Junior deSouza

                                      Business

Part of Junior's ministry includes coaching novice Christian entrepreneurs and seedling businesses. His business acumen was developed through two key friendships with profoundly successful CEOs in the sports world. In addition to this priceless, in-field experience, Junior continues to study business science and strategy.    

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Articles

Spirit-filled Business & Entrepreneurship, Pt 1  

Spirit-filled Business & Entrepreneurship, Pt 2

Turning Good Ideas Into Profitable Products

Spirit-filled Business & Entrepreneurship

Part 1: Business Formations & Market Entry

   More than ever in church history, today the Holy Spirit is alighting on many Christians for business and entrepreneurship. Many of these many have little to no corporate background or experience! They literally have only two things, calling and inspiration. Though these are essential, they are incomplete. They are energy without instruction, power without form. This writing is a starter and overview. It is also an ongoing reference, as there will be lots of parts here to be assembled piece by piece. This two-part writing will be as follows:
 
                        Part 1: Business Formations & Market Entry

                        Part 2: Business Strategy & Market Conquest
 
 
Spirit-filled Business & Entrepreneurship
   Business can be done in one of two ways, by the Spirit of God or by the spirit of Mammon. You, the Christian entrepreneur, must settle from the beginning which spirit you will succumb to, which spirit will run your enterprise. A Spirit-filled business comes from a Spirit-filled person. This means three things.
   First, it means having a quality daily walk with the Lord, spending alone time with Him in daily prayer, worship, Bible study, listening, obeying, and growing (Ps 91). This enthrones Jehovah as the CEO of both your life and enterprise. Second, it means undergirding your business with consistent fasting and intercessory prayer with at least one or two others (Mt 18:19,20). Third, it means biblical sowing and reaping is the premise of your intended prosperity (2Co 9:6-11, Ps 126:5,6). In other words, giving and receiving must become more important than buying and selling. Remaining faithful to these three basic biblical commands will dislodge Mammon's attitudes in your own heart and keep his economic influences defeatable.       
   Two Economies & Practical Overlapping The economy of this world and the economy of Heaven rage in conflict. Both seek to acquire and control financial currents for spiritual purposes. However, in a practical sense, they overlap when it comes to certain principles. This is why an evil enterprise, like drug cartelling, can succeed by applying certain business principles, in the same way McDonald's or Zondervan (Christian publishing company) can succeed by applying those very same principles.
   Simply being a Spirit-filled Christian does not guarantee corporate success, in the same way that it does not magically create PhD's, a fit body, or a growing church. Every field has its own set of success principles, and business is no different. By being Spirit-filled and Spirit-led, however, the entrepreneur can be supernaturally guided in the shrewd application of those principles, creating advantage over Mammon's competitors to plunder their prosperity (Job 27:17, Pr 13:22, Ecc 2:26).
 
   This writing presents such business principles in a kingdom-, biblical-, and Holy Spirit-context. Part 1 focuses on Business Formations & Market Entry.
 
External Analysis
What are the external conditions?  
   In the late 1950s, Philip Selznick, a pioneer of corporate strategy, inaugurated the idea of correlating the company's internal elements with that of external environmental conditions. His work eventually developed into the SWOT analysis (Harvard Business School), which stands for Strengths and Weaknesses within are compared to Opportunities and Threats without. Put simply, a successful company must form and reform itself according to the ever-changing business environment. In a word: relevance.   
   Establishing a business, then, means evaluating the present conditions into which you will launch your business. Know your fish pond. This is called external analysis, and it evaluates four critical realities: polity, economics, culture, and competition.
   (1) Political system...Under a dictatorship, business ideas might be limited to those compatible with the State. Those in a non-oppressive state, though, are generally unfettered in their entrepreneurial potentials. Different governments, national and local, have varying regulations. Since your business will have an ongoing affair with the polity that be, know their permissions, prohibitions, stipulations, and what can be wielded in your favor. The Spirit might highlight a certain launching location, one more governmentally-disposed in your favor or type of business.   
   (2) Economic environment...The national and local economic condition typically determines the citizenry's inclination to buy and invest. Be aware of this, and be sure to stay in the Spirit's timing and launching location, whatever that might be.  
   (3) Cultural characteristics...Every people group has certain tendencies. Businesses often prosper that cater to those tendencies. What are some major habits of your local, regional, or national culture that demand supply? What do the people consistently like, want, need, value? Tug on the Spirit to show you what demand(s) you might be talented to supply.
   (4) Business competitors...Study your competition. What are their strengths and weaknesses, and where can they be exploited or improved upon? What are their prices? There is a competitive advantage God will grant over the herdsmen of Gerar...there is a well they cannot compete with (Gen 26:19-22). Pray and think with the Spirit to lead you to that well.
 
Internal Analysis
What are the internal conditions?  
   Just as the launching environment needs to be diagnosed, so also does your company (or company-to-be). This is called internal analysis. Here we have to be surgically precise. Two common mistakes are the overestimation of finances (thinking the present money will go further than in actuality) and the underestimation of time (thinking something will take less time than in actuality). Internal analysis also evaluates four critical realities: personnel, budget, time, and technology.     
   (1) Personnel...Am I alone, with a few others, or with a large team? After personnel quantity is established (how many), personnel quality must be assessed (what they can do). Needless to say, this is crucial, for it will determine the task distribution and eventual structure of the business. What are my core competencies (strengths), and that of each person with me? Entrepreneurs (and church leaders, by the way) make a huge "business blunder" here--trying to force people into predetermined roles, disregardful of their natural strengths. This scenario must be flipped for maximum productivity and worker fulfillment: establish core competencies first, then develop correlating roles/structure (later down the line anyway). There are many great resources available for assessing natural strengths and spiritual gifts.   
   (2) Budget...Exactly how much money am I working with? How much goes to wages, facility expenses (rent/mortgage, utilities, etc.), and technology (computers, operational supplies, etc.)? How much can go into the actual good/service and its development? Consider both common sense (wisdom) and the Spirit's guidance (revelation) as to when, where, and how much to distribute financially.
   (3) Time...Exactly how much time am I working with? Do I have another job or hefty family obligations and can only devote a few hours daily to the business, or am I able to invest a full schedule? What about my team or employees? Personal and personnel schedules have to be determined realistically.    
   (4) Technology...What technology do I have or can I acquire? Again, consider both common sense (wisdom) and the Spirit's guidance (revelation). We may assume we need something now and we really don't, or we may assume we don't need something now and we really do.
 
Product Determination & Corporate Identity
What goods or services are we presenting?
What image do we want to create in the people's mind?  
   Product Determination Ever heard the saying, "Stick to knitting"? In determining and developing your product, stick to what you do best. Leverage your most natural, God-given passions. Focus on your core competencies. Then, assemble a good or service accordingly. This way the business becomes an extension of you, animated by your own heart's natural excitement.  
   For example, I know a former soccer player who opened a soccer store in Atlanta, Georgia (a major soccer center). Amidst stiff, long-established business competitors, his natural soccer talent, background, and childlike passion for the sport has helped him become a chief supplier of soccer equipment in the region. Similarly, Rachel Ray's cooking empire flows from like experiences and influences. With no formal training whatsoever, her enterprise simply expresses who she is and where she's been. Stick to the knitting...do what you do best...do what is YOU...then assemble your product accordingly.
   Remember, you need to match your product with the environment, so lean on your external analysis here. You might be brilliant at cooking Cajun, but if your launching culture is downtown New Orleans, you're facing masterful competition. Unless you do something exquisitely innovative with your cooking, or possess a highly unusual divine grace, or launch in a less competitive and less supplied suburb, you might struggle (unnecessarily) to succeed. Develop something relevant and promising to the launching environment.  
   Corporate Identity Product determination flows into corporate identity. Your product is what you are offering, your corporate identity is how you are offering it. Corporate identity is the basis of all marketing. In fact, marketing simply builds on the posture already created by corporate identity.
   What will your product/enterprise stand for in the minds of consumers, customers, employees, and stakeholders? What recurrent thought-feeling do want immediately associated with your product/enterprise? For example, billboard signs are everywhere in my city advertising dentistry services (people must have seriously raunchy teeth here). Some have crosses and fish on them, declaring a "Christian dentistry service". Others use pics of multiple races and ethnicities, declaring a "multi-ethnic dentistry service". Others use supermodels smiling big and showing a perfect rack of teeth, declaring "a dentistry for the most attractive". Still others have only writing and bland colors, and no one is really sure what their corporate identity is.
   Carefully pray and think through the corporate identity you want to posture. If you are incorporated in the Bible Belt's buckle, a Christian fish on your dentistry sign might be advantageous. But if you are incorporated in New York City, multi-cultural decor or supermodel imagery might be more market-penetrating.  
   Remember, you are a Spirit-filled business, not a church. God can be glorified, lives can be touched, and biblical prosperity can be attained with or without Christian insignia. Divine success depends on anointed strategy, not symbols merely for symbols' sake. Therefore, you need to strategically posture your business so as to maximize your market advantage, and this begins with a competitive corporate identity. Again, lean on your external analysis.
   Practically, you will use two main tools to craft this identity: images and slogans. Whatever posture you and the Spirit decide on, use magnetic and memorable images to convey this (remember the dentistry ads). Similarly, ponder certain slogans or catch phrases that summarize your posture. They can be funny, serious, poetic, lyrical, philosophical, deep, everyday, word plays--anything. Like the imagery, they need to be magnetic and memorable. Just do it (Nike) and Melts in your mouth, not in your hand (M & M) and Fair & Balanced (Fox News) are some of the most well-known.
 
Objective-setting
Where are we going with this product/enterprise?
   Peter Drucker, master corporate strategist and management patriarch in the 1950s, said, "An organization without clear objectives is like a ship without a rudder." The heavy emphasis of his contribution was management by objectives, and that a company's objectives, and their progress towards them, should bleed through the entire organization from head to toe.
   Drucker simply uncovered and articulated what Solomon wrote about thousands of years earlier in God's Word. Proverbs 29:18(KJV): Where there is no vision, the people perish. More so, God Himself operates by objectives, Isaiah 46:10(NIV): I make known the end from the beginning...my purpose will stand, and I will do all that I please.  
   As a Spirit-filled entrepreneur, Proverbs 29:18 is super important. The Hebrew word for "vision" here is chazown, literally meaning "supernatural or revealed vision". It is used thirty-five times in the Old Testament, every single time referring to a prophetic experience (1Sam 3:1, 1Chr 17:15, 2Chr 32:32, Ps 89:19, Pr 29:18, Isa 1:1, 29:7, Jer 14:14, 23;16, Lam 2:9, Eze 7:13,26, 12:22,23,24,27, 13:16, Dan 1:17, 8:1,2,2,13,15,17,26, 9:21,24, 10:14, 11:14, Hos 12:10, Oba 1:1, Mic 3:6, Nah 1:1, Hab 2:2,3). Four times it refers to a false prophetic experience (demonic or strictly emotional; Jer 14:14, 23:16, Eze 12:24, 13:16).
   Of all the aspects of your enterprise, objective-setting is and must be the most supernatural, the most Spirit-guided. You must spend time earnestly fasting and praying for where the Lord, your company's CEO, wants the enterprise to go. And, you must continue to seek Him daily so that you continue to perceive His objectives correctly.
   
   Now we take our external analysis, internal analysis, product, and corporate identity, and we set objectives.
   Objective-setting is two-fold, consisting of macro-objectives and micro-objectives. Macro-objectives are the larger, ultimate goals...micro-objectives are the smaller, seasonal goals. Macro-objectives are not limited to your present means, it is where faith is exercised (ideality)...micro-objectives remain within the limitations of your present means, it is where wisdom is exercised (reality). Macro-objectives only make you dreamy and impractical...micro-objectives only make you nearsighted and uninspired. Macro-objectives will be your truest measure of success...micro-objectives will be your truest measure of progress. You will need both types.     
   Macro-objectives In studying Japanese corporate dominance over America (and Europe), Richard Pascale and Anthony Athos found the Japanese tended toward steady long-term vision, while American businesses tended toward management fads and vogues (The Art of Japanese Management, 1981).  
   Macro-objectives are the ultimate goals of your Spirit-filled company. They give the enterprise enduring solidarity and focus, a clear target for all the personnel and subdivisions to aim at. These should be one to three statements, simple and to the point, summarizing long-term goals. They should have an inspirational, reach-for-the-stars quality about them. Habakkuk 2:2 (NKJV): Write the vision and make it plain on tablets, that he may run who reads it. Give 'em something to run with.
   Micro-objectives Micro-objectives are the seasonal goals of your Spirit-filled company. They give the enterprise more practical and realistic right-now targets, and, they are determined by immediate means and conditions. Some of these goals should change as conditions change, while some might remain necessary through multiple conditions and seasons.
   The caution here is to be as simple and relevant as possible. What are the business' most pressing, right-now needs? What calls for immediate attention and development? Remember, Rome wasn't built in a day, neither was Coca-Cola. Start where you're at, with what you've got, with whom you've got. Think seasonally and sequentially in your micro-objectives. Exodus 23:30: Little by little I will drive them out before you, until you have increased enough to take possession of the land.
 
Does anyone dare despise this day of small beginnings? 
                                                         --Zechariah 4:10, The Message

 

Spirit-filled Business & Entrepreneurship

Part 2: Business Strategy & Market Conquest


Corporate Strategic Planning in the 80s and 90s  
The Fall of Communism, The Prophetic/Apostolic Movements, & Market Uncertainty   
   The 1980s saw the significance of strategic planning called into question, primarily by Jack Welch, former CEO of General Electric. Welch audaciously disposed of his renowned planning department, citing loss of relevance to both the enterprise and the environment. The early 1990s sung the same tune even louder, with management ace Tom Peters pronouncing "strategic planning is dead". So what happened in the 80s and 90s to diminish strategic planning? Two things, one political and one spiritual.
   The fall of communism Early 1985 saw the Soviet Union begin to disintegrate into independent nations. Late 1989 saw a revolutionary wind blow across Central and Eastern Europe, terminating the Communist Bloc in just months. February 1990 saw the Soviet communist party officially relinquish its political monopoly on the nation, and by 1991 the Soviet Union finally and fully collapsed under Boris Yeltsin's assumption of power. This comprehensive (and swift) belly-up of communism sent wave after wave of market opportunities and threats, creating an unpredictable market that left strategic planning difficult to impossible.   
   The prophetic and apostolic resurgence Though fraught with abuses, these movements nonetheless added a heavy spiritual component to the market condition of those decades. Genuine prophetic and apostolic Christians waged/wage a head-on, bloody war with Mammon. Their authoritative intercessions and initiatives created many entrepreneurial openings for the church, and threatened decrease and depreciation on Mammon. Of course, Mammon fought back. The result? A tempestuous, tug-o-war market pulled here and there by heavy spiritual warfare. Once again, making strategic planning difficult to impossible.      
   Thus, the fall of communism and the prophetic/apostolic resurgence created a market of discontinuity, quick changes, unexpected developments, and ever-increasing uncertainty. Things were changing too fast too much for planning! Notebooks of carefully outlined schemata quickly became irrelevant as the predicated conditions shifted--and shifted again. Strategy was a moving target. Consequently, Jack Welsh's abolition of GE's planning department and Tom Peter's decree, "strategic planning is dead."
   
   Model-as-strategy As strategic planning was slipping into a coma, "model-as-strategy" was rousing itself. In other words, "the right business model (size and structure) is the best strategy for success". Subsequently, companies began rightsizing, downsizing, smartsizing, reorganizing, reengineering, and outsourcing to optimize their operational model. This had (and has) a robust impact on profitability in most cases, but falls short in competitive edge to optimal production and efficiency approaches.
   For example, Coca-Cola's business model might be very market-appropriate, yet Pepsi could outdo her by innovating a better cola, producing more/new types of drinks, and producing it at a faster rate. Or vice versa.  
   However, both model-as-strategy and optimal production/efficiency fall short to strategic thinking. And so finally, strategy as such is reappearing in the corporate world, but not so much as strategic planning (which flopped in the 80s and 90s, and will in any uncertain market), but as strategic thinking. 
   Certain business models will work here and there, as will great approaches to production and efficiency, but strategic thinking is an intangible skill that can create success in any place, at any time, under any market condition. Strategic thinking is wisdom, and wisdom always succeeds. Proverbs 8:14-21(NIV): Counsel and sound judgment are mine [Wisdom's]; I have understanding and power...With me are riches and honor, enduring wealth and prosperity...bestowing wealth on those who love me and making their treasuries full.
 
Strategy
   Jehovah is the supreme Strategist, and therefore, so must be His people. We do not run like a man running aimlessly, we do not fight like a man beating the air (1Co 9:26). Everything we do, including business, should be intelligent action. We must be cunning, shrewd, clever, calculated...strategic.      
   Strategy is intelligent action intended to produce a desired outcome. Strategy is used in literally every field of activity to achieve victory, success, or competitive advantage. Finding prizewinning strategies in business, though, can be difficult. The best action-plans are not always obvious, and worse, the predicated set of circumstances are often discontinuous. Hence, strategy requires strategic thinking, a skill of champions.
 
Strategic thinking 
   Strategic thinking is intelligent brainstorming. It requires deep thought and critical reflection, or "higher-level thinking". One study I read found that 75% of Americans do not think critically, resigning instead to elementary and simplistic solutions. To conquer your market, you will have to be in the 25% minority. Prizewinning strategies light up to those who exert mental muscle, coupled with prayer-filled dependence on the supreme Strategist. We are called not only to pray, but also think (Pr 14:15, 1Co 14:20). We are called not only to think, but also pray (Jer 33:3).  
   Artistic, not mathematic Strategic thinking is the artistic use of intuition and creativity, not rigid mathematical formulas. Isn't that what we learned from the 80s and 90s? That strict strategic layouts seldom work (or work to the desired degree) in a fast-changing market? Of course this does not negate numerical analysis and appropriation, it simply recognizes the impotence of strategy-by-numbers alone.
   In general, strategy is not what to think, but how to think. It is an elastic intellect stretchable to the Holy Spirit and all His anointed ideas. A strategic thinker is most like his Creator, always brooding and hovering over present circumstances with creative what-could-bes. It is a mind willing to consider, literally, anything.
   Kenichi Ohmae, in his book The Mind of the Strategist (1982), commented that Japanese business surpassed American business because, to the Japanese, decision-making was an art, one that utilized intuition and imagination, while the Americans tended toward deciding quickly, by analysis and habit.    
   Strategizing is no longer an event, but an ongoing chess match with the market, the competition, and internal factors. The proverbial "Annual Planning Event" or "Five-year Layout" is increasingly becoming irrelevant. Not at all referring to macro-objectives, only the legalistic stratagem intended to fulfill those objectives.  
   Strategies rise and fall because their predicated conditions are ever-changing, but a strategic mind survives and thrives because it is ever-adapting. It sees strategy as a living and reacting organism, not a canonized document in a three-ring binder. It formulates (invents) new strategy with every new situation, setting, and season. It computes multiple subtleties and complexities to discern an ideal or close-to-ideal strategy. Companies are paying big bucks these days for such savvy thinkers.
 
Strategic thinking & doing for market conquest   
   There are several strategic thoughts and actions you must work out for market conquest. The more you solidify these in your mind, and mix them with the Spirit's presence, the more you will be inspirited with round-the-clock strategies that conquer your market and plunder Mammon.
 
Strategic Overview: strategize proactively and reactively
   Proactive strategy Proactive strategy is seasonal strategies formulated to fulfill micro-objectives. Remember from Part 1, micro-objectives are based on present means and personnel; proactive strategies are based on the personnel's core competencies to meet those objectives. 
   Do not overstrategize here and create a monster. This is a pitfall of less experienced entrepreneurs. Work hard to keep your micro-objectives and their corresponding proactive strategies simple, clear, and doable. Little by little.      
   If your organization is large and diversified enough to have distinct, semi-autonomous departments, the same concepts must still be applied, albeit by each individual department. Each unit will establish their own micro-objectives and corresponding proactive strategies according to departmental core competencies. To maintain the larger company's consistency, though, department managers must think and objectify synergistically, constantly sympathetic to the company's macro-objectives and headquarters agreement.
   Just think of large churches, they function this way too. Each distinct, semi-autonomous ministry establishes its own micro-objectives/goals and corresponding proactive strategies according to the core competencies of the ministry leaders. To maintain the larger church's consistency, though, ministry leaders must think and objectify synergistically, constantly sympathetic to the church's macro-objectives/vision and senior leadership agreement.       
   Reactive strategy Reactive strategy is strategies formed from opportunities and threats, from within and without. Such schemata cannot be planned or prepackaged. Hence the phrase, reactive strategy.
   Reactive strategies come from an intelligent readiness. Executives and managers need to realize more that prizewinning strategies are often improvised, and therefore, they must remain cocked and loaded for appearing or disappearing targets. One eye must be on executing proactive strategy, the other eye on any-minute-now reactive strategy.    
   Expert businessmen are great at wingin' it. They seem to always know what to do, even in uncertainty. Their decisions are "highly intuitive and sensed" (Daniel Isenburg, 1984). They leverage change to their advantage. They are panoramic thinkers, seeing the significance and implication of situations. They stay ready to react and respond. They are reactive strategists. Pray for and pursue these traits.  
   Reactive strategy is where you, the Christian entrepreneur, must assume your revelatory privileges. By baptizing your enterprise with weekly intercession and fasting, you sensitize yourself to the Spirit of wisdom and revelation (Eph 1:17), who will tell you what is yet to come (Jn 16:13). Add to this surrounding yourself with perceptive and foresightful Christians and resources (writings, audio, etc.), and you will enjoy the Spirit occasionally previewing opportunities and threats, to your competitive break and Mammon's dismay.    

   These two types of strategy can be illustrated by a football team. Every football team forms proactive strategies according to team strengths (core competencies). They memorize a playbook and practice predesigned plays day after day. Great football coaches optimize personnel strengths by designing clever strategies around them.   
   On the other hand, some games are so unpredictable, some opponents so unorthodox, some weather so problematic or ideal, some players so inconsistent or dependable, that the coaching staff must respond to such immediate opportunities and threats. They must form reactive strategies. The gameplan more or less goes out the window, and the coaches improvise to the moment. Steve Spurrier became one of the greatest college football coaches in history precisely because of his reactive genius.
 
Strategizing Uncertainty: strategize by scenario
   To strategize by scenario is to propose multiple outcomes (three, ideally, for time sake), then, formulate quasi-plans according to each one. This is called scenario strategizing, contingency strategy, or scenario planning. Scenario strategy is useful amidst the shifting complexities and subtleties of the fidgety business environment.
   Scenario planning rose to prominence in the mid-1900s, as nations sat nervously under a nuclear-war thundercloud and superpower rivalries. Obviously, all governments could do was "semi plan" according to possible outcomes. Then, the thundercloud dissipated and the Cold War ended, sending scenario strategizing into hibernation (being most useful only in highly complex situations).
   However, the comprehensive fall of communism, penetrating globalization, information technology quantum leaps, accelerating value of intangible assets, and onset of the New Economy have all contributed to an extraordinary market complexity and uncertainty, thus, rousing scenario strategy once again.
   Scenario strategy means determining the most likely happenings (three, ideally, for time sake) and their implications, then, formulating semi-plans according to each one. I say "semi-plan" because the corresponding possible outcome might not happen exactly as forecasted, and therefore, the plan must be adapted and "completed" as reality unfolds. If the forecast is bulls-eye, then the semi-plan can be developed into a fuller initiative.
   Prescience aptitude Being a good scenario strategist means developing your prescience aptitude--calculation, revelation, and intuition. Calculation means amassing and analyzing all relevant facts and figures necessary to deduce intelligent scenarios. It is from this hard information that revelation and intuition spring up. Revelation means seeking the Spirit of wisdom and revelation who makes known things to come (Eph 1:17, Jn 16:13). Sometimes He will reveal with amazing specificity, and sometimes only general scenarios for you to prepare for by scenario planning.
   Intuition means listening to your gut. This may not sound very spiritual or business-savvy, but it is both. Studies have shown repeatedly that the most successful businessmen make decisions that are "highly intuitive and sensed" (Daniel Isenburg, 1984), and, the Japanese surpassed America corporately in large part because of intuitive decision-making (Kenichi Ohmae, The Mind of the Strategist, 1982). In Psalm 16:7, David said he listened to the Lord's counsel AND his heart instructed him. In Mark 2:8, Jesus "immediately knew in his spirit" the environmental dynamics surrounding Him.
   Calculation, revelation, and intuition are not at conflict in scenario strategizing. The Creator designed our brain to calculate, and our spirit-soul to revelate and intuit. All three must be exercised and integrated to maximize your prescience aptitude. Analyze data carefully, seek the Lord's counsel, and be sensitive to your gut-feelings.
 
Location: use locales with success potential
   My friend who opened a soccer store in Atlanta did so within one mile of a ten-field soccer complex. Hotels are set up next to airports. Restaurants cluster near interstate exits. The most attractive stores are often on prominent street corners. Smaller businesses open next to big ones. Location is a business strategy.
   Explore locations with the highest potential for success, and ask the Spirit for guidance. Avoid two extremes here. Don't be brash and presume to establish yourself in a highly competitive location, neither be fearful and assume you are unable to succeed in such a location. The best place to launch or spread might be a low-key, less-competitive locale with potential, or, it might be in the giants' very backyard. Do your homework and seek the Lord's counsel. There is a place of maximal fertility.
 
Opportunity: recognize opportune timing
   Opportunity is the open door to victory. It must be recognized. God seeks opportunities (Jud 14:4). Satan seeks opportunities (Lk 4:13, 1Ti 5:14). Sun Tzu, Chinese military genius and author of The Art of War, said, "The good fighters of old first put themselves beyond the possibility of defeat, and then waited for an opportunity of defeating the enemy" (The Art of War, chapter 4 verse 1).
   Until 1996, professional soccer struggled to gain a permanent foothold in America. Amateur, semi-pro, and professional leagues came and went like bad diets, leaving no quality league to manufacture world-class players. Creating such a league in a football-, basketball-, and baseball-saturated culture would indeed be difficult. As if the practical challenge wasn't enough, there was the moral challenge. American soccer was a locker room joke in Europe and South America.
   Enter business strategy...recognize opportune timing. In the summer of 1994, the world's most dominant sporting event, the soccer World Cup, came to the United States for the first time ever. The United States Soccer Federation, with true business savvy, realized such an event on its own soil would be a colossal opportunity to launch MLS (Major League Soccer). This would be America's one-rep max at establishing a respectable pro league, one that could compete with all the renowned leagues of the world. It was now or never, and everyone knew it. 
   Shortly after the '94 Cup, MLS launched. It has been over ten years since, and the MLS has gone from momentum to velocity. It now enjoys solid television exposure, significant crowds and fan base, player celebrity such as David Beckham and Landon Donovan, and genuine competitiveness in the Americas. It is still growing, as new teams are been added, stadiums being built, and farm systems being implemented. MLS players are now being traded and sold to some of Europe's best teams, and the US national team has finally gained World Cup stature. What American soccer could not accomplish in many decades it accomplished in less than ten years because of opportune timing.      
   Watch for your "World Cup" opportunities. God will send them. Years of futility and mediocrity can skyrocket into success through opportune moments. Keep interceding faithfully for your business, keep watching the happenings around you, and when you see an opening, run through it. There is always an opportune time to launch, expand, merge, acquire, or even divest to your success.
 
Social capital: build societal value
   Social capital is the sum total of goodwill, trust, and cooperation between a company and its community. Since communal value is a basic necessity for corporate success, you must seek to build your company's social capital.
   Social capital is a very powerful asset. Many economists suggest it is the motivator of economic growth, and money simply an enabler. Social capital can form key relationships and partnerships, bring new ideas, improve and grow a community, enter new markets, create and close business deals, manage conflicts, and many other small- and large-scale benefits. It is the biblical principle of harmony and teamwork (Ecc 4:9-12) between company and community. While Mammon is building social capital to steal, kill, and destroy, the Spirit-filled entrepreneur must build social capital to produce life more abundantly for everyone.
   American Idol has built significant social capital by directing their extraordinary fame and fortune towards humanitarian efforts. Chik-Fil-A has built social capital among many Christians by being closed on Sundays. My friend who owns the soccer business in Atlanta also coaches youth soccer and plays recreational adult soccer. So where do they go to buy their soccer equipment?
   When I was a child, two or three local businesses donated money and uniforms to my soccer team. We loved them for it. They raised their capital greatly by capturing an entire social group, as our team was very successful and well-known.
   Adam Smith, the 18th-century Scottish philosopher and author of The Wealth of Nations, stated that the pursuit of our economic self-interest was simultaneously the pursuit of society's welfare. In other words, your corporate endeavor is, and must be, intertwined with benefitting your host community. If you become overly absorbed in your entrepreneurship, you will lose your host and social capital. Understand, address, and do what you can to prosper your community and its citizens. This is very biblical for entrepreneurial success, Jeremiah 29:7(NIV): Also, seek the peace and prosperity of the city to which I have carried you into exile. Pray to the LORD for it, because if it prospers, you too will prosper.  What a business verse!
 
Intellectual Capital: exploit your company's intellectual estate
   Intellectual capital is the level of collective, business-related knowledge in your organization. We can also call it "intellectual potential" or "usable knowledge". In other words, how able are those in your corporate family to contribute to the company's innovation and evolution?         
   Every company is a hybrid of tangible assets (any and all physical property, possessions, etc.) and intangible assets (intellectual capital). Many executives have mastered the art of optimizing the physical, but not so much the intangible. There is a tremendous gold mine of profit or benefit in your company's intellectual estate. Check this out.
   In 2000, the market-to-book ratios of Fortune 500 companies increased to 6.3:1, meaning, for every $1.00 of tangible assets the market acknowledged $6.30 of intangible assets. A 2004 Gartner report prognosticated that by 2007 intangible assets would account for more than 90% of the Global 2000 enterprise (up from 20% in 1978, and 70% in 1998). Companies are being forced to acknowledge this, yet, intellectual capital remains a strategic frontier for many executives. Indeed, the invisible can be hard to corral, manage, and apply.        
   But good ideas today can mean market conquest tomorrow, and those ideas can come from anyone in the family. Both the suit-n-tie general manager and the stock boy at the warehouse have degrees of cleverness on how to innovate and evolve the enterprise. God-given hindsight, insight, and foresight exist untapped in everybody, but a wise man--a strategic thinker--draws it out (Pr 20:5).      
   Maximizing intellectual capital is both common sense and biblical. Remember the saying, "Two heads are better than one"? Imagine five...ten...fifty...one-thousand heads? Know your flock, they will make you prosper (Pr 27:23-27). One can rout a thousand in battle (Jsh 23:10), two can rout ten thousand (Deu 32:30). And that's just the beginning. Three can rout one hundred thousand, four can rout one million......how many spirits of Mammon and market competitors need to be routed?  
   Executives must receive a steady inflow from the corporate mind. Find a way to tap your company's intellect. Increase your visibility into their imagination. This definitely means maximizing face-to-face interaction, as Dave Packard and Bill Hewlett (Hewlett-Packard) popularized with their "Management By Walking Around" method. Japanese executives at Honda originated something similar, which translates into "actual place", "actual thing", "actual situation".                    
   Substantial communication/interaction through some vehicle must be established. Think and pray. The Spirit will illuminate the best course for your company.
 
Intellectual Property: convert intellectual property into profit or benefit  
   Intellectual capital is your company's collective knowledge, while intellectual property is the legally-protected aspects of intellectual capital (patents, copyrights, and trademarks). Some examples of intellectual property include inventions, discoveries, methods, formulas, brand names, software, designs, and artistic work (literary, musical, etc.). Because of its commercial value, intellectual property is the desired end of crucial intellectual capital. Interestingly, not as many companies realize or maximize the potential profits lying in their intellectual property (McKinsey & Co., November 2002).    
   Brand strength Your brand (brand name) is a part of your intellectual property. It must be developed into strength and equity. Therefore, if and when market saturation increases and consumption tops off, your brand will be the one possessing the greatest market share. You will be the one left standing.
   Brand strength is developed primarily through corporate identity and corporate reputation. Corporate identity must be clear, consistent, and memorable (see Part 1), and, corporate reputation means just that: social value, great product, reasonable prices, honest business, delighted customers.         
   Patent wielding Philips Electronics increased its licensing revenue by 45% by filing 35% more patents in 2000 than in 1996. From 1990-1999, IBM's patent-licensing royalties soared a miraculous 3300%, from $30 million to $1 billion! Patents pay. 
   However, converting intellectual property (IP) into cash is not about simply amassing more and more patents indiscriminately. In fact, US companies waste approximately $1 trillion each year in patent expenses (prosecutions, applications, maintenance, etc.). Many companies are "IP heavy", but not "IP selective". Therefore, you must determine which IPs are most relevant, competitive, and promising.
   You must also determine the life span of your IPs; what is valuable today might not be tomorrow. Lugging around irrelevant IPs will only send offerings to that wasted $1 trillion. Dow Chemical Company shrunk its patent portfolio from twelve thousand patents to eight thousand between 1993 and 1998. The result? $40 million in maintenance tax savings.  
   God designed your prosperity to come from your mind (3Jn 2), and He has guided the governments of the earth to establish IP laws to keep the thief in check (Ps 47:8,9, 67:4). Strategically managing your intellectual property can produce profit or benefit in several ways: brand equity/strength, new licensing-out opportunities, perpetual royalty streams, expenditure savings from IP selectivity, and protection barriers around key goods, services, or methods.
 
Integration: combine goods or services into multi-products
   Integration is simply combination. In a business context, it means combining different goods or services, that, together, reinforce one another to make a more market-powerful multi-product. Integration is one of the easiest and most effective business strategies that be.
   Take, for example, the cereal company Post. In 1986, Vernon Herzing, manager of Post's manufacturing facility in Battle Creek, Michigan, put integration to work. Under his superintendence, Post manufactured C.W. Post (granola product), Toasties (cereal), Grape-Nuts Flakes (cereal), and Sugar Sparkle Flakes (cereal). Herzing envisioned a unique "super cereal", a tasty mixture of these four that would blow past the competition and pick up significant market shares. At that time, this was truly an innovative idea. After playing with different combinations and measures, his team eventually picked the best of the best. After changing its original name, and adding honey, they eventually called it Honey Bunches of Oats. Sound familiar? When it finally launched in its present form in 1989, it was an instant success, gobbling up portion after portion of the cereal market. It continues to be one of the most lucrative cereals today.
   Herzing integrated four Post goods into one, creating a mega-product that would attract consumers from multiple directions. The granola-lovers would be drawn to the granola crumbs, the corn flakes-lovers to the Toasties, the honey-lovers to the honey, and so on. He pulled several consumer types into one product.  
   See friends, integration is so powerful because it places product uniqueness over product effectiveness. Price and quality might be replicable, but not uniqueness. An effective product is indeed essential, yes, but an effective and unique product is very difficult to battle with. A main reason for this is that the product can be patent-protected as intellectual property. Once this happens, all types of profits, royalties, licensing-out opportunities, and other benefits can be exploited. Since Herzing's edible masterpiece, other mixed cereals have been created, but the world and the law only recognize one Honey Bunches of Oats.
   Integration in business is Scriptural. Isn't it so awesome how God's Word is always ahead of the game? I love it! Read this scripture, and marvel at how common sensical and simple integration is. Ecclesiastes 5:11: As goods increase, so do those who consume them.
   Want to increase your consumer volume and market share? Integrate. Combine. Creatively mix goods and services to create a multi-product(s). God says, as goods increase, so do those who consume them.
 
Spreading: enlarge and multi-directionalize your interests
   Scripture is strong on this concept. Spreading is the enlargement and multi-directionalizing of interests. In business, a good spreader is one who continuously pursues new (and often diverse) markets, client groups, and products. Spreading is not only tactical for acquiring multiple sources of income, but also for protection against market failures and unexpected financial problems. Solomon is very articulate about this in Ecclesiastes 11:2,6 (NIV): Give portions to seven, yes to eight, for you do not know what disaster may come upon the land...for you do not know which will succeed, whether this or that, or whether both will do equally well.
   Scripture commands us to be spreaders, and even supplies a promised reward for doing so, Isaiah 54:2,3 (NIV): Enlarge the place of your tent, stretch your tent curtains wide, do not hold back...For you will spread out to the right and to the left; your descendants will dispossess nations and settle in their desolate cities.
   We are to "enlarge" and "stretch wide" and "not hold back". If we do so, the reward is that we will spread out to the right and left, and occupy all types of wonderful new territories. This is the cry of Jabez, that God would make him a spreader. Scripture honors him for this in 1Chronicles 4:9,10 (NIV, underline added): Jabez was more honorable than his brothers. His mother had named him Jabez, saying, "I gave birth to him in pain." Jabez cried out to the God of Israel, "Oh, that you would bless me and enlarge my territory! Let your hand be with me, and keep me from harm so that I will be free from pain." And God granted his request.  
   Think expansively. Pray and stay eye-open for new markets, new client groups, new success sources, new products (Ecc 5:11), new relationships--anything that can enlarge your company's territory and multi-directionalize your interests. Don't fish from only one side of your boat (Jn 21:6)!
 
Customer Service: bless your customers
   Many business experts believe there is no greater competitive advantage than happy customers. Remember saint, this is your ministry, your expression of love by which you will execute God's kingdom via entrepreneurial success.
   Customer service is better named "Customer Blessing" to us Christians. Keep the Christ-mind, not the Wall Street-mind. The product is what you sell, blessing is what you give. Customer interactions with you need to be an experience with Christ, even if it is subtle, indirect, or unknown. Grace can always be expressed in the most mundane of situations. Though "the loyalty effect" does not have the mass power it once did, it is still possible with some. Cultivate loyalty in as many customers as possible.
   Truly make time to answer concerns, questions, and needs. Set up a customer service protocol to do just this, according to your size and resources. Continually infuse your personnel with this "customer blessing" mentality, building a strong corporate culture with this blessing spirit. Remember, this is about people and God's kingdom, not success merely for success' sake (Pr 22:1). Truly love your consumers, and God and they will reward you economically.
 
What I did not mention
   I purposely did not mention marketing, organizational structure and flow, corporate values and culture, ongoing development and company evolution, and a few other things. Certainly they too are crucial for success, yet I chose to focus on the points I feel need greater clarification at this particular entrepreneurial season in the body of Christ.
Turning Good Ideas into Profitable Products 

 

The Business Calling

      I love reducing business down to the cellular level, making it simple and applicable for novice entrepreneurs and seedling enterprises. For, it is from these basic cells that more complex business systems are understood and executed.   

      Your business idea can help many people and generate great wealth. Sadly, many promising ideas wither into oblivion through fear of failure, fear of success, a lack of trying, laziness, and/or fatal errors in the first year or two. This need not be!

      If you have a Heavenly calling and idea(s) for the business world, you can and you must turn your idea into a profitable good or service. Yet God will not do it all for you. The Holy Spirit will alight upon you with strategy, gusto, and open doors. He will send coaches to show you the ropes. But at the end of the day, YOU must put your hand to work. Deuteronomy 28:8 only comes true when your hand is calloused from laboring in the Lord (1Co 15:58). Business-wise, a lazy entrepreneur is hopeless.

 

Market Niche (Target Group)

      Novice entrepreneurs often make the mistake of overgeneralizing their target group. They insist their product is for "all men" or "all women" or "all Americans". That's far too unfocused. If one day you attain crossover appeal across various niches, wonderful, but that won't help you starting out.

      Your market niche is a clearly defined group within the overall population. It is the specific setting into which you will showcase your product. It is the fish pond into which you will cast your yummy worm. A few random examples would be, high school football players, senior men with heart trouble, small dog lovers, or stay-at-home moms.

      Narrow down your target group to a bulls-eye. Let the Lord and your preliminary successes spread you from there.

 

Product Magnetics    

      Turning your idea into a profitable good or service means, first of all, appraising its market viability. In other words, how promising is your idea to your market niche? Does this product have a magnetic quality that would most likely draw consumers and market shares? 

      A product has magnetism to the degree it possesses one or more of eight characteristics:

            ·   Blessing

            ·   Novelty

            ·   Design

            ·   Quality

            ·   Price

            ·   Multidimensionality

            ·   Speed

            ·   Duration

 

(1) Blessing      

Is your idea/product supernaturally empowered?

      Remember beloved, first and foremost you are a Christian entrepreneur. This means you and your enterprise are bound to God's way (if you desire supernatural blessing). But, you may say, what about all the ungodly businesses prospering without divine favor? True. Many wicked prosper (Ps 10:5, 73:3).

      Yet this is precisely why your righteous enterprise must usurp and displace them (Pr 13:22, Ecc 2:26). God's solution to wicked wealth is not in changing universal business laws. His solution is you...us. The exact biblical term for this is dispossession.      

      Scripture is straightforward about invoking God's blessing. 2Chronicles 26:5 says this about King Uzziah: ...As long as he sought the LORD, God gave him success.  Proverbs 16:3 says it like this: Commit to the LORD whatever you do, and he will establish your plans.

      The Lord is your CEO Jehovah must be the true CEO of your life and your business. First, this means having daily intimacy with Him, spending alone time with Him daily in prayer, worship, Bible study, listening, and obeying (Ps 91).

      Second, this means marinating your business in regular times of fasting and intercessory prayer (especially with one or two others).

      Third, this means sowing and reaping must be the premise of your intended prosperity (2Co 9:6-11, Ps 126:5,6). In other words, giving and receiving must become more important than buying and selling.

 

(2) Novelty      

Is your idea/product completely new, unlike anything existing, and will likely appeal to a sizeable portion of your target group because of this?

      Things that are new, original, and unique draw market attention. Product novelty, however, is like good looks--if other qualities do not exist, the initial wow quickly dissipates. But if your product is excellent through and through, novelty can jumpstart crucial momentum.

 

(3) Design      

Is your idea/product designed better than existing ones?

      Different colors, patterns, or styles on an existing product can increase their market value, but these are basic innovations. Going the extra mile with design innovation means completely redesigning an unattractive product (the old knob TVs versus the flatscreen HDs), making a product easier to use (the old telephones with cords versus the cordless), or making a product more functional (the push lawnmower versus the automobile mower).

 

(4) Quality      

Is your idea/product obviously superior in quality, yet still within the competition's price range?  

     This one can be slippery, so think it through. Not all customers are willing to pay for higher quality, even the wealthy. Many studies reveal wealthy Americans are among the most penny-pinching in their goods and services expenditures. Affluence does not equal luxury, especially in these economic times. There is, however, a market kind in which people will spend.    

      Passion Markets Passion markets are those that cater to the passions of individuals: cigar smokers, car enthusiasts, book lovers, computer geeks, anti-agers, competitive athletes, and so on. Consumers in these markets will spend more for distinguished quality. I recently purchased a pair of soccer shoes for $160. Why, when there were plenty of other cleats for under $100? Because I love my profession and want the best while I'm playing. 

      If you are not targeting a passion market, your product will need dominant quality within the competition's price range. If you are targeting a passion market, you are less restricted in pricing, but your product must raise their blood pressure.

 

(5) Price      

Is your idea/product an at obviously lower price, while maintaining competitive quality?      

      I love Cinnamon Toast Crunch cereal. Oh my. But when I was in college and scrutinizing every price tag, sometimes I could only afford the generic brand. The price was often much lower and still tasted close to the real thing. Is your idea/product one that can sell at a noticeably lower price than the competition, without diminishing quality?

      A word of caution here. This concept works mainly for goods or services people buy repeatedly, like foods, drinks, personal hygiene, household items, common clothes, office supplies, yard care, car maintenance, beautification, and so on. Goods or services purchased once every few years do not fare so well with lower pricing. People think, We only get one every few years, so let's spend more and get the best.

 

(6) Multidimensionality      

Is your idea/product an integration of multiple products or functions?

      This category goes by several terms: multidimensionality, multifunctionality, integration, enhancement. Does your idea/product have multiple features that distinguish it from the competition? Think about Coca-Cola--Pepsi war. They are constantly one-upping each other by innovating the newest "multi-drink"--Pepsi One, Coke Zero, Pepsi Lime, Coke Cherry,  Pepsi Christmas, Coke C2...sigh!

      The point? A drink with plural functions, dimensions, or features. Household appliance companies are notoriously innovative in this department. As are car companies and cereal makers.

 

(7) Speed      

Is your idea/product produced and/or delivered at a faster rate than the competition? Does it have shortcuts from new methods or approaches?     

      Speed is crucial for high-selling products that retailers struggle to keep in stock--resulting in backorders and lost sales. If your idea/product can accelerate production and/or delivery, you will be filling a major hole many businesses have. I tried ordering a different pair of soccer shoes along with the other ones I mentioned...they were out of stock.

 

(8) Duration      

Is your idea/product short- or long-term?     

      Ideas/products can have a short or long lifespan, and both can be equally profitable. Market niches that are fickle or constantly changing (young age brackets, seasonals, etc.) are the fish ponds for short-term products. Having an overactive imagination is a true blessing when developing short-termers.

      Long-term products are bait for more predictable buyers and needs (upper age brackets, homes, medical products, etc.). Your product's duration will help guide your choice of launch environments, launch timing, launch strategy, and launch duration.

 

One Final Note            

      You do not have to start a company around your idea/product. You may develop your idea/product, then rent or sell it to established companies who will pay you a designer's fee and continual royalties. Many people have generated awesome wealth this way. For this to be the case, your idea/product needs to have market promise and your/your lawyer's negotiation skills well-groomed.