February 26, 2007
The Master's Program
The Point of View - A Weekly Commentary by Bob Shank


Dear Marketplace Friend, 

    Now, this is a week I can get my teeth into. It's National Entrepreneurs Week. That may be news to you. Don't feel badly: it's the first time it has ever happened. This year - 2007 - is the inaugural recognition. In an effort to raise the nation's awareness about the impact of small businesses, Congress has established a National Entrepreneurship Week.
    In a bill passed last June, the House of Representatives set this week aside to honor entrepreneurs. With two-thirds of America's new jobs attributed to the private/entrepreneurial sector, Congress wanted to encourage academic institutions to continue developing curriculums on entrepreneurship, and to call on the president to issue a proclamation asking federal, state, and local governments, schools, non-profits, and other organizations to observe the ceremonial week.
    Great. But, what sets entrepreneurs apart from the rest of America? J. B. Say, a French economist, coined the term in 1800. His original definition: The entrepreneur shifts economic resources out of an area of lower productivity into an area of higher productivity and yield. In the modern-day marketplace, the entrepreneur could be understood as the leader who organizes and manages an undertaking, assuming the risk for the sake of the profit (Webster).
    Stakeholders in Home Depot have had a tumultuous few weeks, since it was announced on January 3rd that CEO Robert Nardelli had been fired by the board. Nardelli's apparent arrogance, after six years of service, was greater than his calculated performance as the firm struggled to maintain its vitality in the home improvement sector. The news that turned stockholders orange was Nardelli's walkin'-away winnings: "just" $210 million, including his $20 million severance bump. If that's failure, success must pay amazingly...
    You won't find Nardelli featured at any entrepreneurial celebrations, because he lacked an essential ingredient: it was risk. The revulsion against his take is, I believe, founded in his disruption of the laws of economic gravity. Here it is: High Risk/High Reward. Low Risk/Low Reward. Nardelli nailed a huge reward... but had absolutely no risk. Our sensibilities are rattled when Low Risk/High Reward occurs. It just ain't right...
    Entrepreneurs are risk-takers, but they aren't fools. They measure risk, they calculate the potential for reward, and then - and, only then - do they make a "go/no go" decision. If it is a "go," they manage the offensive... AND, they manage the risk. Do those - both - well, and they win. Winning pays better than losing (unless you are like Robert Nardelli and numerous other publicly-owned-company leaders who love the upside... and have no downside).
    Jesus was an entrepreneur... and, he celebrated entrepreneurial leadership within the enterprise he launched while here on earth. Dubbed "The Kingdom," he gave instructions constantly about how he wanted his movement to be run. One day, he described three key leaders and their approach to their responsibilities. Each was entrusted significant resources; each had the same clear instructions about what the Boss expected. Each had the same time to exercise his leadership; each was summoned to report on his success.
    Two reported that their return-on-equity during the period had been 100%; the Boss affirmed them verbally, awarded each a significant bonus and promoted each to higher levels of power. The third was not in the same league: "Master, I know that you are a hard man, harvesting where you have not sown and gathering where you have not scattered seed. So I was afraid and went out and hid your (money) in the ground. See, here is what belongs to you." (Matthew 25:24-25) No stomach for risk... even though he knew exactly what the Boss expected! How was he affirmed? "You wicked, lazy servant! So you knew..." (vs. 26).
    Entrepreneurs are great in business... and they're even better in ministry. They understand how God thinks - he's looking for 100x more than he has invested! Not 100%; that's 10,000%!! - and there's no way to do that without... risk! Risk!
    The only way to manage risk is with faith... and, without faith, it is impossible to satisfy God. Let's hear it for Kingdom Entrepreneurs!

Bob Shank


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