I have a friend who used to broker private business sales. He would help entrepreneurs sell their companies to new owners. Unfortunately for those new buyers, industry statistics showed that less than 50% would succeed in their new business. The entrepreneurial “secret sauce” of the former owner, honed over many years of hard work and learning by trial and error, wouldn’t always replicate in the new owner and the business would find itself failing.
This idea of entrepreneurial secret sauce started me thinking about what are the necessary ingredients for someone to succeed in a faith venture start-up that seeks to employ individuals or communities rebuilding lives? Someone asked me today how I determining who to hire to lead one of our urban business as mission projects. Without a doubt, I look for six key ingredients in such a person:
A Love of Sales and Marketing
If someone is going to succeed in building a new venture, they have to know how to succeed in sales. This is non-negotiable. In a start-up, salesmanship is key at all levels whether you are seeking investors or trying to find customers. If you can’t make the sale, you will go out of business. And in today’s world where you need to earn people’s permission before making your sales pitch, understanding the fundamentals of permission-based marketing is also important.
I’ve never met an entrepreneur who didn’t like to compete. You don’t have to be cutthroat or slash and burn but you do have to enjoy doing all you can to win. I find that people who like to play sports are more likely to succeed on their own.
There will be dark days in even the most successful of start-ups. When others are tempted to quit, those destined for success know how to double down and get through the tough times. I like to find leaders who have shown evidence of endurance in their lives whether it’s a love of running, backpacking or proven stories of making it through tough situations.
An Ability to Adapt and Overcome
No venture will ever work exactly as planned. Successful faith venture leaders are able to learn on the fly and make adjustments to the business plan. It’s important to ask people for stories of how they have learned on the go. If someone shows an inability to adapt when circumstances dictate it they are not going to succeed in urban business as mission.
A Heart for the Community
I have met more than a few people who thought they wanted to serve the urban poor but lost their interest when confronted with its inevitable “messiness.” It’s important to find people who are passionate about the disadvantaged. Or better yet, individuals from the community who can be trained and empowered into leadership roles because of their unique understanding of its problems and the powerful voice they can offer.
Evidence of Brokenness
No one likes to admit that they don’t have it all together in an interview. But it’s absolutely essential that someone show evidence of past brokenness in order to effectively lead a faith venture. I’m a big believer that followers of Jesus serve others through our own brokenness. If someone doesn’t understand their own fundamental brokenness they do not understand the Gospel and they will find it difficult to serve the urban poor. Someone in touch with their own brokenness is capable of maintaining the faith part of the faith venture.
These six ingredients don’t guarantee the presence of the “secret sauce” in someone aspiring to run an urban business as mission. But I have never seen them missing in a person who does have that faith venture touch.
What do you think? What would you add or subtract to the list?