cheat. As a Christian, we’re held accountable for what we say to people. It is our responsibility to make sure we’re honest about what we say. How can we ask God to bless our business if we’re not honest? That’s my personal thing. “How can I ask God to bless my business if I fudge numbers, or if I don’t tell them exactly the truth?”
GOSPEL DRIVEN: Many entrepreneurs, every single one of them who are believers, probably deal with this.
That’s just trusting in God and having faith. Tell us a little bit about your journey and the moment you decided to start Market 248. What were those conversations like with your family, and how did you trust and lean upon God, even when the future wasn’t clear?
KIRK: Can I just back up one second and tell you a quick story about something that happened to me, that leads me to this moment today?
A couple of years ago, I was invited to be the keynote speaker at a small business convention in Virginia. I went up there to give that speech and, the day before, I was still struggling with what I was going to talk about, because this was a convention about how you built your business.
I knew what they were looking for. They wanted to hear about wisdom, how smart was I, and what great things I did to go from 0 to 60. How did I lead this great thing to happen? Then it came time for me to give that keynote speech, and it was awful, absolutely terrible. They were allowed to give feedback at the end, anonymously, and I received that feedback a couple of weeks later. It was brutal. One guy said, “Took 30 minutes to deliver a 5-minute speech.”
I took that to heart. That was two years ago, and I’ve never given another speech since that time. It took me sometime to figure out what happened, and this is why this is important to our conversation, which I’m so honored to be part of today. That speech was about what I did, and that’s why it doesn’t work. Because my story is in the story of Mark 2:48. It’s honestly a story about what God did.
That’s why I’m so excited. I’ve been praying for an opportunity to really tell the true story about what happened. When you get into that, we are a graphic design company. Naturally, through the questions of our clients, we became an online marketing company that we love. And so, I was doing everything on my own. I think a lot of entrepreneurs can relate to that. I did it all.
I have a friend who is a serial entrepreneur, a brilliant man who has built many companies. He started them from scratch, built them up to multi-million dollar companies, and then sold them. By the time I met him, he’d done five of those. I was asking him one day, “Jeff, what is the problem with what I am doing here?”
He said, “The problem is, it’s like you’ve built a restaurant, and you’re the cook, you’re the host, you’re the waiter, you’re the guy parking the cars, and you’re the guy doing it all. There’s only so many people you can take of every night.” That’s exactly what happened to me. You try to do it on your own, all by yourself, and I guess, in some situations, that might be okay. But not in every situation.
In our situation, I was really holding my business back by doing that. But honestly, I didn’t have the skillset to go beyond that, or maybe I did, but I didn’t really know how. I’m an avid student of entrepreneurship and marketing. I love that kind of thing, and I’ve read so many books on it. You can read a ton of books, but until you’re the one getting the chance to do it, it doesn’t always come up the way the writer said.
I began to pray about this situation. We were not making much money at all. When we made this transition, we went from a model of going out and finding new work to do every month to taking on clients that would stay with us month after month after month, so that we could build on our work. We started with $1,289 a month. That’s how much money we were making.
I was praying about what to do, and I felt like the Lord began to lead me and my heart toward the direction of ‘stop doing it all by yourself, and put together a team of people’. Honestly, I didn’t really know how to do that, but, over the course of three months, I felt the Holy Spirit was pushing me in that direction. It just wouldn’t go away, and I kept going back to my wife, Faith, and saying, “Wow, this is what I feel. God just keeps impressing it on my heart.”
I finally gave in to that. God brought me the right people right away. The first person I found on a very large, international website was the business consultant I hired and needed. I found out, just a week or so later, that her and her husband were missionaries to Croatia.
I had no idea. This is something she did on the side to keep them on the field. She helped me, and she walked me through how to put a team together. So, that’s how we got started, with God leading us to do this. Initially, I hired a virtual assistant, Joy, who is still with us today. That was about four years ago. Then I hired my first person to take care of SEO and AdWords. Then our second person, and so on. We began to build this team. And so, here’s the end of that story. There’s so much more in between. I mean, God just did things, and it was amazing. We put this team together, and that is what I had to do.
In order to hire my first guy to do SEO, I had to give him all my income, except for $89. I kept $89 and gave him $1,200. And my wife said, “You’re crazy,” because we weren’t making much money anyway, you know. I said, “If this doesn’t work, the whole business can’t work. This is the model that we have to do.” I just knew this was the direction that God was taking me. We built a team, and we hired the best people we could find.
Right after we got the team together and got our system together, God brought us to this amazing event. God brought us more business than we could ever have found through advertising, or any other method, simply through a backdoor. He had the number one SEO Company in the country do a secret survey of 220+ SEO companies around the country, and we were named in the top 5 SEO Company for 3 months. It absolutely set our business on fire.
You can see, in that whole story, there’s very little of Kirk Bates in there. There’s a whole lot of God leading, directing, giving me the right people, and then putting the business into our hands. I love that story because it’s His story.
GOSPEL DRIVEN: This next question is something that I ask every entrepreneur, every guest that I have on the podcast, and that’s simply, how does the Gospel drive the work that you do?
KIRK: Going back to the Scripture, we talked about what David is saying, “Everything is yours, every single thing.” Every single day, when I get up, I feel responsibility to the people who work with me. Not everybody I hired is a follower of Jesus, but I feel responsibility to those people, to be a witness to them. For every client that God brings our way, most companies, and the world, would say, “Okay, another client, another number, another number, more money,” but we don’t view it that way.
Every time we take somebody on, we believe that God brought us that person. That’s my feel- ing. The Gospel drives me to treat those people with honor, respect, and honesty in every single transaction that I have with them.
Everything that we’re talking about here is the reason that our clients stay with us for months. Our clients stay with us for years, where the average SEO companies keep their clients for months. I have clients who I’ve had when I handled my team. All the clients that I had are still with us, every single one of them. I just lost my longest-running client, who was a web client, and then became a marketing client of 11 years, only because he retired.
People rarely leave, and I think that’s for two reasons. Number one, what we do works.
But that’s the least of it, in my book. I mean that’s important to them, but to me, what’s important is what we do what we say we’re going to do. I feel great responsibility to those people that we are to be honest with them, and that we do our best every single day to provide for them. I want to encourage everybody with that, no matter what situation you are in. Whether you consider yourself successful or not, that’s not the point. The point is that in whatever God has put before you, you work at that with all your heart and with such integrity and honesty that nothing bad can ever be said about the way you do business. I think that’s rare today.
GOSPEL DRIVEN: I have a couple of rapid-fire questions. Give us one quote or verse that inspires you. How does that drive the work that you do?
KIRK: Romans, chapter 12. “Do not think of yourselves more highly than you should, and consider other people’s needs above your own.” That verse inspires me and every single project I touch, every single day. It especially inspires the people who work with me. I’m honored to have the team that I have. It’s my great privilege to know things about them, not only in their work, but personally, and to pay attention to what’s happening in their life and consider their needs above my own.
GOSPEL DRIVEN: What is one Internet tool that you would highly recommend to entrepreneurs?
KIRK: I’m still drawing a blank on that. I’m not an Evernote guy, and I’m so old. I’m a pencil-and-pa- per guy.
GOSPEL DRIVEN: Last question. What is one book that you would recommend to Gospel-driven leaders?
KIRK: I’m going to recommend a book that probably nobody else has ever heard of. It wasn’t on the best seller list, but I consider this to be one of the smartest small business marketing books ever written. It’s called, “Jumpstart Your Business Brain.” It’s written by Doug Hall.
GOSPEL DRIVEN: Doug Hall was the idea guy behind so many products at Proctor and Gamble. He was sort of a brabble, who refuse to wear a jacket and tie, and he had a crazy office full of products and inspiration. He was just so full of ideas. He was just brilliant there, but he went on to start something called the Eureka Ranch, which is a place where large companies went. They would pay him fifty thousand dollars. They would bring a team of people in, and it was fifty thousand dollars to sit down with Doug and his team for a day or two, and he would promise them something like 36 viable product or service ideas before they left.
He is an amazing person. “Jumpstart Your Business Brain for Small Businesses” was his give-back, his thankfulness to small businesses. His book walks through practical things that work and don’t work. It breaks down advertising in such simple ways. It’s an unknown, but brilliant book.
By Dorcas Cheng-Tozun | 12-Apr-2017
GOSPEL DRIVEN: What is that, a Hapa son?
DORCAS: It’s just a particular term that’s used for folks that are half-Asian.
GOSPEL DRIVEN: This is literally my first time hearing that. That is awesome. Outside of that, she can usually be caught with a hidden stash of chocolate, and you can find her online at www. chengtozun.com, or on Twitter at @Dorcas_ct.
I have given a comical and brief overview of your bio, but could you please take some time to tell us a little bit about you personally?
DORCAS: I am a native Californian, and I have lived in the San Francisco Bay area for pretty much my whole life, with the exception of about three years that I spent living abroad with my husband in mainland China and Hong Kong. That’s where there was that Expat Asia anthology I was able to contribute to.
I am a native Californian, and I have lived in the San Francisco Bay area for pretty much my whole life, with the exception of about three years that I spent living abroad with my husband in mainland China and Hong Kong. That’s where there was that Expat Asia anthology I was able to contribute to. My husband, Ned, and I, we’ve actually known each other for 17 years. We met as freshmen in college, and we lived in the same dorm. We didn’t start hanging out until we took a multivariable calculus class together and…
GOSPEL DRIVEN: That class will always do it.
DORCAS: So, that, as they say, is nerd history, and we just celebrated our ten-year wedding anniversary this past summer. As you mentioned, we have a ridiculous, cute, sweet, and funny three-year-old son, named Jonas. He looks pretty much exactly like me, but his personality is a carbon copy of his dad’s.
We’re really blessed to live near family and friends in the Bay area. We have an amazing church community here. We also have access to good food, arts and culture, and natural beauty, if you’d ever like to visit. We just try to soak all that up as much as we can.
GOSPEL DRIVEN: Congratulations on your ten-year anniversary. Beforehand, we have talked about a lot of things that you’re doing, from writing, to some new projects that you’re working on, to spending time with your husband, who is a full-time entrepreneur.
Before we get into that, what are you up to these day? What do you spend the majority of your time on with your day-to-day vocation?
DORCAS: I spend about half of my time writing blog posts and articles for publications like, Christianity Today and The Well, and the other half of the time I’m actually working on a book that is specifically about how to survive being married to an entrepreneur. It’s to help equip other men and women who find themselves in a situation similar to mine, which is being married to a very busy and dedicated entrepreneur. I also do some editing projects that I take on.
GOSPEL DRIVEN: As soon as Dorcas’s book comes out, we’re going to be pumping it through Gospel Driven Entrepreneur. I’m excited about that because it is so vital, and that is what we are about, staying rooted and driven by the gospel. For Gospel-Driven Entrepreneurs to do that, they’re going to have a God-honoring and healthy home life, for sure.
The first question that I’m going to ask you is centered around the highs and lows of being the spouse of a passionate entrepreneur. What has been you and your husband’s biggest struggle over the years, as it pertains to being in the entrepreneurial world, where there’s friction and struggle? Where has it been tough? Feel free to be as open or as closed as you want to on that one.
DORCAS: Just let me give a little bit of context in terms of what kind of entrepreneur my husband is, because I think that really matters. Ned has started several businesses since I’ve known him, but his current one is the one that really stuck. He co-founded and is now serving as CEO of a social enterprise called D’light, and they design and sell solar-powered products for families without electricity in the developing world.
There are particular things about his business that have made it especially challenging for us, given that almost everything takes place overseas. That’s actually why we lived in China for three years, because of the company, and I actually worked with him on the company during that time. It’s particularly challenging to sell products in the developing world, to what we call “base of the pyramid” customers, who are amongst the poorest households in the world.
We set ourselves up for a particularly challenging experience with the startup. I don’t think it always has to be that way, although there are certain commonalities between all startups, in terms of how challenging it can be. In terms of the highs and lows and our biggest struggles, I cannot even begin to tell you how many conflicts we have had about work-life balance and the amount of time we spend together.
Anyone who is trying to start a company knows how much time and energy it requires, and, even if it’s a wonderful venture like D’light, that’s that much more time and energy that Ned wasn’t putting into our marriage and our family. In the research for my book, I talked to a Silicon Valley therapist who said that the feeling is like having a spouse who is having an affair. He is so invested in this other entity that’s not me, and sometimes I felt like a third wheel in my own marriage.
Being married to an entrepreneur has affected so many aspects of my life, more than I expected. I left my own career in the non-profit sector to move to China and support Ned’s work. I had to leave my friends and family and my home I had known when we moved to China. We delayed buying a house because of the financial uncertainty. We delayed starting our family because I didn’t want to feel like a single parent. And then, after our son was born, there were certain things, and they remain, that I just can’t do because I have to have a certain amount of flexibility in my schedule. Ned travels so much and works so much.
I’m the one who has to be always available for our son or for anything that happens with family or around the home. It feels sometimes like it limits my own choices, personally and professionally. As you can imagine, over the years, I have struggled with quite a bit of resentment and bitterness over how much Ned’s career has affected me, and I felt guilty about it, because the work he is doing is awesome and valuable, and he loves it, and he’s thriving in it. We both knew that this was what God had called him to do. There was never any question about it.
I felt, who was I to ask him to spend less time on this very noble work? I think, in the end though, so much Ned expected this way of life. But I thought our married life was going to work out a certain way, and it has turned out completely differently. That’s a big reason why I want to write this book.
We know a number of entrepreneurs whose marriages have ended because they and their spouses could never get on the same page about what their life together should look like. One or both of them couldn’t compromise, or wasn’t willing to sacrifice for the sake of the other, and it led them down a very hard and painful path. I don’t think it has to be that way. It doesn’t have to be that dichotomous choice between your business versus your spouse. I think you can follow your passion and prioritize your marriage, but you have to be very intentional and very thoughtful about how to make that happen.
GOSPEL DRIVEN: I want to talk about the need for entrepreneurs to intentionally put their spouses before their ventures, and maybe even vice-versa. How does a spouse of an entrepreneur properly serve, as well as keep in check, as a partner in the Gospel, through their marriage? How does that work? Outside of the 30,000-foot, “Hey, serve your wife. Serve your husband because the Bible says so,” type of thing, what are some practical things that both spouses and entrepreneurs can work towards to fight for that? What suggestions would you have?
DORCAS: I’ve talked to several marriage and family therapists about this topic and a couple of things they said really stick out to me. First is the importance of loyalty, of affirming to your spouse in what you do and what you say, that he/she really is the most important thing to you, more important to you than your business, specifically for entrepreneurs. Second is the importance of allowing your spouse to feel empowered and to feel like they have a voice in the relationship and in other big decisions that are being made. I think both of these elements can play out in the day-to-day and on a bigger scale.
For example, in our marriage, whenever I’m having a hard time, Ned makes it a point to tell me that I am the most important person and thing in the world to him, and even though I, theoretically, already know this to be true, when he is gone half the time and working the other half of the time, I need to be reminded of that, because I’m not necessarily feeling that way. Those kinds of words are just so invaluable.
Loyalty is also demonstrated by saying that I agree with your work and keeping those commitments, keeping those boundaries that you’ve set. I cannot stress how important it is to actually make time and space for one another as spouses, and to treat that time and space as sacred. Really, nothing should be coming up against that and challenging that. If you say you’re not going to work on the weekends, then please don’t sneak off to check your email when you think your spouse isn’t looking, because chances are he/she will know exactly what you’re doing and will remember that you did that. Or if you say that you’re going to be home for dinner, come home for dinner, or make sure to give plenty of notice if you’re going to be late.
We make the time, and we honor it. We have to really be present to each other. Give your spouse your full attention.
They know when you’re not there, when your mind is thinking about work, or thinking about something else. It’s just very easy to notice that, and it will take away from how meaningful that time feels if you’re not fully present to your spouse. I know it can feel very hard for entrepreneurs, in particular. They feel like they can’t set aside this time because they’re so busy. There’s always so much to be done, but really it doesn’t have to be that much time.
There’s a marriage researcher called John Gottman, who says that couples just need five hours a week, of very intentional, well-timed time. They need five hours a week that he calls the Magic Five Hours, to stay connected with one another. That’s broken up into little chunks of checking in here and there, a few concentrated hours here and there, when you’re making sure how the other person is doing. You’re talking about what your challenges and your hopes are, and those are things that are all going to help you build and maintain your relationship. When you make this kind of time, that’s when the message you convey to your spouse is, “I choose you.” I’m willing to set aside my work to be with you because I love you and I value you and I value our time together.
The other thing I mentioned was empowerment. I think that if your spouse has serious reservations about you going ahead and starting a business, you need to listen to those concerns and actively try to adjust them. If your spouse says, “Don’t do it. Don’t start this business,” you can have the conversation and see if you can convince them, see if there are things that you can work through. But, if your spouse doesn’t budge, I think you really need to respect that.
I know some entrepreneurs who have just gone full-steam ahead, regardless of what their spouse said, and that did not go well at all for their relationship, and for the business too, because, without the support of their family, it’s a very different ball game. The reality of being an entrepreneur and doing a startup, is that it affects the marriage and the family so much that it just doesn’t work well if your spouse is not on board.
And the degree of harm that that could do to your relationship is quite significant. There’s one entrepreneur that I spoke with, and he is your typical serial entrepreneur. He said that he counted that he had been involved in more than 40 ventures in his life, and he loves it. This is who he is. This is what he does. But he said that if his wife ever asked him to walk away from this kind of life, he would do it, and his thinking is… “Really, what is the very worst-case scenario? I have to get a job. It’s really not bad. My marriage and my family are so much more important than that.”
When I raise a red flag with Ned, and I say, “This is not working for me. I feel totally overwhelmed. I feel really disconnected from you,” he takes time to sit down with me and figure it out together—what needs to change, what can we do differently. Maybe we need more date nights, maybe he needs to communicate more about what’s going on. Maybe we need to pay for more childcare, and those are all options that we put on the table. Then we see how can we do things differently so that this works for both of us and not just one. Whatever the solution is that we come up with, it makes all the difference to know that my voice matters, that he is listening, and that he is willing to make changes to honor what I need.
GOSPEL DRIVEN: Talking about how you intentionally move and serve one another, over the years, as you and your husband have been going on this journey together, what was one of your greatest joys in this journey together, as it pertains to entrepreneurship? Can you recall any type of conversation, or any time that you were feeling that you really needed some things to change, and he stepped up and served you? What has been maybe a moment like that, or just a joy in general, about your life of having an entrepreneurial venture?
DORCAS: I think the day-to-day can feel very challenging. It’s really more joyful when we step back and look at the big picture and our entire journey over the last ten years of our marriage, and this business, which is about as old as our marriage, has very much defined our relationship. That’s when I really see the joy and what good we have gotten out of all the hardships that we’ve been through.
We have both grown so much as individuals and as a couple. I love predictability and stability, so I would not necessarily have chosen the entrepreneurial life, but being with somebody like Ned has pushed me hard, in good ways. I’ve learned how to be flexible, to be more open to change and hospitality, to be less scared of taking a risk. For Ned, I think my role is to help ground him. He sometimes is tempted to base his whole identity and sense of self-worth in his work. I remind him that he has value outside of his work, that I don’t care whether or not he is successful as a businessman. I love him for who he is. He needs to continue to remain rooted in our marriage and family, but also in other relationships.
I was asking him the other day, what he feels like he has gotten out of being married to me, and one of the things he said is that he feels like, if I wasn’t in on the picture here, he would probably have no friends.
He would not have prioritized relationships, because he just would have been so busy working all the time. We challenge each other in good and necessary ways, to become more grounded and more balanced people. In terms of our marriage, there is an incredible depth and a level of trust that we have in one another because we’ve been through so much together. We’ve seen the best in each other, but we’ve also seen the very worst, and yet we have still been able to extend that love and grace to one another and keep reaffirming our commitment to one another. So, now, I’m totally confident that Ned always has my back, no matter what happens, and I think he feels the same about me.
I think also another huge thing for us has been seeing, firsthand, the faithfulness of God in all this. D’light, from the beginning, it was always a venture of faith and pursuing a social enterprise serving these families who only make a few dollars a day, getting products out to the most remote areas of the world, living in China, starting a family. Even when things with the company haven’t really settled down yet, each of these steps has required us to step into areas far outside what is comfortable for us, what we felt like we could control.
As a result, God has been so faithful to us. We’ve seen miracles that have saved the company and our marriage. We’ve experienced divine protection, God’s perfect timing, and all of that. Even though it’s been an extremely challenging and costly experience for us to pursue something like D’light, God has clearly been with us every step of the way, and so our faith today is so much more mature and resilient than what it was before.
GOSPEL DRIVEN: How does the Gospel itself drive the work that you do, whether that is in this marriage, in your relationship, all the way to your pursuit of being a writer? What is it about the Gospel that motivates your life in general?
DORCAS: Ned and I are both people who are very much motivated by service, by a sense of calling, mission, and wanting to contribute to God’s Kingdom in the world. Specifically, for this book project that I’m working on, and this topic that I’m really passionate about. I’m not an entrepreneur myself, but I have deep respect for those who feel called to create and innovate. I think that God delights in our willingness to apply our ideas and effort toward trying to serve others and improve their lives in new and creative ways.
I don’t think that entrepreneurship has to sacrifice a rich marriage or family life. God made us as both creatures of vocation and creatures of relationship, and I think we need both to fully experience the abundance that he wants to give us. Yet it’s not necessarily easy to find that balance between the two. It takes faith and courage to put the effort into trying to make that happen.
Honestly, I don’t think we’re doing a very good job of that. I’ll just speak from my example living in Silicon Valley. You talk to folks here, and everybody knows stories of couples that have divorced, or children who don’t have good relationships with their parents because work has taken precedence over the family. This is true for entrepreneurs, for people who work in hi-tech, people who are very hard working. There are a lot of them here and there’s a real cost to that.
I mourn the loss of those relationships and those families. I think the work that people are doing is incredible, but that’s not worth more than the people that we love and the world that we’re trying to serve and make better altogether. I want to talk about this issue because I want entrepreneurs and their families to live in a way that honors and values the people around them, even as they pursue their professional dreams. I want us to remember how to love one another while we are changing the world at the same time.
GOSPEL DRIVEN: I have rapid-fire questions for you. What is one quote or verse that inspires you? How does this quote or verse drive your work?
DORCAS: One of my favorite verses is Micah 6:8, “And what does the Lord require of you but to act justly and to love mercy, and to walk humbly with your God?” For me, that is the Gospel, the 9th verse.
“Act justly, love mercy, walk humbly with your God.” And so how this has manifested in my life and the lives of others? It can look completely different, because our God is a creative God, and He allows us to apply our gifts and passions in different ways. But I find this verse to be sort of my north star for my personal and professional life. If what I’m doing, no matter if it’s taking care of my son, or writing, or supporting Ned’s business, if it’s just, merciful, and it encourages me to walk humbly with God, I can feel pretty confident that I think I’m on the right track.
GOSPEL DRIVEN: What is one tool that you would highly suggest for entrepreneurs, leaders, or others trying to move their ideas forward?
DORCAS: I’m a sociologist. I’m not going to recommend something very high-tech. I’m actually very old-fashioned and very people-oriented, which is why I would recommend surrounding yourself with as many people as possible, who can give you great feedback and advice. You have to be willing to ask for it with those people. It can be very scary, but, as a writer, I have learned that it’s invaluable to ask for and accept other’s feedback. It’s the best way for me to grow, learn, and become better at what I want to do, and I think that’s the same for entrepreneurs.
I recently heard something from Jessica Jackley, who is the co-founder of Kiva, the micro-lending platform. She talked about how she got her start. She just went on the Internet and found a bunch of organizations that she was really interested in. She started calling up the CEOs and executive directors and asking for fifteen minutes of their time. It was amazing to her how many people said yes, because pretty much everyone can give you fifteen minutes, even if they have no idea who you are, or if you’re brand new to the field.
And Ned has had the same experience as well. People actually like being asked for advice. Don’t be afraid to shoot high when you make the ask. You can only be pleasantly surprised. The nice thing is that, once people have met you and they get a sense of your passion and your interest, there’s a really good chance that they’re going to want to keep supporting you and the work that you want to do. I think in the big scheme of things, it’s the people that you have in your corner who are going to be the most valuable resource for you as you try to move ahead with whatever vision that you want to pursue.
GOSPEL DRIVEN: What is one book that you would recommend to Gospel-driven leaders and entrepreneurs?
DORCAS: Sometimes, we are so busy as entrepreneurs and leaders that we may forget to invest in our own personal growth. What I found is that the entrepreneurial life is so stressful that it actually will bring out all of your neuroses, weaknesses, and unaddressed issues to the forefront. They’re going to be there in front of you, whether you like it or not. It is better to get ahead of that, try to have more awareness, and work through that. I really recommend that all entrepreneurs get acquainted with their own personality type.
I think the most profound and effective personality typology out there is the Enneagram. It is based on nine personality types, but it also leaves room for a lot of complexities and idiosyncrasies that we all have. My favorite book on the Enneagram is by the Franciscan priest, Richard Rohr, and Andreas Ebert, called, “The Enneagram: A Christian Perspective.” It very succinctly breaks down the struggles that each type faces, and the strengths of each type. But what I love about the Enneagram is that it offers a clear path forward for healing, for growth, and for redemption. It’s really only when we acknowledge our weaknesses that we can, in faith and hope, help people to work through them and beyond them. Understanding our challenges and needs, the Enneagram has been essential for my own marriage. It’s helped Ned and me to understand one another really well, and it’s allowed each of us to flourish more in our professional vocations. It’s helped us to stay humble and grounded, and it certainly has reminded us how much we need God and one another in our day-to-day lives.
By Joe Garcia | 12-Apr-2017
Have you discovered what your business is best at? The niche in the marketplace that you perfectly serve or the problem that you solve?
We've learned a lot as a company over the last five years. We've discovered what we are best at and what we have no business as a business doing. We've tried some ideas, some worked and others didn't. The ones that didn't went in the trashcan quickly. We've chased "rabbit trails" based on something we saw someone else doing and assumed that we should do it too. We sold services and then went and figured out how to make them happen. We played in areas of our industry that we knew very little about.
These were all learning opportunities. Some more expensive than others but those learning opportunities were pavers on the pathway of discovering what we want to be known for in the marketplace. Quick note, we haven't arrived yet. We are still on the journey.
Here are 3 Ideas To Help Keep Your Business Out of The Business of Doing Everything
1. Put the blinders on. In other words, do what you are currently doing with excellence and build loyal customers before trying or introducing a new product or service. Your customers / clients will be a lot more receptive to change and you working out the "kinks" of your new product or service if they are already being well taken care of by your company.
2. Get counsel from trusted clients. The "surprise here it is" method is not my favorite. Instead, invite a few trusted clients to help you vet your genius plan. I love asking "if we offered this new service and this is how it worked, here is the value to you and it costs this much would that be something you would consider working with us on?" Their initial reaction can give you a lot of great feedback.
3. Prune up. Do you have products or services that you really need to jettison? Do you need to get better before you get bigger? Are you having mediocre success and offering way too many things for the size of your team and company? Perhaps it is time to prune up.
I've learned that It is better to be known in the marketplace for something specific as opposed to being a generalist that is trying to be all things to all people. It is scary the first time you say no to something that looks like business but is ultimately a distraction.
I encourage you to keep your business out of the business of doing everything.
By Jeremie Kubicek | 10-Apr-2017
GOSPEL DRIVEN: Tell us a little bit about yourself, personally.
JEREMIE: I should probably speak in my more posh accent. I live just outside of London, and that’s where I’m calling from today. We live right by the River Thames, overlooking some famous old Downton Abbey-type grounds. It’s really quaint and pretty over here. My wife and I are from Oklahoma, originally. We’ve lived in Atlanta. I have three teenagers, 16, 12, and 12—well, almost teenagers. We’re having a blast over here, expanding what we do globally.That’s why we moved to London—because of the global nature of the city.
GOSPEL DRIVEN: Tell us a little bit about yourself, personally.
JEREMIE: I should probably speak in my more posh accent. I live just outside of London, and that’s where
I’m calling from today. We live right by the River Thames, overlooking some famous old Downton Abbey-type grounds. It’s really quaint and pretty over here.
My wife and I are from Oklahoma, originally. We’ve lived in Atlanta. I have three teenagers, 16, 12, and 12—well, almost teenagers. We’re having a blast over here, expanding what we do globally.That’s why we moved to London—because of the global nature of the city.
GOSPEL DRIVEN: Tell us a bit about the GiANT companies as a whole. What was it years ago, that started marinating in your heart and in your mind about GiANT? How did this whole idea come about? Tell us a little more about what you guys do and what you’re trying to accomplish within culture today.
JEREMIE: With the name GiANT, a lot of people think, “Uh, okay. That’s kind of a cool name and big and braggadocios, maybe.” But what it really stands for is, “David Nutgrass and David Noetzel.” The whole idea was that you can do big things in a humble way. In our brand, it’s big G, little i, and then capital A, N, T. That has really given us the opportunity to serve leaders andhelp them grow their businesses, but in a humble way, or more as David-type men, who are after God’s own heart.
We started the company in 2002, so it’s been about 12 years. My founding partner, Matthew Myers, was in Oklahoma City. We were looking at people like Richard Branson, who is building Virgin, and similar examples. Virgin Air, Virgin Cola, Virgin Media, and more. We wanted to create a brand that was big but had humility at the core. What if it had the purpose of serving people, helping them to understand who they are,helping them grow healthy organizations, and helping them become healthy leaders?
That’s what GiANT is. We have GiANT Partners, who handle consulting, and GiANT Capital, which has venture capital works, and GiANT Impact, which is our events brand in Atlanta. GiANT Worldwide is where I’m working, currently. I’ve built the latest and the newest instance. I start them. I get them up and running, and then turn them over to people, who are better than I am, to run the program for the long-term.
A man named Steve Cockram, who is British, founded GiANT Worldwide with me. He is awesome, and we’ve got about sixyt-five associates around the world now. We’re doing work in Moldova, Romania. We’re just starting to work in the Middle East. We have offices focused on Africa, Europe, and the UK, and then we have a lot of activity in America.
The purpose of what we’re doing is basically apprenticeship. The whole idea is to develop a system where 90% of the employees in an organization are affected by leader development. We create visual tools, because most adults are know-it-alls, have ABB, and are cynical. We create visuals that are easy to pass on, and it’s like creating a language.
We create a leadership language inside the company, conduct small groups, and teach people to virally apprentice other people in order to spread the leadership language throughout the entire organization. It’s about changing behavior, because people are now using the language.. They know what the terms mean, and it’s really, really fun. That’s a part of what we’re doing right now.
GOSPEL DRIVEN: That is amazing. Very, very exciting. I’ve had a chance to check out and be a part of some of your events, like Catalyst, and I just love what you guys are accomplishing and the far-reaching effects that you guys are having. Kudos to you and your team for staying faithful, man.
Here at Gospel Driven Entrepreneur, we tend to focus on a few key concepts in the journey of entrepreneurship. Over the course of the last twelve years of navigating this organization, and starting a lot of internal arms of the organization, what would you say has been one of your biggest failures? With that, what did you learn from that failure and how did you bounce back from it? How does that, in the long-term, end up helping your organization?
JEREMIE: The most obvious example has happened in the last three years, as I was running Catalyst and LeaderCast, specifically through our GiANT Impact team there in Atlanta. We have a matrix we use that’s called the, “support challenge matrix,” and it give language to leadership. I have to quickly explain it quick to be able to tell you my weakness. There are basically four quadrants. There’s high support and there’s low support, and there’s high challenge, and there’s low challenge.
We call each quadrant by a different name. A Liberator is someone who brings high support and high challenge at the same time. We also call the person “Jesus Liberator” because He is a liberating leader. He is the ultimate liberator.
The other quadrant is a Dominator. It brings high challenge and low support. Then you have others that mainly have a lot of people in a small space, specifically bringing high support but low challenge. Then the last one, and the worst one, is low support/low challenge. The Abdicator.
You have Abdicators, Protectors, Dominators and Liberators. What happened was that I realized that I was a Protector by nature. My failure is that I had a hard time sharing my expectations with people. I would hint.
If you worked for me, PJ, I’d go, “Hey PJ, how are we doing with the event next week? Is everything going well?” I’m trying to get information from you. I’m hinting. You’d go, “Yeah, I mean it’s good.” So, I get a report, but it’s not exactly what I want. So, I come back with another hint, “Hey PJ, Melissa said that you (insert task). Can you give me that?”
Then, three days later, again, it doesn’t happen. Then I realized I was moving from a Protector—not sharing my expectations or challenge early on— and I would slide under stress and become a dominator. I’d go straight down to that. “Okay, PJ. Well, if you can’t do it, I’m going to have to do it myself, or I’ll get someone else who can do it.”
I realized that, in leadership, that I’m a Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde. I’d go back and forth in this leadership spectrum, whereas Jesus was a liberator. He brought support, and he brought challenge consistently. He wasn’t afraid of bringing challenge. A lot of people see Jesus as a lamb. He is so nice. Just turn the other cheek. But he is also a lion. He is a lamb and lion at the same time. He is a liberator. He fights and he serves.
The picture that I use from that, which influences a lot of what we’re doing now, actually came out of my failure, and other’s failures. We are realizing, “God, this is who I am. I keep doing this to people.” I saw this picture of a GI, and it was in World War II. He had a Jewish concentration camp victim in one hand, and he’s got a gun on the other hand. He is holding this guy, but he is firing the weapon at the SS guard. I thought, that’s it. That’s the picture of what leaders are to be. They’re firing and shooting, and they’re protecting and serving.
It’s a combination of support and challenge. I’ve now become focused on learning how to share my expectations. “PJ, we said that by next Thursday, you’re going to have this. Specifically, did you do XYZ?” Then I can deal with it, versus blowing up later and shifting.
GOSPEL DRIVEN: That is so good, and so very practical. I know that was a valuable lesson for you, and I see a lot of that in myself, navigating between the liberator and the dominator. Bouncing back from your failure and looking at one of your biggest successes in the journey of your entrepreneurship, what would you say has been one of your biggest successes for GiANT, or even just for you? What have you learned from that success?
JEREMIE: I think my biggest successes come simply through relationship and connectivity. We’ve had a lot of successes. We’ve had a lot of partnerships. We still have a lot of interactions, and I think the sheer nature of being authentic, being real with people, connecting with them, and having people know that it’s relationship before opportunity, lets walls fall down. For instance, today I was meeting with a very large five-star hotel chain over here in London, about a partnership with them on a leadership space. We thought about all the things we would want if we were them.
At the very end, they said, “So you mean, that’s it? You’ve thought out five things for us and only two for you.” We said, “Yeah, if I were you, this is what I would want.” I think people weren’t expecting that, and so what happens is favor. We get favor, and people want to be around this, so they invite us in.
When I go to places, I don’t stay in hotels. I stay in our client’s homes. Everywhere we go, all of our associates stay with our clients. We stay in the homes of executives of the different companies, and we get to know their spouses and their kids. We get to serve them, and it becomes relationally driven.
If anything, people would know that we really love them. Our definition of love is to fight for the highest possible good for another person—so people know that we’re fighting for the highest possible good all the time.
GOSPEL DRIVEN: Let’s bring it to a personal faith level for you. With any entrepreneur or leader, especially one who is working on a venture over the course of many years, there has to be an underlying sustainability factor there. It’s one that comes from you personally, that breathes life into you, that you get energized from. For believers, I believe that really at the core of that is our understanding of the Gospel and how that drives all work.
How does the Gospel itself drive your work? What is it about the Gospel that inspires you to do what you do?
JEREMIE: Well, when I think of the Gospel, it’s two words I’ve heard, justice and mercy. The Cross is the only time that those two things really meet, where there’s total justice in God’s plan for a need for redemption, if you will, and for the debt to be paid, and mercy at the same time.
In our job, what we do is we spend our time with really successful people. Right now, I’ve got an executive here. We have a retreat center that we live in. It’s a 10-bedroom house where Steve and another associate are doing a leader intensive with the guy. This guy’s very successful, yet he’s going to have an opportunity to see what it looks like to be on the other side of him. He is going to experience justice and mercy today. He is going to experience challenge and have to deal with it, and also the mercy to know that we are fighting for as high a good as possible.
We’ve tried to take the Gospel and say, okay, it’s not theory and it’s not a Bible story. It’s an everyday reality. What does the Gospel mean? It means that there’s justice and mercy and they come together in the form of Jesus. The Gospel is Jesus. It’s just him. He is the Gospel. What takes place then is, “Okay, Jesus, if I want to be your man, if I want to live like I want to follow you, what does it look like? It looks like I am bringing your justice and mercy, or in our words, your support and your challenge to people at the same level—but it’s to fight for the highest possible good. Ultimately, it is bathed in love.”
Jesus is the Gospel and love, and the Gospel is the ultimate form of love. The idea is—okay, Lord, I want to love you with all my heart, soul, mind and strength today. This sounds so simple to try, but literally, if all of believers could wake up every day for the next 30 days and say, “Today, Lord, please help me to love you with all my heart, soul, mind, and strength. Let me love my neighbor as I love myself,” then that’s a form of the Gospel. That’s basically bringing a Gospel, because we’re bringing love into our world, which affects all the people around us. What would happen over 30 days if that became a habit?
My point, in my long answer to your question, is that we just see Jesus as the Gospel and then we try to show that to people, through extreme challenge and extreme support, so that they can deal with justice and mercy. Maybe, just maybe, they’ll have an encounter as they look in the mirror and go, “Wow, I don’t like this about myself. I’ve been hiding it. I’m ready to deal with it. Can you help me?”
JEREMIE: This one is perverse, so it doesn’t seem inspiring, but it is to me. Mark 4:19 says, “But the cares of the world, the delight and riches, desire for other things, enter in and choke a man, and prove him unfruitful.” I always tell people in their twenties and thirties to guard their hearts, because by the time you get to in your forties, and you start having some successes, there are the cares of the world. You’ve got three kids. All the things they have are the delight and riches and the management of riches. It’s the desire for other things, whether it’s trips, travel, wine, vacation, whatever is in your TV shows. All of the reality shows, all those things enter in, and you wake up one day and think, “Oh, this is not whom I thought I would become. I missed the Lord,” and it proves a man unfruitful because he’s been choked.
The inspiration for me is to say, okay, help keep me from the cares of the world that would choke me out. Keep me from the delights and riches. Keep me from the desire for other things, whether it’s college football, or travel, or whatever would keep me hindered or choked. Quite frankly, our world is choked.
GOSPEL DRIVEN: What is one tool that you would highly recommend to entrepreneurs, leaders, and others who are trying to move their ideas forward?
JEREMIE: It’s so funny, I use Evernote. I do use Evernote as my place for idea generation, and I link it to certain people. It’s such an easy way to go back and forth, and it’s probably too long to explain. I have this little process called “axis and hose,” and it’s my own process.
Then we have some of our own tools. I’m going to name Evernote in this discussion, but I’m going to say it’s our tools that are actually the best. We have a tool that’s based on priority.
We have a tool for understanding company makeup and looking at it on a weekly basis. We’ve got a tool to help understand whether someone is in balance. So, these are our own GiANT tools.
These tools are on the GiANT Worldwide website, and we give a lot of them away. We just share them a lot. There are a lot of really practical tools, but they’re not in the form of an app. They’re in the form of a concept or a visual, and they’re sticky, and they work.
GiantWorldwide.com has it.
GOSPEL DRIVEN: What is one book that you would recommend to gospel-driven leaders and entrepreneurs?
JEREMIE: There’s one I’ve read seven or eight times now, and I’m reading it again. It’s “Absolute Surrender,” by Andrew Murray. He first wrote, “Humility,” and that was awesome too.
“Absolute Surrender” rocks my world again and again. There’s “Heroic Leadership,” and it’s the history of the Jesuit movement, which help explain the current pope. It’s powerful, and it’s a good resource.
We do a lot of what you’ve talked about, so those are just a few. And that’s not a listing of the books that I’ve written or am writing. These are things that I’m passionate about, and I think “Absolute Surrender” would be a great resource for anybody.
By Dr. Ike Reighard | 10-Apr-2017
GOSPEL DRIVEN: Tell us a little bit about yourself, personally.
IKE: I’ve been blessed to be a pastor for nearly 40 years of my life. I started out as a student pastor and janitor at a Church in in inner-city Atlanta, then had the opportunity to become a senior pastor when our senior pastor left to go into evangelism. That left only myself, a part-time secretary, and a part-time minister of music. The minister of the music loved leading music. The secretary did not fill in to preach. And so, they turned to me and said, “Can you fill-in for a little while?” I ended up filling-in for that church for the next 20 years.
I loved being a student pastor and, for a big portion of my life, that’s really the particular craft that I focused on. When it came to speaking, I was in student conferences and student Evangelism conferences. I did those for some good many years. Now, the hair’s a little too white to be super popular as a youth speaker, and culture has certainly shifted in so many different ways. But I do still get to be that senior pastor, and I still look at church as one extended youth retreat. I’m enjoying them.
GOSPEL DRIVEN: You’re really leading two large organizations right now. You’re leading Piedmont Church, as senior lead pastor there. You’re also leading a non-profit out of the Atlanta area, called MUST Ministries. Tell us a bit about your role in both of those ventures. How do you manage two organizations like that?
IKE: There’s an easy way to do that, believe it or not—and that is, you surround yourself with really great people. I don’t trivialize that point. I learned a long time ago that no matter how good you might be at the things that you do, you’re only going to have a limited amount of time. You’re going to certainly have a limited amount of energy to be able to get things done. Your success is going to rise or fall based on the people you are closest to.
If I have a strength, my strength is I really do love people, and I love what I get to do each and every day. It doesn’t mean there are no difficult moments, or moments where you’re stressed out, but the bottom-line is, I love being a pastor. I love being a local church pastor. I do not have any type of identity crisis in my life. For some people, they feel like it’s too narrow a band, but for me, being a local church pastor was the greatest calling I felt I could experience in my life.
At the same time, I was very impressed by a lot of the things that Jesus was doing outside the church. You can almost call it being outside of the boat. At times, I saw that there were things that were going on where it seemed like God was more active in the marketplace than He was even within the walls of the church.
A MUST Ministry gives me that kind of an opportunity, because MUST Ministries is not a church. It’s a 501(c)(3) organization. It’s humanitarian in nature, and we have a homeless shelter in Cobb County where we’re located, such as 8 different counties. In particular, in Cobb and Cherokee, we are the only walk-up homeless shelter. We have a repurposed church there: upstairs men’s dormitory, and downstairs women’s dormitory. We take care of men, women, and children in that place, with 65 people in each site and 98% occupancy year-round.
We also have permanent support housing. That’s where our military veterans end up, the permanent supported housing. We do a lot of work with veterans. On any given night, we have about 170 people that are under a roof with us in different locations.
We have a feeding program, so every single working day, we give away one ton of food per day. We’ll go to folks that are needy. We’re not a grocery store. People can come to us four times a year, and they get X-X-number of pounds per person within the home. The thing that makes it vary, as far as the number of pounds, whether it’s 7 pounds, 8 pounds, 10 or 14, simply depends on how much supply we have. Lately, we’ve been running closer to 8 or 9 pounds per person. Along with that, we have a kitchen called Loaves and Fishes, so that’s a pretty good idea if you’re going to feed a lot of people. That’s a pretty good name, right?
GOSPEL DRIVEN: There you go.
IKE: Out of that little kitchen last year, we get in 80,000 hot meals. When you talk with someone in the restaurant business about 80,000 meals, they’ll tell you that’s a very significant restaurant. It’s more than what most of the restaurants would serve. Here’s the part I just love—we did that with volunteers. We’ve only got a couple of people on staff, who are actually there to organize everything. Otherwise, everything that we do is done by volunteers, and there are about 8,000 volunteers in our network at MUST ministries.
Amazing things happen. Last week, there was a group of people who were hoping that North Point Ministries was going to set up a church out of the East Cobb area. There’s a group of them that are already meeting, and, as part of the Be Rich Campaign, they came over and rebuilt an area for us last week. I can’t tell you how much I think we could really get done in this world if more churches thought like North Point, because they are tremendously supportive of what MUST does. They see that as an outlet for their people to build ministry, and it’s been quite amazing to see what has taken place.
We take care of people as far as their housing needs, and we take care of the food, partially through a summer feeding program. Last year, we did 254,906 summer watches for children, and we were very thankful for that.
We help clothe people. Every day, we open our clothing store. It’s a thrift store, because we don’t want to create a charity situation for our clients; we want to create a parity situation. Our folks get to come in and shop right along with everyone else that is thrifting that day. I’ve lived long enough now that we have words like, “Googling” and, “thrifting”.
GOSPEL DRIVEN: Yeah, exactly.
IKE: The remarkable part is I know what they mean.
GOSPEL DRIVEN: Yeah, I know, right?
IKE: I’m hip, maybe. I’m right there.
So, we do clothing, but we didn’t even realize that it was entrepreneurial in a way. The thrift store was entrepreneurial, by the way. MUST has always given everything away. But I read a book by Bob Lofton. In that book, he really challenged us to think about the way that you’re making people’s self-esteem either grow or be diminished, so we set out to figure out a better way to be able to do it.
Here’s the part that most people do not know about MUST, which I just love. Last year, for instance, there were 679 people who got jobs through MUST ministries. Here’s the part that’s staggering to me— 679 people were made whole again when it comes to the opportunity to provide for their family. That wholeness, when you put pencil to paper, represented $10.3 million put back into the economy.
If you take what we spend on that program and you extrapolate it, it was a 4,000% return on investment. All donors want to know, “Am I getting a return on my investment? Is this really making a difference?” So, that’s what we do. We’re going to be feeding people. We’re going to be clothing people. We house them, and we help them to get jobs. This organization is 44 years old this year.
GOSPEL DRIVEN: You’ve been leading churches, recently with MUST ministries. You’ve been doing this whole leadership entrepreneurial thing for decades now. Here at Gospel Driven Entrepreneur, we like to dive into the personal stories of what you have learned throughout the years, so we tend to focus on past failures and successes. Is there a story about failure, either with you moving on to planting churches or making that entrepreneurial shift within MUST ministries?—What would you say has been one of your biggest failures over the past few years, as it pertains to entrepreneurship and leading? How did you bounce back from that failure? What did you learn from that? Is there a story that hits home?
IKE: I have epic proportions of that. Anyone who’s ever planted a church knows everything that goes into it. You’re pouring your heart and your soul into this kind of opportunity. When we were starting NorthStar Church, for years we met in a school, like most church startups do. We so looked forward to that day when we were finally going to have our own land. We were really dreaming big, so we acquired 40 acres of land. I can still remember when I went in to talk to one absolutely terrific Christian business leader in the community.
I was asking around and saying, “Whom do I need to see?” Someone said, “You need to see this particular man because he really knows about land. He’s a tremendous Christian leader, and he’ll give you great advice.” I sat down in his office to talk to him, and he said, “Ike, how much land are you looking for?” I said, “Well, we’re looking for 40 acres.”
He said, “My goodness! How big is your church?” I said, “Well, we haven’t started it yet.” He looked at me, and I’ll never forget it. He said, “Well, they’ll never fault you for having vision.” So, we set up to get those 40 acres of land, and we acquired it. Then, there finally came the day to build the first building. Again, just about every church starter has gone through all of the highs and lows.
It is such a high day when you finally have land, and when you’re finally going to build your first building. They poured the footings for the building that first day, and I was so excited. Then I got a telephone call. Now, you’ve got to remember, this is 40 acres of land. This is our very first building. I get a call a couple of days later and the conversation starts out like this: “Pastor, are you sitting down?” That’s never a good start for a conversation. I very quickly sat down and said, “Okay, tell me what’s going on.” And they said, “Well, we don’t know how this happened, but somehow, when we poured the footings for the church, we didn’t pour it on our property.” I said, “Wait a minute. We have 40 acres of land. This is our first building, and we did not manage to put it on our property?” That’s what had happened.
The upside of the story is, I picked up the phone and called the gentleman that we had bought the land from. There was an additional eight acres where he was going to put some office condominiums. I called him and said, “I’ve got good news and bad news.” He said, “Okay.” I said, “The good news is, you are not going to have to build office condominiums.” And he said, “Then, what’s the bad news?”
I said, “We’re going to have to buy the land.” I explained to him what we had managed to do. We ended up having to buy an additional eight acres of land. Now, as NorthStar Church, nearly 20 years later, are you glad you have that land? The answer would be a resounding ”Absolutely.” It is where the church office building is located, and a lot of their parking. But, boy, at the time, can you imagine going back in, looking at your elder team and going, “Guys, I know we bought 40 acres. That’s a lot of land. But we managed to actually put the building on some land that we didn’t own.”
So, that’s an epic fail. That extra eight acres of land was about $80,000 an acre. So, we’re talking a $640,000 epic fail. You just feel so bad, because, at that point, we were land rich and cash poor because we had paid for all the land. It threw us a major curve ball in what we were doing. But, everybody pulled together, because you had the builders saying, “Well, it’s the surveyors,” and the surveyors are saying, “Well, no, it’s the builders.”
You had all of that going back and forth there, and we had to make a decision in the midst of it. Are we going to sit there and try to blame one or the other, or are we going to just say, “You know what, God is sovereign this and maybe He sees something that we don’t. Maybe we’re going to need that extra eight acres.” Like I said, you’ve got a NorthStar Church now. That very first building is on the property it shouldn’t have been built on, and the office building. It all worked out, but boy, at the time... rebounding from that was tough, just because of the extra financial pressure that it placed on us.
GOSPEL DRIVEN: Definitely. I would agree with you on that epic fail for sure, but my God!
IKE: Thank you, PJ. I think we actually won an award for that, and if we didn’t, I’ll just make it up and put it in my bio like all that other stuff we shared. Nobody ever researches that stuff. So, it will look really good on a bio.
GOSPEL DRIVEN: There you go. I’m sure you’ve learned some crazy valuable lessons through that. Let’s move to the other end of the spectrum. Let’s talk about a certain sense of success that you’ve seen over the last few decades. Is there a moment or a story like that, which you could kind of expound on, and then tell us what you’ve learned from that success?
IKE: I’m living it right now. You know, I’m very fond of the maxim that says, “The day that your memories are greater than your dreams, you’re dead in the water.” I’m a guy that looks through the windshield a lot more than the rear-view mirror. You could probably ask me in five years what my greatest success was, and I hope I’m going to tell you that I’m in the middle of it right now, because I’ve truly been trying to live in the moment.
About eight years ago, I received a call from one of my former staff members at a church called Piedmont Baptist Church. The staff member was telling me that the church had hit upon some very difficult times. He said, “We’re probably about six months to a year from closing our doors, and we’re wondering if you guys there at NorthStar could try to help us turn it around.”
Quite honestly, I had never done a revitalization. In my first church at New Hope Baptist Church, down in Fayetteville Georgia, it was a little country church that suddenly grew like crazy, along with the community. That wasn’t a revitalization area effort. That was just strictly the community changing, and we changed with it. We were reflective of the community and became a very fast-growing church, then a megachurch. NorthStar was the church plant that you’re going out to launch.
In between those two, one year, I was at First Baptist Atlanta, and I was the guy—you will love this term—who was going to replace Andy Stanley. You show me anyone that could replace Andy Stanley, and I’ll show you somebody. It is absolutely remarkable. I was there for a year and then went on to NorthStar. NorthStar was successful from the moment that we started it. God sovereignly had His hand in the situation. From the first day, we started with 365 people, and we never dropped below that number. It was just great.
Then I’m getting this call about Piedmont. I’ve never done any church revitalization, but I said, “Yeah, I’ll come over and preach for you guys,” because we did a team preaching format there at NorthStar. I went over one Sunday, and my first thought when I saw these buildings was, “Wow, somebody invested a lot of money in this church.” I’m thinking, how in the world can they be six months to a year from closing their doors?
When I walked in the building, it was a hot, early September day. When I pulled the doors open, there was that rush of air that comes back over you. When it did, there was an odor that was in the air, and for me, it was the odor of death. It was the odor of decay. It was the odor of just being old and poorly maintained. I walked into the building and kept waiting for the crowd to come, but there wasn’t a crowd. This is a building where, the way it was configured, it seated about 1,600 people at the time, and there were less than 200 people in the auditorium. It is hard to get good room dynamics with that kind of situation. After the service was over, I was talking to that former staff member of mine and I said, “Roger, I have to ask you, and I don’t want to be rude, but what is that odor?”
He kind of understood. He said, “I am embarrassed. The roof leaks in seven major places.” This roof was about 35 or 40 feet tall. He said, “The roof leaks in all of these different places. Ike, we put out these buckets, seven buckets. These buckets catch the rainwater, but the rainwater falling from 35 or 40 feet to the floor below is going to splatter in a bucket. The solution was, we’d put out these buckets. Some of them were on pews because the leak was directly over a pew. We’d fill up the buckets, and when the rain stopped, we’d bring in these big blowers, and we would dry the carpet. And that residual odor is the mildew smell that’s in the air.”
I remember a profound sense of sadness that really hit me. You know my fix-it hat came on, of course. “Well, why don’t you put a new roof on the building?” The obvious answer was, “Because we can’t afford it.”
So, that started my journey with Piedmont Church, never dreaming that I would end up going there as the senior pastor because we had NorthStar in great shape.
There’s a young man there. He’s the pastor of NorthStar. His name is Mike Lynch. I’ve known Mike since he was 12, and from day one, when we started NorthStar, my statement was, “If the proverbial bus runs over me, don’t go looking for a new pastor. This is your new pastor.”
I tried to pull Mike into everything that I did as a senior pastor. I tried to pull him into that role, so that it was seamless when the baton was passed, and it truly was seamless. He has done a fantastic job as the pastor of NorthStar church, and I admire everything that he’s done. He has not managed to build a building on a land that he doesn’t own yet, so he hasn’t faced the real test of leadership yet.
I went over to Piedmont, and I started using some of the staff from NorthStar. We alternated them, and this all started in September. In January of that year, the elders came to me. There were four of them, I remember. And they said, “We just believe that God has called you here.”
You know when you’re the founding pastor of something, there is a profound sense of investment of love, ethos, everything that you can throw in there when you’ve watched it come together. You know, I sat in a cabin in North Georgia, fasting and praying about the question, “God, what do I do at this next phase of my life?” Just as surely as I’m talking to you, He spoke in my heart and said, “You’re going to start a church, and then you’ll call it NorthStar, and your tagline for the organization is going to be, ‘For Heaven’s Sake.’ Everything you’re going to do is for Heaven’s sake.”
With that kind of start in your life, it’s hard to imagine walking away, but I was able to do it. I followed Peter Drucker’s adage, “There is no success without a successor.” I knew I had that place in a position where they would be just fine, and so, I made the move and restarted with Piedmont. In my very first sermon series, I did the book of Nehemiah, and I called it Courageous Conversations.
A courageous conversation is the one you know that you need to have, but you don’t want to. That might be with your spouse. It might be with a financial planner. It could be all kinds of people, where you know there is a conversation here that needs to be had, but no one really wants to do it. But if you don’t have that conversation, nothing’s ever going to be changed. I did that series of sermons with Courageous Conversations, and I started with Nehemiah, just simply asking Hananiah, “How’s everything in Jerusalem?” And when he asked that question, Hananiah gave an answer that Nehemiah wasn’t expecting. He said, “It’s not good.” He told him how bad it was.
The next conversation you see Nehemiah having is with God. He said, “I sat down.” This is a great formula to turn things around—” I sat down.” Sometimes, we just need to shut up and sit down and let God speak to our hearts. Nehemiah gives you that formula for getting God to speak. He says, “I sat down. I prayed and I wept and I asked.” That was his formula in that prayer. We often say, “Well, God just laid this on Nehemiah’s heart, and he jumped at it and did it.”
Now, if you look at how he speaks about the calendar in that story, it’s over a four-month period that he sits down, that he weeps, and he fasts, and he prays. It takes four months for that seed to begin to grow. So, Nehemiah has the courageous conversation with Hananiah. He has the courageous conversation with God. And then he has the courageous conversation with himself.
What am I going to do with this information? Am I just going to say, “Oh, well. You know Hananiah, he always exaggerates everything,” or, “Well, that’s several thousand miles away. That’s really not going to affect my job. That doesn’t affect me.” But the courageous conversation he had with himself is, “What can I go and do about the situation?” Then the next conversation is with the king, when he has to go in before him, and he prays for the right opportunity, because timing is everything for the entrepreneur. It’s everything. You need to pray about the timing. And finally, God opens that door for him to speak with the king. The other conversations continue, whether it’s a conversation with Sanballat and Tobiah, or whether it’s a conversation with the leaders there in Jerusalem. The whole book is just chock-full of courageous conversations.
GOSPEL DRIVEN: Because the podcast is named Gospel Driven Entrepreneur, we want to know how the Gospel itself drives you. What is it about your relationship with Jesus that drives your work? How does it drive your day-to-day approach for everything you need to do, from a day’s time to a week’s time, to quarterly, to a year—how does the Gospel drive your work?
IKE: The way the Gospel drives my work is that it is my work. It’s to share the good news. I use what I call my salt principle with my life. It’s my personal evangelism model that I’ve used in churches. It’s just the word “salt.” I want to see people the way that Jesus sees people.
You might say, “Doesn’t everybody see people the same way that Jesus would see people?” No, not at all. When Jesus looked at people, He didn’t just see them as they were. He saw them as they could be. It takes a remarkable person to be able to see that. It takes remarkable people here in the life of MUST to see that people who are without a job can get a job and change their life. I want to see people the way that Jesus sees people. I want to accept people the way that Jesus accepts people.
You know, I talked with a man from Europe one time, many years ago. I’ve heard what he said put a lot of different ways, but I remember that he said to me, “Ike, the problem with the American church is, you want to claim your fish before you catch it.” You know, if you’re going to truly be in the Gospel business, the Gospel business is a messy business. The good news is for people who need some good news, and the reason why they need good news is because they’ve been living a bad-news life. They need something that can motivate them and change them.
All of a sudden, someone comes along and sees them the way that Jesus sees them, accepts them as Jesus accepts them—meaning, accepts them as they are in that moment. That’s why I love the story of Zacchaeus. Why in the world would He go have dinner at someone like that’s house? Because Jesus is the friend of sinners, you know. Remember the days when churches used to do all those banners with the different names of Christ? You know, Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace, and all these different names. The one that I never saw, the one I would on a banner at my church, was Friend of Sinners. You know, if you aren’t a friend of sinners, you can’t possibly be a friend of man. In fact, I am a sinner. And so, I want to see people, accept people, and then I want to love people. I love loving people the way that Jesus loves people. I like to love people until they finally ask me why. I call it ministry with no strings attached. You know, we’re doing this because we believe that God is leading us to do this. And you know what, it throws people. It just throws them.
I had a meeting with a gentleman named Steve Sjogren. He wrote a book called, “Conspiracy of Kindness.: He is a Vineyard Church pastor in Cincinnati, and he sat me down. And when those folks in the Vineyard denomination tell you that God has spoken to them, I really believe God has spoken to them. If a Baptist tells you that, it just scares them. But he looked at me and he said, “Ike, God’s telling you two things about this church.”
I said, “Okay.” He said, “Number one, if you will take the people of your church that nobody else wants, God’s going to give you the people in your church that every church would like to have. Number two, do not go plant a church.”
You have to remember, I was in a whole church-planting movement. He said, “Don’t go plant a church,” and I said, “Tell me what you mean.” He said, “Don’t plant a church. Go reach a city.” It is vastly different, not just in nomenclature, but in mentality. When you plant something, you bring everybody to it to see it. But when you go and do, you’re amongst the people. So, you’re switching the paradigm from the come-and-see model to the let’s-go-and-do-something model.
That’s why I love the book, “Love Does,” by Bob Goff. It just tells you, “I want to love people the way that Jesus loves them, and then the tea and salt is, I want to touch them. One day, we’re going to answer for what we did, with what we have, when we stand before God in heaven.” And Jesus says, “When you do something for the least of this, you’re doing it as if you are doing it for Me.”
That’s why I love the ministry of what we get to do at MUST. Let me give you a fast-forward story, because I ended up going to Piedmont. We ended up raising money, and other people invested in us. My old church in Fayetteville, Georgia, New Hope Baptist Church, was kind enough to give us $50,000, and then $3,000 a month for the next 18 months. That helped us have the finances to turn the church around.
We turned that $50,000 into a capital search campaign, which resulted in $1.6 million coming in. We were able to fix that roof. We were able to redo the building. And now, the most amazing thing is, we have churches from all over who are trying to revitalize, and they come to see what we did for the life of that church, because we didn’t build anything new. We simply recast the old. But we’ve done it in such a way that it’s very attractive to people. Not ostentatious at all. You’re not going find any little gold naked cherubs hanging anywhere in our church. You’re going to see a place that’s built for casualness, a place that is built for conversations to take place. It’s warm, and it’s inviting. It’s a building that has the environment that Andy Stanley talks about. That’s a warm environment. I think the physical side of your church speaks as well as the emotional intelligent side of the church.
We’ve seen God do some really amazing things, but the Gospel drives everything that we do. It’s why we’re doing what we do. I go and I teach companies and organizations, regarding values. I talk to them about mission statements, vision statements, and those kinds of things.
I really believe that, when you look at the life of Christ, He gave us His model. With your vision statement, it’s always overarching. The way that you tell the difference between a vision statement and a mission statement is that a vision statement is very aspirational in nature, and a mission statement is very perspirational in nature.
The mission part is what needs to be done each day to carry out the vision? Here’s what I think Jesus’ vision statement was. He said, “I came to do the will of My Father who sent me.” I think that’s His vision statement. And when He hung on the cross, He said, “It is finished.” I think He meant, “The very reason that I was sent to this Earth is now finished. I have died for the sins of mankind. Now God will do what only God can do, and He’s going to resurrect me from the dead—but I have finished. I came to do the will of My Father who sent me.” Aspirational vision statement.
His mission statement was, “The Son of Man has come to seek and to save those which are lost.” So, everyday that’s what He was doing. He is seeking lost people, to build relationships with them and to transform their lives through the way that He was seeing them, accepting them, loving them, and touching them, He was changing their lives. And then if you say, “But how do we know where to go and to do ministry?” He said this about Himself. He said, “The Son of Man came not to be served but to serve.”
So, the way that we carry out this seeking and saving the lost is that we’re going to go out and serve our community with no strings attached. We’re going to love you and love you and love you until you finally say, “Why do you guys do things like this?” Because we’re compelled by the love of Christ to do it, and this is why we do what we do.
If you ever say, “Where do we go to serve?” Well, here’s another of Jesus’ statements: “The Son of Man was made manifest for this reason, to destroy the works of the devil.” That’s where we try to do our best ministry. Where is the devil at work? And I tell you what, the devil is at work trying to destroy our young people in our schools. Now, make no mistake. I’m not saying that our schools are the devil. What I’m saying, the devil comes into the schools and, in so many ways, he tries to kill, steal and destroy. Literally kill. Look at how many students have been killed in schools over the last 20 years. It’s staggering what is taking place in our world.
What we have chosen to do is we have chosen to be externally focused as a church, to go out and love our community. We go to our public schools and say, “How can we help you?” And by the way, the first time a school ever replied to us, they said, “Are you serious about wanting to help us?” We said, “Yes, what do you need?” PJ, what they needed were head lice kits.
GOSPEL DRIVEN: Wow!
IKE: There were children with head lice, but their families could not afford to buy a kit for them. And we said, “We’ll buy you every head lice kit you need.” And, believe it or not, something that simple validated. Now, you live in Atlanta. Not only do your listeners live in Atlanta, but you’re very familiar with the lawyer named Ken Nugent, the personal claims lawyer.
We have actually taken his tag line and made it our church tag line. He looks at the camera and says, “One call, that’s all.” That’s what we want to be as a church. Just give us a call, and that’s all you’ve got to do, and we’re going to be there to serve.
GOSPEL DRIVEN: That’s so awesome. Well, let’s move really quickly to some rapid-fire questions. These are going to be quick, and then we’ll wrap it up.
IKE: Okay. Is there any kind of prize for this?
GOSPEL DRIVEN: I wish.
IKE: How much will you give?
GOSPEL DRIVEN: That would be amazing. We could definitely set that up.
IKE: I’ll pick up the tab.
GOSPEL DRIVEN: I appreciate that.
IKE: You got it.
GOSPEL DRIVEN: Give us one success quote or verse that has inspired you. How does this quote or verse drive all of your work?
IKE: Let me give you both. Booker T. Washington said, “If you truly want to measure the success of a man or a woman, you do not measure it by the position they have achieved, but you measure it by the obstacles that they had to overcome.”
It’s one of my very favorite quotes, because my whole life has been filled with having to overcome obstacles. Sometimes people meet me, and they feel like I have this Pollyanna attitude about life, and then, when they get to know me better, they find out that I lost my first wife in childbirth. Then they realize, “Well, he’s not really living a rose-colored-glasses life at all.”
There are times when you’re just going to have to overcome a lot of obstacles. With my signature, I have signed Psalm 37:4 so many times: “Delight yourself in the Lord, and He will give you the desires of your heart.”
GOSPEL DRIVEN: What is one tool that you would highly recommend to entrepreneurs, leaders, and others who are trying to move their ideas forward?
IKE: Wow. I’m a huge fan of just being a goal-setter. There are a lot of different tools that you can use for that. There’s one particular app that I really enjoy. It’s called the Gratitude Journal. So many times, in your entrepreneurial nature, one of your biggest weaknesses is that you never celebrate the successes that you’ve had, because you’re always looking for the next challenge you’re going to take on.
Entrepreneurs are just wired that way. If only we could ever just learn, and if only everyone could just take that deep breath and say, “Thank you, God, for where I am.” But that one little app has been great. But back in the older days, the mentor that helped to change my life was a guy name Zig Ziglar, and we co-wrote a daily devotional that Tyndale House has called, “Daily Insights”.
Zig had a goal setting manual. It was basically a journal, and I can remember taking that journal and writing out the first goals that I ever written in my whole life.
So, find whatever kind of tool that you can use. I know for a lot of people today, it would be an app tool. The other one of the most practical things I’d tell you, as far as an app goes, is Twitter. Follow me on Twitter, @IkeReighard. If you follow the right people, there is so much encouragement there. You get to see remarkable things.
Yesterday was a great example. I don’t know if you guys participated, but they had Georgia Gives Day yesterday. It was just people who were giving to non-profits, and I think that last night, when I saw it, it was approaching 3 million dollars that they had given yesterday. That is just phenomenal to me, that there are people who want to encourage others and stay in that encouragement mode. If there’s anything I can ever do to serve you, PJ has my information. Just let him know.
GOSPEL DRIVEN: What is one book that you would highly recommend to gospel-driven leaders and entrepreneurs?
IKE: You want to be a real Southern Baptist, and go, “The Bible, son! The Bible!”
GOSPEL DRIVEN: There you go.
IKE: Now I’ll put on the other half for, “The Leadership Challenge.”
If I could only have one book, and I was trying to build an organization, like a church startup, a 501(c)(3), or if I was building a totally secular business, “The Leadership Challenge,” page-per-page, is the most content-rich book that I know.
I read at least one book a week always, and the one book recently—which I’ve been talking about within the past three years—that’s impacted me the most is Simon Sinek, “Start with Why.” It’s phenomenal. And, of course, go to the TED Talks and watch those. Just search for Simon Sinek, and watch him be brilliant for 18 minutes. Then, when you read the book, you will hear his voice as you’re reading it. That’s why I love TED. At any time, if there’s been a TED talk before I read a book, I love to hear the author speaking.
By Jeff Goings | 10-Apr-2017
GOSPEL DRIVEN: Tell us a little bit about yourself, personally.
JEFF: I’m a writer, although that’s not how I have always seen myself. Over the past several years, I’ve gone from thinking that maybe, someday, I could be a writer, to being able to do this full-time. That journey has been a lot of fun. My background is in marketing. I was working for a non-profit organization, a mission organization, and a Christian ministry. I did that for seven years and learned about marketing and storytelling. I learned how to take a worthy idea or story and share it with an audience.
Through that experience, I also learned how to leverage social media and how to run a business that I could turn into a full-time writing career -writing books, doing public speaking, and selling online courses. I have learned a lot over the past several years. I’ve been writing professionally for almost three years now. I’m still fairly new at it, but I’m getting to lead a fun, interesting, and exciting life. I’m grateful for the ways in which God is using me to help and reach other people with a message that I think is worth listening to.
GOSPEL DRIVEN: I would love to talk about your past experiences and your background. For entrepreneurs out there, tell us about the ideas you’re working on. You never know where those ideas might lead, right?I’m thinking of that adage about how, a year from now, you’re going to wish you had started today. Ten years from now, you’re really going to wish you started today.
What did the last couple of years look like for you on your journey to becoming a full-time writer? How did that dream initially grow in you? What did that process look like as you made that your full-time gig?
JEFF: Several years ago, I had an itch, and I didn’t quite know how to scratch it. So I started going to conferences, talking to friends, and meeting with peers over coffee. I was trying to scratch around the itch, trying to figure out what was missing in my life.
I had a good job. I had a wife, and we were planning on having our first kid, but it just felt like something was missing. I love that John Mayer song where he says something is missing, and I don’t know what it is. I felt that way. I think a lot of people feel that way. There is something more to life, and we don’t know what it is, but we know that we’re missing out.
I started doing everything I could to explore what was missing. As Christians, we think, “Oh, you’re missing Jesus.” But even Christians can feel that sense of emptiness, like we’re not quite living up to our potential. I would read well-meaning books, where people basically said, your first calling is to become a Christian, and then everything after that is just gravy.
I felt like I had done the first part, and I knew I had choices. I knew I could go down one of two paths. The path that I was on, I wasn’t quite sure was the right one. That was really difficult for me to acknowledge, considering I was working for a ministry. I felt a certain amount of guilt about that.
I imagined myself ten years from now. I was 27 or 28 at that time, and I thought, “Man, as I begin to approach 40, am I going to be really satisfied with what I’ve done? Will I feel like I gave it my all, that I lived up to my potential with what God wanted me to do? Or am I going to feel that, in some ways, I played it safe, and then I fell short from reaching my potential because I was scared, or because I was too risk adverse?”
The answer that I sensed was coming was not something I was comfortable with. I felt that in ten years, I was going to be quickly approaching a mid-life crisis, feeling like I had missed out.. I started to get really tenacious about figuring out what it was I was missing.
It wasn’t just some sort of spiritual breakthrough. It was really a sense of knowing that I have these gifts and talents, and finding the best way for me to use them. More than ever, nowadays, our greatest fear should not be failing. It should not be trying to succeed at something and then falling short of it.
Our greatest fear should be success in the wrong thing. I read this quote by a guy named Parker Palmer, who said, “Before I can tell my life what I want to do with it, I need to listen to my life telling me who I am.” I realized that when I started listening to my life, it was telling me that I was meant to be a writer, and so I started writing.
GOSPEL DRIVEN: You just came out with a new book recently, called “The Art of Work.” In that, you talkedabout the idea of a calling. Could you define for us, through your experience and your understanding, what a calling is? How do we define it, and how can we have a job where we can carry out our calling?
JEFF: I define a calling quite simply as the thing that you’re born to do, or, as a friend of mine says, that thing that you can’t not do. As a writer, I’m opposed to double negatives in general, but I think in this case, it works quite well.
A calling is the thing that you are compelled to do, that, at the end of your life, if you didn’t do this, whatever it might be, you’re going to feel like you missed out. For most people, everyone I talked to anyway, that thing is not making a ton of money, or being completely comfortable, or having a certain title, or even being famous. It’s something deeper. For most people, I think it’s just the satisfaction that they lived their lives well, that they have taken these God-given talents and abilities and done something meaningful with them that is both satisfying and sacrificial.. I’ve given something of myself that has hopefully contributed to the well-being of other people. The good news is that a calling can be a career, but it doesn’t have to be. It can be something that you do on the side in your free time. Whatever it is, your calling is something that cannot be ignored. You cannot in good conscience continue in your life while defying your calling. I think you can do it, but it eats away at and consumes you. The reason I wrote, “The Art of Work,” is because I was talking to a lot of people who felt that way, but they didn’t know what to do about it. I felt that that’s a problem.
GOSPEL DRIVEN: Now, what about the people who have definitely embraced that calling, who have recognized that deep need to do something? Especially for entrepreneurs, when it comes to their work and their calling, everything just seems to collide. Passion seems to take over, and they over-exert themselves so much that they begin to experience burnout.
How do I avoid allowing my passion to override this calling, so much that I burn out with this new venture that I’m starting, or this business that I’m running?
JEFF: I don’t know that I have figured it out, but I’m very careful to distinguish between a passion and a calling. Right now, our culture is obsessed with this word “passion”. We think that it is the be all, end all.
I don’t think that way. I don’t think that your calling is something that you’re always going to be passionate about. At the same time, what you’re passionate about is not necessarily a calling. I think that passion is one of three ingredients to a life well-lived and therefore called.
Typically, some sort of frustration is what births a calling. When you’re in that place, you need to be asking yourself three questions: what do I love? That is a question of passion. What am I good at? That is a question of skill. What is it that people want or need? That is a question of demand.
When you combine those three areas, you have a pretty good handle on reality and can create something that’s sustainable. Because if I’m passionate about something, but I’m not good at it, then I’m probably going to fail. If I’m good at something and maybe people want or need it, but I don’t love it, it’s going to lead to burnout.
If I love something, if I’m good at it, and people want it, then that’s a pretty good formula for doing something that can be sustained over time. You mentioned that even then, if you’re doing something that you love, it can wear your down. Itt can lead to unhealthy living and burnout relationships.
I have experienced all of that, where I have been a guy working 40 hours a week and the guy working,100 hours a week. I think the thing that I’ve learned, especially as an entrepreneur, is that for every season of hustle, there needs to be a season of rest. If I’m going to work really hard, I have to discipline myself to equallyrest really hard. “Work hard and play hard” is a cliché for a reason.
Passion i an important part of the process, and you’re going to have to work hard if you want to be an entrepreneur. There’s no doubt about that. There will be weeks where you work way more than 40 hours, but that needs to be followed by vacations or staycations or just relaxing.
I’ve had a really crazy couple of months, so today, Friday, I really haven’t done anything. I went to lunch with my friend, and then we went to a second lunch, you know, hobbit-style. We just took it easy because we were celebrating some things that we had done together, and we just needed some time to chill out and relax. One thing I learned is that for every season of hustle, it has to be followed by a season of rest.
The second thing I have learned is that passion, in it of itself, is not enough to sustain you, as I mentioned earlier. You need to be thinking about skill and demand. How can I take passion and apply it to the areas where I have some measure of skill that I can continue to grow, and take those passions and skills and bring them to the market in a way that is going to meet people’s needs?
I’m a big fan of giving people what they want, or, rather, selling them what they want, but giving them what they need. It’s not about pandering, or just saying, “Oh this is what people want, but they really need this.” It’s about understanding and being sensitive to your audience, knowing what they need, and how you can take the things that you love and are good at, and deliver it to them in a way that’s going to add value.
This idea that you can just do whatever you love and the world owes you a pay check is ridiculous. You have to work really, really hard to make your work matter to other people. The job of an entrepreneur is to readily accept that challenge and find joy in it.
GOSPEL DRIVEN: Jeff, how does the Gospel itself drive the work that you do day-to-day?
JEFF: One of the things that I sometimes hear from people when they find out I’m a Christian—is, why don’t you talk about Jesus more, or the gospel more in the work that you do?
My first response to that is, well, I kind of feel like I do. It’s just isn’t done in the way that you think it should be done. In other words, it’s like the way I do my work, which is basically writing books, speaking, and teaching online courses primarily geared to writers, creatives and entrepreneurial types. I’m trying to help them succeed in life and at business. I’m not dropping gospel tracks on every seat when I’m speaking at a convention with 2,000 people. For me, it’s an undercurrent of hope that is infused in all of the work that I do.
The gospel is good news, and its good news about setting the captives free, about righting the wrongs in the world. It’s about people who are imprisoned in the things that they think are going to set them free. It’s about helping them break out of those prisons. For me, it’s about taking that mentality of hope, of freedom, and helping people break out and live thee lives that God intended for them to live.
It’s about doing that in a way where, again, I’m thinking about these three questions of passion, skill, and demand. How do I do it in a way that lights me up, in a way that hopefully I’m good at, where I’m doing good work and that connects with people’s felt needs? One of the things I learned from being a missionary, is that, in working for a mission’s organization for seven years, one of the best ways for you to earn people’s trust is to meet their immediate needs, to meet their felt needs. This will earn their trust and permission to speak into other areas of their life. My platform, my blog, my books, and my speaking platform are a means by which I do that. I get permission to speak into people’s lives and go deeper in the relationship, and hopefully I get to share with them some of my hope, which does not disappoint.
GOSPEL DRIVEN: Here are the rapid-fire questions. Give us one success quote or verse that has inspired you. How does this quote or verse drive all of your work?
JEFF: There’s a really simple proverb that people, especially over the past hundred years, have popularized. It’s Proverbs 23:7, and it’s just half of the proverb, but it says, “as a man thinks, so he is,” or, “as a man thinketh, so is he.” That’s the King James version, I think. The context is interesting, as it’s talking about the things that are provided for you - food and drink and what not - but the basic, undergirding principle is that whatever you think about yourself, about your world, even about God, those things reveal who you really are.
I think it was Anais Nin, who said that, “We do not see things as they are. We see things as we are.” I think those two quotes summarize the situations that we tend to find ourselves in. The people who keep striking out and having reapeated bad luck—they often have a negative attitude. “Man, I just can’t catch a break.” They tend to catch the kinds of breaks they’re expecting, which are bad ones, apparently. On the flip side, the people that I know who have great attitudes—and not in some annoying happy-go-lucky way—are looking for good things, not bad, in any situation. These people tend to find what they’re looking for too. We see the world not as it is, but as we are. As a man or a woman thinks, so is that person. That is a powerful challenge to me, to be careful about the thoughts that invade my mind. It challenges me to know that I can be very intentional about guarding my mind and my heart, and trying to think of good things, not bad things; true things, not false things; holy things, not evil things.
JEFF: I’m going to suggest something that maybe nobody has suggested before, or I’ll just believe that nobody has suggested it before. As a writer, a go-to tool for me, which is open right now on my desktop, is Srivener, a word-processing tool that is better than Microsoft Word or any other note-taking app or device.
Evernote is great. Scrivener works with Evernote, where you can import all of your Evernote files into Scrivener. Scrivener is basically a long-form writing tool. You can write books. You can write screenplays. You can also write blog post and all kinds of amazing things. It’s a $45tool. It’s incredibly robust. I’m a big, big fan of Scrivener.
GOSPEL DRIVEN: Well, the last question. What is one book that you would recommend to gospel-driven leaders and entrepreneurs?
JEFF: I struggle with this question because I read a lot of books. I’m trying to read a few books a week, but I think a good place to start is to identify the book you find yourself continually mentioning or recommending. Over the past year, a book that just keeps coming up in conversations is a book called “Business Brilliant,” by Lewis Schiff. It’s one of the best business books I’ve read in the past several years. It’s really about the counterintuitive truth about what it takes to have a successful business and build wealth. It’s about false beliefs, myths that tend to hold us back from success. When I read the book, I realized, man, I believe in several of these things. When I started turning those things around, I started to change my mindset. It started to build my life and my business. I would recommend “Business Brilliant,” by Lewis Schiff.