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OWNER'S MANUAL

Best Reason to Start a Business? God Asked.

One entrepreneur explains how he answered God's call by starting a new venture.
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Entrepreneurs start businesses for a variety of reasons: some out of interest, some out of necessity, and some because they simply can't see themselves doing anything else.

Even so, for some people the reasons why they started a business often get forgotten as they deal with the everyday challenges and necessities of running the business. That's not the case, though, for Larry Kim, the founder and CTO of WordStream.

You might agree or disagree. Either way his take is definitely thought-provoking--and any time you think more deeply about your business, and the broader purpose of your role in that business, is time well spent.

Below is a guest post from Kim. Let me know what you think in the comments.

Is God Calling You to Start a Business?

By Larry Kim

Entrepreneurs spend a lot of time reading about how to run a business--but not nearly as much thinking about why to start one in the first place.

I mean beyond the standard "be your own boss" or "get rich quick" clichés.

For many people, deciding on a career path is a deeply spiritual process of finding their so-called calling in life, and sometimes even answering a call from God. Many feel called by their creator to serve honorable causes like caring for the sick, helping the poor, teaching our children, protecting others, or saving lives.

But what about entrepreneurship--can starting a business be as virtuous a career as say, social work?

Can entrepreneurship be a legitimate, godly calling in life? And if so, can God call upon you to start a business?

The Case for Entrepreneurship as a Calling in Life

People I ask generally say entrepreneurship can be a legitimate calling in life, citing reasons like:

We need people to start businesses and to make tons of money so they can fund worthy causes like helping the poor. Like how Bill Gates founded Microsoft and is now funding the elimination of diseases in the developing world.

Or:

Business people are pretty corrupt people, so we need a few God-fearing entrepreneurs to start businesses so that they may bear witness to the scum of the earth. Like how Jesus once saved a corrupt tax collector.

But I reject these arguments.

Why?

Because these reasons aren't exclusive to entrepreneurship! Meaning, you can make lots of money in any profession, like sports or showbiz, and there are scumbags in every profession--take politics, for example.

Why Entrepreneurship?

Most believe the purpose of business is to Maximize Shareholder Value.

I believe that profits are a means to an end, and that the ultimate goal of the firm should be to create sustainable jobs in order to make more profits, create more jobs, and so on.

If an entrepreneur provides meaningful and rewarding employment to people, employment which helps enable them to realize their full potential in life, then I believe that can constitute a godly purpose or calling in life.

So Then, Start a Business?

No. Not just any business. There's a catch.

Your business must provide a product or service that benefits mankind at least in some small way.

That is to say, drug dealing or selling toxic derivatives on Wall St. doesn't count, even if that creates temporary employment.

For example, the company I founded six years ago provides internet marketing software to small businesses. Our company mission is to help other companies grow their businesses by driving sales and leads to their websites; that benefits mankind in a small way because it helps our clients grow, which then in turn helps them sustain and create jobs.

Giving a Fish vs. Teaching a Man to Fish

Everyone knows the old proverb: Give a man a fish and you feed him for a day. Teach a man to fish and you feed him for a lifetime.

As entrepreneurs, our most valuable contribution to society is in teaching that man to fish by providing meaningful job opportunities so people can learn new skills, advance their careers, and earn wages that enable them to live their lives.

And provided that the business we are engaged in provides some small benefit to mankind, I believe entrepreneurship is a worthwhile calling in life and is completely compatible with Christian values.

After all, our nation needs job creators now more than ever.

Last updated: Aug 1, 2012

JEFF HADEN | Columnist

Jeff Haden learned much of what he knows about business and technology as he worked his way up in the manufacturing industry. Everything else he picks up from ghostwriting books for some of the smartest leaders he knows in business.

The opinions expressed here by Inc.com columnists are their own, not those of Inc.com.



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