What I learned about business and life in a "failed" company.
I’m a millennial, and I grew up on a farm knowing what business and hard work meant, and one day in my teens I decided that I hated business. I decided that when I was out of school, I would work for my family farm, or find a job for someone else, but in no way did I want to manage and run a business myself.
I’ve always been the type of person that enjoys more experiences and moments than money and financial gain, and I thought that business was primarily about those two things. Therefore, business was not for me.
Fast forward a year after high-school and while I was in the middle of an experience in China, the door opened to begin selling handcrafted items in the US to help combat social issues I came in contact with in China. I soon started a fair trade company selling and marketing these handcrafts that were from a family I met in China. We called our company the “Buyi Project”.
Over time, I began to pull out of my earnings from my job on the farm to continue to help the family in China. I began to see that the business idea was not sustainable, and yet continued to help the family for 3 years or so.
Eventually, I came to the point where I would not be able to continue to support the family or the part time employees we had hired to help us in China, so we had to close the business.
Through this time, I came to learn some very important things about business and life.
First off, I learned that I didn’t hate business, I just hated focusing entirely on money.
I also learned that when your business is not sustainable, it makes it even more difficult to focus more on vision than on money. You need to have a sustainable business that is paying expenses and your income, while doing work that you enjoy.
If I could start over, I would have spent more time seeing if there was an actual market for the products we wanted to sell for the family as well as find out how sustainable selling the products in the US would really be.
I also would have made sure to pay myself some for my time and input in the company. This would have helped me with fatigue as well as helped force the business to sustainability.
Secondly, I learned that my identity isn’t dependent upon the success or failure of the business.
At the beginning, I was only doing the fair trade company to help the family, but towards the end, the company was becoming a part of my identity. I didn’t want to close the business because I didn’t want people to think less of me. I thought that people thought of me and the business almost as one.
I was 19 when I started the company, and turned down college to travel to China for business and basically everything in my free time was focused around the business and the people I was serving.
It is hard not to place your identity in things you do, but once your learn that your identity is secure in Christ *if you believe and trust in Him*, things get a lot more simple. The Lord opened my eyes to this over time, and I began to understand that ultimately he was sovereign and it was okay if the business didn’t go the way I wanted it to go.
I learned that projects and plans are great, but people are better.
One of the final things I learned from the time I was running a fair trade company is that people are the most important aspect to life.
During my time with the fair trade company, I learned that the people I met along the way impacted me greatly. I remember meetings with volunteers, time with the family in China, and different folks along the way that left lasting impressions on my life.
It is easy for me now even to get ingrained into my web design company and easily miss the moments with my wife and son.
In business, we need to keep the people we work, live with and meet along the way at the top of our priorities. Ultimately, no amount of success means anything without people.
I no longer hate business, but I do still hate having to worry about money.
Your identity is secure, just like mine is, if you trust in Christ. Let him lead you in your business and life.
People are important. Take the time you need to let them impact you.