Entrepreneur Mental Wellness Needs a New Story

by Stu Minshew

 

The Big Problem

As a global society, we’re having much more productive conversations about mental wellbeing. In many places, we’ve begun to normalize the struggles we all face, seek help, and encourage others to do the same. Yet some days, and in some circles, it feels like we still have a long way to go. I believe entrepreneur circles and startup communities have some work to do in this regard.

I’ve been in entrepreneur circles for many years and I wouldn’t change that for anything. But there is a problem, and as followers of Christ, we have the freedom and responsibility to shine the light on this problem. Doing so allows us to talk about it with openness and honesty in order to lovingly serve and care for our brothers and sisters who are entrepreneurs.

Businesses Creates Change

Business, and entrepreneurship in particular, can be and have been powerful change agents for God’s Kingdom. For thousands of years, business has transformed communities, cities, nations, and the globe. It has helped pull millions of people out of poverty.

Sadly, business has also had its share of greed-fueled disasters that have negatively impacted thousands of people, or even whole populations. Thankfully, these instances only represent a small portion of the history of business. The global story of business is filled with examples of positive impact. It has been used to drive development, education, and innovation. For those following Jesus, it creates opportunities to join His work to usher in the Kingdom.

I see glimpses of God’s Kingdom in the world of entrepreneurship. The vast majority of Christian entrepreneurs I know are deeply committed to making a difference. Are they looking to make a profit and have more control over their schedule? Absolutely! But they also believe their product or service is glorifying God and improving their lives of their customers.

Many seek to improve the lives of their employees and point them to Christ. Others use the freedom created by entrepreneurship to transform their family or community. It may take on many forms, but Christian entrepreneurs are helping usher in God’s Kingdom.

Entrepreneurship’s Dark Side

I love entrepreneurship. I have been an entrepreneur, and continue to run a small business in addition to my full-time work. I facilitate programs that teach people how to successfully start a business. I consult, coach, and mentor other entrepreneurs. I love entrepreneurship.

However, there is a dark side to entrepreneurship, one that is destructive to the mental wellbeing of all entrepreneurs. We’ve believed the lie and created a culture where “hustle” is king and taking time away to rest and recharge is judged as a lack of commitment. Entrepreneurs experience little to no grace as they work desperately hard to personify the confidence and strength demanded by both secular and faith-based entrepreneurship culture, often sacrificing their own wellbeing to fit the mold.

And that is just to fit in. We also have to take into account the stress founders face when attracting investors, becoming and staying profitable, deciding when and how to scale, finding the right people for their team, and creating their organizational culture. The list goes on, and on, and on.

I’ve personally faced many of these stressors and I’ve seen them time and again with the entrepreneurs I’ve worked with over the past six years. Thankfully, others have started to notice the high-cost entrepreneurship often has on the mental and physical wellbeing of entrepreneurs.

Starting the Conversation

Several excellent articles have begun to shed light on the problem. In her award winning article from 2013, Jessica Bruder took a bold step to bring to light the struggles that lead entrepreneurs to experience anxiety and depression. She started an important conversation and provided a few practical steps, yet little has been done, even in the christian community, to move the needle forward and equip entrepreneurs to deal with depression, anxiety, and burnout.

In his December 2018 article, Jake Chapman points out many factors that lead to depression, anxiety, and burnout among entrepreneurs. He points to research conducted by Michael Freeman that highlights the extent of the problem.

Chapman addresses the devastating impact unaddressed mental health concerns can have, “Depression, anxiety and mood disorders all actively work to undermine founder performance. They often contribute to burnout, co-founder conflict, toxic company culture, increased employee turnover, an inability to hire top talent, an inability to “show up” for important meetings and pitches and poor decision making in general.”

These issues are just as prevalent among entrepreneurs who follow Jesus and those who don’t. The same toxic culture of entrepreneurship that has taken hold in secular communities has also taken hold in the communities of those who want to glorify God through their businesses.

We Need a New Story

These widely circulated articles are an excellent start and have sparked a healthy conversation in a few entrepreneurship circles. Unfortunately, I’ve found a lack of resources available to help us change the story that drives the culture of entrepreneurship. Even more, I’ve found that the few resources that do exist were created with a distinct focus on female entrepreneurs. Sadly, neither men nor women are immune to the threats posed by these challenges and all entrepreneurs need access to tools and resources to help them to promote mental wellbeing.

As followers of Jesus, we should be leading this conversation and pushing for change. Together, we must work to destigmatize the struggles entrepreneurs face and equip our community to better care for our collective wellbeing. We need to tear down the lies of Satan and speak truth and grace to our brothers and sisters in Christ.

Where do we Start?

We know it is a problem and we need to start talking about it. But where do we begin? I believe we need to begin by equipping entrepreneurs in three key areas:

Time Management – Let’s move beyond the lie that we must push ourselves beyond the point of exhaustion to accomplish our mission.

Address Fear and Anxiety – When left unchecked, these emotions affect us physically, mentally, and emotionally. Let’s improve our health and well-being by walking with the Holy Spirit to transform fear and anxiety into creative power, new possibilities, and clear decision-making.

Burnout Prevention – We need to build self-awareness to learn to quickly catch burnout patterns and gain access to the tools that will help us to transform exhaustion into sustained passion, inspired motivation, and better performance.

I strongly believe that the right tools and resources can promote mental health and wellbeing, and often prevent a crisis situation. However, it is vitally important that we learn to recognize the warning signs, both in our own lives and in others in our community. We must be willing to seek professional help and encourage others to do the same. (If you live in the US and are in a time of crisis, please call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255. Similar services and/or mental healthcare professionals are available in other countries.)

Let’s get started!

During this season of my life, I feel I have an opportunity to serve this community by continuing the conversation. I’ve noticed a lack of available resources, and I believe I can play a role in helping our community begin to take actionable steps to promote mental wellbeing.

Can you help me by joining the conversation? What struggles from your entrepreneurial journey would you be willing to share? What has been the most helpful tool you have found to help you address these challenges? What tools would you like to see that you haven’t been able to find? I would love to hear your thoughts!

Reach out to Stu via The Unleashed Startup.

Stu Minshew is the Vice President of Innovation Operations for The Chalmers Center, an organization that equips churches to walk alongside people who are poor, breaking the spiritual, social, and material bonds of poverty. He is a facilitator for CO.STARTERS, where he equips aspiring entrepreneurs to turn their passions into a sustainable and thriving endeavor. An entrepreneur at heart, Stu has started four businesses, two in East Africa and two in the United States. You can connect with him online at UnleashedStartup.com, where he helps entrepreneurs move beyond feeling overwhelmed, exhausted, and stuck by teaching them how to expand their time, transform their fear & anxiety, and break free from burnout.

Post adapted by author for The BAM Review from an article first published at UnleashedStartup.com.

 

 

BAM Endurance: Principles and Habits for Long-term Fruitfulness

One of the foundations of business as mission is that the company must be profitable and sustainable – otherwise how can it be a business long-term? We know that making sales, maintaining cash-flow and reaching profitability are a non-negotiables for BAM company health. Commercial success is critical.

But what else besides commercial success is vital to the endurance of a BAM company – or indeed to the BAM practitioners who run it?

Endurance vs Attrition

Missionary attrition is a term adopted by ‘member care’ experts to describe missionaries quitting the field earlier than planned and the factors that contribute to that. There is much we can learn from the wider mission community about the causes and cures of stress and attrition, however, when you add a commercial operation into the mix, there is an added layer of complexity.

What are the stressors common to business as mission that wear down a company’s chances of long-term survival? What causes practitioners to give up and go home? What causes BAM attrition, and conversely, what helps BAMers endure? Read more

Turn Off the Lights to Share the Light: Why Good Environmental Practice is Great Business Practice

by Mark Polet

There is a misconception that good environmental management always costs money. Well, sometimes it does seem to cost when externalities are not costed fully (waste management, air and water pollution control) or when the company is not managed properly (contamination). 

Turn Off the Lights so You can Share the Light

However, there is another area of sound business management where good environmental management saves money. It’s called efficiency.

In short, turn off the lights.

It is easy for all of us to fall into complacency or just get too busy to really manage our costs, especially in the challenging places where you work. That is why we are looking for quick wins. The first quick win my colleagues and I have noted in working for Kingdom Companies is energy efficiency.

Turn off the lights when you leave! I find it remarkable how many times energy is wasted in companies, even where energy availability is inconsistent. We have seen whole factories lit up with not a soul in them.

Manage your air conditioning.  25°C (77°F) is often recommended, no cooler. If  you have your suit jacket on while you work at your desk, something may be wrong.

BAM is in the relationship business, and enrolling staff in Creation Care is one more step in discipleship.

Watch for phantom power costs. Turn off appliances when not in use. 

Many electronic appliances (i.e. monitor screens) are still drawing power even when ‘off’. If at all possible, shut off at the main plug.

Read more

Messy Site, Messy Company: Aiming for Environmental Excellence

by Mark Polet

When it comes to running a good business, cleanliness really is next to godliness.

I want to explore with you why you who are pursuing excellence in business need to weave good environmental practice into your operations.

Messy Site, Messy Company

Good environmental practice is not a stand alone activity. Good environmental practice is woven into all aspects of the company. Because poor environmental practice is often quite visible in a disorderly site and disorganized operations, it is often the most evident warning bell to any investor or customer that something is wrong with this firm.

Why do I stay that? After over forty years of assessing companies for environmental excellence, including Kingdom-Oriented firms, there is one correlation in my experience that always holds.

If the site is a mess, the accounting is a mess.

Good environmental practice is not a stand alone activity. Good environmental practice is woven into all aspects of the company.

A messy site means messed up books. I have reviewed firms across a score of industry groups. At times I will come across a  company that has an unkempt site. Sometimes it is debris lying around; other times it is  far worse, with spills contaminating the soil. In all cases, I find as I continue my audit that their financial records are equally messy, and their regulatory compliance is spotty at best. The management of their supply chain was poor. The amount of waste they generate, both in lost productivity and actual, physical waste, is evident.  Read more

Should Environmental Concerns Be a Priority for a Christian Business Owner?

In June this year, the Lausanne Movement gathered more than 700 Christian leaders from 109 nations in Manila for its Global Workplace Forum. Among the many topics discussed was where creation care should rank among other Christian concerns like evangelism and discipleship.

Should environmental concerns be a major priority for a Christian business owner? Here are the answers of Lausanne leaders:

 

Ed Brown, executive director of Care of Creation and Lausanne Catalyst for Creation Care (United States):

Yes! Without question, for two reasons. The first is uniquely Christian: obedience. Taking care of God’s world by responsibly caring for God’s creatures (Genesis 1) and by “tending the garden” (Genesis 2) was our first assignment from God. Lausanne’s Cape Town Commitment appropriately calls caring for God’s world “a gospel issue under the lordship of Christ.” This first task has never been taken away from us. Christian business owners are to be more than sound financial stewards and Christlike shepherds of our workforce; we’re called to be keepers of God’s garden.

The second is not uniquely Christian, but important nonetheless: survival. Business owners need to be concerned for the survival of the business, but also for the survival of the human race, including their community, customer base, and their own children and grandchildren. Yes, profit is needed for economic survival, but profit can’t be made in a collapsing world. Economic activity is a root cause of the environmental crisis, and wise businesspeople recognize that environmental collapse threatens their own business’ future, as well as the lives of their own grandchildren. Those who can run their businesses in ways that do not damage God’s creation will both survive and prosper.

 

Las Newman, Lausanne’s Global Associate Director for Regions (Jamaica):

Yes. Good business makes good sense. How can a Christian business operator witness for Christ and at the same time abuse his workers, short-change his customers, ignore environmental standards, contribute to environmental pollution, and affect the ecological balance of nature? Good business depends on three things: profitability that ensures return on investment for growth and development; care for the welfare of the people who help to produce such return on investment (i.e., workers and customers); and good environment for business that enhances the quality of human life and honors the Lord. Business operators in the aviation, food handling, transportation, tourism, earth extractive, manufacturing, and retail industries, among others, now recognize the importance of corporate social responsibility and include a green policy agenda to their business, including support of the arts.  Read more

Business as Mission and the Global Workplace: Part 2

by Jo Plummer

First published as an Advance Paper for the Lausanne Global Workplace Forum.

Bottom-line thinking

It is becoming more common for companies to plan for positive impact on ‘multiple bottom lines’. Rather than only measuring success as a positive number on the profit and loss statement—ie, the ‘financial bottom line’—businesses around the world are beginning to look for positive impact on social, environmental, and financial bottom lines. Social enterprises now aim to have a positive impact on multiple stakeholders—their employees, suppliers, the community, their customers, etc.—rather than focusing solely on returning financial rewards to shareholders. This ‘cutting-edge thinking’ is rediscovering God’s original design for business.

A business as mission (BAM) company is simply one that embraces all of this thinking about multiple bottom lines and multiple stakeholders. Crucially, it holds that God is the most important Stakeholder in the business, and that the purposes of the company should align with his purposes. Thus, a BAM company is one that thinks about how the whole strategy for the business—and the business model itself—can intentionally integrate mission.

BAM company owners start their businesses for a wide variety of reasons, including: to fight the evils of human trafficking, accelerate the task of reaching the remaining unreached peoples with the gospel, and tackle the problems of social injustice, environmental degradation, and dire poverty, to name a few. Annie started her business in Asia to provide alternative employment for exploited women, Anne started hers in Northern Europe to create jobs and connect with disaffected youth, and Mary started hers in the Middle East to more effectively share the gospel in one of the least-reached nations on earth.

The world is open for business

God has mandated humankind to be good stewards of Creation, to create resources for the good of society, to love God first and then love our neighbor, and to take the gospel to the ends of the earth. Thus, a business as mission company includes spiritual transformation as a measure of business success, alongside social, environmental, and economic concerns—and has a special concern for the poor, marginalized, and unreached peoples. Business as Mission is:

  • Profitable and sustainable businesses;
  • Intentional about kingdom of God purpose and impact on people and nations;
  • Focused on holistic transformation and the multiple bottom lines of economic, social, environmental, and spiritual outcomes;
  • Concerned about the world’s poorest and least-evangelized peoples. 

Read more

Business as Mission and the Global Workplace: Part 1

by Jo Plummer

First published as an Advance Paper for the Lausanne Global Workplace Forum.

Introduction

Dallas Willard once said that, ‘Business is a primary moving force of the love of God in human history.’[1] Business, done well, is glorifying to God and has enormous potential to do good. Business has an innate God-given power to create dignified jobs, to multiply resources, to provide for families and communities and to push forward innovation and development in human society.

In the global marketplace today, we have an enormous opportunity to leverage this God-given potential of business to address some of the world’s most pressing spiritual, social, environmental, and economic issues. This is ‘business as mission’—a movement of business professionals using the gifts of entrepreneurship and good management to bring creative and long-term, sustainable solutions to global challenges. This movement of business people is growing worldwide; they are serving God in the marketplace and intentionally shaping their businesses for God’s glory, the gospel, and the common good. Business professionals are using their skills to serve people, make a profit, be good stewards of the planet, and align with God’s purposes; they are taking the whole gospel to the ends of the earth.

This paper aims to encourage businesswomen and men—whether entrepreneurs, managers, business professionals, or technical experts—that their gifts, experience, and capacity is a much-needed resource in global mission. In addition, it will exhort church and mission leaders to affirm and equip the business people in their networks and congregations so that they can effectively respond to the challenges in the global workplace today.

God gives us the ability to produce wealth

In Deuteronomy 8 we read that it is God who gives us the ability to produce wealth. He provides abundant natural resources so that we can use our creativity, talents, and hard work to provide for ourselves and innovate for society. Business processes naturally generate wealth and resources; companies are able to create good products and services for the benefit of communities. Business pushes forward innovation, helping societies develop; enterprises bring in new technologies, skills, and training to communities. Business, done well—not forgetting the Lord our God (Deut 8:11)—is glorifying to him.  Read more

What is Success? Advancing Spiritual Impact in BAM: Best of BAM Blog

AND THE AWARD GOES TO...

Our goal is to provide the BAM Community with great content and resources. Each year we do a summer roundup of articles which have stood out in the past 6 months.

Below is the “Editor’s Pick” for January to June 2019.

Please enjoy and thanks for following!

by Tom

It is easy to be confused by how success in business as mission (BAM) is defined today from a spiritual perspective.

Once-upon-a-time the core concept of BAM was to have a spiritual impact. The reality that a business needed to be profitable should also have been a given, after all, a business that does not make money can’t survive or, as we say in BAM, cannot be sustainable. Even with this relative simplicity, being able to measure spiritual impact seemed elusive.

Early definitions struggled between Business AS Mission and Business FOR Mission both of which held that a central purpose was spiritual transformation. Early theological debates centered around the secular-sacred divide, could business even be spiritual? There were common perceptions of money and profit, often portrayed as evil and exploitive among Christians, that needed to be overcome. Business AS Mission assumed that when operations aligned with spiritual values, businesses could and would produce spiritual results when driven by the influence of the Holy Spirit. Business FOR Mission simply used the profits of a business to support traditional missional activity.

Today the definition of BAM has expanded to include an emphasis on poverty alleviation and job creation etc., issues that are also popular in the secular social enterprise world. However, one danger we face is that while we are expanding, we might also lose what makes us distinctive, appearing to put less and less emphasis on spirituality or spiritual impact. Yet, without intentional spiritual impact BAM is not any different than any well-meaning secular program.

Twenty years on from the early days of the business as mission movement, we continue to wrestle with this topic of spiritual impact in BAM!  Read more

10 Pressing Issues to Address in BAM in the Next 20 Years: Best of BAM Blog

AND THE AWARD GOES TO...

Our goal is to provide the BAM Community with great content and resources. Each year we do a summer roundup of articles which have stood out in the past 6 months.

Below is the “Most Popular Post” for January to June 2019.

Please enjoy and thanks for following!

by Jo Plummer

This year marks around 20 years since the term ‘Business as Mission’ was first used and discussed amongst a growing group of like-minded people around the world. Of course, there were pioneer BAM models before that time, not to mention the fact that business and mission have been integrated in many different ways since Paul the Apostle made tents! However, for this modern iteration, the cohesion and an international conversation around this concept really started around 20 years ago.

I like to think of this pioneer generation and what has followed as ‘BAM 1.0’. It is amazing to reflect on all God has done in our global community in the past couple of decades! Now, as we look forward to the future, we want to explore the theme of ‘BAM 2.0’ for a new series of posts on The BAM Review blog. In the coming months, we’ll discover where we’ve got to and the issues we still face for the future.

To prepare for this series, we asked 20 leaders who have been engaged in business as mission for between 10 and 35 years to tell us what they believe are the most pressing issues we must address if the BAM movement is to be even more fruitful for the next 20 years… and beyond! While this isn’t a scientific survey across the entire BAM community, it does represent wisdom from a collection of leaders who have served long in our movement.

Here are the 10 overarching issues that were identified by these leaders, in no particular order:  Read more

3 Reasons to Scale Your Business to Reach the Unreached: Best of BAM Blog

AND THE AWARD GOES TO...

Our goal is to provide the BAM Community with great content and resources. Each year we do a summer roundup of articles which have stood out in the past 6 months.

Below is our second “Staff Pick” for January to June 2019.

Please enjoy and thanks for following!

by Mike Baer

In all entrepreneurial circles, the hot topic is “How to scale the business.” How do we take our company from me (and possibly a few others) to many? How do we add more employees? Customers? Lines of business? Locations? Profits?

Scaling in General

“Scale or Die” is the cry that comes from many startups and from virtually all investors. Growth is an evidence of life and health. Healthy companies grow. But it’s not easy, especially in a business as mission endeavor.

Where will you find the funding to expand? Bootstrapping or “cash-flowing” expansion is extremely difficult and tediously slow.

What about managers sufficiently skilled and knowledgeable to lead a larger business who also share your faith and focus? Where will you find them? How will you pay them? Who will move to your location? Do you use locals? Expats?

And, most importantly, what about your own experience or lack thereof? If you’ve never done it before, it’s daunting and difficult to say the least! The overwhelming majority of startups fail to scale.  Read more