Brock Shinen, author of The Christian Entrepreneur: Dream, Plan, Execute, Grow, calls himself a “cultural translator” because he has one foot firmly rooted in Christian faith and the other firmly rooted in the marketplace. With a background of church, psychology, and “the language of the marketplace,” he aims to share with Christian entrepreneurs the tips and tricks they need to make their businesses successful with both a faith and business mindset.
In The Christian Entrepreneur, readers can find practical advice to face the challenges of bringing their Biblical values into the secular marketplace.
What are some of the challenges of being a Christian entrepreneur?
I think the challenges are coming from all angles. You know, we as entrepreneurs are trying to balance faith against strategy and saying, “I don’t have to have a really good strategy. I don’t even have to have a really good plan because God’s got my back.” For Christian entrepreneurs, one of their big hurdles is understanding that you should always have a strategy and you should always know your space better than anybody else, but you should also completely trust God.
I think there’s other elements of the outside looking in where customers, if they know you’re a Christian business, they expect certain things. They expect you to be cheaper, for some reason. They expect you to be more gracious. If they don’t pay you, they say, “We’re brothers and sisters in Christ. You can’t threaten. You can’t sue me.”
I think that the third piece of that is how the world perceives us. By and large, I think the world perceives Christian businesses and Christian entrepreneurs as somewhat inferior to the rest of the world because it becomes tied into our theology. It becomes tied to, “Well, you guys don’t even believe in evolution. What do you know about business if you don’t even understand how the time space continuum works.” We have to overcome that there’s no respect for what we do in the business world, because we’re just “ignorant Christians.”
How can faith and competitive business practices work together?
The first thing we have to do as Christian entrepreneurs is stop isolating our personas into a Christian persona or a faith-based persona separate from our business persona. The first step is integrating who we are as Christians with who we are as humans and understanding that if we’re fully immersed in God and we’re fully immersed in our faith, and those two are inseparable. They’re woven together by creation.
The second thing is to make a list of what you think are the best business practices out in the world. Now, make a list of what you think are the best faith-based [business practices]. You’ll find that the vast majority of those line up: honesty, integrity, working hard, doing your best.
We have to realize that being the best in business isn’t about faith-based or non-faith-based. There’s total congruency between having the best practices and our faith. Our faith sets the values and sets the tone for our expression of those values. And if we truly operate in those values, we’re going to be more successful than our counterparts that don’t have those values.
What is the importance of a good team when running a successful business?
Obviously based on experience, a successful team can’t be built without a strong view. My focus is always first on the entrepreneur: how are we making sure that you are good? How are we making sure that you’re healthy? That you’re emotionally strong? That you’re being smart and strategic in your decisions?
We start with me as the entrepreneur. If we work on me becoming the strongest member of the team first, what’s going to happen is that I’m going to infuse that strength into my team, and I’m also going to want to surround myself with people who are healthy and strong instead of trying to work around my deficiencies and my weaknesses.
You’re building a team that that is actually like an extension of your own health. When you have a strong entrepreneur, you build a strong team because you naturally and organically model what it means to be healthy and to go after success in a healthy way.
What advice would you give to aspiring entrepreneurs?
First, if you’re starting a business, if you’re in the early phases of it, understand God loves you and He wants good for you. God’s not out there to beat you up or embarrass you.
Secondly, if you understand why most businesses fail and you can look at the data and the data will say they’re underfunded, but as soon as you peel that back you realize, not really. There were poor decisions made around finances. We tend to think that businesses fail because they don’t have enough money to start, but the real answer is because poor decisions were made about money and there’s not a whole lot of strategy and critical thinking in starting a business. If you are strategically and critically thinking about starting a business and you asked yourself the hard questions. Who would buy this product? Why would they buy it? Why is my product better than the next one?
You start asking those kinds of questions and those are tough and those are scary because now you have to get real. But if you get real with yourself and ask those tough questions, you suddenly realize that going from general to going to specific will increase your probability of success a thousand times over. Because the reason why is you’re engaging with the details where 98% of all businesses fail. You’re, you’re asking the questions and you’re facing the reality of those failure points long before they ever occur.
How do faith and business combine?
I feel like so many times what I see with Christian entrepreneurs is it’s all theoretical, including how our faith meshes with what doing. And I think really if we want to be successful and we actually want to change the world first, we have to stop making it theoretical and actually take the step into the reality.
How do you do that? By asking the hard questions, asking people who you love and trust who will be honest with you, and then listening and hearing them. That ties into making a strong you before you can make a strong team. Going from a hypothetical looks like engaging in our faith in the context of business and stop separating them. Bring your unique voice and actually walk with the Holy Spirit in business.