One of the main things that I am learning as I engage social entrepreneurship is how to deal with rejection on a regular basis. For the last 10 years in particular I have worked in an institution ( the church) that is relatively static. Most churches, at least the ones I have worked in, are fairly stable affairs. There might be staff conflict or a budget crisis every so often, but generally WHAT the church does stays pretty stable. Don't get me wrong, if you have a domineering head of staff who shoots down all your ideas, you can certainly experience rejection in the church. Most frequently I have experienced it through the pain of folks that I care about within the life of a church choosing to go elsewhere. And of course there are many ministers/pastors that have subtly and not so subtly simply been asked to move on. But, rejections come much more frequently, I think, doing entrepreneurial work.
As I have been building my lawn business I have learned to thicken my skin a bit. Here are some ways that comes up.
1. Dealing with Conflict-You often have to have uncomfortable conversations with your customers. This can be really tricky when you customer also attends your church. As I have thought about the church and social entrepreneurship I have realized that for most ministers/youth workers to engage this way of doing ministry will require them to be pretty adept at resolving conflict. Sometimes this can be hard. Especially if your congregant isn't good with conflict.
2. Dealing with Rejection- As pastor, my call is at least in part, to ALL the sheep. You are supposed to remain at peace with people. If someone leaves your church it feels like a big loss. In business it happens every day. Sometimes people are picky. Sometimes you make mistakes that they just won't put up with. Sometimes the customer thinks they can get a great deal elsewhere. Sometimes they are sure they know what they are talking about and are sure you don't. You really don't have that much control. I have had to learn to just accept the rejections as they come.
3. What Am I Worth?- One of the new features of rejection that I am learning in the marketplace is that not all rejection is bad. In fact, some of it is quite good! I have had to learn the lesson that I need to set a price point that causes people to reject me. If I set my prices too low, I can't make my program for teenagers run. So, I have to be prepared to charge what I think is right even if it is beyond what some people can pay. Again this is difficult if you are working with some of your church members. It's hard because they want to support your program, but they have NO CLUE about what you need to cover the basic costs of your business. The principle is pretty simple. If you are winning every bid that you put out there, you are probably bidding too low.
4. "It's Just Business"- The other part you have to get used to is that some folks just won't get the vision of what you are doing. Sometimes it will be people in the church. My church has been great about this whole program! But, I think it might be a hard fight in other places. I have often found that I have to tell customers that just because we are a landscaping company that works with teens and young adults doesn't mean they are going to get a basement deal. If I played that game we would be broke and it would be a lose lose. I can guarantee that the customer would expect great work even at a low price and when they didn't get it, they probably would just never call again. We try to do excellent work at a fair price. But, at the end of the day I have had to learn that for many customers, regardless of the nobility of our mission, this is "just business".
5. Avoidance- I have learned in ministry that most people don't like conflict and that some will do anything to avoid conflict. I have learned (and am learning) to deal with it head on. Business/social entrepreneurship runs at a pace where avoidance simply will not work. If someone is frustrated or dissatisfied, you have to make the phone call...NOW! If you don't your business and your reputation will suffer very quickly. The axiom in business is that the best time to take advantage of an opportunity is yesterday or now. I have begun to see conflict as an opportunity.
6. It's Not Me, It's You- One of my friends in ministry told me early in my career that as a pastor you have to remember that 80% of what people bring to you as your problem (or the church's problem) is really just their problem or hang up getting projected onto you or the institution. This has been a hugely helpful principle in the church and beyond. It allows you to not take things personally and not to become a victim to unreasonable expectations by others.
The main thing that I am learning is just to silence that pastor voice inside me that says rejection is bad or that I messed something up. It is just part of engaging ministry in the realm of business. As my Dad would say, "It just goes with the territory."