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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Spirit-filled Business & Entrepreneurship, Pt 1
Spirit-filled Business & Entrepreneurship, Pt 2
Turning Good Ideas Into Profitable Products
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
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.
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.
(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.
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.
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.
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.
Part 2: Business Strategy & Market Conquest
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.
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:
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.
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.
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).
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.
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.
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.
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.
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 NoteYou 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.