We are continuing our summer blog series aimed at those who are either starting a missional enterprise or thinking about starting one. During this series, we will look at theological and practical concerns of missional entrepreneurs.
This week’s post comes from Jessica Winderweedle with The Feed Truck in Kingston, NJ, with encouragement to incorporate teamwork into your missional plans!
Find Your Team and Get to Work
In the series finale of Parks and Rec, in a final toast to her compatriots in public service, Leslie Knope raises her glass to this refrain:
Teddy Roosevelt once said, “Far and away, the best prize that life has to offer is the chance to work hard at work worth doing.” And I would add that what makes “work worth doing” is getting to do it with people that you love.
A few frames later, she references the same quote during a commencement speech at Indiana University, and then leaves the bright-eyed grads before her with this charge:
Now find your team and get to work.
At The Feed Truck, our philosophical pillars are food, work and neighbor. Through the service of local, well-crafted food and the meaningful work of radical hospitality, our aim is to foster spiritual engagement and a love of neighbor within our community. As with any entrepreneurial ministry, particularly within its first 5 years, the work portion of things can seem disproportionate to the payoff at times. Positive change can seem too incremental, risk can seem too high, and burnout can feel too imminent. But I’m with Leslie Knope – knowing that it’s work worth doing (i.e. having what we might call a “calling”) and doing the work alongside a team of people you love (and that love you!) are key components to keeping you sane in the first tumultuous, exciting, unpredictable years of a missional enterprise.
Find Your Team
It may go without saying, but just for fun, I’ll say it anyway: missional entrepreneurship should not be played as an individual event – it is a team sport. In an enterprise’s initial phases, entrepreneurs often wear all of the hats. They do everything for their organization from business planning to capital fundraising to running around sourcing products or making copies (or, in my case, making raspberry-habanero jam by the bucketful.) Wearing that many hats makes the head weary, and an entrepreneur who finds themselves leaning toward that scenario should make finding their team priority number one.
Your potential teammates are all around you. If your missional enterprise is based in a local church, like ours, the most likely suspects are going to be your lay leadership within the congregation. When The Feed Truck was still just a gleam in my eye, I worked with our lead pastor to put together an exploratory group (who ended up in large part becoming my board of trustees). These individuals all had an interest in the project but came to it with different energies and priorities. One member was a graduate student at the university where we hoped to have our primary outreach, who happened to have worked in their family restaurant as a teenager and helped develop our menu. One member was a municipal foreman and expert on all things mechanical, whose vested interest was making sure his family’s church didn’t literally go up in flames. One member is a serial entrepreneur himself who has served on numerous other boards in our community. They all brought unique experience and wisdom to the project, but more than that, they were emotionally and communally invested in its success.
As the ministry grows, we have found it essential to grow our circle of leadership to include those with more of an outsider’s view to the project, in order to prevent tunnel vision and stagnation. Board members and staff that come to us from outside our congregation, especially from partner organizations and churches, offer fresh perspectives and are able to ask critical questions that those of us who have had our boots on the ground the longest sometimes miss.
Know Your Own Gifts
In addition to finding people who are passionate about your project, being honest with yourself about your own gifts is a great next step as you think about finding your team.
Whether you are assembling a board of directors, finding a business partner, or putting together an operations staff, it’s important to (1) accept the fact that you are not good at everything (and you don’t have to be!), and (2) find people who have all of the things to offer that you don’t.
Be honest with yourself about the things that give you life and the things that are most soul-sucking to you, and find a team that will fill in the gaps around your own vocational calling and gifts for the sake of the project as a whole.
Do you love to be the one up front, giving an elevator pitch and passionately telling the story of your project to supporters? Does bean counting give you hives? Find someone – and find them now – whose happy place is at a desk with a calculator and a stack of spreadsheets. (They’re out there, and they are Godsends to those of us without those tendencies.) Or maybe your natural proclivities are that of a manager more than a visionary pitchperson. Find someone else who believes in the story of your enterprise and can paint the picture for supporters while you’re laying the operational groundwork to keep the story going.
Besides knowing your tactical gifts, tools like the Enneagram or StrengthsFinder are super helpful in facilitating conversation around the driving forces and anxieties that you and your teammates possess. This can help grease the wheels of communication and understanding when conflict and stress inevitably arise.
Every entrepreneur finds that they have to perform as a jack- or jane-of-all-trades to some extent, but the faster you can delegate to others, the better off you’ll be in terms of your own well-being and the health of your project.
Delegate Roles, Not Tasks
Finding your team doesn’t just mean having other people to dump your tasks on. It means finding the people with whom you will be in cahoots – the people who, like you, wake up in the morning and go to sleep at night thinking about how to develop and grow the project, how to help it thrive and make it scalable. In order to find folks who are willing to walk alongside you in this way and have ownership of the project, you can’t just hand over tasks to complete; you have to empower teammates to fully embody roles. It’s the difference between babysitting and parenting. Asking someone to feed the baby or change the baby, or even watch the baby for a bit while you step out for a break – none of that is the same as asking someone to co-parent a baby. Sure, a babysitter will keep your kiddo safe and clean and fed, but they’re probably not going to be thinking about braces or college funds or what the kid’s therapist is going to hear about someday. A co-parent is invested in an entirely different way than a babysitter. And in entrepreneurship, single parenting of your project is burnout waiting to happen – for you, and for your enterprise.
Handing a role over to someone is an exercise in trust, and it isn’t always easy. It’s important that you’ve done everything you can to set the person up for success before you hand over the reigns. But once you have given them the necessary tools and information, made yourself available for ongoing check-ins, and agreed upon your goals, plan and timeline, it’s time to take the leap – step away and let them at it. Give your team the space to do the work. No one likes a micromanager (so I’m told…) and helicopter-parenting over a co-parent only cultivates discouragement and discord.
Get to Work
Missional entrepreneurship is a rollercoaster ride. The tedious pre-planning stages, the thrill of launch, the necessary failures, the steep learning curves – it can be exciting, overwhelming, disheartening, and Spirit-filled… sometimes all in the same day! If you believe you’re called to such work, you’d better believe others are, too. Find the team that will love you well throughout the whole ride, and that you can love back – and get to work. When you forget, the right team will remind you – it’s work worth doing.
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