At Work

Finishing: The True Measure of a Startup

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AirBnB. Apple. Uber. Google. Facebook. We love companies like these because they have amazing startup stories. They are stories of intriguing people that overcame adversity to make it big. Hollywood has made many movies about companies like these because we keep coming back to watch them.

The truth is, we love startups. New things are exciting and inspiring. We just can’t get enough of them. There are books and blogs and podcasts and TED talks galore on the topic.

Have you ever asked yourself, what makes a startup a success story?

An investor might answer that question by focusing on the financial returns of the organization. Marketers might answer by focusing on the company’s customer acquisition and retention rates. Others might focus on other measures, like the meeting of objectives tied to the mission and staying true to core values.

Each of these metrics gets at the same idea: Is the organization thriving? Accountants refer to a thriving organization as a going concern, meaning that it is up and running and doing what it set out to do.

In a manner of speaking, the measure of a startup is that it is no longer starting. It has exited the chaotic and unpredictable early phase. It has finished starting and is now flourishing.

In this sense, I propose that finishing is a key measure of success for a startup.

The Beauty of Finishing

Tim Keller eloquently describes God as the original and ultimate entrepreneur. Here on the IFWE blog, we have written a lot about entrepreneurship, creativity, and the wonder of starting things.

We haven’t (yet) written as much about the wonder and beauty of finishing. In the same way God is the ultimate starter of things, he is also the perfect finisher. He finishes what he starts and is in no way hindered by those who try to work against him.

Finishing is celebrated in Scripture. God commends finishing to us. And to the extent that he is still working on things, he promises to finish them for our good and his glory.

Let’s look at two examples.

Genesis tells us that God created many things, everything in fact – the earth, the heavens, the seas, dry land, sea creatures, animals, plants, and mankind. When God finished the most successful, most glorious startup in history, he looked at all he had made and said, “behold, it is very good.”

Why was it very good? It was very good because all the elements of Creation were together, finished. Everything was working together in harmonious flourishing – shalom.

Thus the heavens and the earth were finished, and all the host of them. And on the seventh day God finished his work that he had done, and he rested on the seventh day from all his work that he had done. – Genesis 2:1 [emphasis is mine]

There is a strong emphasis on finishing and being done. The wonder of God’s creative work was that it was finished, that it existed exactly as he intended it to be.

As another example, consider Jesus’s work to redeem his people. Just before his last breath on the cross, Jesus said, “It is finished” (John 19:28-30). The salvation of God’s people needed nothing more. The perfect life had been lived and the perfect sacrifice had been made. Once again, the one through whom all things were made (Heb. 1:2), finished perfectly.

Finishing – A New Testament Theme

This idea of finishing and completion runs throughout the New Testament. God, who starts and finishes perfectly, promises that we, too, will be finished.

  • “And I am sure of this, that he who began a good work in you will bring it to completion at the day of Jesus Christ.” – Philippians 1:6
  • “All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete, equipped for every good work.” – II Timothy 3:16-17

We are God’s workmanship (Eph. 2:10), created for good works. We are startups if you will, that God is bringing to completion. Jesus is the first born among us, living evidence that we, too, will be finished.

Enjoy the Start, but Work for the Finish

Better is the end of a thing than its beginning, and the patient in spirit is better than the proud in spirit. – Ecclesiastes 7:8

We live in an age that holds the startup in very high regard, and rightly so. We should celebrate startups because they are incredible expressions of human creativity, which, in turn, reflect God’s creative nature.

And yet, we need to understand that the start of a thing is just a step on the way to finishing. In the same way that we reflect God’s character in our startup efforts, we also reflect his character by finishing well.

Of course, we must recognize that we don’t control the outcomes of the things we start. Some startups make it and others do not, even with our best efforts. Even so, we are called to start with purpose and to maintain a patient, steady effort toward completion.

When we start, let’s work with God-glorifying outcomes in mind. Let’s stay focused on finishing and remain faithful to the effort. Let’s trust him to complete things in ways that are even better than we imagine at the start.

Over the next two weeks, we’ll be looking at aspects of entrepreneurship that don’t often get a lot of attention.

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