Written by Mr. & Mrs. Nelson and Elizabeth Boandoh-Korkor
Spiritual people sometimes forget that it’s impossible to run an organization without structure and financial control. Businesspeople sometimes forget that it’s impossible (or at best, grossly inefficient) to run a business without spirit.
~James A. Ritscher, Management Consultant Founder, The New Spirit in Business Association
Years ago, Nelson was involved in running a microcredit business. He narrated the experience of a woman who came for facility of the equivalent of USD10,000. The client was very faithful with the first three weeks payment. After these, all efforts to get her to continue the payments, proved futile. Worried and disturbed by the event, he decided to spend quality time in prayer to talk to God about the situation.
One night as he slept, he had a dream in which the client spoke to him that there is no way she was going to pay the rest of the money. And, she never paid the money! It was a very frustrating experience. It had to take almost a year for the money to be retrieved. And guess what? She had been taken ill and wanted to sort out all those she was owing before she probably dies. Anyway, she paid the money but did not die!
Many people including non-Christians can all testify of that fact that there are things that happen in business which goes beyond the physical. The point is this, business is a very spiritual activity! Spirituality plays a vital role in life and business is no exception. Unfortunately, some people have the notion that business must be separated from the subject of faith. However, there’s no successful entrepreneur who is not spiritual. Richard Branson, Mark Zuckerberg, Bill Gates, Mark Cuban, Aliko Dangote and all other wealthy people we read about are all very spiritual people.
In their book, “Jewish Wisdom for Business Success”, Rabbi Levi Brakman and Sam Jaffe, describes three kinds of entrepreneurs as, classic, social and spiritual entrepreneurs.
They cited classic entrepreneurs like Mark Cuban as businesspeople whose major concern is to make as much money as possible. Classic entrepreneurship values business as being solely a method of making money. It requires a zero-sum viewpoint, where business and spirituality can never mingle. While entrepreneurs enjoy creating new enterprises, the bottom line is strictly about profitability and wealth creation. Helping others or making the world a better place is not on the agenda at all in most cases.
They also refer to social entrepreneurship as starting a company with the aim of making the world a better place in some way and trying to make money along the way. As good as this idea seems, the authors argue that social entrepreneurship has its limitations. “When we try to fix the world and make money, we often end up doing neither very well. “They went on to cite the Grameen Bank in Bangledish founded by the young American –trained economist, Mohammed Yunus in 1974 as a non-profitable institution. To them, the bank was successful at addressing the challenge of the poor people but had failed in maintaining its profitability as a bank. They also cited the case of eBay founder, Pierre Omidyar whose venture capital fund for socially entrepreneurial startups failed in its mandate of attracting people and ideas.
They concluded by saying that “whilst the goals and energy of social entrepreneurs are laudable, social entrepreneurship has yet to prove that it’s the proper vehicle for attaining social goals and that it’s the proper medium that can really make money. Non-profit organizations are far more successful and effective at changing the world. Business should not be confused with charity. At the same time, making money need not be entirely separated from living a spiritual life-It can and should be compatible”.
Whilst drawing the limitations of both classic and social entrepreneurship, the authors argue that, “Spiritual Entrepreneurship a way of building a business and getting closer to God at the same time. Such a model results a more fulfilling work life and career. It is a radically different approach to doing business that emphasizes money making as its main goal, but not for the sake of wealth alone. The entire money-making process can be sanctified so that it becomes a holy and noble pursuit”.
Rabbi Levi Brakman and Sam Jaffe goes on to establish the difference between social and spiritual entrepreneurship both in form and function. “Whereas the focus of the later is to make money out of doing good things for society, the former’s focus is making money out of any profitable enterprise that is legal and ethical. Whereas social entrepreneurs attempt to transform business into a vehicle to effect social change, spiritual entrepreneurs use the money made from business to effect change. Whilst social entrepreneurs only pursue business opportunities that will drive social change, spiritual entrepreneurs never pass up a legal and ethical opportunity to make money. Spiritual entrepreneurs see business to an end rather than an end.
Besides their desire to make money their agenda is also to use the money to improve the world in the manner that is congruent with what they perceive as God’s purpose for the universe. Whilst classic entrepreneurs often give out money to charity, their main goal is, however, is making money, not giving it away to charity. They are in business primarily to increase their standard of living and personal wealth. The spiritual entrepreneur conversely sees his or her entire money-making enterprise through the prism of the higher cause that money could ultimately serve. For them, there is much more to making money than simply status or wealth creation. Spiritual entrepreneurs see money as a tool with which they can achieve things for the world. They see wealth as a God-given blessing of which they are the guardians. They feel a responsibility to use their money for higher purposes that go beyond selfish desires for more material possessions”.
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