It is almost universally accepted that values are critical to business. We are bombarded by advertising, websites, and press releases, which tout “excellence”, “attention to detail” and “customer dedication”. However, how many of these organizations ground their values in a personal faith commitment?
In truth, it is rare, even among highly religious Africans, to find entrepreneurs who seamlessly blend their business practices and their faith. As a startup incubator that itself is grounded in strong Christian values, ServLed selected “Faith in Business” as the topic of its third installment of its ServLed Fridays series.
Resource person Patrick Oduro, a member of the ServLed board and himself a seasoned entrepreneur, engaged the room of handpicked entrepreneurs on the subject of walking out one’s faith. Beginning with an empty slide, Mr. Oduro turned the room’s confusion to comprehension with one salient point: a faith-based approach to business must always start with a blank slate. If one genuinely seeks God’s guidance, one must also dispense with preconceived agendas and notions.
For a room packed with enterprising, work-obsessed entrepreneurs, the notion of stepping back and giving one’s surplus time and energy to family rather than work or church was a jagged pill to swallow. However, heads in the room seemed to nod in agreement as Patrick identified one’s spouse and children as a person’s God-given spiritual backbone, and our first ministerial responsibility as Christians.
Mr. Oduro went on to state that in fact, it is smart work rather than hard work that sets one apart in business. “Working smart” demands that one’s operations align with the natural patterns of the world around us. Stumbling upon eureka moments such as these cannot be accomplished by sheer will, however. These opportunities come from divine bolts of inspiration.
In order to experience these moments of inspiration, we need tranquil, undisturbed moments where we can retreat from the cacophony of our working lives. Kwame Nkrumah made it a regular practice of his. Similarly, the American government established Camp David to provide its presidents with the very same respite.
Pivoting to an enlightening acronym for S.H.A.R.E, Mr. Oduro reminded the entrepreneurs that if they explored their (S)piritual gifts, (H)eart’s passion, (A)bilities, (P)ersonality, and (E)experiences, they would identify God’s calling for them. Contrary to conventional wisdom, which urges people to chase profit wherever they might find it, Patrick candidly admitted that not every temperament is a fit for every industry. Instead, we ought to pick the enterprise God most appropriately fashioned us for.
Closing with an amusing graphic depicting a frog and a pelican locked in a battle to the death, Mr. Oduro asked the room of entrepreneurs to hazard a guess as to who would come out alive. After a round of tickling responses the take-home message was clear: entrepreneurship is a battlefield, not a bed of roses.
Even with divine providence on our side, perseverance and dogged determination are essential to every business venture. If we walk out our faith, however, make time for reflection and refuse to be daunted in the face of difficulty, we are certain to come out ahead.