Let’s Redesign the Wheel

Let’s Redesign the Wheel

In recent M3 Weekly articles (see “One Million Miles,” and “Auto Shop Discipleship”), we have featured part of our interview with Jim Albert, who has led missional enterprises around the world for over four decades. This week, we share the conclusion of our conversation, as Jim shares some advice for those in the early stages of developing a missional enterprise. The transcript has been lightly edited for clarity and length.

M3 Weekly: What are some of the lessons you learned? And what advice would you give to people who are possibly just thinking about launching a missional enterprise, or are in the early stages of developing a missional enterprise?

Jim Albert: For one, you have to have good insurance. It’s just critical for a business. I probably skipped some of what I should have done on that side of things. Fortunately, God was gracious and nothing serious or drastic happened. But stuff happens – you try to create systems to avoid stuff, but it still happens and insurance is an important part of mitigating that risk.

Second, the automotive work centered around me, and I was challenged administratively, just keeping up with paperwork. So, I got into a real cashflow crunch because I couldn’t keep up with invoicing the customer. Parts were paid for and employee wages were paid for, but I hadn’t invoiced the customer. I knew how to estimate jobs well to have healthy margins but you’ve got to keep up with paperwork.

Keeping the Horse Before the Cart

There was a business coach that I had contracted with, and it took about 15 minutes of discussion with her to realize what my problem was. I set a goal that by our next meeting, I would have a certain amount invoiced and collected. You learn where your strengths and your weaknesses are and you need to be looking for ways to shore up your weaknesses. That’s when I also had to bring on some administrative help in the office – I couldn’t keep up with it.

Also, especially at the start-up of a business, you really need an advisory board. When I started Jewelry Wholesalers, I was not able to pull one together. It wasn’t for a lack of trying, but I probably gave up too quickly. So that was a lack of perseverance on my part. A group of advising counselors is critical, particularly as you start, so that you get well aligned, and don’t get the cart before the horse. It is not the same as a board of directors, unless you’re incorporated and you need a board of directors.

M3W: What is the cart in this analogy and what is the horse?

JA: In the case of an entrepreneur I’m currently coaching, he’s producing products, but he doesn’t know who his customer is, and he doesn’t know what his customer wants because he hasn’t done the market research. And for me, going back to the Jewelry Wholesalers, I didn’t have enough cash capital to start with, and my ideas of sales were unrealistic.

When you are doing a class project in business school, in your mock-up, the sales take off like a rocket and they’re always increasing. It doesn’t work that way in fact. My analogy for sales is not a rocket; it’s a 747. If you’ve ever flown in a 747, that thing rambles down the runway and you’re wondering, “Is this thing ever going to lift off?”

If you have that right mix of advisors, they can say, “Wait a minute. You’re projecting this kind of sales pattern that’s not realistic – sales don’t work that way.”

Passing It On

M3W: Finally, what advice comes to mind in the other aspects of the triple bottom line? For instance, it seems like in Albert’s Auto Care you had an active role in discipling these young men. What advice do you have for those who have on their hearts to be in a disciple-making business? How can they think, plan, and pray toward that goal?

JA: Well, first and foremost, you’ve got to be a disciple yourself. You’ve got to be diligent to maintain your own walk with God. Then, particularly if you’re married, you’ve got to have your family in focus. A lot of times, men particularly, will be so myopic in their focus on their business that their families suffer. I would caution against that. You need to keep your walk and your family first and foremost.

Next, in my experience, I have gone through a number of different materials to aid in the disciple-making process. But I’ve found those materials I had previously used in the process of discipling became less useful and less effective when I started working more with millennials and younger men in particular. I came across Every Man a Warrior1, and I would say that that is a great program for millennials.

Ultimately it comes down to having my own walk and seeking to replicate that. Not identically, of course, but he’s got to be a man of the word. He needs to learn to be a man of prayer, how to memorize scripture, how to share his faith.

Redesigning the Wheel

M3W: In conclusion, is there anything else you want to add?

JA: One concern that has motivated me ever since the days of being in Vienna, Austria is the issue of the countries with limited access. Yes, there are opportunities in the United States, but it is still a passion of mine to see unreached people groups reached.

And missional enterprise is a significant way we’re going to be able to reach these unreached people groups. I took the Perspectives2 course and learned that 80% of the resources go to where 20% of the need exists. We’ve got to fix that.

I sat on a missions committee meeting back in Seattle, shortly after we’d returned from Vienna. I was sharing with the committee about this disproportionate allocation of resources as well as ways we might think about missions differently. And the director of the Missions Committee slams his hand down on the desk and says, “My goodness, Jim, let’s not reinvent the wheel.”

I’ve heard that expression for years and it’s sound wisdom. We don’t want to reinvent the wheel.

But I’m telling you, there are times when we must redesign the wheel. The wagon wheel of yesteryear will not work on the Space Shuttle.

So, I think we absolutely need to redesign our thinking about the form in which missions takes place. And more directly and specifically, we need to embrace business as a form for missions.

Verse of the Week:

For you know that we dealt with each of you as a father deals with his own children, encouraging, comforting and urging you to live lives worthy of God, who calls you into his kingdom and glory. 1 Thessalonians 2:11-12 (NIV)

Let’s pray this week for opportunities to be spiritual parents to those God puts in our spheres of influence, especially in the businesses we lead.

1 See https://everymanawarrior.com/
2 See https://perspectives.org/

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