A cultural tsunami is currently storming through the church—and for the best! The name is Missional Entrepreneurship or Missional Innovation: a fancy name to describe what the church has been doing for centuries (think of the monks in European monastery who were selling craft beer!), creating innovative, self-sustainable economic models to better serve the local community! More than a trend, missional entrepreneurship is becoming a way of life for many Christians today.
Wherever you’re at in your missional enterprise, it always feels like a long road to develop a self-sustainable project! I have been to business school and learned all the nuts and bolts of entrepreneurship, but you won’t find what I’m sharing with you today in any textbooks. It’s the result of years spent working alongside missional innovators. Enjoy, and share with others!
1. Assess your social capital.
When it comes to starting a new project, we all tend to do the same thing: rushing for money, thinking that it is the only thing that will make our project successful. While money is obviously important (and not only in the rich man’s world!)—it tends to overshadow the many other resources we possess. And one resource that we all have in abundance is our social capital.
The origin of the expression social capital is said to originate from the one-year trip of French diplomat Alexis de Tocqueville to the US in 1831. When traveling across the country, Tocqueville was fascinated by the many meetings Americans were holding with their peers to discuss current matters of the nation and peacefully solve issues. He thought that this ability to congregate, discuss, and move forward was an amazing asset, very different from our wealth (economic capital), our level of study (human capital), or the skills learned from our upbringing (cultural capital).
No one told me when I was in business school that mapping out and assessing my social capital was very important to the success of my enterprise. So as you’re reading this article, create a one-hour event in your calendar and name it “Social Capital Assessment.” During this allotted time, take a piece of paper and create two columns. In the left column, write down all the names that come to your mind. On the other, in what capacity these people can help your project to grow. You’ll quickly realize that the help you’ll receive is very diverse: it can be people who have a good knowledge of your field, people with financial capacities, people who are wise and provide you with good advise, or just good friends you can laugh with (important for your emotional health!)
Feel free to email me if you need more help to map out your social capital!
2. Move to the prototype level ASAP.
Let’s pretend you work for a big company. Your boss asked you to send an important email to all the partners of the firm. You’ve drafted the email, read it a few times, but still you can’t hit the button “send” on your screen. What’s happening here is that you’re afraid the email is not perfect, or that it contains mistakes. Moving from a draft to a final product is something we dread, isn’t it? French have a great expression to describe this attitude: they call it tourner autour du pot, which literally means to walk around a pot. So wherever you are in the development of your social enterprise, jump as soon as possible to prototyping instead of waiting for your product to be perfect (which will never happen anyway!).
As you’re developing your product, please do not tourner autour du pot, send a prototype to some users. It will really help your project to get going!
3. Have a creative window in your week.
If you’ve been to business school like me, you’ve learned a lot about innovation, but not so much about creativity. But these are two very different concepts! Being creative means developing an attitude of openness to change and to new ideas. If you’re an entrepreneur, chances are that you’re a creative person who likes looking for new endeavors to change the world. But what I learned from coaching entrepreneurs is that creativity is like a muscle: it needs to be stretched and trained in order to function properly!
There’s no magical recipe here, if you want to remain creative you have to practice it. One recommendation that I usually give to entrepreneurs is to put in their weekly calendar a “creative window” to force themselves to remain creative. Give it a try. Put in your calendar a 30 minute window where it’s just you and your notebook (no distraction, phones away!) The only assignment for this task is to think of big ideas, to dream of how you can change the world, and to practice daytime dreaming. It will feel awkward at first, but I can promise you that it’ll soon become a cherished window in your weekly schedule!
4. Invest in a coach.
At Ministry Incubators we coach many entrepreneurs at various stages of their missional enterprise. And all of them can attest to how coaching is fundamental for their personal growth. The value of coaching is no secret (read this Ministry Incubators article to learn more) but very few entrepreneurs are actually taking advantage of it.
Equipping yourself with a coach is probably the best decision you can make for your missional enterprise and for yourself! Let me break three false ideas about coaching:
- I can’t afford coaching. Answer: Well, yes, coaching has a cost, but it is a long-term investment (think of the social capital that I mentioned earlier!), not a one-off expense in your budget.
- Coaching takes too much time. Answer: Not true! Coaching is usually a one-hour-per-month program. So to put it differently it’s like two minutes per day!
- I’ll never find the perfect coach. Answer: Well, that’s good news, because this person doesn’t exist! Apply the prototyping process that I described above: instead of waiting for the perfect coach, why don’t you give it a try with one?
5. “Think Tabernacle”: Celebrate along the way.
This last tip is my favorite one, and the one I really wish I’d learned when I was studying business. When I look back at my own past as an entrepreneur—I started a company called Chinese Institute in 2011—I think I could have celebrated a lot more along the way!
The golden rule is the following: At every little stage of your project, celebrate with others and with God. Most of us think that unless we’ve achieved a big milestone, it’s not really worth celebrating anything. Well, that’s a lie! Celebrating all the small progresses in your project is key! I call this attitude “Thinking Tabernacle” in reference to the process that prompted the Israelites to build a Tabernacle for God when they were in the wilderness (Exodus 14 onward). The Israelites did not wait to be fully back in Israel to build a strong Temple to God. They decided to celebrate Him in the desert, with the limited resources they had at this point of their exile. Celebrating along the way does not mean having a grandiose reception with 300 friends. It means doing a little something you don’t do on a regular basis, in order to treat yourself, and with the idea that a small celebration is better than no celebration…opening a nice bottle of wine, eating your favorite chocolate, gathering with a few friends…you name it! It means to acknowledge the progress you are making in your project, and thanking God along the way. It is the best way to train yourself to be joyful and grateful, which is the spirit of missional innovation!