Business Knowing

An Epistemology of Love for Businesses and Organizations

[Notes, Quotes, Links for a talk]

Work as Knowing

Work can be a mode of contact with reality. Often, it is a brutal and humbling mode. I have written extensively on the value of skilled physical work as knowing, but am now beginning to articulate how this works in my present line of work within organizational management.

For a brief introduction to my general epistemological reflections, see this essay or my dissertation.

Leading up and down the chain of command

This is a multifaceted topic but I will approach it from two epistemological angles, who knows what and how do we make use of that knowledge at an organizational level.

Make decisions easy for busy people. You will rise fast in your career if busy people like working with you. Here’s a tip: when you have a problem to solve, come prepared with a suggested next step. If you have a question, phrase it in a way they can answer yes/no. If there are multiple options, lay them out and ask them to pick one. Try to avoid expansive, open-ended questions.

David Perell

Of Software, Secretaries, and Doing Things

The Double MVP as described by Sahil Lavingia

MVP as a software term Minimum Viable Product

MVP as Manual Viable Process

Do Things that Don’t Scale by Paul Graham

[You] are your software. When you only have a small number of users, you can sometimes get away with doing by hand things that you plan to automate later. This lets you launch faster, and when you do finally automate yourself out of the loop, you’ll know exactly what to build because you’ll have muscle memory from doing it yourself.

…the way Stripe delivered “instant” merchant accounts to its first users was that the founders manually signed them up for traditional merchant accounts behind the scenes.

… It would be a little frightening to be solving users’ problems in a way that wasn’t yet automatic, but less frightening than the far more common case of having something automatic that doesn’t yet solve anyone’s problems.

Paul Graham, Do Things That Don’t Scale

Loving to Know


Of Software and Secretaries: Lessons for New Organizations

I have been helping with a number of startups. 

  • Kingdom Channels
    • Began as bookkeeper and learned QBO by reverse engineering.
    • Identified the need for a fuller CRM and set up Kindful for donation and contact management. 
    • Identified the need and led the adoption of Microsoft Teams and SharePoint for systematizing our file storage and communication.
    • Identified needs for a more robust database for relating to staff, trainees, and churches. Oversaw design and implementation of a new database in sync with Kindful and custom apps built through the Microsoft Power Platform.
    • Specialized software and Saas selection
  • Anabaptist Perspectives
    • The pain story on accounting and donor records. We thought we didn’t have money for accounting software at the beginning and I spent way to much time on various “budget” solutions.
    • Mixed results with integrating donor software etc with our website.
    • Moved content management from spreadsheet/folders/approvals to Notion database
  • Local businesses
    • Set up Quickbooks and custom analysis spreadsheets
    • Payroll migration to Gusto
  • Wellspring Mennonite Church
    • Treasurer duties: I started totally green and had no concept of accounting software, so I had lots of pain debugging Excel spreadsheets.
    • Church website: Again started green, fortunately had a collaborator who knew a little more. But we started with self-managed WordPress hosting when a little more Saas would have served us well.
  • Starr Mountain Academy (launching fall 2024)
    • I will see if I can do better on this one.
    • Seriously considering the Zoho One suite.

Get software for your needs.

Software, especially software as a service, feels expensive. Staff time is expensive. (And volunteer time is equally precious.) Software that will do what you need it to do is important. Cobbled together solutions are a real liability and changing software solutions later can be a real pain. My story with Anabaptist Perspectives exemplifies that pain. 

On accounting we went from a simple spreadsheet, to personal finance software, to Aplos as combined accounting and donor software, to Quickbooks and separate donor software, still using Gusto for payroll. 

We have processed online donations through Paypal buttons, Donorbox, Aplos, CiviCrm, and GiveWP.

Some transitions are necessary as needs change, some come from initial ignorance of true needs, but other times software changes happen because we don’t want to spend the money on software as soon as we should and limp along too long.

Simplify, streamline, and build in procedures

What do you need to know? How easily can you know it? Does everyone know where something belongs? Does everyone know how something should be documented? A sprawling mess comes easily to an organization, especially one with multiple part timers and volunteers.

File organization, versioning, and record keeping, might not be the most exciting topics for entrepreneurs. But some creative discipline in all things data organizing can save enormous headaches.

Define procedures and administrative responsibilities for everyone 

Most procedures and data organization require everyone to use it. Nobody is exempt from putting their work and records in the official system.

Maintain adequate secretarial support 

Computers have changed a lot of things. Everyone can type, which makes dictating letters to secretaries unnecessary. Myriads of other tasks have been made easier by technology. But an organization still needs people to close the loops and keeps things flowing. Even with software, procedures, and holding everyone accountable, there is secretarial work to be done.

As one of my colleagues said, however good your system is, “It is always easier to use no system.” His point was that, we can’t just build systems we have to train users, and for more complicated processes, we may need one person in charge of the system and managing the checklists.

Multiple mindsets are needed for secretarial and operational purposes. Even if someone could do both, it is hard to be tuned into both at one time. Secretarial and administrative matters require their own dose of wisdom and the filling of the Holy Spirit. (Acts 6). Happy is the organization that recognizes this early. 

Appendix: particular software needs

  • Accounting: QuickBooks is standard and QuickBooks Online is generally your best bet, unless you are physically based out of one office and/or have multiple sets of books to keep. The software is pricey but registered non-profits can get it essentially free through Techsoup. If you don’t know your way around accounting, get QBO and some basic training. Every bookkeeper or accountant will be familiar with it and there are lots of good software integrations. If you know your way around a bit. There are other options that can be better for complicated situations.
  • Accounting accessories: Depending on your situation you may want separate (but integrated software for payroll, employee expense tracking, accounts payable, time tracking etc.) If the built-in features of your accounting software cover your needs, that is the simplest. For payroll it is worth comparing Gusto or competitors with QuickBooks payroll for your given situation. Gusto has a little richer feature set and prices are often competitive. (Gusto takes care of local taxes on all price plans whereas QuickBooks only handles that on their highest tier.) The Quickbooks integration for recording payroll in your accounting is decent. If you decide to use Gusto, use this link and we both will get gift cards after you run your first paid payroll.
  • Non-profit CRM and donation software: If you are processing any volume of online donations, you want those online donations to automatically flow into your accounting and automatic receipting. You also want donations automatically tracked for generating end of year summaries, keeping track of tax deductible and non-tax deductible funds etc. A system with integrated CRM and online donation forms is a must.

Work as Good Service

Our daily work should be good service to others. This applies just as much to paid work in a factory or business as it does to a mother taking care of her children. Good service through our work is not limited to teachers or firefighters or to so-called service sector jobs.


Our work accomplishes something genuinely good.


We believe in the value of what we do and represent it fairly to others.


Our work benefits others intentionally and on purpose, not merely because that is the most convenient way to get them to pay us.

Humility and Respect

We treat bosses, co-workers, and customers well, and will sometimes defer to their ideas of what is good.

For a little more detail, view these lecture slides from a Professional Responsibility course I taught at UT-Knoxville.

Bible Business

Stewards are God’s Household Managers

Christians talk a lot about stewardship. Being stewards is indeed a biblical idea (though “managers” might be a better term, especially if modified by an adjective, e.g. “servant managers,” or “household managers.”) We know that what we are entrusted with is ultimately God’s resources.

What we may miss is that stewardship also describes our social roles in our various communities. We are stewards of God’s resources for the individuals or communities he intends those resources to bless. I explore the biblical meaning of stewardship vocabulary in this essay at Anabaptist Perspectives.

Managers in God’s Household: How to be a Steward

Kyle Stoltzfus and I discuss these ideas on a podcast with Anabaptist Perspectives:

I discuss on a Strength to Strength talk:

Bible Business

Business People Are Stewards

I am not talking about how to handle profits gained through business. Of course, if you do own a business that generates large profits, that does result in responsibilities to use that money well, but here I am concerned with a different question: What does it mean to steward business giftings and abilities and to steward business roles and opportunities?

I tackled these questions in a two-part series on the Anabaptist Perspectives blog.

Part One: Business People among God’s “Servant-Managers”

Part Two: Entrepreneurs as “Servant-Managers

Both of these pieces build from the basic biblical idea that stewardship is not just about what God entrusts us with, but also about who he intends should benefit from what he entrusts to us. We manage God’s creation for his creatures—especially our human neighbors.

An earlier post at Anabaptist Perspectives gives the biblical exposition.

Managers in God’s Household

This post from the early days of the 2020 pandemic reflects on stewardship in relation to hard times. It was also recorded in audio.

Factories, Gardens, Giving, Guns: A COVID-19 Economy and Stewardship