The first post in this series established that entrepreneurship is an act of creation, and in that sense it is derived from being made in God’s image.
Successful entrepreneurship turns chaos into order. It creates value where others see nothing. However, beyond the creative impulse, successful entrepreneurs need other traits that Christians should find familiar.
Vision and Faith
Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen. – Hebrews 11:1.
We usually think of this verse as applying to our faith in Christ’s atoning work on the cross and the promise it gives believers. This application is accurate, but it is a particular, albeit vitally important, application of broader concepts.
Profitable entrepreneurship requires both vision and faith. The entrepreneurial process begins when a person has a vision for a better world and the faith that he can bring that about.
This faith to which I am referring is not a salvific faith. This is not meant to be a discourse on the error of a works-based salvation. I am merely demonstrating the Godly gifts and biblical character traits we observe in successful entrepreneurs.
After the would-be entrepreneur has a vision for a better world, what economist and Rabbi Israel Kirzner refers to as entrepreneurial alertness, he must follow vision with action. That requires faith that the entrepreneur can make his vision a reality. He must do this, even without any proof or evidence that it is possible.
Blessed is the man who perseveres under trial…
– James 1:12a.
Entrepreneurs often face obstacles. Prevailing thought and common wisdom tend to fear and resist change and fear it. Many see progress and innovation as threatening, and anyone offering to change the status quo will be challenged.
Entrepreneurship is a process that economist Joseph Schumpeter called creative destruction, in which the newly-created order destroys the old. Examples abound: cars ended the age of the horse and buggy, computers replaced typewriters, and smart phones are making a number of things obsolete.
Perseverance is tied directly to faith, of course. It takes a large measure of faith to stand firmly for something when others, including friends and family at times, tell you it cannot be done.
At times, one might even meet with active resistance from the establishment, whatever that establishment might be. For example, in lifetime, mobile hand-held communication devices went from Star Trek science fiction to commonplace devices. For this to happen, however, it took a three-year federal court case end a one hundred-year-old government supported monopoly to make it happen. That required perseverance.
Sacrifice and Service
This is my commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you. Greater love has no one than this, that someone lay down his life for his friends.
– John 15:12-14
In this verse Jesus is referring to his impending death on the cross. Though no one else has made a sacrifice of this magnitude, humans are capable of sacrifice. Entrepreneurship involves self-denial, often undertaken for the benefit of others.
A successful entrepreneur serves others, often at great risk, difficulty, and cost. Profits are a sign that the entrepreneur has successfully served others, but the profits only come after the endeavor. Along the way the entrepreneur may risk income, financial safety for himself and his family, his retirement, his home, and possibly the same of friends and family.
Entrepreneurs make these sacrifices because of the vision they have, and the faith that the sacrifice will pay off by providing a valuable service to others.
Regardless of the success and profitability of a particular idea, the entrepreneur must make good on his commitments and do what it takes to pay off any debts that he may have incurred while pursuing his vision. This financial “sword of Domacles” motivates the entrepreneur to work strategically to best serve people in the market and make his enterprise a success.
Entrepreneurship is as much a process as it is a set of traits. However, certain traits are essential to success and play an important role in how the entrepreneurial process unfolds. These traits–faith, perseverance, sacrifice, and service–are integral characteristics of the Christian as well. God admires them and encourages us to admire them, too.
What other traits do you see in entrepreneurs? How might these traits be rooted in faith? Leave your comments here.