Six years ago, I moved to a brand new town to start a brand new business. It wasn’t a restaurant, or an internet marketing agency…it was a church. You might not think of starting a church like starting a business, but it is. From incorporation to marketing to fund-raising to business plans, we started a successful business. Now for all of my Christian friends, please understand…starting a church is so much MORE than starting a business, but it’s AT LEAST starting a business. Here’s some of the similarities.
1. We raised money. We started with no money, and learned how to bootstrap. Five years later, we were paying for facilities and personell and covering $800,000 of annual expenses. Most small business start with a business plan and little money…we did the same thing. I still have a lot to learn, but I learned a ton about raising money, and how to do things well without much money.
2. We attracted customers. I certainly don’t want to insenuate that people looking for a church are simply customers, but there is a little bit of similarity. In a town where there were plenty of churches to attend, we had to differentiate and attract attenders. And on top of that, we were trying to reach “customers” who really didn’t want anything to do with church…ANY kind of church. After a couple of years, we were running 750 people in a town of 17,000.
3. We hired, fired and reorganized staff. We started with one person on staff (me) and grew to about ten people. We had to look for potential hires, interview people, and plug them into new positions. We reorganized for growth, and went through uncomfortable moments of change. We went from having generalists who did everything to working with specialists who focused on a specific part of the church.
4. We dealt with insurance, facility and other issues. We had to learn how to work with other businesses, city officials and participated in other local businesses. Just like your small business wrestles through real issues, we did too. Churches are not immune to the rules of business. In fact, trying to find the “church way” around a business issue can be deadly.
5. We had to learn tools. Growing from 0 to 750 people required a lot of learning, especially on the business and administration side of things. And without a lot of money, we learned how to utilize free or cheap resources. We had to grow and learn and change.
6. We communicated to “regulars”. With a database of more than 3,000 people, we learned how to leverage effective communication to inspire people to take action. We had to continually communicate to the core, and inspire people to take action.
7. We wanted to grow. Like most small businesses, we had a vision and a plan and some goals. We wanted to reach people in our community because we knew that our message is eternally important. Hopefully, you started your business because you believed in what you were offering. But wanting to grow, and actually growing are two very different things. Even if you know where you’re heading, you need a plan to get there. Charting that course and executing the plan requires skill, determination and help.
Starting a church is much bigger than starting a business, but it is similar. Some of the things I’ve learned along the way have helped me have intelligent conversations with business leaders…conversations that I enjoy having. If you’re part of a business that’s looking to grow, expand, or refocus, I’d love to help you.