IBEC Ventures -- Consultants for BAM/Business as Mission
Subscribe | Send us an email | 610.659.9929

Entrepreneurs wanted: what it looks like to become a kingdom-minded entrepreneur overseas

Friday, October 12, 2018
worldwide entrepreneurs

A new book by Jeannie Marie entitled, "Across the Street and Around the World: Following Jesus to the Nations in Your Neighborhood…and Beyond" will be of interest to many of our readers. She has written a blog specifically for IBEC Ventures which helps the reader understand the need for entrepreneurs and business owners and how that could work.

We may be surprised that God wants to use all of our education, experience, and creative business background to start kingdom business that bless families in the farthest ends of the earth. But sometimes it’s hard to see what that actually looks like, what kinds of start-ups work well in the developing world, and what success means.

How One Entrepreneur Moved Overseas

Here’s how it looked for Doug, a banker from Canada turned entrepreneur in the unreached world. The government of a country, like Indonesia, can grant business visas to legitimate businesspeople from a foreign country, like Canada. Pursuing God’s heart for the nations, Doug began to pray for the Sunda people group in Indonesia. Doug connected with an organization with experience in living abroad and sharing their lives with others - in preparation for starting his company and living in the country. As he prepared to live overseas, he started his own financial consulting company in Canada and incorporated as a business.

On a short-term survey trip to the island of Java, he met with a family from his agency living there, and they invited him to join them for a longer time. A believing Indonesian businessman he connected with agreed to write a letter of invitation for Doug to start a business in Indonesia, assuring the Indonesian consulate that he would take responsibility for this foreigner.

Doug also wrote a letter to the Indonesian consulate, asking for permission to open a branch of his Canadian business in Indonesia. He filled out an application for a business visa, included the inviting letter and the sending letter, and mailed them to the consulate. A month later, he received his passport, stamped with a business visa that allowed him to be in the country for a set length of time.

He raised financial support from family, friends, and businesses— including business start-up costs. Doug's vision was to live like Jesus in the marketplace and on the job and seek to help others to follow Jesus. Right away, Doug joined an intensive, full-time language program while researching options on the kind of businesses that could bless Sunda families.

What Kinds of Businesses Work Well Overseas?

Service-based businesses, such as language centers, tourism agencies, or education centers, work well in foreign countries. A business could distribute a product made in the country or provide training in a needed job skill. Service-based businesses, (run by field workers trying to bless communities with the gospel), strive to be profitable enough to pay for operating expenses and salaries for local employees.

Other field workers try to start manufacturing companies, although it takes expertise and more financial capital to make them profitable. Oliver runs a profitable company that designs and manufactures products used in disaster situations. His company builds the product in-country using local resources and labor, but several field workers with degrees in engineering also work for the company. They sell to local nongovernmental organizations (NGOs), so the product comes from the local population (and not a foreign entity) during relief situations, such as recovery efforts following flooding, typhoons, or earthquakes.

Having done business in the city for years, Oliver has built an honorable reputation for operating his company with integrity. He sells high-quality products at fair prices with exemplary customer service. His business also creates jobs and provides employees with enough income to support dozens of families. The city leaders recognize him as a man who contributes to their community, worships the one true God, and follows the ways of Jesus. They know he operates his business on biblical principles, never offering bribes, which are customary in the culture. His friends and employees come to him for prayer, conflict management, and advice, and he shares about Jesus in practical ways relevant to their everyday lives.

A New Definition of Entrepreneurial Success?

William is a former business consultant for Fortune 500 companies in America. Today, he helps field workers start businesses compatible with disciple-making movement strategies. “Businesses that lead to movements should have low operating costs, be service-based, and create access to many people in order to find people of peace,” William advises. “They should bless whole families and communities, and also allow time for the owner to engage in relationships.”

William coaches field workers to apply the traditional advice for doing solid business overseas: start a business that makes sense to the local population, plan to be profitable, and make your identity credible and valid in order to gain honor in the city. William also encourages business owners to be spiritually conspicuous from the beginning, making it known that they are followers of God and will run their businesses in ways that are pleasing and honorable to him.

Be encouraged that you can succeed in business and spiritual goals if you show humility in whatever you do and wherever you go, an eagerness to learn from others, and a strong work ethic.

This article was adapted from the newly released book "Across the Street and Around the World: Following Jesus to the Nations in Your Neighborhood…and Beyond" by Jeannie Marie. She is a strategist for an international agency that recruits, trains, and sends people to live overseas.

In her new book, "Across the Street and Around the World: Following Jesus to the Nations in Your Neighborhood...and Beyond", Jeannie inspires ordinary people to cross cultures with courage, confidence, compassion, and spiritual intentionality. Using personal stories and plenty of inspiration, she gently guides us away from common missteps, while offering practical tips, resources, and spiritual lessons for engaging in cross-cultural relationships with love and purpose.

[Our humble thanks to Nelson Books for their partnership in today’s article].

Larry Sharp, Director of Training, IBEC Ventures

Share this post:  

Random list of important ideas before traveling to a high-risk area

Friday, October 05, 2018
blank checklist with marker

This is the third blog in a series on international safety.

Myriads of books and thousands of articles have been written with tips for traveling and living abroad. A few blogs here on this subject will only scratch the surface. But the following will hopefully whet the readers appetite so that he or she will read and study more deeply before traveling to countries outside North America, particularly in the global south, Middle East and Asia.

Did you know?
To avoid becoming a victim by attack while traveling
1. Avoid routines by varying the times you leave your residence and vary the routes. Avoid choke points. I did security training in Haiti once and discovered that several expats were living in an area of the city on the hillside with only one road down to the city – not good!
2. Maintain a low profile. Dress like others, avoiding flashy and extravagant jewelry or culturally offensive items. An employee of mine was jogging with her walkman in a middle east country. She was jumped by two guys who fortunately did not have sexual assault in mind – they just wanted her electronics.
3. Harden yourself as a target using an alarm, whistle and some defensive item. I remember walking around Bogota, Colombia when it was called “the pickpocket capital of the world” carrying my long umbrella with its point easily visible.
4. Walk defensively; be aware of people around you and walk with confidence. Do not look at maps in public places. Rio de Janeiro has a reputation for thieves on the outlook for people who are obviously tourists as they look at their maps.
5. Women should walk with their purse in front of them with their hand on their bag. Men, keep your wallet so you can feel it and minimize what is in the wallet. Keep a record elsewhere of all documents in your wallet or bag.
6. Only use nondescript luggage with no “frequent flyer” indicators and keep name tags covered. I regularly see obvious name tags in airports with designations indicating the person is important – director, professor, scientist, manager – all of which are signals which attract thieves.
7. You pick the taxi driver; don’t let the driver pick you. Use licensed, reputable taxis only. Even Philadelphia in the USA has signs at the airport warning about bad taxi drivers.
8. Only fly on IATA ranked airlines. I used to remind our employees never to fly on many small airlines in Africa or Central Asia. Many have bad safety records.
9. If using an ATM, make sure the area is well-lit and count your money in a safe locked place.
10. Always walk with two or more companions and seek advice for areas to avoid.

In hotels, driving and airports:
11. Use recommended hotels which are not known for security or other issues. I once stayed at a hotel in Latin America which had one floor only and all the rooms had windows barred for security. But it was 212 steps from my room to the nearest door – a nightmare in the case of fire.
12. Floors 3-6 are the safest; know where the fire escape is. Fire emergency vehicles in the developing world may not be able to reach floors 7 and above. The two lowest floors are where most robberies take place.
13. Avoid rooms adjacent to stairways, elevators and exits.
14. Keep room access windows locked at all times.
15. Never leave the key on the counter at the front desk. Give directly to the clerk or keep it yourself.
16. Never use the “please make up the room” door hanger. Use “Do not disturb” instead.
17. Always secure locks when in the room and close the curtains after darkness.
18. At airports, arrive early and move directly to secure areas, away from the counters. Terrorist activity is always outside security.
19. If driving, never stop to help people signaling you for help. Call police instead.
20. If your car is bumped from behind, drive to the nearest public area and call police; blow the horn if someone suspicious approaches your vehicle.
21. Keep doors locked and windows up when driving; and have valuables out of sight.
22. Be aware of people stopping you to ask for information or directions or pretending to need assistance. I was once in a foreign airport with my wife and oldest son (a teenager at the time). I left the table in the cafeteria where the three of us were eating to check on the monitors when three men approached my wife and son asking for information. This took the attention away from the bags so that a criminal accomplice picked up a bag and quickly left the scene.

In general think about this:
23. Single women should consider wearing a wedding ring. This worked well for a woman I knew while traveling in the Balkans where men are known to bother women.
24. Women should take a course in safety for women. When my daughter was in college, she came home during a break and said, “Dad, want to see me break this 1x6 board with my hand?” I watched as she did so, having just taken a course on safety for women. She has lived safely in many high-risk countries since then.
25. Consultants traveling away from home much of the time need to consider caring for their soul and develop a strategy for precautions being alone with the opposite sex, eating a balanced diet, following guidelines for stress reduction such as exercise, and guarding against pornographic material.
26. Be sure to have your vaccinations up-to-date for the area you are traveling to. Do not drink the water unless bottled.

These thoughts are only representative of many other safety and security practices. Please read many sites or books. Some are listed here.







Larry Sharp, Director of Training, IBEC Ventures

Share this post:  

Travel safety and security

Friday, September 28, 2018
luggage in an airport

“It is better to take refuge in the Lord than to trust in humans.” Psalms 118:8

IBEC consultants, coaches, Subject Matter Experts, friends, and clients are often in travel mode and find themselves in airports or in situations with less than desirable security standards. This may be a reminder of some of the things to be thinking about when planning a trip away from your city of familiarity. They could save your life.

Awareness (before travel)

  • Become familiar with the country or region by reading about it and interfacing with others who have traveled or lived there. In this way, you will become aware of the probable risks and consequences if you are in trouble. For example, it is common knowledge that pickpockets are very good in Colombia; therefore, be ready to avoid that risk.
  • Good places to visit to learn about your destination include:
  • Study the “Dos and Don’ts” and cultural distinctive for that region.
  • Study some key phrases in the local language before you go.
  • Try to develop these helpful personal characteristics:
    • Tolerance for ambiguity
    • Low-goal task orientation
    • Open-mindedness
    • Being non-judgmental
    • Empathy
    • Being communicative
    • Flexibility and adaptability
    • Curiosity
    • A sense of humor
    • Self-reliance
    • Ability to fail
  • Harden yourself as a target, using survival principles based on common risks. Criminals look for soft targets (people with little travel savvy). For example, there are training materials on how to keep your valuables safe, how to watch for cybercriminals and everyday thieves and safe places to sleep. There is no excuse for jogging with new expensive sneakers, alone, while listening to your iPod in a north African country, as someone I know did – and she paid the price. Several websites are helpful: Maintaining Posture as a Hard Target (https://survivalblog.com/maintaining_posture_as_a_hard_target_by_ak/)
  • Always make sure somebody, someplace, knows where you are and be sure to have your contact numbers in a safe secure place. Let your credit card company know where you are traveling. Have copies of important papers accessible but somewhere off your person.
  • Become aware of any policies which relate to your trip; policies of the host company you are visiting, or the host nation policies, or IBEC guidelines. For example, IBEC has a “Checklist for Consultant Travel Overseas” and it includes things like “be sure to register with the US State Department upon arrival”.
  • Make contingency plans before you leave. This includes a plan of action if something bad happens and assures you of a way to communicate (in many countries I recommend a SAT phone in addition to regular cell phone), an evacuation plan and extra supply of things you don’t want to be without (such as batteries, medicines).
  • There may be release forms you will want to sign before you go. The most serious of these types of things is what to be done with your body if you die over there. There are other less drastic things to be aware of before you go.
  • If you can, get some basic training. For example, Crisis Consulting International has a great 3-day seminar. See cricon.org. Others which I have used or know of fortsherman.org and mortonsecure.com.

Avoidance (once you are on your way)

  • Risk can be mitigated by choosing low-risk airlines, hotels, regions of cities and ground transportation means. For example, I recommend not traveling on regional airlines in Nepal or local bus lines in Bolivia.
  • Determine to stay away from areas of civil unrest or known crisis. I once received a phone call from an acquaintance in a former Soviet republic who was taking pictures and when I asked about the gun shots I overheard, he said he was downtown in the midst of a coup – not good!
  • Learn what to say when being interrogated by foreign authorities. We recommend an STS (Short Tenable Statement). This is a one-sentence statement of what you are doing that is authentic, verifiable, consistent, plausible, and creates a clear understanding; and results in a satisfied inquirer.
  • Be a learner and listen! listen! listen! Stay clear of political conversations or sharing your opinion. Remind yourself that someone is always listening. In some countries, hotel rooms may be “bugged” with listening devices watching for religious or political biases. Be respectful of everyone and everything you see, and determine to never disparage the host culture. Train yourself to say, “Oh, that is interesting!” and never, “Oh, that is dumb!”
  • Even though your country may claim to have “freedom of religion” they likely do not have it in the same sense that we think of it. Respect their laws (you should have studied them at least a little before you leave) even if you consider it inconsistent or discriminatory.
  • Have a supply kit which may be resourced before you leave or purchased immediately upon arrival. This will be things like first aid materials, cash, a whistle etc. (see such lists online).

Appropriate action (if something happens when you are there)

  • Be ready to “work the plan” (think Apollo 13 movie) according to how you prepared beforehand. Crisis management is as simple as the outline for the scientific method which we all learned in junior high school. But though the thought process is simple, it is also far more complex in its implementation. During a crisis is NOT the time to make plans for what you are going to do. For example, during a political crisis in Haiti, everyone on our team knew the escape evacuation routes because we had decided ahead of time and prioritized them.
  • Know exactly the protocol for who to call for help and how. There are several options and the organization which may have sent you abroad such as your church, company or IBEC should have arranged these emergency numbers for you. I once received a call because I was the “go-to guy” when a crisis was going on in Yemen, which kicked off a process for implementing evacuation plans.
  • Always know who your friends are and how to contact them for help. Know who will be a crisis management team leader and learn to trust him or her. Remember also that there are professionals to handle negotiations (see websites above) if you are in a hostage situation or something similar. I was once responsible for someone who was doing a water dam project in his country when he was imprisoned. Professionals were able to help me gain his release, even though it took five months.

The time has long since passed since we could freely hop a plane and feel at home most anywhere in the world. We should not fear to travel, however, but with Awareness, Avoidance principles, and Appropriate Action we can travel knowing we have done our best to be secure. When it comes to connecting with BAM Kingdom companies think like Mark Twain:

"Twenty years from now you will be more disappointed by the things that you didn't do than by the ones you did do. So throw off the bowlines. Sail away from the safe harbor. Catch the trade winds in your sails. Explore. Dream. Discover."

But all the while, remember:

“Safety is not a slogan. It is a way of life.”

“Security is not a product but a process.” Bruce Schneier

Larry Sharp, Director of Training, IBEC Ventures

Share this post:  

Safety and security overseas: be prepared!

Friday, September 21, 2018
passport on world map

This blog is first in a series of three on the subject of international safety.

For the past 46 years, I have either lived abroad, traveled extensively, or supervised others who lived in high risk areas. I have a daughter who has lived in high risk countries for many years. For about twenty years, I served as a crisis preparedness facilitator and crisis manager for my agency.

During this time I helped get an employee out of an Indonesian prison after five months; hire a Lear jet to fly a severely injured child out of the Ukraine; extract a family from the middle east after a colleague was murdered; lead the management team in the aftermath of the earthquake in Haiti; establish guidelines for travel in terrorist controlled areas; supervise employees working in war zones and rebel controlled areas; and debrief and care for an employee who had hired an airplane that crashed with no survivors. All were his friends.

Such experiences propelled me to prepare an organizational program along the lines of this simple outline below (which will be explored more in depth in future blogs) and require attendance at training sessions, some of which we organized and others such as the following, which I have attended and highly recommend. All of these value the bottom lines of our work in IBEC to build kingdom companies. People living abroad should attend one or more of these; visitors should consider attending one.

Crisis Consulting International  Highly recommended with courses around the country such as Oct 10-13 and Oct 15-17 in Colorado.

Concilium Also highly recommended and the next one being in Plano, TX Oct 23-25

Fort Sherman Academy On-site is recommended but they also have a good on-line training.

Morton Security Morton offers some good material on their website.

Peace Corps 

Safety and Security Outline for BAM Coaches

The purpose of this outline is to provide a minimalist security guideline for coaches, consultants and others as they go abroad to help BAM kingdom-focused businesses. It is important however to realize the sovereignty of God and realize who we are in Christ and that anything can happen in His will. But as coaches apply these principles, they have a greater chance of safety in the overseas workplace, and can use these principles to propel themselves toward greater service and value.

1. Become familiar with the “country background” by reading and interface with others.
2. Study the “cultural guidelines” for a basic “Dos and Don’ts (several examples are available such as “Dos and Don’ts for your trip into the Former Soviet Union).
3. Harden yourself as a target, using common sense guidelines we have available and survival principles based on common risks.
4. Learn the most common risks associated with travel to the area. These may be natural, criminal, political or personal in nature.

1. Risk mitigation in travel (including air travel, hotels, land travel, foot, all forms of public interaction).
2. Risk avoidance in relationships with people (cultural behavioral issues, civil unrest, care for your belongings, medical understanding etc.).
3. Principles of interrogation and detainment eventualities.
4. See the checklist for Travel Overseas (including details of phone numbers, documents, insurance etc.)

1. Understanding the Probability Factor of an unfortunate event happening.
2. Understanding the impact or consequences of an unfortunate event
3. Find out if the team or business owner you are visiting has a contingency plan (what do you do if…?) Where is it documented?
4. Learn the difference between a critical incident and a crisis.

1. Is there a crisis management team in place? Who are they and what are their credentials and experience?
2. How does communication take place in case something happens?
3. Debrief of the incident is very important. What did you and others learn?
4. How are victims cared for?

Larry Sharp, Director of Training, IBEC Ventures

Share this post:

Entrepreneurship and Intrapreneurship – Both/And

Friday, September 14, 2018
start-up business qualities

The word entrepreneurship is a scary term to some people who relegate it to a small percentage of the population who are reckless and risk lovers. Not so – it may be more common than one thinks. Even large companies often promote the principles of entrepreneurship, sometimes called intrapreneurship. It is important for them to engage their own employees in entrepreneurial and innovative thinking and action. Without it, they could be forced to go the way of Woolworths, Borders, Blockbuster, Pan Am, Toys ‘R’ Us and a host of other once profitable companies.

Intrapreneurship is a term popularized by Howard Haller, Gifford Pinchott III, and Steve Jobs. Today, several large companies actively promote intrapreneurship within their organization. Google and Intel are well known for allowing employees to spend 10%-20% of their time on innovative ideas of their own. More and more, big companies are aware of their need for innovation and intrapreneurship.

These well-known examples of intrapreneurial success inside of a mega company are representative of many more:
  • Mac, iPod, iTunes, iPhone, iCloud inside of Apple
  • Gmail, Google News, Google Maps, Driverless Cars, and many other innovations inside of Google
  • PlayStation inside of Sony
  • Post-It Notes inside of 3M
  • SkunkWorks fighter jet inside of Lockheed
  • Java programming language inside of Sun Microsystems
  • Digital Light Processing inside of Texas Instruments
How does this happen? Employees need to know that it is OK to toy around with new ideas; it is OK to make mistakes and that failure will not be punished. Companies need to hire people who have a wiring for innovation and entrepreneurship and can make decisions on their own.

Patrice Caine, CEO and Chairman of the 65,000 employee French Thales Company, is an example of a person who embraces innovation and entrepreneurship. He suggests that a large company like his and others have much to learn from entrepreneurs, and he states that “…there are two main ways in which large companies can benefit from start-ups’ driving force for innovation and transformation.”

“The first is being inspired and learning from their flexibility, their adaptability, from their trial-and-error culture. With their lean structures and ability to make decisions in a heartbeat, start-ups tend to be more and more responsive to passing opportunities compared to large companies with their demanding, but somewhat painstaking, approval procedures.

Rather than completely overhauling the way they work – a process that, in itself takes time – companies have the option of incubating internal start-ups, preferably with a degree of liberty towards the central hierarchical structure. These can work either on customer projects or on the digital transformation of the company itself, through specific programs or employee training courses for example. That is the spirit of the Thales Digital Factory, located in the WeWork office building in Paris.

Learning from start-ups’ flexibility also means picking-up on their beta -, or Minimum Viable Product (MVP) – culture. Instead of spending a lot of time developing a perfect product, the idea is to deliver a rough draft quickly, that can then be improved with the client and/or end users.

One example of this – even though Google can hardly qualify as a start-up – was Google maps: the first version was just a map, which gradually started incorporating information such as traffic, stores, restaurants, customer opinions, etc. This evolution is interesting because it is part of a global cultural change, with more and more appetite for testing, experimenting, but also for outside insight and collective intelligence.

Working with startups

The second way big companies can benefit from start-ups is by partnering: identifying the most promising start-ups in the field and finding new, interesting ways to work with them.

The ‘identifying’ part can be more challenging than it sounds, with over 300,000 start-ups created in the world every year. How do you find the ten, one hundred, one thousand start-ups that have something new to bring to your industry? It is really up to every company to find the hidden gems where they are in the world… and then to enter into creative partnerships with them.

That is the idea behind Starburst, a start-up accelerator with a focus on aerospace and defense technologies. The success of these new types of partnerships shows how useful they are for all parties: the benefit is obvious for large companies – who can keep their pulse on the latest market evolutions – but also for start-ups, who can test their technologies, be mentored by professionals, and acquire new credibility in their field. 1 

IBEC of course works with start-ups, and Mr. Caine’s comments are a reminder to start-ups that they may find their success in partnering with others. What might it take to be “identified” by a larger company as a partner – to their benefit and yours?

Daniel Gunaseelan’s story was told on this site on June 25, 2016. While selling products in the oil and gas industry in western Kazakhstan, he gained valuable experience and made quality contacts for what later developed into the start-up Gateway Ventures. Daniel is a great example of Kingdom, missional living and entrepreneurial focus within an established company. It is worth reading again.

1 Published for the annual event VivaTech. “Innovation: Big companies have so much to learn from Start-ups” by Patrice Caine, May 24, 2018 in Linkedln with the hashtags #VivaTech. #VivaThales

Larry Sharp, Director of Training, IBEC Ventures

Share this post:

Pabi – Employee of the Month at Purnaa company, Nepal

Friday, September 07, 2018
man fishing

IBEC has been a friend of Fair Flies since founder Jeff Coffey attended our seminars and got the vision for kingdom entrepreneurship. He was already a serial entrepreneur, but he saw how integrating faith and work was a wonderful way to bring new life in Jesus to those who have never heard. Check out this unique start-up, especially if you like fishing.

They recently awarded the Employee of the Month to Pabi, one of the workers in their Nepal factory, which seeks to empower those unemployed and underprivileged. 

Here are some segments from her interview. Purnaa is a World Fair Trade Organization (WFTO) Guaranteed company.

Congratulations, you won the employee of the month award! How did you feel when you found out that you won?

I didn’t expect it, but I was very happy and very glad to hear my name.

We want to get to know you a little bit better. Can you tell us about your family?

I have one son and one daughter. My son is 7 and my daughter is 2. My son lives with his father, and my daughter lives with her aunt. I am currently staying at a shelter home.

What do you like to do in your free time?

Normally I like to just stay home and relax. When I am relaxing, I like to talk with the other ladies I live with and sometimes read the Bible. Whenever I get a chance though, I try to go and visit my children.

What is something fun or interesting you have done recently?

Very recently, we had a birthday party for Indira. She is the woman who runs the shelter home where I am staying. There were games, snacks, and dancing. I love to dance. I really enjoyed that party.

When have you been the most satisfied in your life?

The day when I gave birth to my baby boy was the most satisfying day of my life. I was married for 5 years before I got pregnant. That was a difficult time for me and my family. But the day when I gave birth, I said I had been awarded some kind of star from God. It was the happiest moment of my life.

What is your job at Purnaa?

At Purnaa, I make fly-fishing brushes. I also like to encourage my friends, and whenever they make mistakes, I like to help them.

What do you enjoy the most about your job?

Making the brushes is what I like. When I first started, I wondered how I would make enough to reach the target. But now, whatever brush they give me, even if it’s hard right away, slowly and steadily I will get there. I love learning and improving.

How long have you worked at Purnaa?

7 months.

What did you do before you worked at Purnaa?

This is my first job ever. I used to live in a village and do farm work.

What motivated you to come work at Purnaa?

I am very grateful to God that I met Shristi, my friend and colleague. She brought me to Purnaa for the interview. I’m also very happy to have become friends with Rebecca. She has helped to empower me. God has brought so many wonderful people into my life.

What keeps you coming to work?

I like the environment of Purnaa. I have many friends here, so if I stay at home I get bored, and I will not be able to earn money. It has been very helpful to have a community, to be able to socialize with my friends. I am now very hopeful for my future. I feel like I can earn enough, and I can save money. I know I will be empowered, and even if I don’t work here in future, I will be able to find a job somewhere else. I have hope.

How have you changed as a person since working here?

There has been a tremendous change in my life. If you had seen me before, you would also see it. The way I used to think about my life, the way I used to talk with people. I never used to have hope for my future. I always had a negative feeling about my life. But now, the way I think, the way I talk with people, the way I even wear my clothes, it’s all different. I have become so happy. There’s so much hope, and I am at peace. I don’t have to worry about anything now. I’m a new person.

If I were to ask your boss what your greatest strength is, what do you think they would tell me?

I feel like they would say I am a very honest person and am very dedicated to my work.

Is there anything else you would like to add?

I just want to say that I really love Purnaa. I am very thankful to Purnaa. I love working here, and I hope that I will continue to grow in my life.

Larry Sharp, Director of Training, IBEC Ventures

Share this post:

In celebration of labor: the value of a good day's work

Friday, August 31, 2018
construction workers working

This is a reprint from The Christian Post of the article "In Celebration of Labor: The Value of a Good Day's Work.", by Chuck Colson.

This commentary first aired on September 1, 2003.

What does Labor Day mean? For most of us, it's nothing more than a welcome break from what we tend to see as "the daily grind." Work to so many people is simply a necessary evil. The goal in life is putting in enough time to retire and relax.

But that attitude and that goal is contrary to a Christian worldview perspective on work.

Christians have a special reason to celebrate Labor Day, which honors the fundamental dignity of workers, because we worship a God Who labored to make the world - and Who created human beings in His image to be His workers. When God made Adam and Eve, He gave them work to do: cultivating and caring for the earth.

In the ancient world, the Greeks and Romans looked upon manual work as a curse, something for lower classes and slaves. But Christianity changed all of that. Christians viewed work as a high calling - a calling to be co-workers with God in unfolding the rich potential of His creation.

This high view of work can be traced throughout the history of the Church. In the Middle Ages, the guild movement grew out of the Church. It set standards for good workmanship and encouraged members to take satisfaction in the results of their labor. The guilds became the forerunner of the modern labor movement.

Later, during the Reformation, Martin Luther preached that all work should be done to the glory of God. Whether ministering the Gospel or scrubbing floors, any honest work is pleasing to the Lord. Out of this conviction grew the Protestant work ethic.

Christians were also active on behalf of workers in the early days of the industrial revolution, when factories were "dark satanic mills," to borrow a phrase from Sir William Blake. In those days, work in factories and coal mines was hard and dangerous. Men, women, and children were practically slaves-sometimes even chained to machines.

Then John Wesley came preaching and teaching the Gospel throughout England. He came not to the upper classes, but to the laboring classes-to men whose faces were black with coal dust, women whose dresses were patched and faded.

John Wesley preached to them-and in the process, he pricked the conscience of the whole nation.

Two of Wesley's disciples, William Wilberforce and Lord Shaftesbury, were inspired to work for legislation that would clean up abuses in the workplace. At their urging, the British parliament passed child-labor laws, safety laws, and minimum-wage laws.

But here in America we've lost the Christian connection with the labor movement. In many countries, however, from Canada to Poland, that tradition still remains strong.

Much of our culture has a distinctly Greek view of work: We work out of necessity. But, you see, we are made in the image of God and as such we are made to work-to create, to shape, to bring order out of disorder.

So this Labor Day, remember that all labor derives its true dignity as a reflection of the Creator. And that whatever we do, in word or deed, we should do all to the glory of God.

Larry Sharp, Director of Training, IBEC Ventures

Share this post:

History of IBEC failures

Friday, August 24, 2018
sign with disappointment road written on it

Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it.’ (George Santayana-1905). In a 1948 speech to the House of Commons, Winston Churchill changed the quote slightly when he said (paraphrased), ‘Those who fail to learn from history are condemned to repeat it.’

I was recently cleaning up some physical files, when I ran across a spreadsheet from 2008/09 listing IBEC projects which provided data on the status of the start-up, metrics for success and other interesting information. I found it curious that many of these businesses we worked with in the first two years of our existence have “failed”.

It reminded me of a conference in Arizona a few years ago, when after I had cited many success stories, a person in the audience asked me, “don’t you guys have any failures?”

Now I would be the first to recognize that “failures” are not really failures, but more accurately experiments in learning. In the famous words of Thomas Edison, “I have not failed. I’ve just found 10,000 ways that won’t work.” And so it may be with those early years in IBEC.

There is no perfect assessment of a cause-effect relationship, and I acknowledge that my perspective is personal and anecdotal, however I believe those closest to these situations would concur that what I relate here is at least at least one primary reason for the demise. Here is an effort to “remember the past” with a view to giving reasons for the demise of each dream and a statement of what we learned. I will not provide specific identification of the geographical area nor the persons involved out of respect for security issues and the fact that I do not want to disparage the efforts of anyone.

Agricultural project in the Balkans: There was an excellent team led by a well-respected and experienced couple in place and even some business expertise on the team. Several hectares of land were leased, and research seemed to indicate that tomatoes would be in demand in the capital a 2-hour drive away. In the second season of operation, there was a bumper crop and there was optimism from the several tons of produce. What happened? Because of a glut in the market, the contract became worthless due to cultural factors that were not considered. Various supermarkets had “guaranteed” to take the product, but when the glut occurred and the prices dropped, the written contract was ignored leaving the expat team with rotting tomatoes. The good news is that they re-grouped a couple of years later when they discovered that raspberries had more potential. They are still in business. We learned the importance of understanding the nuances of culture.

Consulting company in a former Soviet Republic: Jeff was a successful business man in the USA and entered this Asian country in partnership with a like-minded national attorney. Their business model was to provide real estate and cultural expertise for foreigners doing business in the country. What happened? It looked like a great match, but the local, who had access to the bank accounts, ran off with all the money and the clients. Jeff was left with little recourse in a foreign land. However, Jeff was a true entrepreneur and he went down the street in the same city and started over. That company did well and he sold it eventually for a good profit. We learned the importance of risk assessment and contingency planning, especially in countries without a Judeo-Christian ethics.

Engineering Company in the Middle East: A western European company was doing business in an Arab country known for Islamic radicalism. Government contracts allowed for visas for the expat workers. IBEC’s consulting was focused on helping families live in this desert country, and how to integrate faith into the workplace in a Muslim context. What happened? Radical elements shot and killed one of the employees and it became very difficult for all foreigners living in the city. Soon several families who loved the people and had learned the language moved to a calmer place in the middle east. We learned that some places are of such high risk because there is no “rule of law”, and normal contingency planning is all but impossible.

North Africa Outdoor Activity Company: This company was well coached and well prepared to provide tours for Europeans interested in the outback of the country. There was a good team in place and the leader was well trained and experienced. In the 2nd year they were experiencing excellent profit margins on tours. What happened? Two things precipitated the temporary closing of the business. One of the key product developers decided to give up and leave the country, leaving the leader without a key assistant, and secondly, they discovered the reason why they were unable to scale the business. They could not be overcome some distance factors and poor infrastructure. They sold the business to a business person from the UK and the company has started up again with some major changes. We learned that one cannot be too careful in the testing stage and have pivots in mind from the start.

Sheep farm in Senegal: A native of Togo had moved to Senegal for missionary work among a people group there. He spoke several languages and was loved by the people. He contacted us to help with a feasibility study while they purchased some land and bought some sheep. There was an evident market for mutton in this Islamic country. What happened? After several attempts to find someone to lead the business as a full-time job, the operation was closed. We learned that without the right person, the operation will fail. There must be a leading person with the vision, expertise and time to grow the business.

Photography business in East Asia: The leader of this business was experienced in the area, spoke three languages, and had a product that seemed marketable. The photography business was aimed at tourists and resident expats who wanted quality photo shots of their work and of the country. The photography was of high quality and great efforts were made to market the idea. What happened? Despite the efforts of the couple and consultants, the business never really produced significant revenue and became more of a hobby than anything else. We learned that without a customer, there is no business. There should have been more research, which would have demonstrated an insignificant number of customers willing to pay market prices for the product.

Water retention and distribution company in Indonesia: The owner had a science background and the family loved the country and were well liked by the community. They had significant success in raising money in the US for rain storage units which then piped clean water to the remote villagers. It was a much needed and appreciated social project. However, the day came when NGOs were being expelled from the country and the decision was made to make this a For Profit business. The IBEC consultants attempted to teach management, marketing, product development, capital acquisition, financial planning and other principles. What happened? The leaders found it difficult to learn and develop the necessary business skills, and they decided to leave the business and return to the USA. We learned that it is next to impossible to transition a Not-For-Profit to a For-Profit using the same people.

Coffee Farm in Haiti: Coffee had been a primary product in some of the hill areas of Haiti, and some farmers were contracted to grow it again and to provide beans to a small fair-trade producer. This was set up like a cooperative, and profits were to benefit the pastors and their ministry. What happened? Before long, the missionary left the country, and the business never really scaled into anything significant, though a few growers began to sell their product to the bigger buyers. We learned that motivation is a key component in business which is meant to create wealth and it does not work well to begin a business to support another time-consuming effort such as pastoring a church.

These and similar stories provide opportunities for learning. While to not reach a pre-determined goal can be fairly considered a failure; the opportunity to move on with the experience and all that is learned is of high value.

Larry Sharp, Director of Training, IBEC Ventures

Share this post:

Engaging in business in the Balkans

Friday, August 17, 2018
firefighters in training

In Luke 19: 11-27 Jesus clarifies that the Kingdom of God is not going to appear at once (v. 11). Instead, the parable of a noble man going “into a far country to receive for himself a Kingdom and then return” (v. 12) makes it clear what we should be doing while we wait for the King to return.

Second, Jesus clarifies how His disciples (the servants in the parable) are to live as they wait. He gives ten servants one mina each (about three months wages) and commands them to “engage in business until I come.” The Greek word translated as “engage in business” is pragmateuomai, from which we get our word pragmatic. It was an ancient mercantile term meaning to trade or do business in order to make gain. So, the servants were to engage in gainful business activities as they awaited the return of their master.

When the King returns “having received His Kingdom” the servants are called to give account. Those who worked and invested wisely are given a proportional number of cities to govern in the Kingdom. The one who hid his mina and had nothing to show for it is rebuked, and his mina is given to the wise servants.

So what? All of us have been entrusted by God with a set of resources. We are to steward these resources wisely as we wait for the return of Christ. How? By proactively, intentionally, and purposefully “doing business.” The question then becomes what does your “business” look like? What resources has the King entrusted you to steward in this life?

By working as unto the Lord in an honest profession we are loving God, loving our neighbor, and making disciples by incarnating the Gospel and the values of God’s Kingdom. These values of truth, beauty, and justice are present in part now, but will be revealed in glorious splendor when the King returns. When He returns, what will He say about you and me and how we “engaged in business” while waiting for Him? This becomes a framing question for every aspect of our lives.

Since 2015, a company in Eastern Europe has been training local firefighters how to respond to emergency medical situations. Just last month, they welcomed four American first responders who returned to Europe to hold training for 17 firefighters, bringing the total of people trained to 78 firefighters. Each year gets better and harder at the same time.

This year, four local instructors led the training, since they were trained last year to become instructors. The company’s vision is to equip local firefighters, through written materials, training and mentoring to teach their fellow firefighters in Emergency Medical Response. This process of equipping is a long-term process and investment with a Kingdom perspective.

An important element of the training was the cooperation with government authorities, as they participated in the program with firefighters from eight cities joining in on the training. Conversations were rich in content related not only to emergency response issues, but also in value-laden topics. God is evident in every aspect of this business.

It has been a privilege for two IBEC consultants to provide services to one of the owners some years ago. And now we rejoice in what is happening in this European country.

Check out this IBEC video on a related topic from Luke 19: John Warton: Do Business Until I Come

  • Adapted from an article by CB in the Balkans.

Larry Sharp, Director of Training, IBEC Ventures

Share this post:

Social Issues as a Business as Mission opportunity

Friday, August 10, 2018
humanitarian aid

"Every single social and global issue of our day is a business opportunity in disguise..." – Peter Drucker

While I was in business school, everyone drooled over the wisdom of Peter Drucker, and indeed his books are still read today. Let’s think about this quote from long ago.

Followers of Jesus are often counseled to look three ways when considering pathways of life: to look upward and consider what God considers important; to look inward and discover how they are wired with gifts, education, passion, aptitudes and experiences; and look outward at the world around them and pay attention to needs.

So probably there is a lot of wisdom in Drucker’s counsel. That is not to say that every business needs to be a social enterprise; but I think it is safe to say that when considering the scores of social issues on our globe, we may need to become more aware of hidden opportunities. Here are some that I have connected with or become aware of.

Refugees in North America: Many consider the world refugee situation as an important social and global issue. Certainly, job creation is an important part of the solution. A few years ago, I was assigned to mentor a young white male 20-something in a business start-up. He was starting a Somali restaurant in Minneapolis, in a state with 40,000 Somalian refugees. I immediately wondered, “what does this guy know about Somali cuisine and eating habits?”

It turned out that he knew next to nothing, but he was an entrepreneur with a business degree. His plan was to hire the right people who knew what he did not know and provide jobs for a wide range of skills in the refugee community. He saw a business opportunity to provide for a needed product (Somalian food) and create jobs for the Somalian refugees. As a result, he was successful.

Health and Disabilities: The CDC estimates that 53 million Americans (22%) suffer with some type of disability. Without creative innovation and entrepreneurship, these individuals could simply languish as wards of the state. That was not going to happen to John Cronin of Huntington, New York, who has Down’s Syndrome. After high school he said to his father, Mark, “Dad, I want to go into business with you.”

After thinking and trying a few things, they settled on a passion of John’s, crazy socks, and the company was born: John's Crazy Socks. They make money and they follow their dreams. The website states: “our Social Enterprise model is an alternative to models that only seek to make money. Make no mistake, we want to be profitable ($ two million in sales last year), but we have found that the more we do for others, the better our business will succeed…giving back is an essential part of what we do.

“We do not think a business can simply sell stuff, it is essential to give back. From the beginning, we have pledged 5 percent of our earnings to the Special Olympics. We have added a growing list of Charity and Awareness Socks that raise money for our charity partners. We also hold special events to generate funds for our charity partners.” John’s Crazy Socks has found a business opportunity connected to an important social concern.

Human Trafficking and Prostitution: Outland Denim is a company in Kampong Cham, Cambodia. It was started seven years ago by James Bartle, an Australian entrepreneur who saw an opportunity to make a difference in the lives of trafficked women through employment, while making a profit. He entered the fashion world of denim with a steep learning curve after traveling to Asia to see how the trafficking industry worked, and to envision how he could provide a sustainable career path to victimized women.

There is a strong commitment to preparing each of the 40 seamstress employees with all the skills of the factory. Each person learns every aspect – every machine and every detail on a pair of jeans – the denim, the thread, rivets, buttons, belt loops, zippers – all are meticulously and artfully produced and reviewed. The high-end product is no regular jean - with retail prices in North America starting at $195 per jean.

The women take pride in their work, and we noted when we visited this year - on the finished products, the leather patch had a simple statement under the Outland name, “This jean handcrafted by …… (name of person)”

We were impressed how the owner in Australia, and the managers in Cambodia, Caleb and Katie, relied on the importance of prayer, with many stories of how God directed them in creative entrepreneurial ways – building a business on a serious global social issue.

War and Human Conflict: The war in the Balkans in the 1990s created massive ruination throughout the country, as well as devastating unemployment. Around 100,000 people were killed during the war. Over 2.2 million people were displaced, making it the most devastating conflict in Europe since the end of World War II. In addition, an estimated 12,000–20,000 women were raped, most of them Bosniak.

The war in the Bosniak area, in what is now southeast Bosnia, left more than half of the employable men and women without work. It was to this area that John and Katie started a youth center and then a business to provide employment for several of the men and boys. Though the agricultural business experienced much turbulence, it is still functioning with a robust berry farm in that region. They too developed a business out of a global social issue – war and conflict.

World Hunger: Phillip and Brittany had international experience, business degrees, an entrepreneurial bent, and a passion for social causes. After experience elsewhere in the world, they decided upon western Kenya and the development of a fish farm. They wanted to meet a local need for jobs and for food, and to develop a prototype for a farm elsewhere in an even more needy area.

Today Big Fish Kenya is officially one of only two hatcheries in the westernmost region of Kenya. Construction of the first hatchery finished in June 2014, and they employ several folks from a very poor region of the country. A local fish expert provides leadership in product development.

Their dynamic and purpose: "Empowering communities through love, education, training, and resources that THEY may carry these principles forward throughout Africa and beyond.” They are the embodiment of another global social enterprise which was a “business opportunity in disguise.”

Larry Sharp, Director of Training, IBEC Ventures

Share this post:

Donate Twitter Facebook LinkedIn Youtube Vimeo

IBEC Ventures -- Consultants for BAM/Business as Mission