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.

 

 

Procurement and Technology Through a Spiritual Lens

by Ross O’Brien

In this series of blog posts, we have been looking at Porter’s Value Chain Analysis as a useful tool for business people seeking to maximize the value they deliver to customers while also seeking to gain a competitive advantage as they execute their strategy. If you have not yet read the previous articles, let me encourage you to read at least the introductory article linked here, as it will set the foundation for this and all the other articles in the series.

Beyond the traditional use of the analysis, we have also unpacked how the tool could be used as a way to help a follower of Jesus steward the resources of God’s company. In this sixth and final part of the series, we continue to examine the support activities of the value chain, this time focusing on Procurement and Technology.

 

800px-Porter_Value_Chain

Dinesh Pratap Singh’s visualization for Porter’s Value Chain: CC BY-SA 3.0 

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The Role of Business Leadership Through a Spiritual Lens

by Ross O’Brien

This article picks up where we left off last year in the series on Value Chain Analysis Through a Spiritual Lens. If you have not yet read the previous articles, let me encourage you to read at least the introductory article linked here, as it will set the foundation for this and all the other articles in the series.

As we continue examining the way the value chain analysis can be useful, we need to keep in mind that these activities do not operate in isolation or for their own purposes. The activities in one functional area impact other areas and must be coordinated to help the company achieve its overall strategic objectives.

For example, if a firm takes a differentiation strategy in which its products, services, brand and marketing messages are unique from its competitors, then every functional area must seek to add value to achieving that objective of uniqueness. A company like Apple spends significant money on R&D, quality components and exceptional advertising to set its products apart. Primary activities including inbound logistics (sourcing components), production (quality control processes), and sales and marketing (advertising) must all support this objective, as well as the support activities of procurement (spending the necessary money to ensure differentiation) and human resources management (hiring, training, evaluating and compensating the kind of employees who will maintain the standards of excellence needed).

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Practicing Jubilee Through Entrepreneurship

by Stu Minshew

Last week, I shared how Michael Rhodes and Robby Holt’s new book, Practicing the King’s Economy: Honoring Jesus in How We Work, Earn, Spend, Save, and Give, challenges readers to consider ways to provide employment opportunities for those on the margins of society. Throughout the world, we are surrounded by those in need. Many individuals, and even entire groups of people, live on the margins of our society, including racial or ethnic minorities, low-income communities, single moms, the elderly, and those who have served time in jail.

As Christians in business, we are called to provide opportunities for those on the margins to build equity and take part in Christ’s abundant provision for His people.

My last post discussed shifting from a soup kitchen mentality to a potluck mentality, equipping us to more effectively walk alongside those on the margins.

Today, I want to explore another concept from Practicing the King’s Economy, unpacking what the Bible says about equity and the concept of Jubilee. As Christians in business, we are called to provide opportunities for those on the margins to build equity and take part in Christ’s abundant provision for His people. I’ll also discuss specific ways that entrepreneurship can create pathways to equity for those on the margins.

Jubilee and Restoration

To show God’s plan for everyone to have an equity stake in His economy, Rhodes and Holt go to the Book of Exodus. When the Israelites disobey and are sent to wander the desert for forty years, God uses this time, not only to discipline them, but also to show them what His economy should look like. As He provides manna, God shows them that He is a God of abundance and provides enough for everyone. At the same time, those who try to store up more than they need find it rotten and full of maggots the following day.  Read more

How Startup Success Starts with You

by Stu Minshew

Highlights from the Archives

Success Starts With You

Why would a post on starting and growing your business focus on YOU? A good product or service is all it takes, right? While it is important to have a good product or service, the most important factor in the success or failure of your business is you!

Most businesses don’t fail because of poor products or fierce competition. They fail when finances are mismanaged, passion is lacking, and expectations are unrealistic. By starting with an in-depth look at yourself – including your passions, strengths, weaknesses, expectations, and financial literacy – you can take the critical first steps to launching a successful business.

Identify and Test Your Assumptions

We all have an idea of what our successful business will look like in the future. At this point, that picture might be a little blurry if your business is only a concept. However, getting a clearer picture of that vision is important for your success. It is going to provide you with a general target for how you grow your business.  Read more

Workplace Relationships: Loving Your Employees

by Michael Thiessen

As a business owner, you provide many amazing things for your employees. You provide financial security for their families, a sense of belonging, and the emotional well-being and satisfaction that comes from doing good work. However, if Jesus were running a business, do you think he would stop there?

I believe that we are called to much more than that. We have so many more opportunities to bless our employees and care for them – to love our neighbors as ourselves. We can learn leadership lessons from Jesus, think more deeply and compassionately about who we are hiring, find ways to engage spiritually with our employees, plus some other great ways of caring more for our employees.

Leadership Lessons from Jesus

In true biblical fashion, it turns out that the best way to lead others is to serve them. Stephen Covey, who wrote one of the best-selling business books of all-time, was an advocate of this style of leadership, aptly called Servant Leadership. This is also the style of leadership that Jesus used throughout his ministry. We see this in how he washed the feet of the apostles, humbling himself to serve them even though he was their King. In fact, one of the people I have interviewed for Marketplace Disciples has based their entire business on teaching others how to lead in this way. Jannice Moore coaches the boards of businesses and non-profits, and gets to share the story of Jesus with all of her clients:

“The model of governance in which my business specializes is Policy Governance ®. One of its fundamental principles is that the board is not there for itself, but for its owners, those on whose behalf it governs, and that the board’s relationship with those owners should be one of servant-leadership.

So I build the concept of servant-leadership into every presentation, and use it as an opportunity to note that the concept was one taught by Jesus Christ.” Read more

God in Your Foundational Statements

by Dave Kahle

There is a certain power and attractiveness that accrues to those folks who take a stand and publicly express it. That’s called leadership, and the world is full of people looking for a leader. There is something compelling about a person who is committed to a cause that is bigger than just himself, who has the courage to declare that commitment not only for himself but on behalf of those in his sphere of influence, and to do so publicly for anyone who wants to hear it. The impact can be incalculable — spreading across geographies and dripping down into several generations.

Of course, we’ve all seen this principle in our lives — significant people influencing multitudes with the strength of the commitment to a cause. My mind leaps to Billy Graham on the positive side, and Hitler on the negative. These are grand-scale examples, but there are scores of others in our families and communities who don’t get the same level of notoriety, but for whom the principle is just as operative.

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Pride, Humility, and Failure

by Dave Kahle

Remember John Delorean?  He was the superstar General Motors executive who started the Delorean Motor Company.  When the company began to falter, he was arrested and charged with complicity in a drug deal that some speculated was an attempt to raise money to prop up the company.

All of this was big news in Detroit, where I was living at the time.  One particularly insightful article in the Detroit News theorized that he had been supremely successful his whole life, and thus never learned to deal with failure.  His development was stunted by a lack of failure in his life.  Faced with the pending failure of his auto company, he had nothing to lean upon and lost his moral compass.  A long string of successes had not developed his character.

Perhaps.  There is one thing for certain, regardless of the individual circumstances for Mr. DeLorean.  If we choose to, we learn more from our failures than we do from our successes.  Within every failure there is the seed of a lesson well learned, of a solid character trait emerging.  It is our failures that contribute most intensely to our development.

To this day, I can recall with vivid detail the events of my most humiliating failure as a sales person.  It was early in my career, about three decades ago, and I had made the mistake of speaking badly about the competition to a customer.  The customer was a personal friend of the competitive sales person and was personally affronted by my comment.  The dressing down that I received at the hands of that customer remains painfully with me today.  I don’t believe that I have ever made that mistake since. Read more

7 Creative Ways that Practitioners Integrate Business and Mission

A defining characteristic of a BAM company is that it intentionally integrates mission with business. But what does that look like in practice? What are some creative ways that practitioners work out their goals for spiritual impact, alongside their commercial, social and environmental goals?

We asked a small group of practitioners to share what they do in the business context that moves them towards their missional goals and spiritual impact. This could be something they did when establishing the company, or practices they do on a regular basis in the day-to-day life of the business. The practitioners shared a diverse range of specific practices, but there were some common themes. These seven ways to integrate business and mission stood out:

Keep Purpose Front and Center

Keeping the purpose, vision and objectives of the company at the forefront emerged as a key principle. This is important all the way through the life of the company, from the planning stages and goal setting, to evaluating those goals and choosing measures, to on-boarding processes for new hires, to daily communication with employees. Read more

6 Ways to Build Trust for Greater Impact

by Larry Sharp

In early 2016 I picked up a copy of the The Economist, entitled “The World in 2016”. An article on page 90 intrigued me entitled, “A Crisis of Trust” by Richard Eldelman.1 Mr. Edelman maintains that “trust – or, often, the lack of it – is one of the central issues of our time”. He may be right.

The Edelman Trust Barometer has been tracking trust issues for fifteen years, particularly between countries in the categories of government, business, technology, media, and NGOs. Technology is the most trusted sector and government is the least trusted institution worldwide. While trust in business is recovering, trust in CEOs has declined by ten points since 2011.

A recent Maritz poll2 indicates that only seven percent of workers strongly agree that they trust their senior leaders to look out for their best interest. John Blanchard’s research demonstrates that 59% of respondents indicated they had left an organization due to trust issues, citing lack of communication and dishonesty as key contributing factors.3 Clearly everywhere and in every sector, trust is at a tipping point.

All of this got me thinking about missional business startups. Certainly trust is fragile – in all aspects of life, and also in business. It is imperative for clients, customers, employees and team members to trust the owner because it is often easier to mistrust than to trust. What can a business owner do to develop high levels of trust?

The simplest understanding of trust is that it centers in competence and character. If owners and managers are competent in their knowledge, practice, and in getting things done; and they are persons of integrity, reliability and promise, they are probably a person of trust.

Perhaps the following concrete actions will go a long way to building trust in the business environment:

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