Bishop T.D. Jakes wants to help you make your dreams come true. And he wants those dreams to be big. His new, book, Soar! is filled with inspiration, encouragement, and practical steps to help you with what he frankly acknowledges will be difficult and sometimes scary. But he wants you to know that it is possible and it is worth it. In an interview between two pastors, he talked about what he learned from his father and why he offered a job to a lawyer who represented his opponent. I got what I could from the interview and translated it into script. Enjoy.
PSF: I was very taken with your description of your father as a good example in hard work and determination but not as good an example as a businessman.
TDJ: My father had a tremendous work ethic. I don’t know whether to say I inherited it or that he exemplified it until it became a part of my routine but he gave me a tremendous amount of inspiration. He was a very hard-working, relentless, tenacious person and he was able to build a business from a mop and a bucket to about 52 employees back in the sixties when African Americans were seldom able to own businesses.
My father was very successful at the time but the reason he couldn’t go to the next level is that he was so busy doing the business that he didn’t get an opportunity to stand back and think about the business. So many of us are struggling to survive. We’re so busy doing the work that we don’t get to market it, we don’t get to manage it, we don’t get to really think through how to grow our business to the next level so that we will have something to pass to our children.
PSF: It’s unusual for a member of the clergy to write a book about business, do you see the work that you do as being entrepreneurial?
TDJ: I think the misunderstanding comes when you limit me to just being clergy. I’ve owned my own for-profit company for years; T.D. Jakes Enterprises. I’ve actually been there longer than at The Potter’s House and so I’ve always been bi-vocational. I just haven’t always talked about it and people don’t always see me in that light because they do see me as clergy. I have a small business but it’s been successful and it’s been a conduit through which I’ve been able to accomplish a lot of things in my life.
The reason I took the time to move away from just talking about spiritual things to talk about this business aspect is because I see our country in a perilous time facing many, many perils and one of those struggles amongst many others is in the area of being able to provide for our families. The stress, the pressure of being able to provide when we are totally dependent on other people to hire us we limit the options when in fact it could be possible to hire yourself.
PSF: So you do not think that business and faith are in conflict.
TDJ: Let’s look to the Bible for it. Jesus picked out 12 disciples and none of them were rabbis. They all came from some sort of business. What we have to do is to not see people in one narrow perspective. In our community we are accustomed to having pastors who run funeral homes for example. This is about being responsible for the gifts you have been given and to share them with the world through whatever venue you can and I don’t think one thing contradicts the other any more than the millions of Christians who go to work every day and still go to church on Sunday.
PSF: I love the story in the book about the lawyer who was opposite you is a case and when it was over you offered him a job.
TDJ: People think that the hardest thing to find is money but the hardest thing to find is quality people. This guy on the opposite side of the table negotiating with us was so good at what he did that I ended up hiring him and then he worked for me for years and years and years. You never know whose life you’re going to touch and how you’re going to affect them or how they’re going to affect you.
PSF: In the book, you admitted that you don’t always follow your own advice by creating a written plan but you still think it’s good advice. Why is that important?
TDJ: A lot of people get into business because they like the idea but they haven’t thought it through and writing down a plan is very helpful. The fact that you have a heart to do it is not enough if you don’t have the head to prepare for the legalities, the vulnerabilities, the ramifications.
PSF: How have new technologies opened up opportunities for underserved communities?
TDJ: While I was in Ghana I ran into a young lady there who had started a business with her telephone and $200, she is now running a million dollar corporation in a third world country and teaching other young girls in Africa STEM programs. There are lot of people we can point to who have benefited from social media, technology, access to information more readily, able to expose their products to people around the world without the cost that would normally be inherited in doing business around the world simply because of the technology and the social media that’s available today.
PSF: On the one hand we tell entrepreneurs to stick to your vision and on another hand we tell them to listen to what the market tells you; how do you know which messages to trust?
TDJ: The metaphor that I consistently use in the book is the Wright Brothers building the first airplane. They built it in Dayton but they didn’t fly it until they got to Kitty Hawk, North Carolina. One of the reasons that they went to Kitty Hawk is that the wind was right, the conditions were right and I use that as a metaphor to say you can build the right business but if you don’t get in the right wind and the wind is working against you, you won’t be successful at what you’re trying to do.