In the International Labour Organization Handbook titled: Starting Your Business (International Edition) the opening paragraph of the leading section says: “The success of any business largely depends on the entrepreneur’s personal characteristics, skills and financial situation. In a new business, you, as the entrepreneur, will be the most important person.”
The ILO Handbook goes on to suggest, therefore, that the entrepreneur should consider the following as the necessary characteristics and skills for success:
Commitment – the willingness to put your business before anything else, and to work hard for long hours;
Motivation – starting business because you want to, not because you have to;
Taking risks – being able to assess which risks to take, especially as there are “no absolutely safe business ideas”;
Making decisions – being able to take difficult decisions that may have serious consequences for the business;
Family support – the readiness of the family to support your plans;
Technical skills – the practical abilities to produce product or service;
Business management skills – selling and other business skills;
Knowledge of the line of business – familiarity with the essential information relevant to the specific line of business.
It is important to remember that success is usually the outcome of effort. In other words, success does not happen until effort has been made, and the effort is made today for success that will manifest at some future time. So, we could add one or two other attributes to the above list, such as first, the self-assurance of the entrepreneur that he has the talent to make things work effectively, and second, the ability to spot the opportunities to which such talent can be productively (and even profitably) applied. Because we know that the future will involve some changes to present conditions and circumstances, the ability to manage change will also be essential. Risk taking must be accompanied by the capacity to innovate where necessary, and where others might be inclined to give up trying because traditional methods seem ineffective. In other words, the entrepreneur succeeds best when he is ready to ‘shape’ the future of his business.
The entrepreneur’s greatest challenge is this need to design the future of his business. As clever and skilled as he may be, he is actually unable to know the future. At best, he will employ the benefit of experience and the optimism of conjecture to arrive at a prediction that is neither certain nor guaranteed. This is one important reason why the entrepreneur must pause and ask the question – ‘Whose business is it anyway?’ For, if it can be demonstrated that the real Proprietor of the enterprise is Someone who already knows the future, then the human entrepreneur should be sure of success if he takes his guidance from such a Person. If, in addition, it is also clear that the entrepreneur can have free access to this Source even before starting the business, he should not find it too difficult to select those risks that are necessary and worth taking.
To answer the question, whose business is it? The human entrepreneur needs to remember that we come into the world, not by our own choice, but by the decision of One who had predetermined the time, place and context into which we will be born. Although we eventually make choices along the way, we do not create our earliest opportunities, nor are we able to tell where each opportunity will ultimately lead us. So, are we just to guess our way through life, or is there some trustworthy provision that can ensure our success? Only if we are comfortable with the notion that we are the result of some impersonal scientific ‘accident’ can we entertain the concept that we are drifting through this world on an uncharted course, the destination for which is not known to anyone, but is truly ‘up in the air’ depending on what we choose to do with our lives.
The word of God, transmitted to us through the Holy Bible, reminds us that “God has not given us a spirit of fear, but of power, and of love, and of a sound mind.” Clearly, to address the pressures and changes of the business environment, we need to apply this spirit of a sound mind, which may be described as “clear understanding, sound judgment, the whole soul harmonized in all its powers and faculties, and completely regulated and influenced so as to think, speak, and act aright in all things.” (Adam Clarke). When the entrepreneur’s sound mind is at work, then the risk taking and decision making processes are likely to lead to felicitous outcomes for the enterprise. Our sound mind has been given to us for use, and it is usually accompanied by the grace, also given by God, to apply the mind and all other resources appropriately to ensure success in our business.
Why is God interested in the success of our enterprise? Because He is the Principal Stakeholder of our business! As we mentioned earlier, each of us was brought into the world by God’s will, not our own; and He obviously was the only One who determined the purpose that we were coming into the world to serve. In addition, the earth, with all that it contains, belongs to Him [Psalm 24:1], and this means that every resource that we use in our business was created by Him, and belongs to Him. Indeed, God has made us – the human resource – His agents in the world, which explains the fact that all other resources of business become productive only when human intelligence and effort are applied to them. It may be on this account that the ILO document to which we referred initially claims that the entrepreneur is “the most important person” in determining the success of a business. If only we had sufficient wisdom, we would easily acknowledge the supremacy of the Almighty in everything. We would then understand better Apostle Paul’s advice that we should always work diligently, “as if working for the Lord, not for men.” (Colossians 3:23)
In conclusion, it is now clear that, since we are here to serve God’s purpose, we are, indeed, working for Him. That which we call “our business” is actually His business. It is because He directs us that we are enabled to apply our God-given resources to the endeavours that we choose to pursue. It is His Holy Spirit that gives us talent, gifts and other resources through which we can become entrepreneurs. It is by His ordination and grace that we make the right choices of careers that will help us to be productive, to be successful, and to add value to our situations in the world. The wise and truly successful entrepreneur knows that his success serves the larger purpose of God, and is determined by His will. Indeed, Paul may plant and Apollos may water, but the increase comes only from the Lord, the Owner of our life enterprise.