The Great Entrepreneurs of the Bible: Solomon and Ten Rules for Entrepreneurs

| September 9, 2018

The Christian Professional Network presents this series of articles on the great entrepreneurs in the Bible.  Our series starts with King Solomon.

Dictionary.com defines an entrepreneur as “a person who organizes and manages any enterprise, especially a business, usually with considerable initiative and risk.”  Solomon undertook to organize and manage an entire kingdom, and not only succeeded, but left an extensive body of “how to” business advice still being followed by entrepreneurs today.

Solomon is renowned as the wisest of kings. This wisdom and insight manifested itself through his recognition of opportunity, his sound judgment, his management skills, and what we would today call his venture capitalism.  His history from I Kings 3 to 10 is a textbook example for business owners, and for national leaders.

He recognized that Israel’s greatest natural resource was being located on the two great trading routes, known as the King’s Highway and the Way of the Sea.  It also had a long coast line with natural harbors.

Solomon used those natural advantages to make his nation an economic superpower through trade. Throughout his history, we read of traders, merchants, and cooperative ventures (I Kings 9: 26 – 28; 10: 15, 28). He built a fleet of trading ships, and had those ships out at sea in rotation (I Kings 9: 26, 10: 22).

In his wisdom, Solomon sought peace with the nations around him, and Israel was able to turn its efforts from national defense to economic prosperity (I Kings 4: 24, 25).  He turned former enemies into business partners, working cooperatively with King Hiram of Lebanon (I Kings 5: 1 – 12).

Solomon brought sound and orderly administration throughout his kingdom, with clearly defined lines of authority (I Kings 4).  He organized large work forces (I Kings 5: 13 – 18).  He brought in excellent talent (I Kings 7: 13, 14).

Through these efforts, Solomon created great wealth for himself and his nation (I Kings 4: 20 – 28; 10: 14 – 23). He made “silver as common in Jerusalem as stones” (I Kings 10: 27).

The foundation of it all was his commitment unto God, to seek His blessings, to ask for wisdom, and to humble himself before the Lord (I Kings 3: 1 – 9; 8: 55 – 61).

The deeds of Solomon make him perhaps the greatest manager and greatest entrepreneur in the Bible. From him we can take instruction to (i) identify our business’ natural advantages and to build on them;  (ii) be aggressive in building from strength; (iii) avoid useless disputes that divert your attention and sap your resources; (iv) have clear lines of authority; (v) bring in excellent talent; and (vi) work cooperatively with other businesses.

But Solomon left us with more than an example – as the principle author of Proverbs and Ecclesiastes, Solomon wrote advice that businesses today are wise to follow:

1. BE DILIGENT AND WORK HARD.

He who has a slack hand becomes poor; but the hand of the diligent makes rich (Proverbs 10: 4).  Nothing can substitute for work ethic.  Many people see a business owner after he or she has achieved success and think that advancement in business is easy.  Those in it know that creating and running a successful business requires harder work than any way to earn a living.  It is no place for those without a superior commitment to work.  As Solomon wrote in Proverbs 20: 4, The lazy man will not plow because of winter; he will beg during harvest and have nothing

2. WORK WISELY.

Wisdom is the principal thing; therefore get wisdom. And in all your getting, get understanding (Proverbs 4: 7).  It is not enough to work hard, you also have to work smart.  You have to capitalize your business with wisdom as well as with money because wisdom is a defense as money is a defense (Ecclesiastes 7: 12).  The great majority of business start-ups will fail.  The great majority of businesses started by Christians will fail.  It will not matter if the business is founded with the best of purposes and dedicated to the glory of God.  Being a successful entrepreneur requires training and skill to be able to see and seize opportunities, working with wisdom as well with diligence.

3. PURSUE EXCELLENCE.

Do you see a man who excels in his work?  He will stand before kings (Proverbs 22: 29).  Never be satisfied with being satisfactory. You should set the bar at excellence.  Vince Lombardi, the great football coach, said in his first speech to his Green Bay Packers (who had finished in last place the prior season): “Gentlemen, we will chase perfection, and we will chase it relentlessly, knowing all the while we can never attain it. But along the way, we shall catch excellence.” 

4. WORK PROACTIVELY.

In all labor there is profit; but idle chatter leads only to poverty (Proverbs 14: 23).  There is great benefit in careful planning, but in the end, you need to act.  Many businesses fail to grow, or fail altogether, because of an inability or an unwillingness to act decisively.  Solomon was extremely proactive, constantly building and always reaching towards the next venture (I Kings 7).

5. BE HONEST – ALWAYS.

Dishonest scales are an abomination to the Lord; but a just weight is His delight.  (Proverbs 11: 1).   Character counts.  Honesty in business should be given and without exception.  Bread gained by deceit is sweet to a man; but afterward his mouth will be filled with gravel (Proverbs 20: 17).  Honesty should extend beyond individual dealings, and reach to larger societal issues.  He who oppresses the poor to increase his riches … will surely come to poverty (Proverbs 22: 16).  We read that Solomon ruled with “largeness of heart” and was generous to all (I Kings 4: 29).

6. USE DEBT SPARINGLY.

In business cash is king, or as Solomon would say it: “But money answers everything” (Ecclesiastes 7: 12).  Maintain a cash reserve.  Use debt for needed capital items, but avoid debt to pay operating expenses.  Otherwise, you will end up working for the bank (or your private lender) and on its terms, not yours.  The rich rules over the poor, and the borrower is servant to the lender (Proverbs 22: 7).

7. WORK COOPERATIVELY.

As iron sharpens iron; so a man sharpens the countenance of his friend (Proverbs 27: 17).  Build strategic partnerships with others in business, where you can quickly call on reliable source providers to meet the needs of your clients.  Solomon built such a partnership with King Hiram of Lebanon, and it greatly benefited both nations, making Israel the economic superpower of the day and Jerusalem the showpiece of the world.

8. ESTABLISH RELATIONSHIPS WITH VALUED PROFESSIONALS.

Without counsel, plans go awry; but in the multitude of counselors they are established (Proverbs 15: 22).  Be smart enough to know that you don’t know it all.  It is especially dangerous when you don’t know what you don’t know.  Establish trusted relationships with legal, financial, IT and other professionals.  Use them efficiently to get out ahead of problems.

9. PLAY THE LONG GAME – REMAIN FOCUSED AND PATIENT.

The plans of the diligent lead surely to plenty; but those of everyone who is hasty, surely to poverty (Proverbs 21: 5).  Many businesses make the mistake of running from one plan to another, from one supposed opportunity to another, and losing the focus of their core product or service.  Be patient enough to let your business take root, find its customer base, and grow from there.

10. KNOW THAT YOUR WORK IS FOR GOD’S GLORY FIRST.

Solomon wrote Psalm 127:  Unless the Lord builds the house; they labor in vain who build it. Unless the Lord guards the city; the watchman stays awake in vain.  In words seemingly meant for business owners:  It is vain for you to rise up early, to sit up late.  If you want your effort to count for something, if you want to reach significance and not just success, direct your efforts to God’s glory and build your business as a testimony of excellence to His Name.

The example and wisdom of Solomon have been proven true for more than 3,000 years; and entrepreneurs are still learning from him today.


Category: Entrepreneurs

About the Author ()

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Email | Website | Thomas Schetelich is a founding principal in the law firm of Ferguson, Schetelich & Ballew in Baltimore, Maryland, and a member of the United States Supreme Court Bar. He heads both the firm’s corporate/ business law practice and its personal legal services department. He is an AV rated attorney awarded for highest standards of professional skill and ethical practice. Mr. Schetelich devotes much of his practice to assisting charitable and religious organizations, and is the President of The Christian Professional Network. He is a frequent speaker on Biblical and legal matters throughout the United States.