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Part 1: To bribe or not to bribe?

Monday, February 23, 2015

To pay a bribe or not to pay a bribe? Is that really a question? Today I will expand on an important issue that I began in my February 1, 2015 blog, Ethics and integrity in cross cultural business. In it I referred to a rather lengthy document on the subject of ethics and integrity in cross cultural business.  

This is now the first blog on the issue of paying of bribes.  Many people would like to make this a rather simple question with a simple answer; however we need to be “wise as serpents and as harmless as doves.”  It is not always simple and oftentimes we need to understand the culture and learn new and creative ways to accomplish the desired end goal without violating any of these principles.

What is a bribe?

Some definitions are general and simplistic such as “…something valuable (such as money) that is given in order to get someone to do something.” (Merriam-Webster Dictionary's definition of bribe.) John Noonan, a former federal judge,  defines a bribe as “an inducement improperly influencing the performance of a public function meant to be gratuitously exercised.” (A History of Bribery).  The legal dictionary sponsored and hosted by the Legal Information Institute at the Cornell Law School, defines it as “corrupt solicitation, acceptance, or transfer of value in exchange for official action.” (Wex legal dictionary definition of bribery.)

Consider a “starter kit” of important questions to ask

The questions below rely on the Noonan definition which demands an understanding of what is proper and thus “improper”.  You can study this more thoroughly in Noonan’s writings but the following questions will help us as business owners to determine the propriety of our proposed action.
  1. Will the decision negatively impact my testimony and the Gospel?  What we believe, say and do must be consistent and correlated.
  2. Will the decision violate the moral authority and principles of the Bible? Biblical morality is rooted in the holiness, justice and love of God.
  3. Will the decision violate a law?  In “rule of law” societies the law is the moral floor, providing minimal standards.  US laws such as the FCPA must be carefully studied.
  4. Could I proudly tell anyone about the decision? We must have nothing to hide and we must feel comfortable in case the decision is broadcast in the media.
  5. Can I put this decision to the same rigor as a financial analysis or auditing standards?  Consider writing down your ethical standards and use them in a regular monitoring of them.
The answers to these questions are discovered in the context of: 
  • Biblical culture and the law of God.
  • Our own culture and its laws and norms.
  • The host culture where we are doing business.
The Business as Mission and its BAM Review and The BAM Think Tank are excellent Business As Mission resource websites which contain numerous illustrations and guidelines from business leaders in the BAM sector. Here are several articles related to today's topic that you may find useful:

Come back next week for Part 2 of To bribe or not to bribe? I will focus even more specifically on bribery and provide even more questions to ask ourselves.

Larry W. Sharp, Director of Training, IBEC Ventures

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Don’t give up!

Monday, February 16, 2015

In recent months I have been in on several conversations with the owners of overseas kingdom business start ups who were discouraged – who were ready to give up.  It is not easy to know if they need encouragement, or if they need a key resource they currently lack, or if they legitimately need to ‘pivot’ and head in a new direction.  

We all know that hurdles or stumbling stones along the way can be stepping stones to success. The discouraging obstacles we encounter can actually bring out innovation, resolve and creativity.

Marketing consultant Andrew Lock acknowledges that often life doesn't go in the direction we wish it would, whether it be in our family life, personal ambitions, or business development.  But we are not doomed; most people have failures along the way and success can be just around the corner.  Lock reminds us of:
  • Walt Disney who was fired by a newspaper editor because “he lacked imagination and had no good ideas.”  He went bankrupt several times before he built Disneyland.  The proposed park was initially rejected by the city of Anaheim on the grounds it would only attract “riffraff”.
  • Thomas Edison’s teachers said he was “too stupid to learn anything” and he was fired from his first two jobs for being “nonproductive”.  Commenting on his more than 1,000 unsuccessful attempts to invent the light bulb he said he didn’t fail all those times because those were important steps to success.
  • Albert Einstein did not speak until he was 4 years old and did not read until he was 7.  His parents thought he was “subnormal” and a teacher described him as “mentally slow, unsociable and adrift in foolish dreams.”  He was expelled from school.
  • The Beatles were turned down by Decca Records with this evaluation, “We don’t like their sound.  Guitar groups are on their way out.”
  • Fred Astaire’s memo after his first screen test read, “Can’t act, Can’t sing. Slightly bald. Can dance a little.”
  • Winston Churchill, when it seemed Hitler would overcome England, delivered his famous “Never give up” speech and included, "The pessimist sees the problems in every opportunity. Whereas the optimist sees the opportunity in every problem."
  • Bill Job at Meixia Company (Xiamen, China), told me that many times he wondered if he would ever make it as a Kingdom business. But now years later, the Wall Street Journal credits him as a “pioneer business spirit and innovative artist” and now there is a multi-million dollar business.  Check out Bill's story at: http://www.amoymagic.com/meixia/meixia.htm.
Imagine if these people and others like them had given up. They all had times of depression and despair, but they continued on.

God's Holy Word reminds us that life is not always easy, but we can always turn to Him for strength, wisdom and guidance:
  • For I know the plans I have for you, declares the Lord, plans to prosper you and not to harm you, to give you a future and a hope. (Jeremiah 29:11)
  • And let us not grow weary of doing good, for in due season we will reap, if we do not give up. (Galatians 6:9)
  • As for you, brothers, do not grow weary in doing good.  (II Thessalonians 3:13)
  • We do not lose heart...inwardly we are being renewed day by day. (II Corinthians 4:1, 16)

Larry W. Sharp, Director of Training, IBEC Ventures

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God and Guinness?

Monday, February 09, 2015

I enjoy reading the blogs of Paul Sohn, and the following can be found in its entirety in his blog, God and Guinness: The Missional Drink that Changed the World. I am quoting most of Sohn’s thoughts here with some modifications, not as an advocate of the Guinness drink, but as an example of what businesses can do to change the world around them. 


To many, this juxtaposition may appear sacrilegious, if not rightfully awkward. But only those who know the story behind the Guinness family can fully appreciate the connection between the two; that is, how the national drink of Ireland became arguably the greatest instrument for propagating the Gospel.

Here are some interesting tidbits I gleaned in my study of the Guinness family:
  • The trademark thick foam head of Guinness is the result of the presence of nitrogen. This is why one should drink Guinness from a glass and not the can or bottle.
  • Hendry Grattan Guinness, the grandson of Arthur Guinness, was a contemporary evangelist whose name was often mentioned alongside the likes of D.L.  Moody and Charles Spurgeon. His son married Hudson Taylor’s daughter.
  • Today, nearly 10 million glasses of Guinness are consumed daily, nearly 2 billion pints a year.
  • Arthur Guinness, the founder of Guinness, founded the first Sunday school in Ireland.
  • In 2003, a researcher from University of Wisconsin concluded that a pint of Guinness a day actually bolsters health and is infinitely better for you than the caffeine in coffee or the high fructose corn syrup in soda.

Calling – Business as Mission

Arthur Guinness was a man of faith.  Born in 1724 into a family in which his father was an archbishop, he embodied the words that were his family motto: Spes mea in deo (My hope is in God). The famous revivalist John Wesley inspired Arthur greatly and fueled him to use his God-given talents in entrepreneurship as a vehicle to follow the footsteps of Jesus Christ. Arthur adopted Wesley’s well-known mantra as a foundation to his perspective on life and wealth: “Make all you can, save all you can, and give all you can.” 

Thirty years before Arthur’s birth, the British parliament enacted legislation forbidding the importation of liquor (an anti-French brandy and wine campaign fueled by political and religious conflicts with France) and encouraging the production and consumption of Irish and English made gin. Gin houses sprang up throughout Ireland and England to the point that every sixth house in England was a gin house! Gin and whiskey became the primary beverage for an overwhelmingly large number of people thanks also to the micro-organism and disease ridden water supply of the day. This led to excessive drunkenness resulting in a poverty-ridden, crime-infested time. 

Arthur Guinness was infuriated with this drunkenness. He constantly prayed to God to do something with the alcoholism on the streets of Ireland. In fact, he felt God calling him to “make a drink that men will drink that will be good for them.” He then developed a dark stout beer called Guinness. Guinness contained so much iron that people felt full before they could drink more pints. During its creation, the alcohol level was lower than gin and whiskey.

Guinness truly was doing business as a mission instead of business for mission. With the preserving influence of the salt and penetrating influence of light, his life truly exemplified the Lord’s mandate to be the salt and light of the world.

The Legacy of Guinness

If the story of the Guinness story ended with a man of Arthur Guinness, it would be a fairly small footnote in pages of history. Many of Guinness’ accomplishments were done in his family by teaching values girded in his biblical faith and relationship with Jesus Christ. He created a family culture that focused on giving generously and investing in his people.

The grandson of Arthur Guinness named Hendry Grattan Guinness became a foremost evangelist spreading the Good News. Another descendant of Guinness received 5 million pounds sterling for a wedding gift, but then moved his new bride into the slums to utilize his resources to eradicate the poverty in the land.

Another Guinness heir became Lord Iveagh as a member of the House of Lords due to his philanthropic efforts. In his new role, he brought wholesale changes to the legal system. In that time, dueling on the streets was common. Like you see in the movies, people would turn around and shoot each other whenever there was conflict. Lord Iveagh pointed to biblical principles as the better approach: if you’ve got something against somebody, you need to talk to them; if they won’t change or refuse to listen, you will have a legal representation who will go to public court with a witness. This is how he embedded the biblical principles into the legal system.

Guinness – A Great Place to Work

If you think Google or Facebook has great perks, Guinness was one of them. “You cannot make money from people unless you are willing for people to make money from you.” This was a key belief subscribed to by the Guinness family. This starkly contrasts with the traditional thinking of todays’ corporations where employees are often treated as a disposable resource instead of a unique human being created by God.

Guinness’s investment in employees was impressive. If you had worked for Guinness in 1928, a year before the Great Depression, you would have had 24-hour medical care, 24-hour dental care and on-site massage therapy. In addition to this, your funeral expenses as well as your pension were all paid by the company. Your education, as well as your children’s and wife’s education, were all paid for. The company had libraries, reading rooms, athletic facilities and so on. Now, think again. This was 1928…not 2012.

The Guinness family was, by all accounts, a godly family and one the Lord used greatly in His service. What most fascinates me is not the novelty of utilizing beer as an instrument to spread the Good News but how a Christian businessman incorporated his faith so holistically in his business. Today, the world needs more people like Arthur Guinness.

Let me conclude this blog post with a departing question to you. What are you doing now that is giving glory to God?What tool are you using to maximize your God-given talent to advance the Christian mission? 

If this blog post piqued your interest, I highly recommended Stephen Mansfield’s book, The Search for God and Guinness. It is a fantastic read even for those like myself who don’t enjoy beer. Mansfield ends the book, capturing the essence of the Guinness Way:
  1. Discern the ways of God for life and business.
  2. Think in terms of generations yet to come.
  3. Whatever else you do, do at least one thing very well.
  4. Master the facts before you act.
  5. Invest in those you would have invest in you.

Larry W. Sharp, Director of Training, IBEC Ventures

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Ethics and integrity in cross cultural business

Sunday, February 01, 2015


“Be wise and give serious thought to the way you live.”  (King Solomon in Proverbs 23:19)

The football season is over for another year but not without its accusations of cheating, scandal and ethical challenges.  Such is true of all of life and especially in doing business internationally and cross culturally.

Doing business ethically between cultures is not as easy as it might sound.  For example, I often hear people say, “We don’t pay bribes,” but I often wonder what they mean by that.  While the Bible is clear on many principles of ethics, it sometimes seems blurry for some situations.  It’s a challenge to come up with guidelines that consider our Biblical standards, our own home culture, and the host culture of operation.

I’ll be exploring this topic in greater depth in the weeks ahead, but a good starting point for this discussion is an article I wrote and have used for many years in my teaching entitled, “Guidelines for Cross Cultural Business Ethics”.  It was recently republished on the BAM Review (The BAM Review) by The BAM Think Tank. 

Living and coaching ethically in any culture requires us to continually study the text, the culture and understand thoroughly our own context.  I’d encourage you to read this in its entirety but focus on the ‘starter kit’ section (A basic ‘starter kit’ of questions to consider when facing ethical decisions) and stay tuned for deeper drill downs in future blogs regarding making ethical decisions in our business development abroad:


Larry W. Sharp, Director of Training, IBEC Ventures

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Business as Mission: where social impact and profit...and much more...converge

Monday, January 26, 2015

Some people find it confusing to read about socially conscious business, social entrepreneurship or values-driven business. Isn't business just business – driven by profit margins acceptable to shareholders?  What’s all this talk of values, social impact and community development?

For the past decade or so it has become increasingly popular to talk about social purposes, meaning that some entrepreneurs have a motive beyond profitability.  They want to solve social problems and bring a positive return to society.  Big corporations sometimes address this through the concept of Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR); and business startups sometimes call themselves social entrepreneurs meaning they start businesses which inherently provide for maximum job growth in their area, or they hire the marginalized in the community, or they take gigantic steps to benefit the community by helping solve problems that exist in the community, or all of the above.  Some entrepreneurs are driven by a cause, like a software developer eager to provide a better way for people to connect.

Let’s take the oft-quoted proverb of going beyond giving a fish (aid, charity) to teaching people how to fish (self-support, development).  Social entrepreneurs also investigate and address issues of alienation and marginalization. They ask, “How can provide access to the fishing streams and ponds or to advanced fishing industry equipment controlled by interest groups and power brokers…breaking down barriers that hinder the poor from advancing?” They want to revolutionize the fishing industry.

Some might say, “That sounds good, but it mixes two extremes in ways that seem irreconcilable.”  A business is focused on profit and the Not-For-Profit or NGO is focused on social impact.  How can you do both together?

The idea of the Triple Bottom Line surfaced in 1994 when John Elkington coined the term in reference to equal attention to environmental, social and financial measures (or as some think of it – the 3 Ps – profits, planet and people).  People started to talk about sustainability in terms of protecting the planet, improving the individual and community conditions, while still making a profit.

Business as Mission (BAM) similarly seeks an eclectic integrated approach to our humanity, but acknowledges the spiritual component of our humanness, thus combining the temporal and the eternal; the individual and the corporate; God and humanity; the sacred and the secular.  The case could be made that BAM is the ultimate social enterprise because it creates jobs, improves the community, provides profit to investors and assures that employees, investors, customers, vendors, and the wider community learn of the God of the universe and of Jesus’ provision for the human condition.

So, BAM business owners are truly social entrepreneurs.  They know they must satisfy their investors, and those investors understand the wider social and spiritual purposes.  They believe in the goal of simultaneously seeking profit for themselves as well as spiritual and personal growth for society’s public benefit.

Such BAM businesses are driven by spiritual values and are sometimes called Kingdom businesses meaning that they are part of building the kingdom of God on earth, and pursuing the eternal kingdom of God for all who follow in Jesus’ ways. Hence we see on the IBEC website reference to values-based businesses, because in order to realize real social reconciliation, consciousness and purpose, one needs to base one’s life and business on eternal values – such as  faith, love, integrity, excellence, truth and purpose.  BAM businesses are all of this: socially conscious, values-driven, mission-driven, business for transformation – all of which bring the entrepreneur to incorporate everything that is important to God together in an integrated whole with the human condition.

How does this work?  For example in consulting with a business, it is important to pursue a business plan at some point; and also pursue a ministry plan (or social plan).  Both aspects need to be integrated, intentional and measurable.  

Here is how one client planned for spiritual and social value (in part). Dave decided to write a weekly proverb on the main office door of his East Asia office where all 25 employees came to work every day.  He wrote it there with no biblical reference.   For example he might write, “Let love and faithfulness never leave you; bind them about your neck…”  Sound good?  Everyone pretty much thought that sounded like a good thought but they had no idea of the source, until someone would be chosen to ask where it came from.  The low-key answer from Dave: “…oh that is from my Holy Book” – which led to conversations about Dave’s Holy Book and what it said.  After a few weeks they were asking to study more “good sayings” from Dave’s Holy Book.

I visited Dave’s manufacturing plant a few years ago and I asked several employees (through translation) what they liked about working for Dave.  Many things emerged:
  • I like that he pays us on time each Friday (something atypical of that region).
  • I like that he gives us severance if there are few contracts (not all that common).
  • I like that he honors our families and includes them in group activities.
  • I like that he cares about our kids when they are sick or in trouble.
  • I like that he teaches us new skills.
  • I like that he hires handicapped people from the community and gives them value and dignity.
  • I like that he invites us to go camping once a month, and listens to us talk about life around a campfire.
Dave is a social entrepreneur; he is a Business as Mission business owner (BAM); he works toward Business for Transformation (B4t).  He drives toward the Triple Bottom Line – profitability for his company, job creation and community value and spiritual formation.

Larry W. Sharp, Director of Training, IBEC Ventures

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"Football does not define me"

Monday, January 19, 2015

Marcus Mariota of the Oregon Ducks football team has been much in the sports news the past two months.  Last month he won the 2014 Heisman Trophy in a landslide and on January 12 he led the Ducks in the national championship game.  There is no question he is a talented record-breaking all-star quarterback.  But is there more?

Mr. Mariota is not accustomed to losing and the embarrassing loss to the Ohio State Buckeyes on January 12 was only the 5th loss in 41 starts of his college career.  FSA magazine quotes him “…losing – especially here at Oregon is tough.  We have high expectations as a program to go and win…”1 But on the biggest stage of college football, this champion of a guy did not win.

Mariota went on in the interview to say that he has learned a lot about himself through college sports, “Coach has helped me learn that football doesn’t define me.  It is just what I do.  That was a huge life lesson for me.  I really took that and ran with it.  My faith is what keeps me going and I can always grow in that.1

“Football does not define me!”  Elsewhere Mariota says that glorifying God with his abilities is the most important thing – that is what defines him.

If business does not define us and it is ‘what we do’ as Mariota suggests, how then are we defined?  For Mariota it is to “shine our light” and use the abilities that God has blessed him with.

God has blessed business people with abilities to start and/or operate businesses.  That is special!  That is important!  But that does not define us.  What defines us is the complete package – character as foundational to competency. 

Perhaps central to character is our integrity.  “The word integrity evolved from the Latin adjective integer, meaning whole or complete.2 In this context, integrity is the inner sense of "wholeness" deriving from qualities such as honesty and consistency of character. As such, one may judge that others "have integrity" to the extent that they act according to the values, beliefs and principles they claim to hold.”2

While running a business overseas for the glory of God or in providing consulting and coaching expertise, the issue of integrity surfaces in various ways.

  • Am I foundationally and “completely” and wholly who I say I am?  For example, if I am a tour company, am I really doing that to the approved standards?
  • Is my life and business integrated so I live the same way at home as I do in business?
  • Do I give full time to the business, or is it just a hobby?
  • Do I have a valid professional identity which makes sense to all levels of society?
  • Do I recognize that I cannot do it myself and I do not pretend to do so?
  • Do I intentionally integrate my life and family into the community where I live?
  • Do I bring my experiences, talents and training into an integrated whole so they make sense in the business, or have I been trained for something else altogether and am faking it?

For these and other questions – we must ask ourselves what defines us.  Whether we are a business owner, a consultant or an investor these are important questions as applied to a Triple Bottom Line business overseas. We do well to ask ourselves questions of integrity and wholeness and continually drive toward a complete integrous representation of who we are.  

Mariota will survive the embarrassing national championship loss because “football doesn’t define him” – his integrous faith does.  So too it is for us in the hard times of our business life!


Photo credit: isportsweb (http://isportsweb.com/2014/11/20/oregon-football-marcus-mariotas-heisman-chances/)

1  http://www.fca.org/2015/01/12/in-his-own-words-marcus-mariota/#.VLV1mnsYO7A
 2 "integrity". The American Heritage Dictionary of the English Language (4th edition ed.). El- shaddai ØØØ. 2000. Retrieved 2009-05-13. ... from integer, whole, complete

Larry W. Sharp, Director of Training, IBEC Ventures

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Top reasons startups fail

Monday, January 12, 2015
I am always intrigued with titles like this one I saw recently: The Top 20 Reasons Startups Fail.  Why would I not be interested? We are in the startup business; and I don’t like failure; and it is the start of a new year!

The study analyzed more than 101 startup post mortems for reasons for their failure. Before looking at the full study and the graph, think about the top three; quoted here from their blog.

No Market Need – 42%
Run out of Cash – 29%
Not right team – 23%

1. No market need

If there is no demand or you do not know how to create demand, then no amount engineering talent will solve this. Selling demand to something that does not exist yet (selling faith while knowing you can deliver) is a skill in itself.

2. Ran out of cash

This can happen in three ways:

You didn't raise enough cash to begin with;
The results didn't happen before you ran out of cash; or
You scaled prematurely. 

The whole point of the bootstrapping phase is to test and gain clarity in a new unknown area, while keeping expenses as low as possible so you can still be in the game when you can execute the clarity you gained. You don't want to run out of cash before you can fully execute what you have learned in the startup phase.

3. Not the right team

There is nothing worse than working with the wrong people. It is a horrible way to spend your time. Note that you CAN'T change people. You may be able to train them +/- 5 to 10% in either direction but you can't fundamentally change a person. Getting the people that naturally exhibit the personality traits for the success in the role is the only way to create a great team. These sorts of teams create 1000% returns with a lot less effort. In these sorts of teams, people want to work together and enjoy each other's company.

While we may not concur with all points made on this site, the full graph here and other comments are great food for thought.



As I look back over the business clients IBEC has had in the past eight years and especially those that did not make it or are currently struggling, I see some of these top three but also some of the other factors such as: lack of a business model, loss of focus, legal challenges, failure to pivot, and disharmony among ownership.

It would be a good strategy in early 2015 for IBEC consultants, coaches, business owners and investors to think about these 20 reasons and ask the hard question: is the business struggling or potentially failing because of one or more of these reasons?

As for IBEC itself, one of our challenges is to continually ask the question: is there a market need for our services?  Are we ahead of the times?  What price point will the market withstand?  What marketing strategy will best match supply with demand?  How does one develop faith in the consulting product?  What does it mean to create value first?  

These and other related questions are the subject of an IBEC study in the coming weeks which we are doing in partnership with others.  It is our attempt to understand and act upon “market need.”  As a reader, please know we are open to any suggestions, comments or questions.

Larry W. Sharp, Director of Training, IBEC Ventures

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Five key elements of our purpose to keep in mind in 2015

Monday, January 05, 2015

IBEC’s purpose is to help build sustainable businesses through consultative expertise that changes lives and transforms communities.

  1. We help build!  IBEC leadership and consultants are committed to partnering to get the job done. We want to work together in collaboration with other individuals and organizations – and we do.  We help – we do not do it alone!   We highlight partnering on our website.  We highlight it in reference to our 360 degrees of success together with colleagues, customers, employees, families, investors, owners and many others (Values Based Businesses Deliver 360° of Success). We are in the consulting business together with others.  With you!  And it is all about growth and development – we are building for the future.

  2. Sustainable business is the end in view.  We have an exit strategy and train our clients in what the end should look like.  We don’t want anyone to be dependent on us but we are committed to sustainability, independence and interdependence.  The companies we coach in more than 20 countries are striving toward the bottom lines of profitability and sustainability; job creation for more and more people; and to the creation of spiritual capital; and good stewardship of creation’s resources.
  3. Consultative expertise is our core product.  The coaches, consultants, subject matter experts, investors, donors and leaders who have joined us are committed to using their experience, expertise and education for the good of others – to help others’ businesses to grow and make a difference in their world.  Consultative expertise is what we are all about and we aim to grow that in 2015.  We thank God for the involvement of top level executives, experienced managers, engineers, marketing executives, bankers, business owners, MBA's, attorneys, IT experts, accountants, and the list goes on.

  4. Expertise that changes lives.  Lives change when people have dignity.  Having a job brings dignity and self-worth.   Lives change when they come to know the God of the universe and they see purpose for their lives.  Lives change when they rise above poverty; learn to fight injustice and learn to thank God for their empowerment.  IBEC loves to see that happen!

  5. Expertise that transforms communities.  It doesn't stop with a successful business or a changed life.  Individuals grow into a community that is transformed – the collective whole of individuals who are changing their world.  We still look forward to the individuals who are changed by having a job, hearing about Jesus and experiencing liberation and dignity while developing into a community changing transformation.  We keep working to that end.
We step into this new year with great expectancy and ask you to consider how you might get engaged with IBEC in 2015...as an entrepreneur, as a consultant, as an investor, as an advocate or as a donor. Visit our website for more information or contact us to find out more about ways you can join us in this life changing venture.   

Larry W. Sharp, Director of Training, IBEC Ventures

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What’s your TBO ('The Big Opportunity') for 2015?

Monday, December 29, 2014


“How you see your future is much more important than how you see your past.” Zig Ziglar

“Do not follow where the path may lead.  Go instead where there is no path and leave a trail.” Ralph Waldo Emerson

This is the time of year when one hears comments like, “I can’t believe another year has gone by!” or, “Have you made your New Year’s Resolutions yet?” or, “My, how time flies!” or, “Wow, has this year ever flown by!” or, “Is it 2015 already?” or, “Time is just moving too fast!”

Prolific author, management guru and Harvard professor John P. Kotter is cognizant of the rapidity of the speed of change in our ever-changing world. His 2014 book Accelerate (XLR8): Building Strategic Agility for a Faster-Moving World provides some helpful insights as we peer into the new year with our businesses.

The book proposes that each company needs to balance the system of the traditional hierarchy with a new system built for an environment where change has become the norm.  This new system is more agile and network-like but is determined to operate in concert with the hierarchy in a “dual operating system.”  In other words, within our bureaucracy, we need to liberate certain people to operate free of bureaucratic layers.  While some in the company need to focus on management, reliability, quality and efficiency, others must be nimble, swift, and creative, ready to grab opportunities.

While Kotter reviews his well-known differentiation between management and leadership and also his 8-stage process of change (which he calls here the “Eight Accelerators of Action”), one item that caught my attention was the idea of the big opportunity (or "TBO").  In contrast to vision statements, a TBO is a window into a winning future that is realistic, emotionally compelling, and memorable.  Such an opportunity begets a change vision which begets strategic initiatives.  

A TBO is a product of change in an organization’s environment (such as new markets, new advances in technology, or new demands being placed on an enterprise by competition or turmoil), changes inside the organization (such as new products or new people), or both.” 1

What might be the TBO(s) for IBEC in 2015?  Stay tuned for an upcoming blog theme…but they must, according to Kotter, “…be rational (why us, why now, why…), emotionally compelling (a sincere, positive, authentic appeal to the heart) and memorable (clear, short, no jargon).

Here is an example of a TBO for IBEC in 2015:

We may have the opportunity and resources over the next year to create a series of compelling BAM Talks by experts in the Business as Mission world.  This will lay a bedrock foundation for internet viewers to learn what BAM is and why it is important for all of us, and also hear stories of BAM at work.  It is exciting to see so much interest in Business as Mission, but it is important to provide a consistent foundation and real-life stories as we face the challenges of the early 21st century.  We cannot miss this opportunity or we would fail the church in America, and business people who are trying to follow Jesus with their professional capacity.


“Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead,
I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me…” 
(Paul of Tarsus)

1 John Kotter, Accelerate – Building Strategic Agility for a Faster Moving World, Harvard Business Review Press, Boston, 2014, p. 133.

Larry W. Sharp, Director of Training, IBEC Ventures


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A kingdom-minded business perspective on Christmas

Monday, December 22, 2014


There are many ways to say “Merry Christmas” or to give a Christmas greeting in the languages of the world.  The greetings above represent “Merry Christmas” in most of the languages served by IBEC consultants.  Despite cultural and linguistic differences there is one commonality – the Christ of Christmas! 

The continuity of Christ – from beginning to end– gives us a kingdom-minded business perspective on Christmas. We see that Jesus was "in the beginning" and "His kingdom will never end."

The Great Creation Mandate
In the beginning God took man and put him the garden to work it and take care of it  (Genesis 2:15) and he said to him, “…be fruitful and increase in number, fill the earth and subdue it…rule over every living creature…”  (Genesis 1:28). Jesus was there.

The Great Commandment
“Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind…love your neighbor as yourself” (Luke 10:27). Jesus spoke it.

The Great Commission
“…Go and make disciples of all nations…” (Matthew 28:19). Jesus commanded it.

The Great Throne Finale
“…there before me was a great multitude that no one could count, from every nation, tribe, people and language…” (Revelation 7:9).  Jesus will be there.

Many times in business planning we are encouraged to ask ourselves what the end might look like.  If the beginning started out with God at work and man invited to work also…and if Jesus invited us to love our neighbor and for much of the world that looks like the dignity of a good job…and if the Jesus of Christmas desires all peoples to worship him and follow him…then the end might look like this:

“Who will not fear you, O Lord, and bring glory to your name?  All nations will come and worship before you…” (Revelation 15:4).

Larry W. Sharp, Director of Training, IBEC Ventures

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