August 22, 2017

“Religion and Business Are One”

Marcos Paseggi, Adventist Review

A trio of Seventh-day Adventist entrepreneur friends shared down-to-earth tips for entrepreneurship success, during a panel discussion at the 2017 Adventist Laymen’s Services and Industries Convention in Houston, Texas, United States, earlier this month. The bottom line? Ruben Dias, Danny Houghton, and Jared Thurmon—all under 50—believe the Bible and the writings of church co-founder Ellen G. White should inform our business practices.

“Scripture and the Spirit of Prophecy [White’s writings, which Adventists believe to be inspired] are great business books,” said Dias, a self-described “serial entrepreneur” from Whistler, British Columbia, Canada, who in the last 25 years started more than ten companies and sold four of them. “Their practical principles have a lot of potential.”

“Religion and business are not two separate things; they are one,”[1] said Thurmon, an entrepreneur currently working as the Adventist Review Ministries Director of Innovation, quoting a statement by Adventist church co-founder Ellen G. White. “We firmly believe that.”

Christian Seventh-day Adventist entrepreneurs Jared Thurmon, Ruben Dias, and Danny Houghton discussed sound business principles derived from their experience, the Bible, and the writings of church co-founder Ellen G. White. [Photo: Marcos Paseggi, Adventist Review]

In little over an hour, the three entrepreneurs shared 15 tips, based on their business experience, which have helped them in the ups and downs of entrepreneurship. Below is a brief description of each principle.

1. Set Goals. It is important to develop a list with “anchor points,” said Dias, adding that each goal needs to be quantified. “You need to know how much, and when you want to achieve it,” he said. Houghton, owner of One Degree Organic Foods in Abbotsford, British Columbia, Canada, shared that some years back, his business saw the “farm to table” movement coming. “So we decided to do something different, ahead of the curve,” he said. “We set out to be the first brand to trace every single product ingredient to its farmer.”

2. Focus. If you don’t focus, you die, said Dias. “Certain things you cannot multitask,” he said. “And if you don’t commit, results won’t come.” Thurmon agreed. Quoting Ecclesiastes 9:10, where Solomon wrote “Whatever your hand finds to do, do it with your might,” he said that the key question is, “How do I become the best in what the Lord called me to do?”

3. Constantly Persevere. “Success is not the result of chance or destiny; it is the outworking of God’s providence, the reward of faith and discretion, of virtue and persevering effort,” wrote White[2]. It is a principle worthy of following, said Dias.

4. Embrace Risk. Success is not the only outcome. The higher the risk, the higher the reward. The question you should ask is, How much risk are you willing to take? “You learn from your failures,” said Thurmon. “If you don’t have failures to share, you are not risking enough.”

5. Understand Time. Dias believes understanding the times or stages of your undertakings is something critical in business. The trio quoted Ecclesiastes 9:11, where Solomon wrote, “The race is not to the swift, nor the battle to the strong, nor bread to the wise, nor riches to men of understanding, nor favor to men of skill; but time and chance happen to them all.”

6. Never stop learning. White wrote, “Do not borrow the productions of other men’s brains and pens, and recite them as a lesson; but make the most of the talents, the brain power, that God has given you.”[3] “I always win in every deal, either money or experience,” said Dias. “We should never stop learning, even from our mistakes.”

7. Welcome Any Outcome. You need to be prepared for “a rainy day,” for the worst to happen, said the three entrepreneurs. At the same time, you need to ask yourself beforehand, what can I afford if things don’t turn out as I was expecting? How far am I willing to go?

8. Delay Gratification. In a society that fosters instant gratification, it is important for Christian entrepreneurs to learn how to delay gratification. “In business, it is important to learn not only what to do and when—‘timing’—but also learning closely what not to do,” said Thurmon. “Sometimes you need to resist a desire for enjoying a positive outcome ahead of time.”

9. Delegate (Almost) Everything: Delegation is part of successful entrepreneurship. In Exodus 18:17-26, Scripture tells the story of Jethro’s advice to his son-in-law Moses, which effectively allowed the latter to find a more efficient way of conducting business. “You should never delegate what is critical for your business and you do better than others,” said Dias. “But other than that, delegation is key for business success.”

10. Oxygenate Your Brain: Physical activity improves a person’s ability to think. Dias commented that usually, he gets his best business ideas when he is out in nature. Biblical and Spirit of Prophecy advice about taking care of our bodies is something we’d do well in following.

11. Seek Wisdom First: The three entrepreneurs agreed that we should not only have wisdom as a priority but go to the true Source of wisdom. Solomon’s example in 1 Kings 3—he asked for “an understanding heart”—is something we should strive to follow, they said.

12. Schedule Health: No business enterprise will be successful if you do not take care of your health, said the three business panelists. And to keep up, it is important that health checkups become a regular part of your schedule. Believing our body is a temple of the Holy Spirit (1 Cor. 6:19, 20) implies keeping this important point in mind.

13. Create Disruption: If you always do things the same way, you are going to get the same results. Being disruptive implies discussing novel ways of doing things, asking yourself, “How can I get ahead of the pack?” said Dias. “Disruption can create wonderful opportunities.”

14. Be Agile: As the biblical example of Abigail shows (1 Sam. 25:2-42), in an ever-changing business environment, it is essential to adapt to circumstances. Being agile means being ready to change course as soon and as fast as needed.

15. Nuanced Witnessing: Finding ways of witnessing is the bread and butter of every Christian entrepreneur. While witnessing may involve different tools and methods than traditional ways of sharing your faith, it is through those nuances that Christian business people can make a difference.

Thurmon closed by reminding listeners that as Christians, we should not run away from the possibility of creating wealth, or show aversion to discussing it.

“As Ellen White wrote in Counsels on Stewardship, ‘the desire to accumulate wealth is an original affection of our nature, implanted there by our heavenly Father for nobler ends,’” he said.[4]

[1] Christ Object’s Lessons, p. 349.

[2] Ibid., p. 352.

[3] Review and Herald, April 6, 1886, par. 8.

[4]Counsels on Stewarship, p. 148.