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Three Spiritual Secrets to Building a Business

by Rabbi Daniel Lapin

I don't care what you do for a living—unless you are a justice on the United States Supreme Court or a tenured university professor—you are in business. The sooner you come to the realization and understanding that your business involves building You Inc., the better off you will be. Building your business is a supremely spiritual enterprise, and one that is uniquely human.

Businesses benefit five different categories of people:

  • The builder of the business benefits;
  • The customers of the business;
  • The employees of the business who are able to support themselves because of the business' existence;
  • The shareholders who helped finance the business and wish to earn a fair and equitable return on the loan of their capital; and
  • The community in which the business is located.

Anything which does so much good for so many people has to be profoundly spiritual, and anything spiritual can be enhanced by applying the spiritual rules of success. Here are three:

Spiritual Rule 1: Make a covenantal commitment to build your business.

If you really want to build your own business, doing so has to be your priority. The word priority is a singular word, meaning that none of us can have two, three, or eleven priorities. A priority is one thing—one important thing. And that one important thing needs to remain that one important thing.

You might make a good argument that your business is not your priority because your family occupies that high ground. Or perhaps you'd respond that your faith is your priority. In both cases, you would be right.

Therein lies a trap because there will always be a reason to put things that are indeed more important ahead of the priority of building your business. This seems to be an irreconcilable paradox because you are surely correct when you say that your family and faith come first.

The key is your covenantal commitment. You see, a covenant is different from a promise. A promise is merely between two parties. "I promise to lend you my lawnmower next Wednesday" is a commitment only between you and me. A covenant, on the other hand, involves at least one other party. The covenant of marriage usually involves the bride, the groom, and God in whose eyes the couple marries. The marriage covenant also involves siblings, in-laws, and friends. This is why divorce, when it happens, impacts the entire family—not just the husband and wife.

When you make a covenantal commitment to build your business, you are involving your family and perhaps God as well. This allows you to bring all of them in on your commitment. That way, they are not only witnesses to your commitment but also facilitators to help you keep that commitment.

In other words, keep those most important to you completely in the picture. Tell them in an almost formal way, exactly what your plans are and what your timeline is in which you intend to execute and accomplish those plans. Update them regularly on both successes and setbacks. They will want you to succeed, and because they are part of the covenant, your success will also be their success.

In this fashion, you can integrate your life around your priority. Will there be times you will disconnect from work and spend special time with your spouse or children? Of course. Will you spend special time in prayer and church fellowship? Sure. And your subsequent return to your business commitment will be renewed and refreshed.

Spiritual Rule 2: Know what you do for people and proudly proclaim it.

No doubt you have heard of customer service? How about a worship service? It is interesting that the English language employs the same word for attending to both customers and God. What could the connection possibly be?

When I was a teenager, I purchased my first car. I was dismayed when it developed what sounded like a very expensive malady. Having used all my resources on purchasing the car, I asked my father what he thought I should do. He mentioned a friend of his who owned a repair shop and suggested I stop by and talk to him.

My dad's friend took a look at the car. He listened to the engine and gave that soft mechanic's whistle, which signified expensive. "Let me take it out back to the shop," he said. I quickly informed him of my impecunious state, but he reassured me that everything would be fine.

An hour later he brought the car back fully repaired. With quaking heart, I asked for the bill. "There won't be a bill," he said. "Your dad is a very special man and I am happy to do this for him." In my desire to be straight forward about this, I clarified that the car belonged to me, not to my father. "I couldn't make your dad any happier than by helping out his son," said the mechanic.

Indeed we do serve God by serving his children. There is something very special, almost holy, about serving our customers, taking care of our clients, and attending to our associates.

Now all you have to do is make certain that everyone you meet knows what you can do for them. I do not mean you should escalate your self-promotion to new levels of obnoxiousness—just that everybody should be aware of what you do for your fellow human beings. This is why folks used to take last names that indicated their professions: Goldsmith, Silverman, Wasserman (the village water supplier), Drukker (the printer), Federman (the feather merchant), and so on. In this way, they were assured that any possible customers would immediately know how they could benefit from this person.

Your work is one of the most interesting things about you. It is why folks on airplane trips nearly always make the first question they ask their fellow passenger, "And so what do you do?" The question is really, "How do you help humanity?" The answer could be, "I fix their teeth, or their cars, or their plumbing, or their legal problems." It might be, "I supply them with shoes, paint, or skis." Or perhaps, "I help them start their own businesses; I help my fellow humans achieve financial independence."

You'd be surprised how often people will approach you once you have successfully clarified how you can help them. This is the secret of the noble art of advertising. How you will go about best advertising to everyone how you can serve them, is up to you. But give it plenty of serious and creative thought.

Spiritual Rule 3: Develop the ability of your most important business-building organ.

Say you were to ask a coach to advise you about running a long marathon race. He will immediately talk about strengthening your legs and teach you the most efficient ways of moving them quickly. It is easy to identify your legs as the key limbs in running races.

However, identifying the key part for building your business is a little harder. Still, if you consider that building a business is the real-world result of practicing the 3 Cs—communication, collaboration, creation—you will quickly see that the key part is your mouth.

Remember, most of us prefer to do business with folks we know, like, and trust. Imagine trying to get to know someone while refusing to talk. It would be ridiculous. It is equally ridiculous to suppose that you would ever really like someone with whom you have never had a good conversation. And as far as trust goes, everyone knows it is built by keeping your word. But if you have not said a word, then keeping it becomes irrelevant.

If you have ever heard people say enviously about someone, "Oh, he really has the gift of the gab," you know what an impression it makes when you can effectively articulate your point.

Whenever two people do business together, wealth is created. Think about it, if nobody coerced them to make a deal, it must have benefited both of them. Each must have valued what he gained, more than what he gave up. The act of doing business is the act of creation.

However, before two people can create, they must first collaborate. And before two people can collaborate, they must first communicate. This is why learning to perfect the use of your mouth is so very important. You have to learn to speak fluently, eloquently, and confidently. But how?

Fortunately the answer is unexpectedly easy. The only problem is that this truly amazing method to develop your speaking ability can make you feel a little self-conscious. This is why so few people undertake what I am about to suggest and which, I guarantee, will dramatically improve your communicative ability.

Here is what you have to do: Read aloud from a quality book three times a week for half an hour each time. Unless you have a particularly understanding spouse, or children who just love to have you read aloud to them, take yourself into isolation for this exercise. The most useless activity for developing verbal fluency is watching television. So if you could redeploy at least half the time you devote to television each to this exercise, success is just around the corner.

By giving your tongue a regular workout three times a week, you are allowing it to become more practiced at forming itself around words. Like any other muscle in the body, practice makes it stronger. Furthermore, your own ears are hearing your mouth, tongue, and lips, shaping the words that will start to build your regular daily vocabulary. You will truly be astonished at how quickly you will feel improvement.

What books should you read from? This isn't the best venue for me to offer you a reading list, but you could check in with a wise librarian. Or you could do what Abraham Lincoln did to transform himself from a timid and ineffective speaker into the man who delivered the Gettysburg address—practice using the Bible.

These three principles are, I believe, the first and most important three steps in building a business. The first rule is internal; it involves making that commitment to success and doing it in a way that cannot fail—namely, engaging your partners both human and divine. It is what I call the covenantal commitment.

The second rule involves telling others of your eagerness to serve them and how you are able to do so. The third rule involves perfecting the tool for success that God gave each of us but which so few of us use adequately—our mouths. By following these three rules we can all be assured of bringing the blessings of business success, not only to ourselves, but also to all those involved in our enterprise.

© Rabbi Daniel Lapin

Radio talk show host Rabbi Daniel Lapin is the best-selling author of Thou Shall Prosper. He regularly speaks to business groups around the country and provides corporate leaders with guidance and counsel. His free weekly email called Thought Tools is read by over 30,000 subscribers world-wide. It can be obtained at

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