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Smart Ideas to Grow Your Business

Twenty-nine years ago, I was looking for a creative outlet as a stay-at-home mom. Since then God has turned my hobby into a thriving enterprise.

When I was in high school, I thought I was going to be a rock star, but in 1968 God revealed to me that He had other plans. After graduating from the University of Mississippi, I taught school for a while and then stayed home after my second child was born.

I was happy and fulfilled with my family, but there was something missing—something I longed to do—something creative. I began to look for an outlet.

My search led me to begin "fooling around" with ceramics at my kitchen table. Soon my experimenting became an adventure, and I now have a company that manufactures hand-painted dinnerware and accessories in Ridgeland, Miss.—with hundreds of employees!

It was 1979 when I began pursuing my new career. In the 1980s I took a leap of faith and displayed my pottery at the Flea Market in Canton, Miss. Going into this experience, I reflected on Proverbs 3:5-6 and applied this passage to my situation, trusting in the Lord with all my heart and not relying on my own understanding. The result—success—and Gail Pittman, Inc. was born.

By 1986 I had outgrown my work space at home, and my husband encouraged me to purchase an 1,800-square-foot building in Ridgeland as a studio. I read the book of Jeremiah for inspiration, memorizing Jeremiah 33:3, "'Call to Me, and I will answer you, and show you great and mighty things, which you do not know.'" After only three months, our building was too small, and in February of 1988, we moved into a 7,800-square-foot studio.

The Lord continued to bless me and my small staff, and in 1992 we moved into a new 26,000-square-foot factory in Ridgeland with an increased staff of 80 artisans. In 1994, Gail Pittman, Inc. had the privilege of being named one of INC. magazine's 500 fastest growing private companies. This year, we expanded for the 5th time and now have over 50,000 square feet in our factory.

How did we grow so quickly? What is the secret to our success? The "secret" is not really a secret at all: We submit everything to God. Every time we have to make a decision, whether it is related to design, personnel or a pending expansion, we pray about it as a company—and whatever God tells us to do, we do.

Also, I depend on God continually for wisdom to determine what is important and what isn't. I want to keep my priorities straight, making certain my husband and children come before my work responsibilities.

In addition, I invest spiritually in my employees. I believe it is my Christian responsibility to afford them the very best possible opportunity to grow in their faith. For this reason, every Wednesday morning employees have the opportunity to attend a company Bible study that is led by Jim Doremus, one of the ministers from First Baptist Church of Jackson, Mississippi.

Everyone involved in our company is invited to attend, and for many, this Bible study is the highlight of their week. We sing, share joys, hurts, and prayer concerns, and go to God together.

Serving the community is also important to me and the employees at Gail Pittman, Inc. We helped build a Habitat for Humanity House in Jackson and participated in the Salvation Army's "Souper Sunday," for which we donated soup bowls. We also helped raise funds for the Salvation Army and its local ministries.

Other than listening to God, following His directives, and caring for my family, employees and community, there are a few guidelines I've learned to follow through the years to help my business grow. These are the guidelines, or tips, I give others when they ask how I did it:

Define success. First of all, define what success is for you. Decide what you value, and set your goals accordingly. Keep in mind that the meaning of success is different for different people. You can't set your business objectives by what others consider success.

Success can be defined in a variety of ways—from sales growth to employee retention to having a strong corporate culture. But don't let money be your only measure of success. Many people who make a lot of money never feel satisfied with their professions.

Be true to yourself. Be true to what you really believe. Pray about decisions, and ask God to help you make the right ones.

When I am facing a particularly difficult decision, I depend on my deepest held beliefs to guide me in my choice. I know I cannot compromise on certain principles, and that makes a lot of decisions easier.

Keep your passion. Keep the passion alive that got you started in business. This will help you stay focused.

In my case, when I'm stretched too thin or feel down from the weight of running a business, I experiment with new patterns. Since designing is my passion, it renews my love for what I'm doing and reminds me why I'm in business.

Stay focused. As you grow, stay focused on the dream set before you. Instead of competing with other people, compete with yourself to be better than yesterday. Keeping my mind on what I do best rather than on how many people are trying to copy my patterns gives me the energy and the impetus to improve on everything I create.

Be ready for the next step. If your business isn't growing, it's dying; it's that simple. You must always be prepared to take the next step.

Several years ago we had an opportunity to create a private label pattern for a restaurant, something we had never before even contemplated. But we took the risk, and it turned out to be a wonderful growth opportunity for the company.

As your business grows, you will need to add people to help you. Wise people know where their ability ends and someone else's begins.

Recognize that the hardest place to stay is at the top. Awards and achievements are great scorecards, but don't dwell on them. It's healthy to enjoy them and feel proud of them, but then put them up on a shelf and move on. If winning an award becomes the most important thing, then there is nothing to achieve once the award is won. Besides, next year someone else may be winning it.

Build a support network. Surround yourself with a support network of people who truly believe in you. Even when I was selling my pieces just to friends and relatives, my husband always believed in me and never once laughed at my desire to have my own pottery business, although I had never taken an art or business class. Your support network can be anyone who believes in you and your dream and who will encourage you to reach your potential in spite of the obstacles others see.

Set your priorities. One lesson I learned early is that you can have it all, as long as you remem ber you don't have to do it all.

When my children were young, I decided we would always have dinner together as a family. Many nights we had take-out or went out. Buying dinner cost a little more, but it allowed me to keep my family first.

Now, even though my youngest child is an adult, I still make sure I'm there when one of my children needs me. My daughter was once in a contest at college, and I left a trade show to fly to see her and then flew back to the show when the contest was over. It was hectic, but being there for my daughter was very important to me.

You don't have to choose between family and career, but sometimes you have to be creative in how you balance them.

Maintain balance. Balance your life and your business. It's often hard, but it can be done so you succeed in both.

When my children were small, I stayed home and started my business slowly, designing pottery at my kitchen table. It gave me time to enjoy my children and my pottery. As my children grew, so did my business.

Today, my children are grown and on their own so I've got more time to devote to my business. The result is that my business is taking off at a time when I am able to keep up with its growth.

Have fun. Whatever you decide to do with your business, make sure it stays fun. I often hear women make comments such as, "I work in insurance, but I love to throw dinner parties." If this is your situation, then become a caterer or an event planner!

Realize that you can make money doing what you love. And if you do what you love, then you're going to love what you do every day.

Also, remember to have a life outside your business, with family first and then friends. It takes a lifetime to cultivate friendships, and you could lose them if you don't make time to enjoy them. You may also lose your perspective!

The Lord continues to bless me and my company. We now have showrooms in Atlanta and Dallas and a display at the New York Gift Fair in the Javits Center. I am privileged that my love for painting and pottery has transformed into a flourishing regional business.

I don't know what tomorrow holds, but I do know who holds tomorrow, and I trust Him to do with my business as He sees fit—and to work in me as He works in it. May He do the same for you.

Read a companion devotional.

Gail Pittman is an artist who turned a love for painting and pottery into a flourishing corporation, Gail Pittman, Inc. Her dinnerware, home accessories and collectibles are sold in specialty gift stores throughout the United States and Canada. read more

comeclean

No More Office Nightmares

Don't let unrealistic expectations turn your work into misery. God's purpose for you is a good one.

Many believers I know desire to work for a ministry or Christian company someday. Their goal is to work in an environment with praise music playing, co-workers praying and Scripture verses beautifully calligraphied on wall plaques. They imagine such a workplace as holy, peaceful and devoid of that common problem: difficult co-workers.

I wish this were the case, but until our Lord comes back we will always have some level of difficulty relating to co-workers, whether Christian or not. I have traveled the length and breadth of this nation and most of the world, worked with Christians and non-Christians alike and believe me, there is little difference in how personnel operate under pressure. read more

When God Invades the Office

If you are a praying person, you have undoubtedly taken on various prayer "burdens" through the years. But have you ever considered interceding specifically for people at your job, such as your colleagues, supervisors and employers?

Those in the workplace need you. Your prayers can be a tremendous asset to them. And whether or not you are employed at the company you are praying for, your prayers will make a significant difference.

God is looking for intercessors who will stand in the gap and pray for those in the workplace (see Ezek. 22:30). He is looking for Aarons and Hurs who will lift up the arms of business leaders so they can carry out their assignments with remarkable success (see Ex. 17:12). When you volunteer, God will place you strategically in the right place at the right time to pray so His kingdom comes and His will is done in that environment. 

He has done this for me numerous times, even though I don't work in a typical office. Here's one example.

In 2000 I was leading intercession for meetings in Argentina. A visiting pastor from Singapore, whom I had met in Texas years before, was attending the event. He shared his concern about a couple in his church who were in the oil and gas business. They desperately needed prayer, and he was trying to recruit me to pray for them.

Somehow I knew I was to pray for this couple, even though I had never met them or spoken with them. Eight months later when I was ministering in Texas, I arranged to meet the couple for the first time. During lunch I shared the different points I had been praying about and the ways I had prayed for them.

Jim and Jane* were quite surprised—I guess because I am an intercessor—that I "looked normal, acted normal and spoke normal." They decided it would "work" to have me continue to pray for them.

As time passed, our relationship grew and trust developed. One day Jim called and asked me to pray for his company and partners. Operations had not been going well in the company for about 18 months. The head partner was operating unethically, cheating and working the books.

Jim and two other partners, who are all very strong Christians, were extremely concerned about the situation. They asked me to pray that they would know what to do.

I prayed that they would take a stand for righteousness and truth, do what was morally right, refuse to compromise, and be obedient when God told them what to do. The three men got together and decided that they were going to resign, start their own company founded on Christian principles and operate under those principles.

Intercession helped these three men make a difficult but correct business decision. It gave them the courage to make the change immediately. They left the company and broke through into a new place.

The three now have their own successful oil and gas company that is founded and operates on godly principles. They even wrote a vision and mission statement for their company based on the Lord's guidance.

This story is a good example not only of how God uses us to pray but also of why it is important to pray for those in the workplace. God is moving mightily in this arena, but Christian employees and business owners are constantly under attack from demonic powers. There is a steady influx of demonic influence in the workplace—partly because Satan is aware that if finances are released to advance the kingdom of God, multitudes will come to Christ and nations will be changed.

Getting Started

So how do you begin? Once you have made yourself available to God, the next step is to pray. Pray fervently, pray with passion, pray with understanding as the Lord gives you insight, pray in the Spirit and pray with authority. Be sure to incorporate all you know about prayer and intercession when you pray for those in the workplace. This means praying prayers of praise, thanksgiving, confession, forgiveness and petition, as well as making declarations and decrees.

Remember to put on your spiritual armor to protect yourself before you enter the spiritual arena: the belt of truth, the breastplate of righteousness, the shoes of peace, the shield of faith, the helmet of salvation and the sword of the Spirit (see Eph. 6:14-18). And don't stop there.

Use the appropriate weapon of warfare the Lord has made available to you for the situation you are praying about. These include praying in the name of Jesus, appropriating the blood of Jesus, praying a prayer of agreement, fasting, praising, binding and loosing, and praying the Word.

In order to be as effective as you can possibly be, seek God for a prayer strategy that will empower those in the workplace. Ask Him for words of encouragement, Scriptures and prophetic words that will build up those you are praying for.

Declare God's Word over the people, business and situations. Say what the Lord says, not what you think. When you do this, heaven moves and hell trembles. God is bound by His Word to honor His Word, His purposes and His plans. Isaiah 55:11 says, "So shall My word be that goes forth from My mouth; it shall not return to Me void, but it shall accomplish what I please, and it shall prosper in the thing for which I sent it." (NKJV). We often see incredible breakthroughs as the result of declarations and proclamations.

One thing to be aware of regarding praying for those in the workplace is that you will have to earn their trust. If you ask a businessperson, "How can I pray for you and your business?" he or she will probably respond with a comment such as, "However the Lord directs you."

Unless they know they can trust you, business people are not going to open their hearts to you. They need to have a relationship with you first. They won't share intimate details with you right away.

But once they know who you are, affirm that you are a person of integrity and know you hear from God, then they may share a simple request with you—and over time more and more significant ones. When they do share a prayer need, whether personal or business-related, be sure to keep the information confidential. People will be much more likely to share their concerns, hurts, hopes and dreams with you if you are trustworthy.

The way you act will help determine the level of confidence those in business place in you and in what you tell them. It's important for you to look "normal," act normal and speak like a normal person.

Learn the language of the business and avoid using religious jargon. Don't be flaky or so spiritually minded that you are no earthly good. Demonstrate integrity and walk in humility.

The Power of Prayer

When you begin to pray for your own workplace or any other business, you may have to do some spiritual warfare to push back the darkness so others in the workplace can pray effectively too. Help establish a godly environment for your sphere of influence by walking and praying through your work area and the rest of the building, knowing that wherever you tread, God will give you the land (see Gen 13:17).

Ask God for a time to do this type of prayer so you do not distract or offend others. You may need to do it after hours. The principles Chuck Pierce recommends for spiritually cleansing your home in his book Protecting Your Home From Spiritual Darkness can be applied very successfully in your work area.

As you grow in your understanding of the power of prayer for those in the workplace, you will be assured of just how important such prayer is and will be encouraged to continue in it. Be prepared to see results!

When you pray, the perspective of workers will shift from serving people to serving God. This mind-set will add spiritual significance and meaning to their work. It will also create a spiritual climate in which they are inspired and motivated to make wise decisions.

Your prayers will help them focus on their priorities. They will be able to sort out how their relationship with God fits into all aspects of their daily lives—their work, their families, their churches and their extracurricular activities. Your prayers will release peace and put an end to worry and anxiety, which rob them of their time and energy.

And your prayers will release God's divine power to push back evil forces that can keep doors closed. They will help release favor with key people and open doors of opportunity for those for whom you pray.

If your prayers can do all that, what are you waiting for? Here are some specific prayers you can pray for those in the workplace. Declare that:

  • They will know and walk in their callings with confidence and assurance.
  • They will hear God's voice and receive His plan and vision for their work.
  • They will respond to the word of the Lord and put into action all He reveals.
  • They will obey God's Word.
  • They will walk in clarity. Rebuke any cloud of darkness that is over them. Declare that they will see situations and people as God sees them.
  • They will receive godly strategies for negotiating and breaking through closed doors.
  • They will be ethical, fair and just and do what is morally right.
  • They will walk in integrity.
  • They will be conscientious about finances and make cost-effective choices but will not compromise their values.
  • They will not justify bankrupting another company they are doing business with in order to make money for their own company.
  • They will not take money "under the table."
  • They will be concerned not only about the bottom line (finances) but also about the people who work for them.
  • They will not yield to temptations.
  • They will walk in peace.
  • They will use their careers to promote Christ and not Christ to promote their careers.
  • They will have a sense of mission and ministry in their workplace.
  • The gifts of the Spirit will operate through them.
  • They will be prosperous and have the finances to do the work.
  • They will be successful.
  • They will raise up other leaders and empower them.

To assist you in your times of prayer, picture three concentric circles. The inner circle represents the personal lives of those you are praying for—their families and all that deals with them personally. The middle circle represents their businesses—organizations, employees, contracts, vendors, investors, customers and so on. And the outer circle represents their broader sphere of influence. You will cover all the bases if you pray for these three areas.

God is invading the workplace with His presence, His power, His authority and His majesty. He is releasing signs, wonders and miracles. But He chooses to partner with us to fulfill His purposes, so He needs us to be catalysts in prayer to advance His kingdom in the workplace.

Do your part—pray! Then trust God to do His part. The results will be amazing: God will be exalted and businesses will be transformed.

Tommi Femrite is the founder of GateKeepers International, a worldwide ministry dedicated to training and equipping intercessors. She is also the author of Praying With Purpose and a contributing author of Intercessors: Discover Your Prayer Power as well as other books. read more

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