Everything is new right now. Two weeks ago, my company Rebel Pilgrim Productions took a huge step forward by launching a Cincinnati office and bringing on three fulltime staffers, including yours truly.
A fresh start is a beautiful thing. I think some people may be more wired to need fresh starts than others. This is my first blog post from my new office – at my new desk – in a new chair – with an amazing new view of the city I love. Fresh starts are one of my favorite things in the world.
I have had other fresh starts like this before, but this one feels different. It feels more right. Other new beginnings in my life tended to be connected to some painful (or at least confusing) ending. This one feels more like an evolutionary progression instead of a dramatic shift. It’s also the first time I have been able to start anew while retaining much of what I love about my last position. I’m beyond grateful that I am able to continue teaching at The Vineyard while this new adventure unfolds.
I can’t really begin to try to pontificate on lessons learned from launching a start-up business or being a bi-vocational pastor. I’ve only been on the job for 14 days. What I have noticed is that I am employing some lessons during this transition that I learned from my others. Maybe they will be helpful to you if you find yourself in the middle of a big change.
1. It really is all about mission and vision.
Looking back at some of my less-than-successful endeavors, the breakdown can be traced back to a lack of unified vision and mission. I used to try to get as many people as possible to follow me where I wanted to go. That would result in a mushy and undefined mission. At Rebel Pilgrim we exist to tell stories that spark hope and action. That’s what we do. Anything else is a distraction. The team assembled is devoted to this. The answers to all of the hard questions for us are embedded in our mission if we look for them.
2. Nobody else cares about our mission like we do.
Early in my life, I would often find myself casting a vision to someone – or some group of people. In the moment, they really seemed to get it. They asked questions, registered excitement and often verbalized commitment to join me in pursuit of the vision I was describing. And I think they all wanted to join me. But the hard-to-swallow lesson is that the vast majority of people will never care about your mission as much as you and your core team does. It is naive of us to think that most people leave our presence as a fulltime ambassador, evangelizing our cause to the world. Some people will. Those are the people to spend your time and resources developing. Others will be friends and partners who will come alongside of you when you come to mind. People like that are awesome – but they probably aren’t thinking about your endeavor nearly as much as you might hope.
3. Leading is a lot of resource management.
One of our first major decisions as a team was whether or not to use limited seed capital on office space. Every dollar spent in start-up phase represents two things: 1.) A responsibility to see that dollar return with interest for your investors…and 2.) A literal reduction in the number of days the company will be in business. At RPP we have a plan to be self-sustaining in 18 months. That’s our ramp to get off the ground. Spending dollars above budget shortens that ramp. Saving money increases it. It is the job of the leader in a start-up situation to walk a fine line. The seed capital is meant to be spent. Without it, there is no company of the future. Yet, it is a limited resource. Every decision matters. We elected to seek office space for several reasons, but the primary one was to have a space where we could live out our values and create the culture of a company we believe will one day have hundreds of employees. We found a great place to do that – and the relative cost on the first 18 months was only 16.7 days of company life. That seemed well worth it.
4. Nurture a culture of adaptation and improvisation.
One of the realities of a small business start-up is that there will be setbacks. Everyday, something happens or doesn’t happen that was not planned. Everyday is an opportunity to either grow frustrated (and unproductive) or imaginative (and productive). We’ve already had a few major curve balls in the first two weeks. The pace at which we accept them, adjust and move forward will determine the success of our company.
5. Everything is spiritual.
The reality of our situation is that we have three guys in an office who are coming from vocational ministry at a church. The temptation would be to believe that what we do now is somewhat less spiritual or more secular or even less important. I don’t believe that can possibly be true. We view ourselves as “business planters” sent on a mission. We think God is going to use us and our efforts to bring his Kingdom to Cincinnati and beyond. Otherwise, the whole thing is for not. Either everything is spiritual or nothing is.