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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, " 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),

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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An immigrant alien reflects on governments

Sunday, November 27, 2016

I have lived outside my country of citizenship for most all of my adult life. I have been an alien; an immigrant! Nearly thirty of those years have been in the United States, where I now work, pay taxes and live peaceably with my American wife trying to serve the spiritually unreached and economically disadvantaged of the world. I have tried to remain low-key in political conversations this year but I have a profound love for this grand “American experiment” in democracy.

The Founding Fathers established some principles in the preamble of the Constitution and while these architects of the democracy were not all Christians, the principles are very biblical in their nature. Since man is created in the image of God (Genesis 1:26-27) ethics is rooted in the character of God (holiness – Hebrews 12:14; justice – Deuteronomy 16:20; and love – 1 Corinthians 13:13).

However, sometimes it is considered “cool” to complain about America as if the country were “going down the tubes” and losing what it has gained in its more than 200 years. While that may be valid for some pundits, as I travel the world I remain immensely grateful for the founding principles which still underlie this country. Take a look at them in relation to many other places:

To establish justice and fairness for all residents. Many other countries discriminate against Christians and against business development. Such injustices are biased against Christian people such as what happened to small business owner Rob, who was told to get off his leased land where he was creating jobs for 30 people, building boats in Indonesia. Another case is Jeff who returned from Nepal last week. The tariff on raw materials needed for his small BAM startup employing women of the street was assessed a 500% duty which drove down margins to intolerable levels. So much for justice in some places.

To ensure domestic tranquility. A team of Kingdom engineers and business people had government contracts to help build an alternative energy industry in one of the poorest countries in the Middle East. One of them was targeted by extremists and shot dead in his vehicle. The turmoil in this country would make a night in the most restless city in America seem like a Sunday picnic. So much for domestic tranquility in this and many other similar countries.

To provide for a common defense. The defense system in the US is based on a democratic government model with the elected President as Commander in Chief. This month we have another clear example of “peaceful transition of power”, something modeled in the transition from George Washington to John Adams. All of this is defensible with a military system united with agreed-upon commonalities. No one need wonder what comes next and how we can defend ourselves in case of crisis; unlike small former Soviet republics like Azerbaijan, where we have served kingdom businesses.

To promote the general welfare. IBEC helped a project in Haiti which was attempting to start small businesses for the common good of its citizens. Before we started to interview and listen to the people, we heard story after story of foreign aid monies being siphoned off to the small number of bureaucrats who typically buried money in foreign banks. So much for the general welfare in a country like this seriously victimized by corruption and unethical behaviors.

To secure the blessings of liberty. One of our clients was forced out of his Asian country because of government refusal to grant a visa to their fourth child. It seems liberty was a blessing for a few but not all. In another country in the Balkans, the local government broke contract for our clients’ agricultural product because it was no longer convenient for them. No such thing where “every man does that which is right in his own eyes.” 1 Freedom and liberty seems rather unique to Western democracies and particularly the United States.

To form a more perfect national unity. It is commonly accepted in America that the role of government includes restraining evil and providing safety with a consistent rule of law. A rich history in the laws of Moses and constructs from the likes of John Locke and Thomas Jefferson, among others, provides for a national unity. Even a fairly decent country like Thailand where we do some BAM consulting, is subject to military coups on a regular basis and has had 17 constitutions. Not really a “more perfect national unity.”

Harvard professor Clay Christensen had a very interesting encounter with a Marxist student on this subject. The two minutes to hear the story will be worth your time:

1 Judges 21:25

2 YouTube: https//

Larry Sharp, Director of Training, IBEC Ventures

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Where there is life there is hope!

Monday, November 21, 2016

On the night of November 2 forty million Americans were glued to their TV sets, watching history in the making. That night the Chicago Cubs won baseball’s World Series in dramatic fashion. It has been 108 years since they had won that trophy. All the talk of a curse, the Billy goat theory and every other type of jinx talk ended with one winning team making its place in history.

The impact of it all was seen dramatically on a wall outside Wrigley Field. Loyal fans scribbled the names of friends and relatives who passed away before seeing their team win a World Series. The longest sports drought in US history had come to an end.

Cubs spark hope around the world

Even non-Americans overseas celebrated. My colleague and IBEC trainer, Rick Buddemeier sent me comments from friends of his in West Africa. They saw a principle with the history of the 2016 Cubs.
Pr. Albert Ocran said, “Where there is life there is hope.” Pr. Sampson Dorkunor declared, “We must never give up.” Others commented on the importance of patience, tenacity and endurance. Amazing - people looked on from the small nations of Ghana and Togo and took hope from a sport they knew little about. But they saw values at work.

“Where there’s life there’s hope” is attributed to J.R.R. Tolkien1 whose character Samwise Gamgee declared it in The Lord of the Rings. In another of Tolkien’s famous quotes, “A single dream is more powerful than a thousand realities.”

Really? Apparently so for the likes of Kwashie, Albert, Sampson, and Humphrey who operate small businesses in West Africa while trying to make a difference in people’s lives, not only economically but spiritually and socially. For them, the Cubs gave them hope.


While their first hope is in God, this temporal reminder gives hope as they see others who never gave up – even in the faraway city of Chicago. They see patience, endurance and tenacity (see my recent blog on GRIT)2 and it inspires them in their life, business, church and their community.

Sure, these guys know it takes lots of hard work, skill and a host of other qualities, they are struck by the importance of HOPE! Hope for business success, hope for more jobs to be created, hope for social and spiritual transformation – through a hair salon, a farm and through the business college.

Maybe Tolkien got his inspiring quote from a wise person of long ago. The writer of the biblical book of Ecclesiastes declares in 9:4 “Anyone who is among the living has hope…” and that is most certainly based on the God of hope (Romans 15:13).

So hope is both an ancient and modern concept. It is rooted in biblical Judaic principles and repeated by the most prolific New Testament writer, the Apostle Paul. It is promoted by Tolkien, demonstrated by the Chicago Cubs, and admired by small business owners and pastors in Ghana, West Africa.

Yes, HOPE is important for all of us.

Photo credit: FlyinHawaiian13 (

1 The Lord of the Rings, J.R.R. Tolkien
2 Does GRIT explain the success of a BAM business?,Larry Sharp, IBEC Blog (

Larry Sharp, Director of Training, IBEC Ventures

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Kingdom business: to invest or not to invest?

Sunday, November 13, 2016

This week I received an email from a client; the owner of a manufacturing plant in Asia. I have known the owners for more than eight years and visited them twice. I have appreciation for their business model, their commitment to the Quadruple Bottom Line and their personal values. The business has created jobs, proven a financial sustainability and has had significant spiritual and social results. Thus far they have been good stewards of their resources.

They have been in business about ten years but have always been underfinanced and have suffered from cash flow and related issues. They have grown slowly and now seem poised to take a leap into the future with about $1 million in sales in 2016. Jamie is asking for our help in finding approximately $100,000 in investments in the company.

As I thought about this, I considered a grid of questions which are important to any investor. Suppose I presented Jamie’s case to an equity investor or a loan company, what questions need to be answered?

What are the goals of the owner and the company?

A potential investor wants to know about the big picture. He or she wants to know about Jamie and Lynne as owners; what are their passions; why are they doing this? They want to hear their take on the Quadruple Bottom Line:

1. Profitability and sustainability:
  • How committed are they to building the company?
  • When will they sell?
  • What will the end look like?
2. Job creation:
      • How many more jobs will be created?
      • What kind of jobs and for what sectors of people?
3. Spiritual results:
      • How do they live out Kingdom values in an incarnational sense?
      • Are they helping people to follow Jesus?
4. Stewardship of resources:
      • How are resources being stewarded, both human and real?
      • Are the right people in the right positions?
Investors want to know about the customer. Is the customer base changing and does that require diversification or other pivoting? Investors want to know if the goals are worth the attendant risks.

How will the company reach the goals?

Is there a simple and clear pathway for how to get there? These answers about strategy focus on markets, accountability, key metrics, and financial viability. Jamie will need to articulate company policies, evidence of robust research, decision-making frameworks, and solutions to local economic, political and cultural hurdles – all of this in terms the investor can understand.

Likewise, the financial information needs to be clear, concise and understandable so that investors see the desired economic results. Likewise, on the spiritual side; what the strategy for living out Kingdom values and leading people to a new life in Christ?

In general, it is healthy to expect metrics for all elements of the Quadruple Bottom Line (see IBEC blog, Do you have clear KPIs for your Kingdom business?). The metrics (when known) will lead the reader to ask questions related to “getting there”.

Can all of the above be executed?

Many people have a great vision and can build a good-looking strategy, but they cannot execute. Every owner cannot do everything so the human resources need to be in play to “execute”. For example, entrepreneurs like Jamie are generally strong in vision, leadership, goal orientation, and interpersonal skills, but many need complementary traits of analytical problem solving, planning, organization and self-management, essential for execution.

Has the business reached the stage in its development to require a new leadership style? Conventional wisdom suggests that leadership has to change as a start-up begins to scale. As one example, once one takes on equity investors that in itself requires new items such as caring for the investors, shareholder’s agreements and time to listen to advice.

Companies in the building stage need different kinds of resources for executing the strategy – and different kinds of managers. Maybe new talent needs to be built from within or subcontractors replaced with those more familiar to the company. Some business starters get bored and frustrated with building the structure – something required in the execution stage. Serious thought has to be given to “letting go”; something often difficult for founders.

Oftentimes the culture changes at this stage – an investor might want to understand company culture as well as the surrounding cultural context. Is there anything that might mitigate sustainability or achieving any other goal?

Actually, I have wondered if I should invest in Jamie’s company. I am sure there are plenty of other questions to consider, but these have me off and running in my efforts to update myself on Jamie and Lynne’s company. I believe in them and value what they have accomplished since they first applied for a business license in their Asian country, but I have to be a wise steward also - and so do all of us.

Larry Sharp, Director of Training, IBEC Ventures

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Wealth creation is God’s idea

Sunday, November 06, 2016

In the current political milieu one hears various perspectives on economic issues – how to reduce unemployment; how do address poverty and injustice; how to keep America great economically – to name a few.

Business is all about wealth creation as the means of improving individual lives, communities and nations. Wealth creation can be briefly defined as the amassing of surplus assets, more than what is needed to survive. This surplus can and should be used for the common good. Wealth is similar to savings, which is a requirement in capitalist economies. As surplus is acquired, a person, business or nation creates wealth.

Individuals create and own the wealth as he or she uses existing resources and his/her mind to bring new wealth into existence. Wealth then is the accumulation of resources fueled by innovation.

Modern examples are Richard Branson, Bill Gates, Mark Zuckerberg, Elon Musk, Larry Page, Steve Jobs and many more. They took an innovation and applied entrepreneurial skills to the marketplace and created wealth for themselves and millions of others.

In the last two hundred years, wealth creation has surged due to economic philosophies (e.g. Adam Smith, John Locke and many others) and revolutions (political, social and economic) which provided a fertile context for innovators. Capitalist thinkers and business owners began to understand that by applying savings in creative ways, growth occurs.

Tapping natural resources and innovation

Innovation is an important way to create wealth because it results in more resources coming out of the innovative process than went in. New wealth comes into existence. This is perhaps the single greatest factor in what we know as the modern era of growing wealthy persons and nations.

However, innovation is the second way that wealth is created, the first being the appropriation of resources from nature which of course has taken place from the Garden of Eden until now.

A creative act

All of this is important in that these ideas drive us to do business for the glory of God. We are creative because God was the creator God (Genesis 1 and 2). He expected man to be creative, and business is a creative act. Deuteronomy 8 helps us understand both of these ways in which wealth is created. God made a covenant with his people. If they would obey his commands, He said He will “…continue to give the ability to produce wealth…”

In the beginning and as noted in Deuteronomy 8, God gave the resources of the “…good land – a land of brooks, streams…a land with wheat and barley, vines and fig trees, pomegranates, olive oil and honey…a land where the rocks are iron and you can dig copper out of the hills.” These were resources to be appropriated.

But iron and copper and olive oil and vines do not create wealth until innovation is applied. The Israelites of that period built houses, their silver and gold increased, flocks grew large and all they had was “multiplied”. All of that was dependent on the ability God had given them to create wealth (Deut. 8:18).

God’s idea

So wealth creation is God’s idea – from the beginning – and until today. As we promote the growth of businesses in impoverished areas of the world we are being obedient to God. We do not believe in the limited supply of wealth or in a zero-sum pie; we believe that it is created by innovation and entrepreneurs, is unlimited and can be grown.We believe we are following the will of God as stated throughout His word - as we create businesses which create jobs and wealth – for the greater glory of God!

Larry Sharp, Director of Training, IBEC Ventures

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Does crisis loom?

Saturday, October 29, 2016

We all can remember a critical time in our business when things were not going well. Maybe even the future was in question. Maybe we were ready to give up.  Maybe competitors or authorities were out to get us. We were anxious and tempted to act precipitously and quickly in the time of stress.
This week I was driving in central Oregon on Highway 97 when totally out of nowhere in the darkness a 2-point buck deer crashed into the car I was driving. We were not hurt but the car was no longer drivable (as you can see in this photo). Before long the local sheriff showed up, a guy from the Oregon road department, and then the tow truck driver. They all affirmed what I did not realize – the deer were on the move!

What is it about deer in late October and early November in this part of the country? The deer are anxious; they do not know what to do; they start running like crazy in all directions. Why?  

The early snows have been driving the deer down from the mountains.  It is mating season and the bucks are anxious about their love life. And the hunters are looking for winter venison and make loud noises with their shots. The deer are going crazy – and a nice sized buck jumped to his death precipitously on Highway 97 on a dark overcast night.

Take your time. Go slowly. Get wisdom.

The book of Proverbs teaches us to not act hastily. “Desire without knowledge is not good – how much more will hasty feet miss the way!” (Proverbs 19:2). Proverbs also says “Listen to advice … and in the end you will be counted among the wise.” (19:20) And later, “Many are the plans in a person’s heart, but it is the Lord’s purpose that prevails.” (19:21). So, it is best to slow down, seek counsel, and pray to God for wisdom.

IBEC board member, Dave Kier in his daily devotional this week quotes Proverbs 19:2 in another translation:

“Also it is not good for a person to be without knowledge, and he who hurries his footsteps errs.”  Proverbs 19:2 NASB

Successful Kingdom entrepreneur Bill Job talks about wisdom in his business in this 2-minute video. See if this doesn’t apply to a situation you face this week (and watch out for deer!):

Wisdom, listen, execute – Bill Job from IBEC Ventures.

Larry Sharp, Director of Training, IBEC Ventures

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Hooked on changing lives

Sunday, October 23, 2016

When I first met Ryan, he was entrenched in the mystical world of coding for a secret project. This secret project would supposedly change the world of media streaming. His team of software engineers worked diligently with no salary and no guarantees, only the promise of a significant payout when the project succeeded. I didn't understand it all.

As I got to know Ryan, I realized that this was how his world turned. His world was full of risk…people who trusted him and his ideas…2-page business models…little startup capital and lots of hard work…a high tolerance for chaos…resilience, tenacity, and adaptability. Ryan was full of true GRIT, risk-taking, and entrepreneurial spirit.

Ryan was the kind of person described by George Bernard Shaw, “…people who get up and look for circumstances they want, and if they can't find them, make them.” In the words of Kathleen Allen, “…most business ideas stem from a problem or opportunity that the entrepreneur sees in his or her immediate environment.”1

The heartbeat of social entrepreneurship

I lost track of Ryan for a few years but we reconnected a few months ago. We met for coffee and caught up. In those years, Ryan has failed and succeeded. His sectors have included risk management, software development, outdoor guiding, and medical service records. But most significantly, Ryan has made a huge shift in his entrepreneurial focus since the last time we talked.

Ryan is used to solving problems, but he has found a new motivation for doing so. In his words, “I can do all this to benefit myself; I can do it to benefit a big corporation or the government, but I have learned that the most satisfying endeavor is where I do it for the poor, disenfranchised and those victimized by injustice.” I can't think of a better explanation of the heartbeat of social entrepreneurship.

Developing a social enterprise

When he came to this realization, he decided to build a new enterprise in a field he was familiar with – fly fishing. He researched where the thousands of hand-tied flies originated and discovered the dark world of fly-tiers in third world countries. Outfitters stock hundreds of premium flies believed to attract trophy fish for their fly fishermen clients. Such flies are tied by hand in sweat shops in places in Africa, SE Asia and elsewhere.

Ryan found that roughly 95% of the fly tiers are women. Most of these women also work in the brothels at night just to be able to feed their children. Ryan was shocked to discover how little they were paid and to witness firsthand the slum conditions in which they lived. He decided he must do something about and embarked on a new kind of entrepreneurship – social entrepreneurship.

Ryan developed a viable business model. He determined that the $3.50 average cost of a good fly is a small investment for a fly fisherman's well-earned vacation. The cost at the source is just pennies. Selling to the 4800+ registered fly-fishing outfitters proved to be the best and most scalable market. He tested the market with hundreds of styles of fish flies. He researched the cultural nuances of each country and the intricacies of the supply chain. He crunched the numbers on profit margins. His goal was to increase the fly-tiers wage as much as ten times so that they can live on a fair wage.

Changing lives with flies

Currently, Ryan has 20 employees in Kenya. The model has worked thus far to spare these women from the brothels, give them a decent wage, and preserve their dignity. His morphing process as a social entrepreneur is nearly complete. He has combined his strength, passion, economic engine and transformation impact into one powerful enterprise.

This year Ryan, his wife, and three daughters lived in Nepal for 3 months to kick off the project in that country. They were learning the culture, teaching quality control, and organizing a staff of fish tiers in a desperately poor country. They are doing it all to see lives transformed economically, socially, and spiritually. And they have real stories of real lives being changed by their business.

Each box of flies that Ryan's company sells carries this description on the back of the box:

We work with disadvantaged populations to help them achieve their dream of an economically stable life. Each box of our ethically-sourced flies helps bring dignity and a decent wage to vulnerable men and women. Some of our fly tiers are at risk youth that have grown up in orphanages and lack any formal education. Others are widows who have children and women who have been trafficked. The bottom line is this: Our flies change lives.

You can see Ryan in action and hear more about the heart behind Fair Flies by watching this brief video (Fair Flies) or by visiting the Fair Flies website ( Getting hooked on helping people through business is what social entrepreneurship and Business As Mission is all about!

1 Allen, Kathleen. Launching New Ventures. Houghton Mifflin, New York, 2009. p. 54.

Larry Sharp, Director of Training, IBEC Ventures

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