By guest author Jon Engelman
Life as an entrepreneur comes naturally for me. Growing up with a family of small business owners, I’ve always thought of business as farming – but in the city. Starting at the age of 10, I found myself out working every night after school with my dad in the buildings that he cleaned for his janitorial company.
The lessons I learned 35 years ago are still with me today: obey my parents, be honest, take responsibility, embrace wisdom, and don’t be afraid to take the lead.
Today, mowing, cleaning, and residential living have been our focus together as a family. Here’s our story.
As God grew my family, I found that it was almost easier to grow a family than it was to grow a business.
My wife Patti did the book work and scheduling for our little carpet cleaning company while taking care of the children for about the first 5 years.
We struggled for the first 10 years not understanding much about the business side of business, i.e. maintaining the budget (or even having a budget), creating plans and forecasting for growth of our company etc. We were doing honest work and serving people but not ever really getting ahead.
I finally took the leap of faith and went to a weeklong business planning and strategy workshop. This was a big deal in 2003 to spend money while not “making money” back home at the business. God used this workshop to provide us with a vision for organization, planning, budgeting, and a renewed sense of “I can do a lot more than I thought I could.”
In a few short years, by God’s grace and a fair amount of focus/hard work, we turned our little carpet cleaning service into a million-dollar building service contracting firm.
Part of our motivation to work was to exit the industry I’d grown up in. The evening work wasn’t very friendly to cultivate a stable family. In 2008, we harvested that company for nearly $1 million.
The next chapter God had in store for us was to learn about real estate. The college town we live in has a high demand for student housing, and since then we’ve learned about all aspects of property management, analysis, and acquisition. Today we own 98 rental units and growing.
Throughout these years God has given us four children who’ve grown up around all the business activity. We started our lawn care company, Kingdom Keepers, just prior to the 2013 Family Economics Conference. We’re so appreciative of the encouragement and priority that the AME Program and Generations have given to the issue of family economics. It has been added fuel in the fire that our family put towards the desire to build God-honoring, biblically-framed businesses for our family.
After just three short seasons of lawn care, our 13 and 16-year-old sons did almost $70,000 of mowing last season with the help of one other employee. Grappling with the daily challenges of operating small business gives the boys experiences that are going to last a lifetime just as they did for me.
Our real estate portfolio provides an opportunity for the others to produce as well. The girls have often maintained cleaning of the grounds and common areas of the properties. The boys keep the trees and shrubs trimmed, cut grass, dig out egress windows, refinish floors etc. – whatever it takes to turn the properties over into the hands of the next owner or tenant.
We’re in mid stride of the process and it’s unclear as to the direction our children will take for occupation in life, but one thing we do know is they won’t be afraid to tackle whatever it is God has for them!
Here are some of the baseline lessons that family economics has taught us along the way:
- Sales: It takes courage to ask for business. Fear God more than man.
- Marketing: It facilitates practice in communicating and making clear what it is you’re offering. Let your yes be yes and your no be no.
- Finance: It requires precise accounting, gives insight into the health of your business, and is the dictator of sustainability.
- Organization: The most difficult thing in the world is managing people. Follow the code of conduct and it’s hard to miss, and when you do miss, you’ll know how to handle it.
Engelman Code of Conduct: Obey your parents, be honest, take responsibility, embrace wisdom, be a leader….and you can expect a greater reward: God’s reward of a clear conscience and peace that passes all understanding in the midst of a difficult world of living out a family economy.
About the Author
Jon Engelman is a husband of one, father of four, investor in this world and the next, entrepreneur and realtor in Ames, Iowa. He and his sons own the company Kingdom Keepers. In addition, Jon is a managing partner in an exciting web development company called MereChurch. MereChurch is aimed at providing simple, powerful websites for the church, Christian ministries, and small businesses.