Entrepreneurship equals evangelism?
More than 2 million listeners tune in to The Dave Ramsey Show each week. Ramsey — a financial counselor, author and talk radio host — has been called Òthe debt killer.Ó Kirk Noonan, associate editor, recently spoke with Ramsey about the benefits and perils of being an entrepreneur.
PE: YouÕve had your share of failure. Talk about the bankruptcy that changed your life and view of finances.
RAMSEY: My wife, Sharon, and I started buying real estate in our early 20s and we were good at it. In a few years we had about $4 million in real estate and $1 million in net worth, but way too much debt.
To make a long story short, our banks got sold to other banks and we spent the following 21/2 years losing everything we owned.
At that point, we decided to find out how money really works. I had met the Lord while I was making good money on my way up. I really got to know Him during my bankruptcy on the way down. I dove into Scripture because I donÕt like pain and I needed a better compass to navigate the business world.
PE: You said you got to know God on the way down. Explain that.
RAMSEY: When weÕre in pain, especially as a result of our own stupidity, we have two choices to make. Choice one is to walk away from God and act like it was His fault. Choice two is to run to Him because He has the answers. I was beat up enough that I ran to Him.
PE: How did your bankruptcy impact your family?
RAMSEY: It about destroyed our marriage. There are still scars from that time. But Sharon helped me work through it. Even though she was scared and my self-esteem was destroyed, we held on because of the grace of God. The good that came out of it was that we learned many financial lessons and how to slow down.
PE: YouÕve now had success on several fronts — do you consider yourself an entrepreneur?
PE: Describe the perfect entrepreneur.
RAMSEY: As close as we can get to perfect this side of heaven, we need to develop a sanctified entrepreneurship. That means weÕre operating our businesses as biblically as we can, asking what would Jesus do in every situation and equation we face.
PE: What are the dangers entrepreneurs face because of their inner drive to set out and create something?
RAMSEY: Most entrepreneurs have great ideas and tremendous optimism. But what we find out as we mature is that not all of our ideas are great ones.
I tell my team here at the Lampo Group it is OK to make errors, but not fatal errors. To reinforce this, I encourage them to try things in smaller doses such as test markets or focus groups.
As entrepreneurs we have to remember that weÕre always going to have failure in business. Business is a peak-and-valley process. To think otherwise is ridiculous.
PE: What are a few biblical principles every entrepreneur should abide by?
RAMSEY: DonÕt borrow money, because the borrower is slave to the lender. It is GodÕs business and you should run it for Him. If He wants it to grow, He will send ideas or money to make it grow.
Also, be a planner and then be active in the plan. Zig Ziglar says, ÒIf you aim at nothing, youÕll hit it every time.Ó The same is true in business. Plan, plan, plan and be active in the plan. You also have to remain flexible and allow God to lead you.
Just as important is to listen to your spouse. We donÕt make major financial decisions in my company without my wifeÕs input, and she has never worked a day in this office.
PE: An entrepreneur recently told me that no matter how hard he tries there are times every year when he has temporary cash flow problems. How can he avoid that?
RAMSEY: First, IÕd reassess how I got in the mess so I donÕt get there again. Small-business owners find themselves in that kind of situation because they are not carrying any capital reserves or they are not budgeting. If you donÕt have those two things in place, you end up living on a bankÕs line of credit.
PE: What are some of the relational and emotional risks entrepreneurs should consider before they try to start or expand a company?
RAMSEY: Entrepreneurs believe in what they are doing, but they have to turn it off when they get home. You canÕt treat your 5-year-old the way you treat an employee.
PE: If an entrepreneur finds himself in deep financial trouble, what does he need to do first to start digging out?
RAMSEY: DonÕt try to borrow your way out of the mess. Get strong believers who are successful entrepreneurs and have them give you advice. The Bible says in a multitude of counsel there is safety.
You also need to very carefully assess where you are financially. You do that with a profit-loss statement and balance sheet. When you sit down and look at those things, all of a sudden you start to see ways to solve stuff. DonÕt do this by yourself. Have outsiders look at it who have a successful track record in business.
PE: Can entrepreneurs have too much faith that God will bail them out of every situation?
RAMSEY: God doesnÕt bail us out of every situation. He is a loving Father, but such a father doesnÕt always give us what we want. Instead, God gives us what we need. I look back on things I have wanted God to do around here, and He didnÕt. Now IÕm glad He didnÕt because I can see now that it would have ruined us.
PE: What would you tell someone who thinks they have the next great idea that will make them millions of dollars?
RAMSEY: It will probably cost twice as much and take twice as long as you think it will to get it to the market. And youÕll probably only make half of what you think you will.
PE: Why is it so important to move from being an entrepreneur to what you call a Òsanctified entrepreneurÓ?
RAMSEY: Sanctified entrepreneurs take a stand for Christ in the marketplace and have a huge impact on nonbelievers. When an employer acts like Jesus it can lead countless people to Him.
ItÕs all in the way we act. Are we generous or greedy? Are we fair or unfair? Are we nice or mean? Are we servants or iron-fisted rulers?
A Christian boss ought to be the person everyone wants to work for. He or she should also have the best reputation in the market. If every Christian businessperson operated as a sanctified entrepreneur it would start one of the most powerful evangelistic forces on the planet.
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