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Business as Mission (BAM) training

Sunday, September 17, 2017


On August 21, 2017 the naval vessel USS John S. McClain collided with a merchant ship with several fatalities; this was the second of two similar events in two months. I found the comments by retired Navy captain and current defense analyst, Jerry Hendrix to be informative. He said the cause can be traced to two major shortfalls: leadership and training.1

While I know nothing about naval disasters, I did think those are certainly two key factors in the success of a BAM business abroad. While leadership factors can be somewhat difficult to analyze, training is pretty much straightforward for those planning to start a cross-cultural Kingdom business.

There must be training in language and culture; in business start-up principles; in management; in the product or service designed to meet customer needs; and in at least elementary law and accounting – to name a few things. Thankfully more and more efforts are being made to provide training before a person leaves for a start-up effort in another country.

I am familiar with all of the following programs either from attendance or from friendship with those who run them. I recommend each of them, though no two are alike as they are designed to meet different needs. Check them out – they range from a couple of intensive weekends to a summer internship to a fully accredited MBA program.
  • BAM Course: Mark and Jo Plummer of The BAM (Business As Mission) Resource Team have led this program for many years which includes course work and internships; located in Chiang Mai, Thailand.
  • Third Path: Mike Baer and Elijah Elkins have designed a 12-month on-line program which builds on the many years of experience of Mike and Elijah in the BAM world.
  • The Biblical Entrepreneurship Certificate Course: This comprehensive program led by Patrice Tsague of the Nehemiah Project provides a certificate in business training and discipleship; open to owners, entrepreneurs and potential entrepreneurs.
  • Nexus B4T Student Opportunities: Nexus, affiliated with the OPEN Network offers some internships for business students who want to experience Business for Transformation (B4T) first hand in the 10/40 window.
  • Living and Learning: Steve Rundle, professor, author and researcher at Biola University runs this quality program.
  • Bamedu.com: The facilitator of this course is a highly successful international entrepreneur who draws from his experience in the teaching others.
  • IBEC Ventures: IBEC partners with BAM Cross-Cultural which has produced several on-line training videos and provides personal feedback on subjects such as American values; transaction vs. relationship; Hofstede’s culture map and related themes.

Larry Sharp, Director of Training, IBEC Ventures

3 dangers for owners/managers attempting Business as Mission

Saturday, September 09, 2017



I have been visiting, observing and providing consulting services to cross-cultural businesses proclaiming to be authentic missional businesses for more than ten years. I have observed three dangers for those leading such businesses.

First, what is a missional business? In 2016 I wrote the following on this blog site:

A Kingdom business can be defined in various ways. In a study I did several years ago, reviewing the primary authors defining these businesses (Baer, Rundle and Steffen, Eldred, Mulford, etc.), I discovered that every definition includes:
  1. Development of employees for their full potential; and provision of products or services which are a true benefit to their markets, treating all stakeholders with dignity and respect.
  2. A product or service that is offered with excellence.
  3. Profitability, but with a Christian ministry purpose equal or bigger than financial profit.
  4. Servant leadership that seeks to glorify Christ in all aspects of the business and seeks to help others to follow Jesus.
This is not just theory; this is the real thing. This is living out the theory of Ephesians 2:10. It is doing “good works.” Another biblical author, James, in James 2:17 states, “Faith by itself, if it is not accompanied by action, is dead.” All of this is something that can be replicated – not only around this country but also around the world in different cultures, social contexts and languages – in any business anywhere – for the greater glory of God.

So, with something like this in mind, what are the dangers?

Danger #1 is to be all business with little/no mission.

Because these businesses, like any business must be profitable in order to be sustainable and to gain credibility in the community, owners can place an inordinate focus on the business to the detriment of the mission – the spiritual and social component; i.e. making followers of Jesus and transforming communities.

It is very easy to be a good person, honorable in every way, yet for others to not realize that it goes beyond being good, honest and fair in the marketplace. To be missional is to be intentional in living out gospel values in both incarnational and proclamational ways. This requires a plan for both the business and the mission.

Bill Job, who has provided a model of a great balance between business and mission in his community in China tells the story of a person who came up to him after a speech he gave in Florida. The person indicated to Bill that he longed for the day he could retire and have a ministry. Bill asked him how many employees he had and the answer was in the hundreds to which Bill replied, “those employees my friend are your ministry field.”

Such stories are not rare at all with many Christians failing to live an integrated life remembering and applying who and what they are at work is the same as who and what they are in private or at church. It can be the same for those attempting Business as Mission overseas, overwhelmed by the business, cultural factors and learning to live abroad, they give little or no time to making the business missional.

Danger #2 is the opposite: trying to be a professional missionary with little time for the business.

The net result of such perspective is that the business fails. Oftentimes the owners may have a good business model and have potential for success, but they fail to give the time to the business and are giving most of their time and attention to people and their social or spiritual condition. Essentially they are doing the work of a Not-For-Profit.

A few years ago, more than one hundred people like this were expelled from a Middle Eastern country. Many of them were prepared to operate a business and had a great opportunity to meet customer needs, but they failed to maintain the balance so the business could succeed. The national government soon determined that they were not authentic; they were not creating jobs nor contributing to the wealth creation (Deut 8:18) of the country.

I once visited a legitimate business in a former Soviet republic. The senior partner was a hard-working guy who had a balance in word and deed. However, his partner told me he only wanted to spend three hours a week in the business. He stated he was there for spiritual purposes and he wanted to contribute to the business in minimal ways. This is Danger #2 and the net result will be like this business – it failed and the team is no longer in the country. They were out of balance.

Danger #3 is similar to Danger #2 but even less honorable and more sinister.

These people never intended to have an authentic business but they are missionaries who are “job fakers”. They seek a business visa to gain access to the country but they never really start a business; never employ people; and never make a profit. They lack integrity!

IBEC provided consulting services to a south Asia company who raised a sizable amount of capital, made investments in the country and the owners learned the language. After three years, the senior partner wrote a letter confessing that running a business was not what he wanted to do – he was really a Bible teacher and that was what he intended to do.

Such fakery should have no place in the Business as Mission world. These people are dishonorable and despicable. But the facts are that all of us who have traveled the world and made observations, have seen numerous of these types of fake businesses.

Real Business as Mission strives for a profit and sustainability; seeks to create jobs, and finds ways to live like Jesus and help their community to follow him; doing all of this as good stewards of God’s creation and the human resource. It is called the Quadruple Bottom line of BAM.


Larry Sharp, Director of Training, IBEC Ventures


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7 things we have learned in over 10 years of BAM consulting

Saturday, September 02, 2017



Having recently met as an IBEC leadership team to cast vision for the years ahead, we also took time to look back and reflect on the things we've learned over our 11-year history. We continue to be humbled to see God at work and share this retrospective from Larry Sharp and Gary Willett, reprinted from Business As Mission Review, July 11, 2016, as an encouragement and challenge to our fellow Business as Mission sojourners:

IBEC Ventures was incorporated in 2006 as a consulting group to provide consulting services primarily to Business as Mission startups in areas where there is high unemployment, great injustice and where there a few followers of Jesus.

IBEC’s Purpose: IBEC helps build sustainable businesses through consultative expertise that changes lives and transforms communities.

IBEC’s Vision: We envision an increasing number of small-medium sustainable Kingdom businesses with our special emphasis on areas that are both economically impoverished and spiritually unreached.

So what have we learned in these last ten (now eleven) years? We have made significant mistakes to be sure; and we have seen some successes, but recently three of us senior leaders considered the question of what we have learned. Here are some of those lessons:

1. Business as mission should be fully integrated

We have learned that this is not business as usual, and this is not missions as usual. BAM is a based in a theology of a ‘worker God’ who created man to be a worker and a creator (Genesis 1-2). He also created mankind with various ‘wirings’ and gifts and many are business people with abilities to create wealth (Deuteronomy 8:18), as an act of worship and as their unique ministry. Business is a high and holy calling and those gifted to serve the kingdom of God in this way are ministers, fulfilling their spiritual calling.


Because business is a spiritual activity, based in the theology of a worker God, it is important to recognize that fact at every level of the business. That is why IBEC from the beginning has required businesses to have a business plan and a ministry plan. Neal Johnson in his book Business as Mission: A Comprehensive Guide to Theory and Practice, calls it a Dual Mandate and provides a template for a Strategic Country Analysis (SAA), Strategic Business Plan (SBP), and a Strategic Mission Analysis (SMA). All of these are integrated into a master BAM Plan. By writing all of this down it helps the business owner to stay focused, evaluate and be accountable.

Tom has about 30 employees in a manufacturing plant in Asia. He treats workers fairly, pays taxes and lives ethically and with integrity in every area. Every product that goes out the door is created with excellence. The workers are mostly Muslim and Hindu but Tom starts each day with a Christian prayer. He writes a “wise saying” from the book of Proverbs on the office door each week and explains to the workers it is from his Holy Book. He started a Bible study after work when a Hindu worker’s relative died and all the workers were debating the question of what happens after death. Tom sees his business as a whole as a spiritual activity as business and mission are integrated together.

2. Business is not for everyone

We have learned that business is not something which just anyone can do; it is often not easy for those who have been called to traditional pastoral or missionary work. God has not always gifted them with the instinct for business, to work long hours in a business, to take risks, accept failure and have extraordinary grit. Business owners must have passion for their product or service while at the same time keeping a balance so as to not be blind to the needs of customers and financial viability for the business.

It is important that there is sufficient research and testing of the business concept. There is no shortcut to receiving good counsel on the business model, developing a sound value proposition and testing the hypothesis! The lean startup concept is something which can be taught and learned, but in practice not everyone can listen to sound advice, hypothesize fully, do customer development and pivot at the right time.

We have met many mission agency people who thought they could do all this part-time while carrying on mission leadership duties or “church planting” outside of the business context. The work of the BAMer should be in the business – and indeed in the context of the company in the marketplace, new believers may be discipled with a planted church the result.

A mission agency wanted two IBEC consultants to help a couple start a business in a limited-access country in Asia. After two days with the couple on site, we determined that this was not for them and so we told them why we felt that and reported to the agency. Everyone was unhappy. But three years later this couple was a happy and productive team, teaching English in a university in that country. They had found a good fit for their gifting and we helped save them from disaster.

3. Business as mission is a team effort

We have learned that no one person has all the skills for operating a business in his or her home country and certainly not in another culture. Entrepreneur Ernesto Sirolli in a highly watched TED talk affirms, “this world has never seen a person who can make it, sell it, and keep track of the money.” Entrepreneurs learn this before too long and surround themselves with managers, marketers, sales people, accountants, IT experts, legal advice and cultural understanding.

Visionaries and operational people are seldom the same people. Everyone from Mark Zuckerberg and Bill Gates to the smallest startup operators have learned that. So building a team is mandatory and the sooner it is done the better. Such a team includes an advisory board for accountability and advice from experienced business people.

Brittany joined a team in Azerbaijan and brought significant skills in coffee roasting and retail. However, she realized that she needed capital developers, managers, operational people, marketers, HR experts, accountants and legal advice. Before long a team emerged and the result after the application of varied skills and much hard work – a roasting company with two successful stores.

4. It takes longer than you think

We have learned through several consulting contracts that it takes several years for most BAM operations to achieve the quadruple bottom line of profitability/sustainability; job creation; disciples of Jesus; and stewardship of creation. It takes capital and it takes time. We have researched and visited many companies who are making significant community impact and they all give evidence of the time it takes.

We have learned to advise at least a time frame of 5-8 years for stable profitability. That of course requires much capital to sustain the operation until that time. It requires much patience to weather the ups and downs during that time. So it is best to begin with a long-term mentality. From a spiritual perspective, BAMers need to stay until God makes it clear it is time to depart.

Ryan and Jana started ABC English school and stayed long enough to see profitability and the creation of 65 regular full-time jobs, as well as lives changed as teachers and students came to follow Jesus. Without the commitment of fifteen years, it is doubtful that measurable success would have been evident.

5. Language and culture learning is critical

We have seen many mistakes that have been due to a lack of cultural understanding. Likewise, we have seen the value of being a respecter of culture, being constantly curious, and being a student of it for a lifetime. One must learn to love the people and their culture and have friends in both the national and the expat community.

Culture is complex and includes the likes of epistemology, beliefs, art, morals, law and all the customs and habits of a people group. One does not learn that overnight or even in a year or two. Every expat abroad needs to be constantly studying culture and we recommend that every business team have someone at advanced levels of cultural understanding.

We helped Rob and his family buy a boat-building business in Indonesia. The entire family loves the country and the people and they speak the language well, respect the culture and the employees love working for Rob. Using a translator, I asked many of the workers why they loved working for Rob. They said things like: he understands us and relates to our situation; he values us and is fair; he takes us on camping trips to talk about life issues; he pays a fair wage within cultural guidelines. Rob is a student of culture and knows the critical importance of language and cultural understanding.

6. BAM workers must have GRIT

Business startups require owners with GRIT – Guts, Resilience, Initiative and Tenacity. One cannot give up but must work hard to accomplish the vision and realize the potential of God-given abilities and opportunities for business.

“You can’t have any quit in you!” – Pat Summitt (One of the most successful USA college basketball coaches)

There are so many things that can go wrong even with good counsel and great planning. Things happen that are outside of our control when working in a country where the “rule of law” is not the norm and economic and political changes can happen overnight. Expat business owners have little control over local laws, taxation irregularities, economic conditions, visa requirement changes and relationship-based decisions.

Lee started a business in a former Soviet republic but before long his partner from that country had stolen his assets and left him penniless. I called him and asked him what he was going to do and thought he may have had enough and leave the country. He readily responded by saying, “I have gone down the street and have opened a new office and started over.” Lee was not going home – Lee had GRIT! And the new business became successful.

7. Integration of faith and work can be learned but it is hard work

Bringing us back full-circle from lesson one, business as mission should be integrated, but this can require a change in mindset. Western Christians have been conditioned to believe and act like there is a sacred-secular dichotomy. Our worldview teaches us that what we do on Sunday and in our private lives seems unrelated to our 9-5 work day world. Such a modern-day gnosticism demonstrates itself in 21st century politics, business education and in the church.

However biblical values are meant to be integrated with every aspect of the Christian’s life including the marketplace and business. This does not come naturally because of the cultural factors which mitigate against it, therefore it must be learned in businesses all over the world. It is hard work but it is a must for the follower of Jesus in business.

Kirk Parette was mentored by Bill Job who defines BAM as “walking with God at work”. Bill does just that, as does Kirk, who states “every day on the factory floor is an opportunity for discipleship.” Both men see BAM as an integration of following Jesus, and his principles of life, with business decision-making. It is living out the Great Commandment of Jesus to love  employees, vendors and the community, while seeking the fulfillment of the Great Commission as we go and make disciples.


Larry Sharp, Director of Training, IBEC Ventures

Gary Willett, Director of Consulting, IBEC Ventures


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Wealth Creation Manifesto

Saturday, August 26, 2017


Thankfully much is being written nowadays about the Theology of Work and how God as the worker God, gives we humans the ability to create wealth (Deuteronomy 8:18). The following “Wealth Creation Manifesto” was created by the Lausanne Movement and BAM Global and it helps us to understand how work is ordained of God and appeals to believers everywhere to embrace wealth creation as central to transformational living.

Larry Sharp, Director of Training, IBEC Ventures

WEALTH CREATION MANIFESTO

Background

The Lausanne Movement and BAM Global organized a Global Consultation on The Role of Wealth Creation for Holistic Transformation, in Chiang Mai, Thailand, in March 2017. About 30 people from 20 nations participated, primarily from the business world, and also from church, missions and academia. The findings will be published in several papers and a book, as well as an educational video. This Manifesto conveys the essentials of our deliberations before and during the Consultation.

Affirmations
  1. Wealth creation is rooted in God the Creator, who created a world that flourishes with abundance and diversity.
  2. We are created in God’s image, to co-create with him and for him, to create products and services for the common good.
  3. Wealth creation is a holy calling, and a God-given gift, which is commended in the Bible.
  4. Wealth creators should be affirmed by the Church, and equipped and deployed to serve in the marketplace among all peoples and nations.
  5. Wealth hoarding is wrong, and wealth sharing should be encouraged, but there is no wealth to be shared unless it has been created.
  6. There is a universal call to generosity, and contentment is a virtue, but material simplicity is a personal choice, and involuntary poverty should be alleviated.
  7. The purpose of wealth creation through business goes beyond giving generously, although that is to be commended; good business has intrinsic value as a means of material provision and can be an agent of positive transformation in society.
  8. Business has a special capacity to create financial wealth, but also has the potential to create different kinds of wealth for many stakeholders, including social, intellectual, physical and spiritual wealth.
  9. Wealth creation through business has proven power to lift people and nations out of poverty.
  10. Wealth creation must always be pursued with justice and a concern for the poor, and should be sensitive to each unique cultural context.
  11. Creation care is not optional. Stewardship of creation and business solutions to environmental challenges should be an integral part of wealth creation through business.
Appeal

We present these affirmations to the Church worldwide, and especially to leaders in business, church, government, and academia.
  • We call the church to embrace wealth creation as central to our mission of holistic transformation of peoples and societies.
  • We call for fresh, ongoing efforts to equip and launch wealth creators to that very end.
  • We call wealth creators to perseverance, diligently using their God-given gifts to serve God and people.
Ad maiorem Dei gloriam – For the greater glory of God


Business as Mission changes lives

Sunday, August 20, 2017


This is a true story but the names of the people and the places have been disguised for security reasons.

Charvi is an Indian girl born into the largest red-light district in Asia. Her mother, Aashi, had been “trafficked” as a young woman and had been in the sex trade for many years. As a loving mother, she had done all she could to protect Charvi from the ugly prostitution business in her north India city.

But by the time Charvi was 17 years of age Aashi feared the worst! She felt forced to relinquish her guardianship of Charvi, who was afflicted with one “bad eye” and was thus undesirable as a wife. It seemed time to put her in the “line” (girls on display for prostitution). Besides, Charvi’s mother had no dowry – even if there was any hope of marriage. They seemed to have no choice.

That is when God and His people intervened. An employee of Upstart, a freedom business in her city called the owner of the business who came to the small room were both women were weeping. Jaime from Upstart said “Yes, there is a choice! Charvi can come to work in our business tomorrow!” Again the tears flowed when they realized such a thing was possible.

The next day Charvi began six months of training and became a regular full-time employee. She worked for several years using the skill she had learned. She came to know Jesus and after some years was married to a young Christian Indian man who needed no dowry.

This “story-book ending” would not have happened without this Kingdom business being able to provide this choice. Charvi was able to join over 300 others in this business which rescues similar women and girls who feel they have no choice.

The International Labor Organization estimates that forced labor worldwide is a $150 billion industry and forced sexual exploitation is a $99 billion industry.1 Many people talk about trafficking and exploitation, but the real answer is not more talk but it lies in providing alternatives – real ones which teach a skill and provide a job; and real ones which provide a spiritual solution through the gospel of Christ.

IBEC believes in helping such freedom businesses with consulting and coaching services and we have begun to do so. Yours truly serves on the advisory board of the Freedom Business Alliance (www.freedombusinessalliance.com) which is having its first convention this month in Thailand. Ken and Marcia Leahy (very much a part of IBEC for many years) serve as executives of this alliance, and Bob Bush is consulting with another business in another location in Asia. Business as Mission does change lives!


1. International Organization of Labor (2014). Profits and Poverty. The Economics of Forced Labour.

Larry Sharp, Director of Training, IBEC Ventures

What you should know before starting your business

Saturday, August 12, 2017


I am teaching an on-line class in innovation and entrepreneurship this summer. While preparing for the class I came upon this article in LinkedIn by Betty Liu, Founder and CEO at Radiate, Inc.. For BAM startups, it seems to be a “must read.”

Larry Sharp, Director of Training, IBEC Ventures

What You Should Know Before Starting Your Business

Betty Liu,Founder/CEO at Radiate, Inc.

Published in LinkedIn on July 17, 2017

Starting a business is very risky. Even though failure rates have steadily come down since the Great Recession, a new business is more likely to go under than thrive. If you're in financial services, your chances of success are as low as 42%. If you're in retail, your chances go up, but just slightly.

It may come as no surprise but the reason behind the failures rarely has to do with neglect or outside disasters. Almost all the time, it's because of managerial incompetence. Reasons range from a founder/CEO going into a business for all the wrong reasons (i.e going into business purely for the money and esteem it supposedly brings) or overspending, or to put it bluntly a total lack of focus.

So how do you make sure you're starting your business on the right foot? Below are five critical things every CEO of a new company needs to know:

1. Better to be alone than hiring the wrong team: When you start a business, you need to have a strong team around you. The problem is founders become so desperate for a team to prove they have a viable idea that they often rush into hiring co-founders. Chances are you're better off staying alone until you find the right people, don't hire the wrong person just to have a warm body next to you. Whatever is bothering you about the person off the bat is going to get even worse, not better. When I talk to founders they often joke about their relationship with their co-founders seeming like a "marriage". And when you are spending an uncomfortable amount of time with people that you trust implicitly, believe me it can seem pretty darn close to it.

2. Sitting on a product too long: Last year I had the chance to host a lunch for Eric Ries, the bestselling author of The Lean Startup, whose basic theory is businesses have to test and test their idea or product before it's fully ready. Conventional wisdom suggests you should research and hone your product before fully launching it; Ries' argument is that you waste valuable time on a product that might not even fit the market. Your best bet is to test the product out first on customers and get their feedback, then use that feedback to refine your product. While his method doesn't guarantee success, he says it will certainly guarantee fewer failures.

3. Know the difference between Overspending and Underspending: Unless you're a Wall Street firm with an outside facing business, you need to forget the fancy office. A few desks in WeWork in the beginning will do. Instead, invest your limited resources in something consumer-facing such as a great looking logo or premium-looking website. CEOs have to understand where to spend and where to keep costs low. Having a fancy foozball table, or that in-house dog-walking service just to make your employees feel like they're working for a cool company? Forget it. Keep it lean for as long as you need to.

4. Keep your board small: This really applies to founders who've sought outside funding. Scott Kurnit, the founder of About.com and Keep.com, says no startup wants to or needs to start off with a big board. You may think it looks impressive but it will inevitably become a headache. Scott's half-kidding but real advice is to find a friend with low net worth and put him or her on the board—that way, if the company one day gets sued, nobody can claim a significant reward from board members. The CEO should always be on the board but not the co-founders; that leads to very awkward and uncomfortable situations later.

5. Establish your culture early: Culture is not a feel-good thing you should do; it's a thing you absolutely have to do. A company culture is vital to the success and well-being of your growing staff. It's critical for hiring talent and it also forms the foundation by which the founders interact. A good culture can be the difference between a successful business and a not-so successful business. As customers/employees/investors we all want to align ourselves with a great business and feel like that company culture mirrors our own. And if we don't feel like that well, try looking for that recently deleted app on your phone, Uber.

Want to become a great leader? Check out Radiate! We deliver curated expert advice from the top CEOs. Try us out for free by joining here.

7 BAM startup principles contemplated while salmon fishing in Alaska

Saturday, August 05, 2017


I recently went fishing with my daughter in the Kenai river of south-central Alaska – first for king salmon, then for the famous sockeye (red) salmon. Fishing was slow so I began to contemplate parallels to the world of Business as Mission (BAM) startups.

1. Love what you are doing.

There were maybe 50 men and women with sockeye gear that day, wearing in hip waders and standing knee deep in the river for as far as we could see. They were loving it, even those who caught nothing. They were out-of-doors, full of anticipation of new fish stories and fresh salmon for dinner.

So too, if you don’t love business, turn your heart and time toward something else. Entrepreneurs love it; and entrepreneurs’ team members love being on board for the ride. If you do not love the hard work, the anticipation of God doing the unexpected or the challenge of the unknown, business startups are not for you.

Jeff started a successful internet website which provided for his family in the USA. He loved the action so much that he decided to start an IT company in an Asian nation to provide jobs, see if he could be profitable there, and be the incarnation of Jesus in a place where He is not known. Even though it is hard going he loves what he is doing.

2. Be prepared.

One should see these fisherman with all their equipment – hip waders; specialized vests with every imaginable fishing gear in the pockets, rods and reels worth hundreds of dollars, a net and a little bonker to kill the 7-8 pound salmon. And the right bait for the fish – wet coho flies for sockeye; lures and eggs for king salmon; and eggs for silver salmon.

Business owners, managers or specialists in startups must be prepared. They need to know their industry, both in North America and abroad, understand the customer and be able to utilize the business model canvas. They have to be prepared to live and function in another culture and language, all the while providing a solution to the customers’ pain point and problem so as to deliver value. And just when one thinks there is a measure of political or economic stability, one must pivot and move toward other markets. Yes, one must be prepared for all of this and more.

IBEC usually recommends being successful in the homeland, or at least learning to do in North America whatever one intends to do overseas. There is no substitute for the preparation accomplished where the waters are calm, before the trouble of the international or overseas sector.

3. Location. Location. Location.

This all-important advice never grows old. For fishermen it means being where the action is. King salmon fishermen learn the patterns of the river, the temperature and the depth because the fish move according to their sensors and experience. Fishing is location driven.

Likewise in business, location is important for many reasons. We provided coaching for an outdoor recreation company in Africa. After much time, funding and experience it was discovered that the location of the kick-off city was poor in relation to the clients’ target destination. It simply took too long to get to the tourist location. The business continues but has had a major pivot.

I coached several micro-enterprises in the Ukraine long ago. One startup hopeful was determined to locate in a section of the city which was low income and poorly trafficked. It took much observation and discussion to convince the owner to move her ideal location to some place more likely to connect with the customer.

4. Study and understand the conditions.

Fishing on the lower Kenai river requires understanding of the tides. Migratory salmon tend to flood into the river on an incoming tide. There is little point in fishing near the end of an ebb tide. The fish are schooled up offshore waiting to come in with the tide.

IBEC uses CIA Factsheets and World Bank sites such as http://www.doingbusiness.org/rankings. This helps the consultant and the owners to understand variables which exist everywhere. Ethics variations must be studied carefully as one balances USA laws, foreign laws and personal ethics with “how we do it here”.

One business in a former Soviet republic came to an abrupt end because of failure to understand cultural nuances related to contract law. The owner of an agriculture project assumed his duly negotiated and signed contract meant his farm product would go to market, but culturally it was only meant to be a suggestion and the business failed as the vegetables rotted in the fields with no transportation to markets in the city some hours away.

5. Timing is critical.

Sockeye salmon return to their Alaskan streams of origin at certain times in the June-August period. Coho salmon return later to the Kenai river and its streams, usually August to October. It is futile to try to catch a coho in June, or a king salmon in September. Timing is everything.

A successful business in western India was marketed to quilters in North America and in the UK. The quilters in these areas meet at specific shows and it is critical to meet them there and provide the specialized tour offerings. The overseas artisans provide an incredible experience for which the client is willing to pay and the client is more likely to take interest in the tour company’s product offering at a show than via other forms of media. Timing is critical to the marketing and sales cycle.

6. Have an end goal.

For some fishermen catching their limit, or a bigger fish is the goal. Interestingly some fishermen meet their goal even if they catch no fish. I came upon a lone fisherman one time on the bank of a river and said casually, “How is fishing?” He immediately replied, “Does it matter?” Every fisherman has some sort of goal for the day.
Startup owners and managers need to know the goal. Are you desiring a long time operational cycle because of the spiritual value of the Triple Bottom Line? Or do you wish to sell and start something elsewhere when the model turns profitable and other challenges emerge?

It is important to keep the Triple Bottom Line as a goal. Owners want a profitable and sustainable company that creates jobs for people in a needy area and a business which allows owners and managers to incarnate who Jesus is.

Owner David Nord had a goal of diversifying into several other countries after a successful parent company in China became self-sustaining. Consequently he is seeing the Triple Bottom Line realized in many countries in central Asia.

7. Know how to close the deal.

I have seen many fishermen hook into fish in the river and even bring them close to the boat or the bank only to lose them due to failure to keep the line taut. There is much more to fishing than simply getting them to bite the bait. The job is not truly done until the fish are safely in the cooler.

So too with business. IBEC only really began to take off when current CEO, Bob Bush came to us with a marketing background. He understands the customer and the value of persistence and various products to offer the client. Business is all about customer wants and once those are discovered it is all about serving those demands. Business includes all elements of the business cycle and marketing is something which every owner must focus upon.

These seven reminders are not new, but when fishing was slow one day it provided an opportunity to reflect and remember some important principles.

Serve Jesus where you are

Monday, July 31, 2017


T
Dave Kier is an IBEC Board member and CEO of DFS Feed in Iowa. He writes a daily devotional for his more than 200 employees. I am privileged to be allowed to read them; one of which is reproduced here with his permission.

Feedback from a recent Business as Mission conference I attended revealed a desire from many to know more about how to be a Christian in business. Recently I read an article about our Secretary of Education where the author was almost appalled that she speaks of emphasizing biblical values in education. She and her friends even had the audacity to call themselves “believers”, yet there is an army of us believers in government, education, the medical community, serving in nursing homes and all throughout every field in the marketplace. Millions of us get up and go to work to serve Jesus and others and yet the young people are asking how they can live out their calling where they are. Yes, it’s concerning that they ask, but I am deeply humbled and excited that they are. Maybe this is the generation that will make the greatest impact for Jesus in this world.

How do I live out my calling here?

What would you tell a young person asking this question but to be strong in their faith, first and foremost. Go deep with Jesus taking serious the teaching of Paul where he said “…whatever you do, do all for the glory of God. (I Cor. 10:31)”. Be diligent in your work, but also remember to “Be diligent to present yourself approved to God as a workman who does not need to be ashamed, accurately handling the word of truth (II Tim. 2:15)”.

Remember every day to “…always give thanks for all things. (Eph. 5:20)”. Ignore the temptation to think it is every man for himself but rather “do unto others as you would have them do unto you. (Matt 7:12)”. Jesus said to “seek first His kingdom and His righteousness, and all these things will be added unto you (Matt 6:33)". Never forget, no matter how lean the times, that the first fruits of your day belong to the Lord as does the first fruits of your income. Humbly declare Him by your actions and by your words. Be wise but do not be silent.

Being a Christian in the marketplace

We met with two different companies this week. One we meet with every so often but we didn’t know the leaders in the other company very well. Still, we opened our time with prayer asking the Lord to guide us. No one has ever been offended but almost always someone will say “Thank you”.

Being a Christian in the marketplace is being who you are. Why hide who you are? If you are a child of the King, you don’t need to be brash about it but for sure you aren’t ashamed of it – are you? Don’t let the world and its threats intimidate you. Live for Jesus wherever you are. Speak up for Jesus wherever you are, not to make “brownie points” with Jesus but because you love Him and you love your fellow man or woman. It is a tremendous privilege, and responsibility, to serve Jesus in the marketplace.

Business as Mission – how about results?

Sunday, July 23, 2017


The facts of this story are real and true; but due to security issues, names have been changed.

As I travel around the US and Canada, I am often asked, “are you seeing any results for all your work with Business as Mission?” In short what they are demanding is “Show me the money”. It is a good question and they have a right to know.

I have visited Asian Business Company (ABC) twice. ABC is in a country considered to be “unreached” with the truth of the gospel. While visiting I spent time observing and interviewing several of the thirty or so employees and spending extended time with the owners, Chris and Simon. I have seen the value this job-creating manufacturing firm brings to the community and in the personal lives of the workers. I have seen the profitability and sustainability grow over the past 14 years. I have interacted with six different consultants who have applied their wisdom to ABC.

Three years ago Simon hired a manager of production, Mr. M. Not only has Mr. M proven to be a valued employee and effective manager, but he has taken an interest in spiritual issues, expressing a desire to learn more of who Jesus is. He diligently read the scriptures strategically place on the factory walls. He began to ask questions and he participated in prayer times and it gradually became clear that he was seeking the truth.

Simon has met many times with Mr. M and recently he affirmed his desire to live out his life in relationship with God. He is now following Jesus.

The is not the beginning of the story and certainly it is not the end. Now all four senior managers of ABC have come to faith and are following Jesus. Several others are new and growing believers.

But it doesn’t stop there! There are even more needy areas in Asia – more impoverished and more spiritually unreached and Simon and Chris have long had a vision to extend their company to some of those places. And now as I write this, they are deploying a long-term staff member and Jesus follower to a high risk, unreached area. He will be serving ABC as a sales representative, but more importantly he will be representative of Jesus in that area.

This is not the first example of outreach to faraway places by employees and former employees of ABC - and by God’s grace it will not be the last. There are many more stories of God at work in the past 14 years. And all because Chris and Simon took leave of a comfortable life in North America and began a startup business in Asia – a business committed to profitability, to job creation and to making disciples of Jesus.

I tell those questioning that “it doesn’t get any better than that!” But it does take time; it takes prayer; it takes capital and it takes a whole team – both in North America and abroad. Thank you God!

Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) - is it BAM?

Sunday, July 16, 2017


Recently I watched a “60 Minutes”1 documentary describing the phenomenal rise of Chobani Yogurt to become the top selling yogurt brand in the United States. Founded in upstate New York in 2005 by Turkish immigrant Hamdi Ulukaya without outside investors, Chobani is a charming feel-good story of entrepreneurship.

The story seems to have all the components of Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) which is a corporation's initiatives to assess and take responsibility for the company's effects on environmental and social well-being as well as the economic financial outcomes. The term generally applies to efforts that go beyond what may be required by regulators or environmental protection groups.

Despite examples of abuse and attempts to deceive the public, generally CSR is a good thing, based in part in the philosophy of the Triple Bottom Line, a term coined by John Elkington in 1994. A CSR-responsible company develops its policies, programs, standards and principles in accordance with:

People – what is good for the human capital and the social good. Such is true at Chobani. “From the beginning I tried to treat everybody right,” Ulukaya said in a speech last month. “We paid everyone well above minimum wage. Everybody in our plant gets the same holidays as everybody in the office. Our entire company — hourly or salaried — would get full health care, retirement plans.”

Not long ago Ulukaya offered 10% of the company ownership to his 2,000 employees. But perhaps the most interesting decision was to hire legal refugees in his New York and Twin Falls, Idaho plants. Today more than 600 refugees have jobs. Says Ulukaya, “The No. 1 thing that you can do is provide them jobs. The minute they get a job, that’s the minute they stop being a refugee.”

Profit – without question Chobani is a profitable company, and is valued at over $1 billion today. The owner understands the customer and creates value for all stakeholders. Such value-creation has been translated into profitability and sustainability.

Planet – the third bottom line is concern for the environment and the health of people. The mission of Chobani to have “better food for more people” translates into the use of natural ingredients, more protein, less sugar and ultimately a healthier lifestyle, illustrated in this partnership with McDonalds: http://www.chobani.com/nutritioncenter.

Cows are not treated with rBST and animal welfare is an ethical and moral imperative. All of creation is important to Mr. Ulukaya and Chobani.

This certainly is good. It is good CSR; it is a good business model. But is it BAM?

Business as Mission (BAM)

BAM often talks of the Quadruple Bottom Line, with the 4th item being the all-important commitment to be a Kingdom Company and ultimately a Great Commission Company. All of the above-mentioned components of CSR are great and important but a Business as Mission company requires the owner and management to operate the company with Biblical principles and for the glory of God.

Rundle and Steffen in Great Commission Companies define such as “…a socially responsible, income producing business managed by Kingdom professionals and created for the specific purpose of glorifying God and promoting the growth and multiplication of local churches in the least evangelized and least developed parts of the world.”2

BAM company leaders “…make it known in their personal and professional daily speech, actions, lifestyles, management styles, decisions and testimonies that they are ardent followers of Jesus and are doing their best to conduct all aspects of the business in a manner worthy of the gospel.”3 Thus BAM companies incarnate the life of Jesus and proclaim the gospel verbally when there is opportunity.

The result – more and more people become followers of Jesus; lives (and ultimately communities) are transformed. This is a 4th “bottom line” and an essential one.
IBEC believes in CSR and we love stories like Chobani. But our work is in the direction of Business as Mission; Kingdom companies producing Jesus followers.

1 CBS 60 Minutes, April 6, 2017,  Chobani founder stands by hiring refugees. 
2 Rundle, Steve & Steffen, Tom. Great Commission Companies, InterVarsity Press (2011), p. 45.
3 Johnson, C. Neal.  Business as Mission, InterVarsity Press (2009), p. 280.




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