You can go to Barnes and Noble and buy books on entrepreneurship. You can take an online course on how to launch business . You can listen to podcasts, read articles, and go to conferences. There’s more knowledge on this topic than any other time in human history.
But it’s still hard work. And anyone who says otherwise is wrong and should take it back.
Over the years, I’ve bought and sold Beanie Babies, co-created a Christian youth camp business, helped start a church, and helped grow a company from startup to The Inc 5000 List. I’m a sucker for the startup.
But Church Fuel is different. This company feels more…real. Maybe real isn’t the right word, because the other organizations were real. But it feels like there’s more at stake.
I’m 41 years old with three kids and a wife. We’ve got a mortgage and bills and college coming in just five years. Common sense (someone should rename that, by the way) says I should stick something out for a good salary and healthcare benefits. The security of a “real job” is tempting, but there’s just something in me that wants to start my own business. Like I said, I’m a sucker for the startup.
When I was 10 years old, I started a neighborhood magazine. The main articles were hand-written, essentially copied from our local newspaper or Time magazine. The classified section was built by be driving around the neighborhood and seeing what houses were for sale or who was having a garage sale. The printing press was the copier at my dads office. I sold about ten subscriptions and a few stand-alone issues before shutting it down.
I went to a conference one time and the speaker was talking about discovering what you were meant to do. Ben said everyone should think back to what they enjoyed as a child, because those desires are often still there, waiting to be uncovered and refueled. He said what we loved as a child is a key to what we should do as an adult. As a kid, I loved creating content and I loved business.
So a startup it is. One that’s going to focus on providing insanely practical resources to pastors.
Good Leaders Build Great Teams
At this point in the journey, I had a name and a mission. But before I started building a mailing list or creating products, we needed a team. Sure, I could make some products and set up a website and probably generate some revenue. That’s what I was tempted to do. But I didn’t want this to be a one-man side project. I want Church Fuel to be a legitimate company. In order to do that, we needed some good people involved at the very beginning.
About this time, I read a book by Ed Catmull called Creativity, Inc. Ed is the President of Pixar, one of the most successful companies of our time. In this book, he says, “getting the right people and the right chemistry is more important than getting the right idea.” Pixar has incredible ideas, and those ideas turn into Incredible movies (see what I did there?). But what really makes Pixar great is their people.
Jim Collins gives similar advice. “First think who, then ask what,” he says. Isaac Newton said, “If I have seen farther than others, it is because I was standing on the shoulder of giants.” The Bible speaks to this subject, too Solomon, the wisest person who ever lived said, “Two people are better off than one, for they can help each other succeed. If one person falls, the other can reach out and help. But someone who falls alone is in real trouble.” (Ecclesiastes 4:9-10)
Over and over again, it turns out to be true: Failure happens alone but success comes with a team.
A Friend at Work
A 2010 survey on US job satisfaction by the Conference Board found only 45% of Americans were satisfied with their jobs. When they drill down on stats like this and ask people what truly makes people happy at work, they hear curious responses.
People want to have a friend at work. It’s more important than a higher salary. For many people, good relationships at work are more important than compensation. Relationships matter more than money. That’s why people leave good-paying jobs with bad bosses to take lesser-paying jobs with great bosses.
For Church Fuel to ultimately succeed, we need the right people on board. But selfishly, I want to work with people I like. I want to work with friends. And I don’t want to do this alone.
Three Kinds of People Every Organization Needs
I know a guy named Les McKeown. I’ve attended his workshops, read his books and can attest to his practical brilliance. Les is one of the few guys who will answer your question directly. One time, I heard a guy ask what he should do if he wanted to facilitate change bus his boss wouldn’t budge. “Quit,” Les answered in front of a rather large audience. The he put down the mic.
Les wrote a book called Predictable Success and it should be required reading for everyone that leads an organization or teams. He tracks the lifecycle of a company and ties it into the three kinds of people every organization needs. They are worth mentioning here.
- Visionary. Often the one with the idea, the visionary leader sets the tone for the organization. They like to come to work whenever they feel like it. If left unchecked, visionary leaders will practice seagull management, flying high for a little while then coming down, crapping on everyone, then flying off again.
- Operator. Operators take the idea and run with it. They are hard workers and get stuff done. They are first ones in and the last to leave. But an operator without anyone else is a maverick, getting stuff done no matter the cost.
- Processor. Processors are the technicians and love rules. The right processor brings necessary systems to the mix. And those systems should enable vision, not strangle it. They work 8-5 and take a 1-hour lunch. A processor without anyone else is a bureaucrat, stubbornly sticking to rules and policies even if they are no longer effective.
Visionaries think the processors are slowing things down. Operators think they are there to provide adult supervision to the visionaries. Processors think others don’t play by the rules. There’s a dance between all these personalities, but when they are all in step, it’s a beautiful thing. You can take the Predictable Success quiz here to see if you’re a visionary, operator or processor.
Les says you need all three of these personalities to move from startup, through chaos into predicable success. That’s the place where goals are consistently met and everything scales. For Church Fuel to be successful, we need a visionary leader, a strong operator and the least-annoying processor we could find.
Meet the Church Fuel Team
So let me introduce you to the Church Fuel founding team. Each of these people own a part of the company and we’re all committed to make it work.
Rob Whitmire is the Chief Operating Officer and he runs the day-to-day operations. He graduated from Emory University and found a lot of success in commercial real estate. He loves helping churches move forward and recently spent time as an Executive Pastor at a young church in California. He is a pastor’s kid and loves the beach. Rob is married to Shelley and they have three boys. On the weekends, you’ll probably find him on a surfboard. I met Rob a few years ago at Buckhead Church. He and Shelley were our small group leaders.
Jeremie Kubicek is the founder of the GiANT family of companies and owns and operates the global brands of Catalyst and LeaderCast. He’s the author of Making Your Leadership Come Alive and enjoys helping people become leaders worth following. He’s a creative leader, intentional connector and big idea thinker. Jeremie is married to Kelly and they they have three great kids. On the weekends, you’ll probably find him connecting with friends and family. Jeremie is a partner in the company. I met Jeremie through a GiANT coaching network and last year, Jennie and I spent time with him and Kelly in London.
Steve Cockram is the co-founder of GiANT Worldwide and travels extensively teaching and consulting with senior executives and their teams all over the world; from the likes of the British government and multi-national corporations, to small start-ups in Sheffield, UK or Atlanta, GA. Steve is a serial entrepreneur and loves starting things. He’s married to Helen and they have three great girls. He’s got the best accent of the group because Steve lives in England. Steve is a partner in the company. I met Steve through Jeremie and I’m really excited about his insight and network. He has so much to offer the church.
And there’s me. But these guys are superstars. They are gifted, skilled, talented guys. They love Jesus, their family and the local church. Our company will be better and customers will be blessed because of their involvement.
Senior Leaders are Chief Clarity Officers
Leaders of organizations have a lot on their plate. At times, it feels like I’m doing the visionary, operator and processor jobs all at the same time. But if you’re in charge, there’s nothing more important you can do than creating clarity for your team. Your team NEEDS this from you. They need you to create clarity around two words.
- Clarify Roles. Everyone on your team, whether it’s 1 other person or 100, needs to know what they do. They need you to say, “This is where you add the most value” and “Of all the things you do, this is the most important thing.” I’m not talking about a job description listing 42 things, the last one being something ridiculous like “other duties as necessary.” Those kind of documents are ridiculous. Take it all and boil it down to a tweet. If you can’t tell someone what they do and why it matters in 140 characters, keep working.
- Clarify Goals. Not only do people need to know their roles on the team, they need clear goals. Some people are great at setting goals for themselves. Others need help. But everyone needs to know where they are going and this should be shared knowledge. In a way, we all really do need to know each other’s business.
When I work personally with churches on their leadership structure or development process, we focus on creating clarity around roles and goals. “The most important thing you can do for your team,” I say, “is create clarity about what matters most for their role and help them reach specific goals.” Now I’ve got to practice what I preach.
Clarifying Roles on the Team
Yesterday, Rob and I had our first official staff meeting. It was stupid and weird and totally unnecessary, because there were just two of us. But we’re going to grow and it will get less weird. We met in order to hammer out our roles and responsibilities.
Since there are just two of us working full time on this venture, it’s easy to say things like “we should do this” or “let’s do that.” We’re both involved in nearly every decision. But that doesn’t mean we should both be responsible for every decision. We needed to create clarity because if two people are responsible for it, nobody is responsible for it.
Based on our strengths and the position of our company, we came up with the following list.
- Setting and tracking company goals. Using the strategy learned in a book called Mastering the Rockefeller Habits, I’ll make sure we set great goals and stay focused on meeting them.
- Creating a Marketing Strategy. For our startup, growing our mailing list and generating revenue is a top priority. I’m handling this for now.
- Content Creation. There’s free content and paid content. There are emails and blog posts and webinars. And there’s a content calendar to hold everything all of this together.
- Working with Content Providers. A big part of our model is partnering with church leaders to create courses on specific topics. I can’t wait to introduce you to our first round of experts.
- LeadPages. We use this tool to create landing pages like this and this, and for now, this is on my plate.
- Managing Twitter. This is my favorite social network so I’ll manage posting content and interacting with people. You can follow Church Fuel on twitter.
- Branding and Graphics. I believe in the power of branding and want the Church Fuel brand to look professional and consistent.
- Running the Affiliate Program and communicating with partners. I’ll handle recruiting and updating partners. You can learn more about the affiliate program here.
- Marketing Execution. While I’m good with marketing strategy, Rob is better with details.
- Infusionsoft management. We use this tool to manage our communication, sales and just about everything else in the company. Rob’s the point person on this powerful software.
- Project management. Whether it’s releasing a new course or launching a new program, Rob will keep all of our projects on course. We also use Basecamp.
- Wish List Member. This is the tool we’re using to manage our private membership and content delivery pages. It’s a WordPress plugin.
- Legal. Hey, someone’s got to do it.
- Facebook. I handle Twitter but Rob is on Facebook. He handles content as well as advertising. Plus, we have a private Facebook group for clients. Like us on Facebook here.
- Finances. This includes paying the bills, handling payroll, dealing with merchant processors and banks, plus all the HR stuff. As soon as possible, we’re going to outsource this.
- Sending Emails and Posting Blogs. I write the content but Rob posts it. This gives him the opportunity to make changes, add tags, and make it better.
- Customer Service. If you have a billing issue or need help, Rob will likely be the one to handle it.
Those lists are pretty ridiculous, but over the next few months, we’ll bring more people in according to their specialties. There are a lot of things on my list that won’t be there in a year. And the same goes for Rob. But for now, we’re doing what it takes to get this startup going.
In the next post, I’m going to share about the process of clarifying our mission, vision, and values. I’ll unveil our one page business plan and dive into how things (hopefully) will work.