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My Long, Strange Journey To Becoming A Devout Entrepreneur

Last week, our business had a fun surprise. Entrepreneur Magazine named us the winner of their ‘Top Company Culture’ study for all small businesses in the nation. We are a bit of an odd-duck winner. We are a cause-based business, helping churches and faith-based companies find their pastors and key staff.

I’m glad we won. But I’m even more glad that out of all of the companies that Entrepreneur surveyed, a faith-based business was named number one. It’s a major milestone for me in my long, strange journey to becoming a devout entrepreneur.

My story is an unexpected one. It started simply enough: At age six, I started polishing silver for my grandmother for spare change. At nine, I was the paperboy who bought other routes out and rearranged them to create a more profitable system. Even from a young age, it seemed evident I would go into some form of business building.

Then, out of the blue, I had a sudden awakening of faith, which turned a straightforward story into a big zigzag. I found myself with a newfound faith and with that, a newfound identity crisis. How could I be serious about my faith and serious about a successful career in the business world? For a while, I thought that if I was serious about my faith, I was under a mandate to sell all I had, give it to the poor, and move to a third-world country. I settled on seminary and eventually the pastorate. I assumed my entrepreneurial days were done, and I pursued a call to be a spiritual custodian.

For 15 years, I served at great churches – even becoming Senior Pastor of a very large church by the time I was 31. But no matter how successful the resume looked, I was always a bit of a misfit. Despite my efforts to tamp down the entrepreneur in me, he just wouldn’t go away. So I built new ministries, new buildings, and stretched the church (often too much) to expand the ministry.

Eventually, I did leave ministry and went to work as an HR manager for an upstream oil and gas company. Granted, it was larger (Fortune 200) than most entrepreneurs would like, but there’s nothing more growth-oriented than upstream energy. I was amazed at how quickly things moved there, particularly how well the company hired and replaced staff.

In a fairly short time, life in a large company proved to be an equal misfit. It was a great company, and I made great money, but I still felt like something was missing. I met with a great executive search consultant to get some career advice, and as I walked away, it dawned on me – what would happen if the church had a hiring solution as good as the one I saw at work in the corporate world? Staffing had been my number one issue and roadblock as a pastor. What if I could build a better way for other pastors?

And – more important to my career-long identity crisis – would it finally become possible to have strong faith and still build a strong business?

I went home and spoke with my wife. We had just gotten married and were building a house – perfect timing to tell her I thought I needed to leave my job to build something new for the church. Astonishingly, she agreed. So, in the fall of 2008, despite an unfriendly economy and fully aware of the church’s resistance to change, we set out to do what most would call crazy.

Fast-forward seven years. With 700 searches (world-wide) under our belt, a team of over 30 full-time people, and 28 consecutive quarters of growth, you would think I’m excited about our growth – and I am. But what really pumps me up is the knowledge that we have built a business where people want to work and a cause that people want to join.

We still have a whole lot to learn. But through the wins and the setbacks, the zigs and the zags, we have kept a strong emphasis on building a company that is serious about faith but also serious about business.

Our big win last week will pass unnoticed by most of the world. We will likely have other milestones that eclipse it. But for me, it answered a lifelong question: There is a path to having a serious faith and building a serious business. I’m hoping in this blog, I’ll be able to share what I’m learning as I go farther down this long, strange road.


This article was written by William Vanderbloemen from Forbes and was legally licensed through the NewsCred publisher network.

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