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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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5 tips for achieving the triple bottom line

Sunday, October 16, 2016

What if you could create something with the power to stimulate a developing local economy, catalyze societal change, strengthen families, and spark spiritual transformation? That would be something, wouldn’t it? Enter the triple bottom line.

That’s exactly what Business As Mission entrepreneurs are doing. When BAM entrepreneurs start socially conscious BAM businesses they're after more than just profit. They’re after a triple, or even quadruple, bottom line – including economic, environmental, social, and spiritual measures of success.

But here’s the catch: Achieving a true integration of all three (or four) elements into one “success story” is extremely challenging for most BAM entrepreneurs.

So, how does one do it? How does one successfully integrate the goals of financial profit, social impact, and spiritual transformation, and possibly even environmental benefit?

Here are five important things for social entrepreneurs to remember as they seek to transform their communities and impact God's kingdom through business:

1. Clarify your values and purpose

Before you can strategize a plan for social and spiritual impact, you must be clear on what your values are. Who are you going to be as an organization? Why do you exist? What principles and values will you stand on? What are the problems you are seeking to solve? What evidences of transformation will measure the effectiveness of your organization at work?

If you don’t know why you’re doing what you are doing and who you are as an organization, you won’t successfully achieve an integrated triple bottom line. Start by dreaming and clarifying these elements.

Action Point: Set up 4 columns on a piece of paper. Label them “Vision,” “Values/Principles,” “Problems,” and “Objectives”. Answer the following questions and write them in the correlating columns:

    • Who are we?
    • What values/principles will shape our organization?
    • What problems are we seeking to solve?
    • What tangible transformation objectives do we wish to accomplish?

2. Simplify your central message

Now boil these things down into one central message. This is the one thing that sums everything you wrote down before. The central message is the heartbeat of your organization, the thing you keep waking up day after day for. Keep your central message as simple yet focused as you can.

IBEC Ventures was incorporated in 2006 as a consulting group to provide consulting services primarily to Business as Mission startups in areas where there is high unemployment, great injustice, and where there few followers of Jesus. When we started to define our purpose and vision, we synthesized it into these two statements:

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

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

Taking this one step further, we can boil down IBEC's central message to these six words: "building the Kingdom through sustainable businesses". This encapsulates our unique identity and approach, whether we are helping individual entrepreneurs build BAM businesses or advising organizations like NGOs, agencies, churches and universities who see BAM as a key part of their Kingdom-building strategy.

Once you have established this central message, remain obsessively disciplined to it. It will shape everything else.

Action Point: Write your central message down. No more than 10 words!

3. Identify your People and Place

You know who you are as an organization, what you are doing, why you are doing it, and what the central message of your organization is. But where are you doing this? Who are you seeking to impact?

Defining your People and Place helps keep you on track as you seek to integrate your triple bottom line. Make them as specific and inclusive as is helpful for you.

Action Point: Answer the questions “who are we seeking to impact/work with?” and “where do we want to see our vision come to life?”.

4. Develop 2 intentional plans

An IBEC coaching client, Lee, started a consultancy in Azerbaijan that focused on land development among other sectors. He sought input from IBEC Ventures. We suggested he develop two plans – a business plan and an SSO plan (Social & Spiritual Objectives plan). He readily agreed.

His business plan was a typical business plan modeled after other plans from his past business experiences. He now developed an SSO plan. This plan identified how lives would be changed and how the community would grow due to increased number of jobs and environmental impact.

Having two plans like these create a level of intentionality and accountability. They help put meat and feet to your vision and objectives, moving them from the realm of dreams to implementable plans and measurable goals.

Action Point: Develop a solid business plan and a Social & Spiritual Objectives plan. Contact us if you need help!

5. Unify your team

To achieve success, you must employ a team of people with diversified strengths. But you also need a team that is unified around your central vision and the values and principles that define your organization.

Having a diverse startup team requires consistent effort to remain unified around the shared vision. Don’t let your team stray even a degree away from those central definers you have established. As you operate with diverse strengths, experiences, and backgrounds, keep unifying your team around these things.

Action Point: Have a vision gathering for your team where you can realign everyone around the share identity, values, vision, message, and objectives of your business. Do this regularly!

As you implement these things, you will be well on your way in the integration process. Social entrepreneurs are driven by a desire to solve economic, social, environmental, and/or spiritual problems. Business is merely their chosen mechanism. When these entrepreneurs figure out how to make the desired impact within a profitable and sustainable business model, they can change the world!

Larry Sharp, Director of Training, IBEC Ventures

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Does GRIT explain the success of a BAM business?

Sunday, October 09, 2016

You might think of the 1969 Western True Grit or the more recent 2010 remake of the John Wayne classic. Or you might think of grit in your teeth.

This funny word, “grit” is getting new press lately with recent research and publication. When a TED talk on “Grit” gets over 8 million views, we should probably stop and ask what’s up with grit?

Grit: a predictor of success

Angela Duckworth, author of Grit: the Power of Passion and Perseverance has taken ancient theories and contextualized them to contemporary pedagogy. Her teaching experience and research at the University of Pennsylvania and West Point has given her a unique voice to define “grit” and its determination of success. Her interest in factors of success beyond IQ and natural ability led to her GRIT theory. She has redefined “grit” as perseverance and passion for long-term goals in addition to the Miriam-Webster definition of, “firmness of character; indomitable spirit.”

Duckworth’s best-seller peddles a pair of big ideas: that grit—comprising a person’s perseverance and passion—is among the most important predictors of success, and that we all have the power to increase our inner grit. These two theses, she argues, apply not just to cadets but to kids in troubled elementary schools and undergrads at top-ranked universities and scientists, artists, and entrepreneurs. Duckworth’s book describes a wide array of “paragons of grit”—people she’s either interviewed or studied from afar. These paragons of grit include puzzle masters and magicians, actors and inventors, children and adults, Steve Young and Julia Child. Grit appears in all of them, sprinkled over their achievements like a magic Ajax powder. In tandem with some feisty scrubbing, it dissolves whatever obstacles might hold a person back.1

Duckworth writes “… achievement is the product of talent and effort, the latter a function of the intensity, direction, and duration of one’s exertions towards a long-term goal.” Malcolm Gladwell agrees. In his 2007 best-selling book Outliers, he examines the seminal conditions required for optimal success. We’re talking about the best of the best… Beatles, Bill Gates, Steve Jobs. How did they build such impossibly powerful spheres of influence? …The area where Gladwell and Duckworth intersect (and what we can actually control), is on the importance of goals and lots, and lots and lots of practice…10,000 hours to be precise.2

Grit has been variously described as bravery, pluck, mettle, backbone, spirit, strength of character, moral fiber, hardiness, resolve, determination, tenacity, perseverance, and spunk. In short GRIT is Guts…Resilience…Initiative…Tenacity, the acronym coined by Linda Kaplan Thaler.

Historically, the likes of Aristotle and William James believed tenacity was one of the most valued virtues. Now, Duckworth asserts that a person’s stick-to-it-iveness is directly related to their level of success. Author Paul Tough says in Helping Children Succeed that perseverance is as or more important than traditional factors. He argues that it is not taught in the classroom but is a product of the child’s environment.

Grit and the social entrepreneur

All of this talk about grit made me think, “why are some cross-cultural BAM business start-ups successful and others not?” Is grit a key factor in the success of entrepreneurs as Duckworth suggests? The question is complex of course, but could grit be a part of the answer?

Perhaps in our efforts to provide coaching and training to would-be entrepreneurs, we need to give more attention to grit; i.e. passion and perseverance; guts, resilience, initiative, and tenacity? Perhaps we need better ways to measure this key characteristic and distinguish between those entrepreneurs who have it and those who don’t.

If grit truly is developed at an early age, then it may be too late to change or increase this factor in a would-be entrepreneur. But assessing the “grit factor” in entrepreneurs might save us a lot of time and resources and help us invest those things in the entrepreneurs who have the highest chances of success.

Social entrepreneurship is not for the faint of heart. The challenges are immense. GRIT might just make all the difference!

1 Is “Grit” Really the Key to Success? Angela Duckworth, Slate, May 8, 2016.

2 5 Characteristics Of Grit -- How Many Do You Have? Margaret M. Perlis, Forbes, October 29, 2013.

Larry Sharp, Director of Training, IBEC Ventures

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7 things we have learned in 10 years of BAM consulting

Sunday, October 02, 2016

As we celebrate IBEC's 10th anniversary, we share this reflection by Larry Sharp and Gary Willett, reprinted from Business As Mission Review, July 11, 2016:

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

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

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

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

1. Business as mission should be fully integrated

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

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

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

2. Business is not for everyone

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

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

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

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

3. Business as mission is a team effort

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

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

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

4. It takes longer than you think

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

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

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

5. Language and culture learning is critical

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

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

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

6. BAM workers must have GRIT

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Larry Sharp, Director of Training, IBEC Ventures

Gary Willett, Director of Consulting, IBEC Ventures

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Celebrating our first decade: the history of IBEC Ventures

Sunday, September 25, 2016

This week marks an important milestone for IBEC Ventures: we're celebrating our 10th anniversary as an organization! It was this week in 2006 that IBEC was formed. As we reflect on the many blessings we've experienced over these ten years, we wanted to share a bit about our history - to help you get to know us better and to see how God uses businesses, IBEC included, to build His kingdom.

Created to solve a problem

IBEC Ventures was formed to solve a problem. In 2005 the leadership of Crossworld, a mission agency, was becoming increasingly interested in establishing business start-ups in underdeveloped, unreached countries, yet they lacked the capacity and personnel for business development in high-risk countries. It seemed that at least some employees could be re-purposed to start and operate businesses but primarily new personnel needed to be recruited and trained.

Crossworld assigned Larry Sharp, VP of Operations, to the task of presenting an action plan. In June 2006 he invited 15 men and women with robust business backgrounds to a day-long consultation in Bala Cynwyd, PA. He and two other Crossworld executives listened as business people made observations and suggestions, many which have been followed to this day.

Incorporation and formation of the board and leadership team

The decision was made to start a separate organization and by late 2006 the Crossworld president and Board of Directors agreed to provide seed capital to incorporate and start a Business as Mission consulting group. The International Business and Education Consultantswas incorporated as a Pennsylvania Not-for-Profit on Sept 22, 2006. In 2008 the corporate office was moved to Perkasie, PA and in 2010 the company filed for a DBA as IBEC Ventures, by which it is most commonly known today.

From the start, IBEC has been an independent entity based on trust with Crossworld with a crossover executive sitting in on board meetings. Bob Johnstone had been consulting with Crossworld for a number of years so he was a natural, experienced and competent person to lead the IBEC Board of Directors.

The first board meeting for IBEC was in March 2007 where Bob Johnstone was elected Chairman; Harold Schell, Treasurer; and Torrey Sharp, Marketing Developer. Larry Sharp as Director was an ex offico board member. The bylaws were approved in April and Harold applied for 501 c/3 status, and received it on January 31, 2008. The purpose and vision were established at the first 2008 board meeting. Torrey Sharp worked quickly to set up a website.

New board members began to be added in October 2007, probably the most significant of which was Ken Leahy, who became Director of Consulting Services and also became the architect of the business model, consulting tools and in modeling consulting trips to countries such as China, Kazakhstan, Nepal and elsewhere. By the end of the decade, IBEC was consulting with businesses in China, Nepal, Azerbaijan, Bosnia, Kazakhstan, India, Kosovo, Morocco, the Middle East, Haiti and Indonesia.

Dual funding model

IBEC’s funding model from the inception was to receive income partially from donations and partially from fee for service or retainer contracts. For the first several years Crossworld was the largest client with a sizable retainer contract.

Relationship building

In January 2011 IBEC hired Dean Callison as the CEO and Larry became an apologist for Business as Mission and a trainer and speaker on behalf of IBEC. Dean built many relationships including bringing on board member Dave Kier and securing foundation funding. Under Dean’s leadership, we also began to be more intentional about IBEC’s identity thus giving us more relationships within the Christian community in North America. When Dean left in November 2012, Ken Leahy agreed to serve as acting CEO and did so until March 2014. Ken then continued as a consultant with IBEC.

Beginning in 2010 IBEC began to refer to itself as a virtual organization, committed to regular phone meetings and other consistent communication. We started to add consultants from all over the United States. Bob Johnstone was a stabilizing and visionary force from the beginning, and even after his term ended in 2014 he continued as Treasurer and as a consultant. Don Worthington who joined the IBEC Board near the beginning assumed the role of Board Chairman in 2014.

Organization and systems building

In June 2014, the IBEC Board of Directors appointed Bob Bush as the new Managing Director. Bob quickly began to infuse new marketing energy and vision into IBEC and continued with the same leadership team which served with Ken – Gary Willett, Jim Mayer, Larry Sharp, Gwen Rapp and Bob Bush. The Board of Directors and leadership team has been intentional from the beginning about spiritual impact aligned with business success. Spiritual and economic impact has been observable in projects in Nepal, China, Indonesia, India, and Ethiopia.

During the period of 2012-14, IBEC worked hard to strengthen its Customer Relationship Management system (thanks to Gary Willett, Jim Mayer, and Gwen Rapp) and hired a social media specialist, Carolyne Hart, to complement Torrey on the marketing side. She replaced Gwen Rapp on the leadership team and Gary Willett replaced Ken as Director of Consulting and became the primary connection between IBEC and the clients in the overseas markets.

Expansion on many fronts

By early 2015, IBEC had working agreements with Ibex Associates, Agora Enterprises, Third Path Initiative and GEN, as well as new expat clients through North American agencies. The social media strategy included a weekly blog and social media posts helping IBEC connect with prospective clients, consultants and partners in the BAM community. The education side of IBEC included curriculum for BAM understanding, being taught in a variety of venues from weekend modules to 3-credit college and seminary courses.

As we mark our 10-year anniversary, IBEC has about 30 projects under contract. We see new opportunities to expand our client base, including serving business clients who are third world nationals and also serving North American business owners desiring to expand operations overseas. We are also beginning to prepare IBEC consultants to serve North American business persons working overseas for large corporations. We are also formalizing IBEC’s extensive training and business planning tools to provide our growing team of consultants and Subject Matter Experts with industry-leading resources to support IBEC clients in their mission: to impact the Kingdom of God through business.

An unswerving purpose

That mission - serving people and communities through job creation and building sustainable businesses that draw others to His kingdom – continues to bless us as we bless others around the world for His glory, not our own.

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

Our Vision: We envision an increasing number of Small-Medium sustainable Kingdom businesses with our special emphasis on areas that are both economically impoverished and spiritually unreached.

We're grateful to all who have contributed to the formation and development of IBEC over the years. And now as we begin a new decade of service, thank you all!

For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future." - Jeremiah 29:11

Larry Sharp, Director of Training, IBEC Ventures

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Of seaways, roadways and businesses: finding the best way to the destination

Monday, September 19, 2016

I have always taken an interest in roadways and ferry routes. I recently moved back to the Seattle, WA area (we lived there in the 1960s) and took the ferry across Puget Sound with some family members. The Washington State Ferry System is the largest in the USA and the 4th largest in the world. It dates back to the 1800s and the steamship era and later to the famed “mosquito fleet”. Today millions of commuters and tourists depend on it each year for quick and scenic travel on the waters of Puget Sound.

Before moving we lived in central Oregon so naturally, I took an interest in the Oregon Trail and other roadways of historical significance. I like to take differing routes between Seattle and central Oregon so recently I drove Highway 97, an important north-south artery east of the Cascade mountains. I stopped to rest in a remote region and took a short walk up a little hill to the “old road” (such things have long intrigued me). As I walked along this road of the mid 20th century, I looked up to see an astonishing sight – another even older road! So up I went through the brambles, sharp rocks, and junipers. Sure enough – a real “old road”.

I came back to my computer to find that this totally impassable wagon trail was the Huntington Road, developed by Perit Huntington to bring supplies from The Dalles on the Columbia River to Fort Klamath in southern Oregon in 1867. Their hurdles included valleys and hills, rocky terrain, and hostile native peoples. It required teamsters, scouts, engineers, cooks and wagon mechanics. All that remains of that historic road is hidden behind trees and fallen rock.

What do these two historic passageways of water and land have in common?

Both were discovered and developed to help pioneers and later modern travelers get to their destination in the quickest and easiest way possible. And now in the 21st century, modern transportation vehicles and routing technology have improved these ancient methods.

Finding the best route to a successful BAM business

It got me thinking. Entrepreneurs and business builders in faraway countries and cultures have the task of finding a pathway in difficult and new environments. They are attempting to build a Triple Bottom Line1 business in the most direct manner so as to arrive at the destination: a business that provides jobs creates economic value and introduces people to Jesus.
Ancient seafaring was revolutionized by steam engines and then by diesel technology. Wagon roads moved from horse-driven carriages to internal combustion engine models to modern computerized air conditioned vehicles. What took days to travel from central Oregon to Seattle in a horse-pulled wagon, now takes a few hours in a modern vehicle.

Business developers need a direct road to success. They need all the help they can get to accomplish the “end” goal. That means new ideas from experienced business owners who serve as coaches, mentors, and consultants. It means IBEC Ventures!

IBEC serves clients overseas with general consulting, on-going coaching and with subject matter expertise. This takes place over time or in a single Skype call. All of such assistance helps the business person to improve the route to success.

From peanuts to peanut butter

A current example illustrates. How does an industrious visionary team in central Asia bring peanut butter to a country that values peanuts, but does not produce or import peanut butter? With internal testing which seems to indicate the marketability of peanut butter, what is the quickest road to Triple Bottom Line success? There are many inhibiting factors but IBEC consultants are providing coaching and expertise overcoming what seems like insurmountable hurdles.

We are confident that the road will be built in the best possible route and overcome these obstacles along the way. A profitable peanut butter manufacturing business means better lives for people – a nutritious product, jobs for the unemployed, taxes for the community and a team who does all of this in the name of Jesus.


1 Triple Bottom Line is the goal of all BAM companies: 1) profitability and sustainability; 2) job creation; 3) spiritual capital – making followers of Jesus.

Larry Sharp, Director of Training, IBEC Ventures

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Travel safety and security

Sunday, September 11, 2016

“It is better to take refuge in the Lord than to trust in humans.” Psalms 118:8

IBEC consultants, coaches, Subject Matter Experts, friends, and clients are often in travel mode and find themselves in airports or in situations with less than desirable security standards. This may be a reminder of some of the things to be thinking about when planning a trip away from your city of familiarity. They could save your life.

Awareness (before travel)

  • Become familiar with the country or region by reading about it and interfacing with others who have traveled or lived there. In this way, you will become aware of the probable risks and consequences if you are in trouble. For example, it is common knowledge that pickpockets are very good in Colombia; therefore, be ready to avoid that risk.
  • Good places to visit to learn about your destination include:
  • Study the “Dos and Don’ts” and cultural distinctive for that region.
  • Study some key phrases in the local language before you go.
  • Try to develop these helpful personal characteristics:
    • Tolerance for ambiguity
    • Low-goal task orientation
    • Open-mindedness
    • Being non-judgmental
    • Empathy
    • Being communicative
    • Flexibility and adaptability
    • Curiosity
    • A sense of humor
    • Self-reliance
    • Ability to fail
  • Harden yourself as a target, using survival principles based on common risks. Criminals look for soft targets (people with little travel savvy). For example, there are training materials on how to keep your valuables safe, how to watch for cybercriminals and everyday thieves and safe places to sleep. There is no excuse for jogging with new expensive sneakers, alone, while listening to your iPod in a north African country, as someone I know did – and she paid the price. Several websites are helpful: Maintaining Posture as a Hard Target (
  • Always make sure somebody, someplace, knows where you are and be sure to have your contact numbers in a safe secure place. Let your credit card company know where you are traveling. Have copies of important papers accessible but somewhere off your person.
  • Become aware of any policies which relate to your trip; policies of the host company you are visiting, or the host nation policies, or IBEC guidelines. For example, IBEC has a “Checklist for Consultant Travel Overseas” and it includes things like “be sure to register with the US State Department upon arrival”.
  • Make contingency plans before you leave. This includes a plan of action if something bad happens and assures you of a way to communicate (in many countries I recommend a SAT phone in addition to regular cell phone), an evacuation plan and extra supply of things you don’t want to be without (such as batteries, medicines).
  • There may be release forms you will want to sign before you go. The most serious of these types of things is what to be done with your body if you die over there. There are other less drastic things to be aware of before you go.
  • If you can, get some basic training. For example, Crisis Consulting International has a great 3-day seminar. See Others which I have used or know of and

Avoidance (once you are on your way)

  • Risk can be mitigated by choosing low-risk airlines, hotels, regions of cities and ground transportation means. For example, I recommend not traveling on regional airlines in Nepal or local bus lines in Bolivia.
  • Determine to stay away from areas of civil unrest or known crisis. I once received a phone call from an acquaintance in a former Soviet republic who was taking pictures and when I asked about the gun shots I overheard, he said he was downtown in the midst of a coup – not good!
  • Learn what to say when being interrogated by foreign authorities. We recommend an STS (Short Tenable Statement). This is a one-sentence statement of what you are doing that is authentic, verifiable, consistent, plausible, and creates a clear understanding; and results in a satisfied inquirer.
  • Be a learner and listen! listen! listen! Stay clear of political conversations or sharing your opinion. Remind yourself that someone is always listening. In some countries, hotel rooms may be “bugged” with listening devices watching for religious or political biases. Be respectful of everyone and everything you see, and determine to never disparage the host culture. Train yourself to say, “Oh, that is interesting!” and never, “Oh, that is dumb!”
  • Even though your country may claim to have “freedom of religion” they likely do not have it in the same sense that we think of it. Respect their laws (you should have studied them at least a little before you leave) even if you consider it inconsistent or discriminatory.
  • Have a supply kit which may be resourced before you leave or purchased immediately upon arrival. This will be things like first aid materials, cash, a whistle etc. (see such lists online).

Appropriate action (if something happens when you are there)

  • Be ready to “work the plan” (think Apollo 13 movie) according to how you prepared beforehand. Crisis management is as simple as the outline for the scientific method which we all learned in junior high school. But though the thought process is simple, it is also far more complex in its implementation. During a crisis is NOT the time to make plans for what you are going to do. For example, during a political crisis in Haiti, everyone on our team knew the escape evacuation routes because we had decided ahead of time and prioritized them.
  • Know exactly the protocol for who to call for help and how. There are several options and the organization which may have sent you abroad such as your church, company or IBEC should have arranged these emergency numbers for you. I once received a call because I was the “go-to guy” when a crisis was going on in Yemen, which kicked off a process for implementing evacuation plans.
  • Always know who your friends are and how to contact them for help. Know who will be a crisis management team leader and learn to trust him or her. Remember also that there are professionals to handle negotiations (see websites above) if you are in a hostage situation or something similar. I was once responsible for someone who was doing a water dam project in his country when he was imprisoned. Professionals were able to help me gain his release, even though it took five months.

The time has long since passed since we could freely hop a plane and feel at home most anywhere in the world. We should not fear to travel, however, but with Awareness, Avoidance principles, and Appropriate Action we can travel knowing we have done our best to be secure. When it comes to connecting with BAM Kingdom companies think like Mark Twain:

"Twenty years from now you will be more disappointed by the things that you didn't do than by the ones you did do. So throw off the bowlines. Sail away from the safe harbor. Catch the trade winds in your sails. Explore. Dream. Discover."

But all the while, remember:

“Safety is not a slogan. It is a way of life.”

“Security is not a product but a process.” Bruce Schneier

Larry Sharp, Director of Training, IBEC Ventures

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