Faithful Business Planning

In his new book, 60 Seconds to Greatness, Bishop Eddie L. Long, senior pastor of New Birth Missionary Baptist Church in Lithonia, Georgia, instructs people to create a blueprint to help realize God’s plan for their lives and the lives they encounter. The lessons were born from sermons he gave to his congregation at New Birth, says Long about the book, which ranked No. 10 on the Evangelical Christian Publishers Association‘s list of the 50 bestselling books for March 2010.

The 56 year-old pastor is no stranger to crafting a plan and seeing it through. Even the growth of his church–from 300 members in 1987 when he first came to New Birth to the 25,000 members he pastors now–is a testament to his teaching. His accomplishments are expansive, his accolades are numerous, and he credits every victory to God and strategic planning.

Bishop Long will speak on this very subject at Black Enterprise’s 15th annual Entrepreneurs Conference + Expo hosted by ExxonMobil taking place at the Atlanta Marriott Marquis, May 16-19, 2010, but wanted to provide you with a sneak peek in advance. Here is what Long had to say about faith, finances, and entrepreneurship.

What are some of the fundamental elements you need to create a blueprint for success in your career, finances, and business ventures?
The fundamental thing is planning. To do anything successfully, there must be thought and strategic planning. It holds you accountable. When you have a plan, you have to do your research, and then start working your plan and marking your progress. That basically guarantees your success because you have a foundation. That foundation is very important to how successful you are going to be in your business, your life, your finances, and your legacy–because you will always leave something [behind].

What are some of the things you ought to keep in mind while doing that type of planning?
Someone once called me a terrorist because they asked me where I wanted to end up in life [and I didn’t know]. They said only a terrorist knows how to fly a plane but doesn’t know how to land it. You have to know where you want to land when you’re planning financially and what the overall thing you want to accomplish is. So, first, you have to start  interrogating yourself–where would you want to be in five years or 10 years? Utilize your resources. Get advice and wise council from other successful people. Once you start figuring out where you want to be and where you want to end up, then you [will] understand the unique place where [you] can be a blessing to others, and [you will] feel like you’re not only being successful but making a significant contribution to life for others.

What advice would you give to someone who is thinking about starting a faith-based business?
First, any business that is very successful is one that operates in integrity, honesty, and great character. Regardless of what field it is in, you [should] operate under certain principles of your faith that should never be compromised. With that said, people who want to open up faith-based businesses [need to] understand one thing: There are only so many people in that buying group. I encourage people to have the attributes of faith-based business, but … provide a service or product that is a benefit to everyone. Now you are able to make greater revenue and be able to hire more people. That is something that helps our whole community.

How can an entrepreneur share their faith if the products and services they sell are not faith-based? That is not to say you can’t sell a faith-based product or service, but a [business with a broader customer base will] give you a greater ability to expand. The people who encounter your company will encounter your faith because that is what your business is built on. For example, Chick-Fil-A is a Christian business. They don’t open on Sunday, they make great profits. They don’t sell religious chicken, they sell chicken that everybody eats. They are constantly expanding because they have not limited their product to only people of the faith. Therefore it gives them a broader reach. They are sponsors of what used to be the annual Peach Bowl. They changed it to the Chick-Fil-A Bowl. They make sure that when they open on national television, the bowl starts with a prayer to God. With the income that they bring in … they continue to touch people who are of the faith and not of the faith.

More from Bishop Eddie L. Long:
My 60 Seconds to Greatness Leadership Speaker Series 2010
Longfellow Youth Academy for Young Men
The Business of Faith (Black Enterprise, May 2006)