I am often asked what it takes to be a successful entrepreneur, and I usually respond that entrepreneurship requires skill, will, and capital. However, as I thought about this more and began to peel back the layers, I realized that what entrepreneurship really requires is faith; deep, deep faith.
This realization became even more apparent to me as I began to reflect on what I would share with the audience while being inducted into the Entrepreneur Hall of Fame at Old Dominion University. The timing of this honor was pivotal, because it was at the end of a very long year, full of tests and challenges. At the start of 2018, I learned that I would have to figure out how to continue to operate my business with excellence on a budget reduced by 60% due to federal government budget cuts. These cuts would affect us so significantly that, as an entrepreneur and leader, I reached the point where I had to determine whether I would “stay in the game” or walk away. This was not an easy decision for me to make because my response would affect more than half of my workforce. All I could think about was how I would tell 60% of my workforce that they would no longer have jobs.
This decision-making moment was, I believe, a test on many levels; and how I conducted myself during this test would serve as an example for many, many people. The first test was to see whether I would honor the commitment I had made to be fully present with my family (the news of the budget cuts came during a family vacation), or if I would allow the timing of this situation to distract me. I am proud to say I passed that test. I knew I would have to dig deep into my faith and focus on my goal of building a legacy, and not be distracted by every challenging situation. I remember shutting down my computer and hearing Carrie Underwood’s song, “Jesus Take the Wheel”; in my mind, and at that moment, I felt such a peace. I decided that as much as I would like to, I could not be everywhere at all times, and I could not control every situation. So I told my team that we were going to move forward and stay in the race, and they should handle things at the office, which allowed me to continue to enjoy time with, and my commitment to, my family.
The second test came as I struggled with how to proceed with my associates. Would I be creative during a time of intense stress, or would I follow the more common path and simply cut the positions I could no longer carry? This was a huge decision that required me to operate completely on faith. I had faith that my clients would recognize our exceptional performance in the past, and that we would regain the lost revenue through contract modifications. So, I made the decision to cover all of my associates’ jobs at their existing salaries and to invest in my company instead of making cuts. I knew that in order to grow my business, we would have to begin acting differently. I held individual meetings with each division in my company, explaining my decision to them, and educating my associates on what would be required for us to move forward. I was transparent, and I solicited individual buy-in and commitment to the journey.
Because my faith tells me that prayer without works is dead, I took a full year to invest in my associates, and we worked on continuous improvement projects throughout the company. As a result, we ended 2018 even stronger in sales than we were in 2017; and I was so proud to be able to send a global email at the end of the year thanking my associates for their perseverance and hard work rewarded with a 5% wage increase made possible by our excellent financial position by year’s end.
…I must lead by my deep convictions and my determination to demonstrate faith. – Dr. Angela D. Reddix
Receiving the Entrepreneur of the Year Award at the end of that year was confirmation I had done the right things. While I wish I could say that everyone rallied around me during this challenging time, that would not be true. Some made the decision to leave, but many more chose to stay. A wise person once told me to never manage by compliments nor criticism; these are emotional responses that will change like the wind. Instead, I must lead by my deep convictions and my determination to demonstrate faith. That is why I was particularly pleased by an email I received from an associate at the end of 2018 thanking me for doing just that…demonstrating my faith.
While all the awards and recognition are wonderful, more than anything, I would like my legacy as an entrepreneur to be that I walk the walk, and I don’t just spout lofty words and platitudes. I would like future generations of entrepreneurs to know that it is so much deeper than the financial gains; it is about making decisions that are not just in your own best interest, but in the interests of everyone you serve. So I say to every aspiring entrepreneur out there that faith is a key ingredient to your success: all it takes is faith the size of a mustard seed, and you can move mountains. 2018 was my year of moving mountains through my faith!