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A crisis of trust – guidelines for BAM owners (Part 2)

Sunday, July 31, 2016

Trust. Last week we looked at three concrete actions that business leaders can take to build trust within their organizations [A crisis of trust – guidelines for BAM owners (Part 1)]. We also looked at examples of Business As Missions (BAM) business owners I’ve worked with who applied these trust building behaviors in their companies:

1. Tell the truth and live with integrity.
2. Demonstrate competence.
3. Value people by showing that you care about them.

This week we explore three more trust building actions that result in improved business results AND Kingdom building results:

4. Demonstrate dependability and reliability.
5. Address issues directly.
6. Deliver the unexpected.

4. Demonstrate dependability and reliability.

One develops trust by being consistent, predictable, and keeping your word. Don’t be afraid to state expectations up front such as establishing policies and procedures and then following through on enforcement. If people see that they can count on you to be dependable in small things, they will trust you for the big things. “Whoever can be trusted with very little can also be trusted with much, and whoever is dishonest with very little will also be dishonest with much.” Luke 16:10.

One way to be consistent is to daily ask oneself if I “walk the talk” and ask others if they see you as one who “walks the talk”. Am I an example of the vision and values of the organization? It is a trust buster to say one thing and do another. This also means being accountable for actions and being responsive to the needs of others.

Joe and Kay made it a priority to live out the values of their company. They demonstrated in a reliable, consistent manner what it meant to follow Jesus’ principles and the employees saw that they “walked the talk”. When we interviewed several employees (there are 65 in total) they all stated that they loved working at the for-profit ABC English School in Asia and most had come to be disciples of Jesus.

5. Address issues directly.

There is no substitute for resolving issues head on by listening to all members in the controversy and expanding people’s involvement in the resolution process. Trust and loyalty is built when the boss addresses complaints fast, listens to everyone, and asks for their input.

The same principle holds true for customers who will learn to trust the company if complaints are addressed, information is shared and they feel they are well cared for. If a mistake has been made, admit it and provide an apology and thus restore the trust needed for a good relationship. Leaders who admit mistakes when they are wrong are not seen as weak – they are seen as being trustworthy.

Dale has developed a credible coffee outlet in Nepal because his credibility is well developed and proven. He has studied business (MBA), has become accomplished in understanding and valuing the culture and is an expert in coffee roasting and retail. In areas where he was weaker, he hired people to help him. Dale has developed competence which is widely recognized.

6. Deliver the unexpected.

One of the best ways to deliver trust is to surprise and delight customers, clients and employees. Deliver more that was promised – more service, more time, more convenience. This adds value and trust; it creates a feeling of goodwill and attracts people to the business and a sense of solidarity in the employees.

When I asked the employees of boat-builder Rob in Indonesia what they liked about working for Rob, they talked about the camping trips they did on nearby islands and how much they were appreciated. This unexpected employee “perk” created such good will that both retention and productivity increased but perhaps more importantly, it created opportunity for significant conversations about life issues.

Larry Sharp, Director of Training, IBEC Ventures

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A crisis of trust – guidelines for BAM owners (Part 1)

Saturday, July 23, 2016

“To be trusted is a greater compliment than being loved.” – George MacDonald

In early 2016 I picked up a copy of the The Economist, entitled “The World in 2016”. An article on page 90 intrigued me entitled, “A Crisis of Trust” by Richard Eldelman.1 Mr. Edelman maintains that “trust – or, often, the lack of it – is one of the central issues of our time”. He may be right.

The Edelman Trust Barometer has been tracking trust issues for fifteen years, particularly between countries in the categories of government, business, technology, media, and NGOs. Technology is the most trusted sector and government is the least trusted institution worldwide. While trust in business is recovering, trust in CEOs has declined by ten points since 2011.

A recent Maritz poll2 indicates that only seven percent of workers strongly agree that they trust their senior leaders to look out for their best interest. John Blanchard’s research demonstrates that 59% of respondents indicated they had left an organization due to trust issues, citing lack of communication and dishonesty as key contributing factors.3 Clearly everywhere and in every sector, trust is at a tipping point.

All of this got me thinking about missional business startups. Certainly trust is fragile – in all aspects of life, and also in business. It is imperative for clients, customers, employees and team members to trust the owner because it is often easier to mistrust than to trust. What can a business owner do to develop high levels of trust?

The simplest understanding of trust is that it centers in competence and character. If owners and managers are competent in their knowledge, practice, and in getting things done; and they are persons of integrity, reliability and promise, they are probably a person of trust.

Perhaps the following concrete actions will go a long way to building trust in the business environment.

1. Tell the truth and live with integrity

Study after study has indicated that the number one quality that people want in a leader is integrity. Business leaders need to tell it straight, be open and honest inside and outside the company. The Biblical Decalogue (The Ten Commandments) makes it clear that we are not be bear false witness. Zechariah states in 8:16, "These are the things that you shall do: Speak the truth to one another; render in your gates judgments that are true and make for peace."

People need to be treated appropriately and justly and management’s actions must be consistent with the values of the company so that employees and all others can see that they can rely on the leader.

We live in a time where moral standards are being eroded, even among good Christian people. It is mandatory that our character is built upon a foundation of integrity and a commitment to spiritual development.

Sometimes this is difficult to do in a corrupt society where all around we see dishonesty, deceit and corruption. We helped Jim buy a small factory in Indonesia. One of the consultants went with him to the tax office where they revealed that they wanted to discuss ahead of time what taxes might look like for certain levels of revenue. The tax authority had never heard of such a question and developed a respect for Jim from that day forward.

2. Demonstrate competence

Competence goes a long way toward producing credibility which is foundational to trust. Can you produce results? Can you get the job done because you have the skills to make things happen? Does your product go out the door with excellence? Competence involves the technical knowledge of what the product or service entails, the operational capacity to practically get it done, and the political understanding to accomplish things in the context of the culture, organizational politics and local political milieu.

Sometimes competence is simply a formidable expertise, but sometimes it may require you to say, “I don’t know”. That demonstrates knowledge of what you do not know and allows trust to develop as you recommend another source for the client.

Dale has developed a credible coffee outlet in Nepal because his credibility is well developed and proven. He has studied business (MBA), has become accomplished in understanding and valuing the culture and is an expert in coffee roasting and retail. In areas where he was weaker, he hired people to help him. Dale has developed competence which is widely recognized.

3. Value people by showing that you care about them

People will trust you if you value them, get to know them by identifying their needs and seek to empower them in the workplace. This includes having good communication skills and showing that you are human by being open with your life. The leader then is seen as a “real” person.

One of the best ways to build trust is by sharing information so as to allow them into the inner workings of the business as much as possible. Discussion of important marketing topics, future business plans and strategies, financial data, performance feedback, current problems – all communicates trust and a sense that “we are in this together”. By giving a sense of identity to everyone, trust develops, productivity increases, morale develops, and teamwork solidifies.

The Second Commandment of Jesus mandates love as important in relationships with others. In fact Jesus said that love for God and our neighbor are the two most important things (Mark 12:31). That includes learning to listen more effectively, using names in conversation and telling people what you appreciate about them. One of the ways I found to demonstrate this was to be accessible, allowing people to come to my office just about any time.

People are valued when you respect their time. Start meetings on time, promptly return phone calls and reply to emails. Thoroughly address all points raise in communiques. Provide feedback regularly.

What does this look like in a cross-cultural startup? For Bill it simply meant that he learned to ask about the families of the employees. That simple act of love and care caused him to be called the “best boss in all of China” by one of his foremen.

Come back next week for three more actions you can take to build trust in your environment.

1. Edelman, Richard. "A Crisis of Trust." The Economist. March 13, 2016. Page 90.
2. Managing in an Era of Mistrust: Maritz Poll Reveals Employees Lack Trust in their Workplace. Available online at: www.maritz.com/Press-Releases/2010Maritz-Poll

Larry Sharp, Director of Training, IBEC Ventures

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The desire to make a difference

Sunday, July 17, 2016

I had just landed in Africa the night before, and although I had gone nearly 24 hours without sleep, I felt alive as we began our first day just outside the city of Nairobi. The energy level I felt as I got up and looked across the mist rising above the grassy plains seemed to inject my body with an adrenaline level that could only be explained by God's sovereign grace and His desire to expose me to a world I had never seen before.As our jeep bounced along the dirt roads outside the city, the beauty of Africa was something I cannot even begin to explain.

I was there for a reason

We made our way through numerous villages that led to our final destination, each of them resembling a lifestyle that made me feel guilty for what I had left back in the states. Small, dilapidated shacks were scattered along the roadside, as children played in front of these structures they called "home". None of us in the jeep said a whole lot as we made our way to our journey's end, but I believe we were all thinking the same thing. How could these children be so happy when they had nothing like what we had grown accustomed to? Something in their smiles reminded me that Jesus was alive, and that His expectation of me on this day was to spread His Word through the gifts He had given me. I was there for a reason...

After about 30 minutes along the last winding road, we made our way to the final destination. I was part of a team that would focus on helping our partners create a sustainable business, with a desire to ultimately spread the Word of Jesus Christ through the creation of jobs.

Over the next several hours, I became connected with the family and this amazing ministry. Their joy resonated throughout the village, and their desire to learn from us was truly a breath of fresh air. Together, we began to focus on a plan that they have subsequently implemented...and they are doing an amazing job!

From the time I met with them, I felt like I was an extension of their ministry and not an "outsider" riding in on a white horse trying to fix things. Similar to our other ministry partners, I had an incredible passion to want to help them and somehow give back.

Business as Mission had hooked me

It didn't take long for me to realize that in the end, I was the one who was being blessed. Business as Mission had hooked me because I saw firsthand the impact it can have for God's Kingdom. Needless to say, my passion to help our ministry partners was stronger than ever before...it was the least I could do.

I believe God has given each of us individual gifts that we must use for His Kingdom, and that His expectation is for us to integrate our faith into everything we do. What a privilege it is to be serving Him this way. The best way I can explain my role in Business as Mission is it represents a way for me to somehow give back. Providing hope and encouragement for those less fortunate is our mission. By representing Jesus through our actions, and not just our words, I have no doubt in my mind that others will follow. To build His Kingdom...this is why we do what we do.

Bob Bush, Managing Director, IBEC Ventures

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BAM startup team essentials

Monday, July 11, 2016

“Coming together is a beginning. Keeping together is progress. Working together is success.” - Henry Ford

Well known Italian entrepreneur, Ernesto Sirolli, stated in a TED Talk that nothing is ever built by just one person. God has never created anyone who can “…make it, sell it, and keep track of the money.” His point is that it takes a team!

I try to make a habit of looking for models in real life and this was illustrated recently when staying with my wife in the hospital while she was recovering from a hip replacement surgery. People came in and out of the room – each with their unique role and purpose.

I expected the primary surgeon, and a nurse or two; but the team caring for my wife included an RN, an LPN, a Physicians’ Assistant, a Physical Therapist, Occupational Therapist, a case manager, a clinical supervisor, housekeeping, two food service people, a chaplain … and I then lost count. Each regularly rotated in and out of the room; each with a job to do – all focused on the well-being of the patient – my dear wife.

The experience made me reflect on how a business develops from a problem to be solved or a customer to be served. Lean startup gurus Marc Nager, Clint Nelson, and Franck Nouyrigat suggest that while ideas are important, TEAM is essential.1 So what does that mean for Business as Mission (BAM) startups or for businesses attempting to scale?

What does a team look like?

A growing body of research supports the idea that investors prefer to invest in teams. History reminds us that even the “greats” such as ark Zuckerberg, Bill Gates, and Phil Knight did not accomplish greatness alone.

A team provides the diverse capabilities and social networks important to critical customers, resources and talent, and eventual buyers for the company. The relevant components of any discussion on teams are much more complex than what one simple blog can explore. But for starters let’s look at who should be on the BAM startup team.

Team builders face many difficult questions such as: should I have a highly diverse team very different from me, or a team that is more like me in values and skills? Should I bring on people I know so that I start with high levels of trust?

9 guidelines for a BAM startup team

No founding team is perfect, but recent literature2 suggests some general guidelines:

1. Common vision: The lead entrepreneur and the team must share the same vision for the venture.

2. Common passion: Team members must be passionate about the business concept and work as hard as the lead entrepreneur to help make it happen.

3. Industry experience: At least one of the team members must have experience in the industry in which the venture is being launched.

4. Concept testing and contacts: There must be significant research and testing of the concept and then solid industry contacts.

5. Access to capital: Research and consulting help must surface appropriate sources of capital, backed up by a good credit rating for the team members.

6. Functional expertise: The team’s expertise must at least cover key functional areas such as operations, management, finance, marketing, product understanding.

7. Long haul fortitude: The team must have the time to spend on the demands of the startup and be able to endure the financial constraints of a typical startup.

I would also add these two in light of the additional demands on a BAM startup:

8. Culture and language: Many of the team members must have understanding and appreciation of the culture and language of the host nation.

9. Missional focus: All team members must understand, support and promote the missional component of an integrated enterprise.

As I review the various projects I have observed over the years, I think that many BAM endeavors lack one or more of these. I wonder whether the lack of one or more of these will result in certain failure. I wonder why most businesses do not have all nine of these items and what will it take to improve the startup preparation for BAM teams.

1 Nager, Marc; Nelson, Clint; and Nouyrigat, Franck. Startup Weekend. 2012. Page 126.

2 Allen, Kathleen R.  Launching New Ventures – An Entrepreneurial Approach. Cengage Learning, Boston: 2016. Page 176.

Larry Sharp, Director of Training, IBEC Ventures

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7 ways to know a BAMer (and a cowboy) is for real

Monday, July 04, 2016

In early June each year the rodeo season in Oregon kicks off with the Sisters Rodeo. Four hundred cowboys drive into town with their horse trailers and teammates and compete for the prize money of champion calf roping, steer wrestling, bronco riding, bull riding and similar high risk activities.

And many would-be cowboys also ride into town in high priced motor homes, or luxury vehicles parked at 4-star hotels. These also walk around with classy cowboy boots, buckles and cool hats. How does one know the real cowboy from these dudes strolling down main street looking for a place for a $40 steak?

I was a cowboy for a weekend – twice! I guess I am a slow learner because I did not pass the test – the test of a real cowboy. Sure I can ride a horse and stay on one without fear but it is so much more. I grew up loving the old cowboy songs like, El Paso, Ghost Riders in the Sky, Amarillo by Morning, and Cool Water. But that never made me a cowboy.

What marks a real cowboy?

What is a real cowboy? Is it the hat? Is it the boots and wranglers? Is it the Skol stuffed into the lower jaw? Maybe it is the horse or the chaps or the rope? Maybe the saddle, the spurs or the horse trailer?

No, the test of a real cowboy is on the ranch of real-life activities or in the arena in front of 8,000 people living up to the expectations of the ride, or the rope. The key questions are: can he stay on any animal, no matter how wild? Can he use a rope to bring in a ‘dogie’? Can he mark a horse out of the chute? And can he wrestle a half ton steer to the ground? Can he actually do it? He is a real cowboy because he can do those things.

What marks a real BAMer?

What about Business as Mission (BAM)? ‘BAMer’ is a term often used to describe a person operating a Kingdom business in another country in another culture and language. What can he or she do? What are the behaviors and actions and activities which indicate this person might be for real?

A BAMer is a person with the requisite Competence, Character, Commitment and Charisma1 (these are topics for another article), but what then are the activities they demonstrate? What can they do?

1. Spirituality: A BAMer has a robust theology of work with an understanding that marketplace activity is worship; their business is ministry no less than any other ministry. He demonstrates this in his walk with God both in private and at work. He has a vital devotional life of study of the Word and in prayer. He treats business activity as a spiritual activity.

Kirk Parette, manager of Barrington Gifts in Asia says “every day on the factory floor is an opportunity for discipleship”. On a daily basis he integrates a life of faith and following Jesus with the work of the business, and employees see that in everyday business and life.

2. Cultural understanding and appreciation: A BAMer respects culture and is a student of it for his lifetime.He is constantly growing in the language, listening for cultural nuances and loving people within the culture. He is continually curious and the nationals notice and value it. They have friends in both the national and expat community.

That is true for Rob and his family in Indonesia. They work hard at speaking the language well, respect the culture and the employees “love working for Rob” because he values them, does things with them outside of work hours, and treats them fairly.

3. GRIT: GRIT is - Guts, Resilience, Initiative, Tenacity. He does not give up and works hard to accomplish the vision and realize the potential of his God-given wiring and the opportunities of the business.

That has certainly been true of Lee who started a business in a former Soviet republic and before long his partner had stolen his assets and left him penniless. I called him and asked him what he was going to do now. He readily responded by saying, “I have gone down the street and have opened a new office and started over.” Lee had grit.

4. Team orientation: A BAMer realizes that no person can do everything herself. As entrepreneur Ernesto Sirolli affirms, “this world has never seen a person who can make it, sell it, and keep track of the money”. A good entrepreneur understands this. And good BAMers understand this and develop team members who have the varied skills of production, management, marketing, accounting, financial management etc.

Britanny understood that as she and others started Baku Roasting Company. She brought coffee production skills to the table but she surrounded herself with capital developers, managers, operational people, marketers, HR experts, an accountant and legal advice. The result – two stores in that city totally independent and sustainable.

5. Tolerance for risk: Risk is a quality of entrepreneurs, but business developers also are generally not risk averse. There are so many uncertainties to living and working in corrupt and politically unstable countries that a high tolerance of risk is mandatory. This is so true for a Jesus-follower since religious intolerance is a concern worldwide. So much of risk management is to mitigate it, but sometimes one needs to realize that to “carry our cross” is a daily necessity.

For Dave and Susie in the Balkans, a tolerance for risk became mandatory when they experienced political, religious and economic conditions destroy their first agribusiness. They continued on, learning tolerance for the cultural, economic and political irregularities and making friends with local Muslim religious and political leaders in the city.

6. Servant Leadership skills: First and foremost a BAM leader is a servant as modeled by Jesus. While serving others, the leader respects the management skills, financial expertise and production abilities of all team members. He is there to help employees and team members develop, grow and serve. The org chart has the servant leader at the bottom, serving all others to the “greater glory of God.”

That is certainly true of Bill who was called by an employee, “the best boss in all of China” simply because he cared for her family, and loved them as a servant.

7. Long haul mentality: A BAMer knows that he or she must be a life-long learner, must stay until God makes it clear that it is time to depart. This is not a short-term assignment, but a commitment which can be demonstrated over enough time to see the results of the quadruple bottom line: profitability/sustainability; SME job creation; spiritual and social transformation; and stewardship of creation.

Ryan and Jana started ABC English School and stayed long enough to see a profitable business emerge, job creation for 65 employees and lives transformed as they became disciples of Jesus. Without that long-term commitment, it is doubtful that success would have followed them.

These are just some of the things which show the world that a BAMer is for real. He or she is doing these things. They demonstrate spirituality, the value of culture and servant leadership. Everyone can see their grit and tolerance for risk and that they are in it for the long haul. They show a team orientation. Such a BAMer is a real cowboy – a real BAMer!

1 Charisma is defined by Peter Shaukat to mean the “stirring up” of God-given gifts.

Larry Sharp, Director of Training, IBEC Ventures

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IBEC Ventures -- Consultants for BAM/Business as Mission