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To resolve or not to resolve - that is the question!

Saturday, December 31, 2016

A University of Scranton study suggests that 25% of New Year's Resolution goals go by the wayside in the first week of the year and only 48% of people are sticking to them six months later. Only 8% actually achieve the goals during that year.

I think that the New Year's resolutions tradition as we now think of it is pretty much a farce with a gigantic disconnect from reality. Not that goals are not important - they certainly are - but the hype at Years' end is probably more highly correlated with too much egg nog than it is with realistic accomplishments.

So when it comes to such a high and holy calling as building a Kingdom business, let's forget about New Years' resolutions and instead build into our everyday lives a mantra of 'lifelong learning'.

The term 'lifelong learning' is commonly used in adult education terminology and generally refers to and self-motivated pursuit of knowledge. Terms that are somewhat synonymous might be - workplace learning, adult education, continuing education, professional development, and informal education. These all reflect a desire to continue to grow and learn throughout life.

IBEC leadership takes three days in late summer each year to reflect on the recent months and set goals for the future.This avoids the mania of late December and builds an ethos of resolve to be learning continuously. We set goals for donor development, an increase in of clients, increased fee revenue, an increasing number of coaches and consultants. Those specific target numbers reflect an ethos of growth which is more than numbers - they relate directly to life and community transformation.

Rather than focus on specific resolutions, here are three things to help you, your or your business leadership take steps toward becoming a lifelong learner in 2017.*

Becoming a lifelong learner in 2017

  1. Contribute something consistently. This would include things like writing a devotional thought for your employees regularly (like my friend Dave); have regular team meetings with a learning function for each (like my friend Bob in China); use social media to educate, share truths or discuss issues (as BAM leader Sergio does in Brazil).
  2. Collect resources. Be a reader and collect resources which become important resources for years to come. There was a time that I supervised over 100 employees in Brazil. Whenever I would visit Dave, one of his first questions was, "Larry, what good book have you been reading lately?" Those books I have read stay with me. I often refer to management books by Peter Drucker, Jim Collins, Guy Kawasaki, John Kotter and others.
  3. Coach others and serve as a consultant. I learned long ago in my years as a school teacher that teachers often learn more than the students. To teach is to be motivated to learn and master something so it can be taught to others and in mentoring others. Each business owner, no matter how small the business, should look for opportunities to teach and coach. IBEC also provides opportunities to do just that as a consultant, coach or Subject Matter Expert.
My youngest son took me to a hockey game recently as my birthday present. We got to talking about hockey in general and my playing years in Alberta, Canada. I recalled my hero in those years, Mr. Hockey, Gordie Howe. Until Wayne Gretzky came along, Gordie was considered the best. Wayne reflected once on some advice that Howe (who died in 2016) gave him. He said that he learned something about the game every day. Gretzky then concluded, "...so you never learn enough about the game both on and off the ice, and from the guys who have been through it."

For all of us in business, let's be lifelong learners - from God; from others; and from life around us.

* Adapted from Three Steps to Becoming a Lifelong Learner (8/13/2013), ColdCaseChristianity.com

Larry Sharp, Director of Training, IBEC Ventures

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Business is a gift

Saturday, December 24, 2016

This month of December is a month for giving. We give gifts to each other; we reflect on the gift of Jesus to humanity; and we think about year-end giving to various charities.

In mid-December Patrice Tsague, CEO of the Nehemiah Project proposed that business is a gift and he stated twenty reasons. If you agree, we suggest giving to help people start and grow a Kingdom business, thus creating jobs in the name of Jesus. IBEC helps do just that, as does Mission ONE, United World Mission, Child Voice and Business As Mission, to name a few IBEC partners.

Here are 20 reasons that business is a gift:

  1. Business brings hope
  2. Business reduces crime
  3. Business reduces poverty
  4. Business reduces the threat of terrorism
  5. Business creates income
  6. Business reduces dependency
  7. Business minimizes the threat of war
  8. Business builds community
  9. Business creates wealth
  10. Business helps families
  11. Business solves problems
  12. Business creates jobs
  13. Business helps communities and churches
  14. Business advances the Gospel and funds the great commission
  15. Business can be passed on from generation to generation
  16. Business helps turn a receiver into a giver
  17. Business turns a consumer into a producer
  18. Business pays taxes
  19. Business brings dignity
  20. Business brings innovation
If you would like to support some of IBEC's partners in cultivating Kingdom-building businesses, you can find more information about their projects and ways you can donate on their websites:
Blessings to one and all as we begin 2017 and thank you for your prayer and financial support of IBEC.

Larry Sharp, Director of Training, IBEC Ventures

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"It's Christmas Time in the City" ... and ...

Saturday, December 17, 2016

Can you hear the tune with this line from the famous, “Silver Bells” by Bing Crosby? Yes, it is Christmas time again – in the city – and in the country – and in most places in the Western world.

But most of the world’s population does not live in the Western world – they live in the Global South and Global East; they live in the Atheist, Buddhist, Muslim and Hindu world. I was reminded of this by my daughter who works as an HR Director in Cambodia where there is no celebration of Christmas. Jesus is a little or unknown historical character; not the incarnation of God, born of a virgin in Bethlehem.

But as I look around my own country, I wonder if most North Americans really know the meaning of Christmas. In my lifetime, Christmas decorations, cards and lightings have changed from nativity scenes and wise men to snowmen, Santas, jingle bells, reindeer and high-end electronic gifts.

Christmas is an established day to commemorate the birth of Jesus. The person of Jesus is the important one. This is the divine Jesus - made incarnate in the everyday world – not in the synagogue or church or in some private event. He was born into the marketplace of sheep herders and grew up as a carpenter’s son and learned the trade himself. The marketplace was his world.

As a twenty-something adult I can imagine him creating furniture for families in need; I can imagine him hanging doors and windows in new adobe homes; I see him fulfilling a contract to make new wooden benches for the synagogue. He negotiated prices and kept records for the Roman tax collectors. This “creator God” was then on earth, a creator in the market place – of wood products, of jobs, of tax revenue.

Later on when he entered the teaching world, he kept connected to the world of fishermen, tax collectors, farmers and ranchers, military officers. He was in touch with people and their needs and helped meet those needs.

One of the amazing stories of Jesus was the story of how he provided bread to meet the hunger needs of thousands of people1. He was good at meeting the needs of the sick, hungry, hurting, fearful and destitute. He knew how to meet people in the moment of need.

But he did not stop there. He offered inner satisfaction; inner bread; eternal life!

That is why IBEC celebrates multiple bottom lines in our business coaching. We start with a basic need – the need for satisfying work just like Jesus who excelled as the creator carpenter. Our business people strive to be excellent creator business and job creators. But we do not stop there; we offer transformation through an understanding of who Jesus is the God who gives life NOW and for all ETERNITY.

We will not give up in our task of bringing such LIFE to the rest of the world – the world which does not know the basic truths of God and his Son, Jesus that we celebrate this month. We do that in Africa, the Middle East, East Asia, South Asia, and Latin America. We do it for the glory of God!

1 Read John 6 to understand the real Jesus of Christmas birth.

Larry Sharp, Director of Training, IBEC Ventures

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Lessons to be learned from Howard Schultz and Starbucks

Sunday, December 11, 2016
This week I went Christmas shopping at Pike Place Market on Seattle’s waterfront. I stopped at the original Starbucks ® store to listen to a dressed-up Santa singing Christmas carols (note the original logo on this storefront which dates back to 1971).

As I stopped to listen, the old Santa was singing “Joy to the World”. I thought how ironic and interesting! Surely, the Starbucks experience brings plenty of joy to millions of people, but real JOY comes from Jesus, the God of the universe being born incarnate among men in this world.  Spiritual rebirth is a key part of what IBEC is all about – spiritual transformation as people begin to follow Jesus.

I got to thinking about how this amazing entrepreneur, Howard Schultz, grew this simple “hole in the wall” storefront to a Fortune 500 company (# 146 in 2016) and 25,000 stores worldwide. The city of Seattle itself has 142 outlets. After reading through a brief history of the company, I selected some of the factors which account for the success of Howard Schultz and Starbucks.

Spirit of experimentation. From the beginning Mr. Schultz was willing to try new ideas. After purchasing the company from his boss, he began to sell coffee to fine restaurants and espresso bars. He opened up stores with a drive-through and experimented with the Frappuccino. He was not averse to taking risks.

Attitude of being a learner. Mr. Schultz always wanted to learn. He traveled to Italy in 1983 where he saw ideas for a potential coffee house culture in the United States. He knew there was always more to learn and so he observed, studied and applied – starting in Seattle.

The importance of advocates. He convinced the founders of Starbucks to test out the coffee house concept and then found investors so he could test out his ideas. He knew that no entrepreneur can do it alone – entrepreneurs need others; they need a team.

Care for employees. Early on Mr. Schultz offered full benefits to employees and in 1991 he offered stock options, the first privately owned US company to offer this. Starbucks is known today as a pleasant place to work where employees are treated right.

Keep up with the changing times. Starbucks is known for being relevant to the needs and challenges of society. The company opened LEED certified stores (1995), established a foundation (1997), served underserved neighborhoods in a joint-venture partnership with Magic Johnson (1998), began promoting sustainable coffee growing practices (1999), started to serve Fair Trade coffee in North America (2000), developed ethical coffee sourcing guidelines (2001), eliminated all artificial fats (2007), provided digital offerings (2010) and an iPhone order app (2014), among other similar decisions.

A mission statement. Mission statements are only useful when they guide behavior and can be used to measure success. Starbucks’ statement does just that, “…To inspire and nurture the human spirit – one person, one cup and one neighborhood at a time.”

Culture is important. The culture of the store is innovative and representative of a place which attracts customers. Employees are well-trained in customer service and courtesy and speed have become a mark of the Starbucks experience. In the words of Peter Drucker when describing entrepreneurship, “…applying management concepts and management techniques (asking what is of ‘value’ to the customer?), standardizing the ‘product’, designing process and tools, and by basing training on the analysis of the work to be done and then setting the standards it required.” Howard Schultz provided a distinct culture which took an old product and created a new market and a new customer.

Collaboration and partnership. Starbucks has grown and continues to set the standard in the coffee marketplace with interesting partnerships such as with Apple – selling music as part of the experience; with Kraft Foods – to see Starbucks products; with Arizona State University – for a business degree; and with PepsiCo in Latin America. Mr. Schultz knew that partnerships are advantageous to business.

While one might not agree with all the decisions of Mr. Schultz and the Starbucks corporation, certainly these few items are some which can be applied. We can learn from an entrepreneur of our day.

But let’s not forget the Santa singing in front of the store during this Christmas season. Starbucks is profitable and sustainable, is a master job-creator; and Starbucks is a good steward of the earth’s resources, but they may lack the fourth important item in the Quadruple Bottom Line: spiritual capital which comes from following the Creator-God: Jesus.” Let’s remember that and focus on the real “Joy to the World” this season. “Let every heart prepare him room.” 3

1 Drucker, Peter. Innovation and Entrepreneurship. Harper and Row, 1985

2 Galatians 4:4, 5

3 A line from the Christmas hymn, “Joy to the World” by Isaac Watts, 1791

Larry Sharp, Director of Training, IBEC Ventures

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IBEC Ventures -- Consultants for BAM/Business as Mission