God’s Wisdom for Strategic PartnershipsBlog / Produced by The High Calling
In recent years, mergers and acquisitions have become commonplace in the business world from Exxon-Mobile to AOL-Time-Warner. All kinds of market conditions can lead up to the decision to merge. But in each case, the leaders of the companies agree that they will be stronger and more competitive together than they are apart. Sometimes those leaders are right and, as we saw in the case of AOL-Time-Warner, sometimes they are wrong.
The potential for partnerships to make or break a company's success is nothing new. By the time he left Egypt in Genesis 13, Abram had become very wealthy, amassing livestock, silver and gold. He continued to travel through the Middle East, as God had commanded, with his nephew Lot, who also had flocks, herds and tents to his name. Initially, their cooperation made strategic sense: they were both far away from their native Ur, and otherwise alone in an unfamiliar and sometimes hostile land. Their partnership offered the safety and mutual protection of numbers. Yet as their journey progressed and their households increased, Genesis 13:6-9 tells us that the land could no longer sustain both parties in such close proximity. Employees began to squabble and tension grew. The time had come, for everyone's sake, to part ways.
The fact that mere "timing" can determine whether a partnership is productive or destructive should provoke us to seek the Lord's wisdom and guidance when contemplating such decisions. We should start by lifting the potential partnership before the Lord in prayer, while reading his word. Second, we should seek counsel and coaching from other godly leaders who are prayerfully connected with us. Third, we should consider the advantages and liabilities associated with the partnership: what do we bring to the table? What do they bring? How can we make each other better, and what challenges are we likely to face? Fourth, we should consider whether our potential partner shares our interests and purpose: do we want the same things and share the same priorities? Fifth, we should remain open to God's direction regarding the duration of the partnership and the terms for ending it.
Anything can happen, just as it did with Abram and Lot, to make a previously profitable partnership outlive its usefulness. If we have truly surrendered our business plans to God, we will be ready to make mid-course corrections and adjustments as he reveals. Abram knew that the strife between Lot's employees and his was a sign that it was time to reevaluate their arrangement. The problem of limited land was not going away: it would only get worse as their respective households increased. To make room for further growth, they needed to separate.
Abram also set the example for the right way to end such a partnership. Instead of insisting on his own rights and his own way, the elder business partner afforded the first choice for a prime relocation spot to his junior partner. Abram never once asked Lot for a repayment of the investment that he had so willingly made in support of his nephew. Abram trusted God to sustain him, bless him, and protect him as He had in times past.
Abram and Lot parted on good terms. We know this, because some time later, when Lot was in trouble, Abram rescued him and recovered his possessions from four kings (see Genesis 14:8-16). Abram also prayed for Lot and interceded on his behalf when judgment was imminent upon the area where he had settled. It was Abram's prayers that petitioned God to save ten righteous people, including Lot and his family (see Genesis 18:32).
As God's representatives in the marketplace, we have a choice to make. We can prioritize business growth, expansion, and survival so highly that we are willing to do or try anything to obtain them, or we can embrace the Word of God as our business standard. Abram chose a godly standard when he helped Lot. Abram refused to take credit for the wealth that Almighty God had given (see Genesis 14:17-24). In his choice to honor God in all he did, Abram obtained the wisdom he needed to know whom to partner with and for how long. May we seek that same wisdom in all our decisions in business and in life!
Questions for personal reflection, online discussion, or small groups:
- Identify one key point from this article and discuss how it has relevance to your current business or work.
- What business needs or wants led you to form a partnership?
- How did prayer and godly counsel contribute to your decision?
- What personal and professional goals and values do you have in common with your business partner?
- What criteria are you using to evaluate the outcomes of this partnership?
- How has your partnership helped or hurt your business?
- If you had to do it all over again, what would you do differently?
- How can you utilize the word of God to address the current status of your partnership?
- For more, read the following articles about wisdom for professional relationships: Moses and the Burning Water Cooler and Working Together, Working Apart
Dr. Vera R. Jackson is president and CEO of a nonprofit organization in the Washington, D.C., area and author of Taking Jesus to Work (Chosen/Baker Publishing Group, www.chosenbooks.com). An accomplished executive, she has senior leadership and consulting experience with government, nonprofit and for-profit organizations. For comments and/or speaking and ministry engagements, she may be contacted by email at: firstname.lastname@example.org.