This is Entrepreneurs of Faith, a Sunday episode of Monetization Nation. I’m Nathan Gwilliam, your host. In today’s episode, we’re going to discuss three business lessons we can learn from the parable of the 10 virgins and five ways to recognize and eliminate threats.
The Parable of the 10 Virgins
In Matthew 25:1-13, Jesus Christ shares the parable of the 10 virgins.
In the story, 10 virgins prepare to meet the bridegroom before the wedding. During this time, it was custom for the bridegroom to come to the bride’s house at night, typically at dusk. He would get his bride from her house and bring her back to his house where he had prepared a place for her. Once the groom’s approach was announced, the 10 bridesmaids went out with lamps to light their way (Source: Bible.org).
The young women would follow the groom with their lamps and if they were with the crowd, they could slip into the party. If they weren’t, the doors would close and they would be turned away because they didn’t have an invitation (Source: Bible.org).
In Matthew 25, the 10 virgins prepared for the bridegroom by lighting their lamps at dusk. However, the bridegroom “tarried” and didn’t come until midnight. When the young women were called to meet him, some realized their lamps had already burned out. In verses 2-4, it says, “And five of them were wise, and five were foolish. They that were foolish took their lamps, and took no oil with them: But the wise took oil in their vessels with their lamps.”
As they prepared to meet the bridegroom, “the foolish said unto the wise, Give us of your oil; for our lamps are gone out. But the wise answered, saying, Not so; lest there be not enough for us and you: but go ye rather to them that sell, and buy for yourselves.” (KJV Matthew 25:8-9)
While the five foolish went to buy more oil, the bridegroom came and the five wise virgins went with him to the wedding.
After the five foolish women bought their oil, they rushed to the house, but the door had already closed. They cried, “Lord, Lord, open to us.” But he answered, “Verily I say unto you, I know you not.” (KJV Matthew 25:11-12)
The Importance of Preparation
Because the five young virgins did not bring extra oil with their lamps, they missed the wedding. They did not come prepared for the unexpected delay of the groom.
As entrepreneurs, we need to strive to be prepared for unexpected trials and challenges that may happen. We should also strive to prepare for changes and business tectonic shifts that may happen in the market. Benjamin Franklin said, “By failing to prepare, you are preparing to fail.”
But how can we do this? How can we continually add oil to our lamps? While we may not be able to see what will happen in the future, it is possible to plan and prepare for many of the unexpected challenges.
One way we can prepare for unexpected trials is simply by recognizing they will happen. We have to be open to change and willing to adjust if necessary.
Brian Tracey, a motivational speaker, and self-development author, said, “Be clear about your goal but be flexible about the process of achieving it.”
If one strategy fails, we need to be willing to try something new. Strong business leaders should develop a flexible mindset in order to adapt to the changes in their customers or the marketplace. When we are flexible about processes, we won’t fear change so much. We will have the ability to evaluate our challenges and find a way to work around or through them.
With COVID-19, we have seen hundreds of changes. The only businesses that stayed open were ones that were flexible. According to Fortune, 100,000 businesses that temporarily closed due to COVID-19 were out of business within seven months.
Not only did small businesses close, but many iconic retailers filed for bankruptcy. Chuck E. Cheese had a 600-plus restaurant chain and was hit extremely hard by the pandemic. They didn’t find a way to adapt and so their company’s revenue plummeted by 90%. In June 2020, they filed for bankruptcy (Source: AARP). While they were able to recover, they took a huge hit.
On the other hand, there were businesses that kept their revenue streams despite the pandemic. Belva Anakwenze kept her small business, Abacus Financial Business Management, open with four employees. When offices closed, they created their own space with kitchen tables, bedroom nightstands, and back porches. They continued to have client meetings in the driveway so they could socially distance themselves (Source: Los Angeles Times).
In my small town, there was a restaurant named Gator Jacks that had to stop their dine-in services during COVID-19. However, grocery stores were allowed to stay open, and the grocery stores were facing shortages. Furthermore, Gator Jacks had bulk food suppliers who had food because so many restaurants were closed down. So, Gator Jacks purchased bulk food from their suppliers and turned their restaurant into a popular bulk food warehouse for a time. I was so impressed by their creativity and flexibility to find a new way to monetize the resources they had and weather the storm that put so many other restaurants out of business.
If we can adapt to change and pivot quickly and intelligently, we will be more likely to survive and succeed.
Prepare for Worst-Case Scenarios
One way to prepare for future challenges is to think of worst-case scenarios. Once we have identified the most likely scenarios that could go wrong, we can come up with a plan to use if one of those things happens. Doing this can actually help us feel more confident in our business plans. We will know that if something does go wrong, we will likely be one step ahead of the game and know how to handle the situation. That can provide peace of mind now and stability when crises happen.
I’m sure we have all heard of the saying, hope for the best but prepare for the worst. Thinking of worst-case scenarios helps us prepare for what can go wrong. For example, what would happen if COVID-19 forced us to close our office space? How would we function remotely? Or what would happen if we lose our most important client? How would we make up for that lost income stream?
Randy Pauseh, an American educator and professor of computer science and design, said, “One thing that makes it possible to be an optimist is if you have a contingency plan for when all hell breaks loose.”
However, with preparing for worst-case scenarios, there is a word of caution. We shouldn’t let worst-case scenarios build fear or prevent us from taking risks. Instead, preparing for worst-case scenarios should build confidence in knowing we have a backup plan.
“[I]f ye are prepared ye shall not fear.”
— Doctrine and Covenants 38:30
Evaluate Our Current Situation With a SWOT Analysis
A great way to prepare for future challenges is to evaluate our current situation. What are our weakest points? What areas can we improve on? As we find areas that are vulnerable, we can make changes to fix them before they become an issue later on. A common saying is, “A chain is only as strong as its weakest link.” While this phrase may be overused, it is very applicable in our businesses.
We should assess each aspect of our business regularly. Does each department have a working system that can easily adapt to change? As we look for solutions to potential problems early on, we can avoid larger issues in the future.
Many businesses that do this call it a SWOT analysis. This refers to strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats (Source: Chron). In this analysis, we can identify what is working and what isn’t, as well as identify factors that may affect our company’s short-term and long-term performance. What opportunities can we take advantage of now? What potential threats may hurt us?
As a business, we should constantly seek to improve. If we become stagnant and complacent, our likelihood of being hit with an unexpected challenge will double.
5 Ways to Recognize and Eliminate Potential Threats
Here are five strategies we can use to recognize and eliminate potential threats.
1. Analyze and Research Past Threats
We can analyze threats that have already happened in our geographic area and industry. By identifying threats that have impacted others similar to us, we are identifying the threats that are likely to happen to us.
For example, there may be certain laws and regulations according to our geographic location that could impact our business. When I first started Adoption.com, I wanted to create an adoption agency for children in Brazil. However, due to some strict Brazilian adoption laws, we weren’t able to make it work. Thankfully, I was able to pivot and learn from this experience, but if I hadn’t, it could have been the end of my business. This goes to show just how important it is to do our research. We should research and analyze past threats that have happened to others, so we can prevent it from happening to us.
Travelers Cos. and Heart Research Associates surveyed over 1000 business owners and determined their top threats: financial issues, laws and regulations, economic uncertainty, attracting and retaining talent, legal liability, cyber and technology risks/breaches, increasing employee benefit costs, and medical cost inflation (Source: Treasury & Risk). By researching the current and past threats of our competitors or other businesses in general, we can determine what risks are most likely to happen to us and prepare for them. We can also analyze how businesses reacted to these threats to learn what worked and what didn’t.
2. Bring in Experts
We can prepare for potential threats by bringing in additional experts, such as security experts, to help us to audit and mitigate risks we didn’t know existed. Not only can they help us identify risks we weren’t aware of, but they can also help us target potential risks we are very aware of.
In today’s digital world, one of the most common threats is cybercrimes. According to experts, cybercrime has gone up 600% due to COVID-19. Over 18 million websites are infected with malware at a given time each week and it is estimated that cybercriminals will steal about 33 billion records in 2023 (Source: PurpleSec.us). We could consider hiring a cybersecurity expert to help us prepare for potential risks we know are likely to impact us at some point in our career.
3. Create a Safety-Net of Funds
A great way to prepare for threats is by having a savings account. We most likely won’t be able to prevent every threat out there, but we can reduce our recovery time by having the proper funds saved. Each month we should set aside some funds for a rainy day, to weather an unforeseen storm. I recommend trying to save enough to successfully run your business without any income for three months.
One of the biggest threats we see is the ever-changing customer. Our customers’ changing needs, wants, and values could reduce our sales and income. If we have a savings account, we won’t have to worry about going out of business because we don’t see any income for a month. Having a safety net of funds gives us more time to get back on our feet and adapt to the current situation.
4. Regularly Identify Tectonic Shifts
We should regularly identify tectonic shifts in the business world and industry to figure out how we can implement them before our competitors. This requires us to constantly evaluate the current marketplace to watch for changes and trends. Another way we can find tectonic shifts is by analyzing competitors who are already leveraging tectonic shifts.
As we discussed above, COVID-19 caused a massive shift in the business landscape. Many businesses failed and had to close their doors permanently. By adapting to this shift early on, businesses had a much higher chance of success.
5. Create an Emergency Plan
To prepare for potential threats we can develop an emergency plan. We can get together with our teams and develop multiple ways to communicate quickly with the entire company in case of an emergency. This way, we will have a faster reaction time and eliminate the threat before it becomes detrimental.
Just as we prepare for natural disasters with evacuation plans and fire escape routes, we should have a business disaster plan. For example, this can include a data-recovery plan. If our hard drive became corrupt, what would we do? We should prepare with back-up storage or generators to protect our company’s data.
Just as the five wise virgins prepared with extra oil, we can prepare for unpredictable trials by developing a flexible mindset, addressing and preparing for worst-case scenarios, and evaluating our current situation to solve current weaknesses, improve strengths, and find new opportunities.
Here are some of my key takeaways from this episode:
1. It is wise to be prepared for unexpected trials and challenges.
2. One way we can prepare for unexpected trials is by recognizing they will happen. We have to be open to change and willing to adjust if necessary.
3. By thinking of worst-case scenarios, we can come up with a backup plan to use if the worst thing does happen.
4. We should assess each aspect of our business regularly and address current weaknesses, strengths, opportunities, and threats.
5. As we solve current problems, we should get feedback and continually seek to improve.
6. We can analyze threats that have happened before in our geographic area and industry. By identifying threats that have impacted others similar to us, we are identifying the most likely threats that will happen to us.
7. We can prepare for potential threats by bringing in additional experts, such as security experts.
8. We most likely won’t be able to prevent every threat out there, but we can reduce our recovery time by having the proper funds saved.
9. We should regularly identify tectonic shifts in the business world and industry to figure out how we can implement them before our competitors.
10. Just as we prepare for natural disasters with evacuation plans and fire escape routes, we should have a business disaster plan.
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