As I sat down at my computer to write a blog about Business As Mission metrics using some grids from my university class on business startups, I opened a letter from a friend living in Togo, West Africa. It was passed on to me by IBEC consultant Rick Buddemeier. I realized that here was a story demonstrating the theory of my textbook. Why write about theory when there is a real-life, right-now narrative?
For an entrepreneur, startup metrics are very different than those for an established company. Rather than measuring against a business plan, startup owners are looking for feedback on whether their business model is working. A lean startup business model canvas is a simple blueprint which points to a customer, and includes data reflecting a clear understanding of the problem to be solved, proof of concept, customer validation, unique value proposition, risk analysis and the like. Sooner or later typical metrics of a scaling businesses emerge.
On the missional half of the business are metrics such as significant spiritual conversations, time getting to know and love people, numbers studying the scriptures, committed followers of Jesus, and group meetings for fellowship, study and teaching.
Levi graduated from the Missionary Training Institute of Togo last year and moved to a region where relocated families had recently settled. Most everyone is Muslim, unreached with the Gospel, and very poor. But Levi is not a typical “missionary” in west Africa. He is a pepper farmer who brought pepper to the region and is expanding his enterprise to cultivate more land and hire more employees. He supports his family and the worker families.
People see that Levi cares about them and their success. He now develops quality seed which he sells to the new farmers and he serves as a consultant for them. He has won the respect of the people in Mango as he has regular contact with the them on a day-to-day basis. There is no secular-sacred dichotomy for Levi as he lives out his Christian values in a holistic manner in the marketplace. He not only shares verbally who Jesus is, but he lives who Jesus is.
Work is ministry for Levi. “This is in fact a typical example of how we want our African Christians to use their work as ministry, a means of financial support and also a way to meet the needs of the community they serve. When needs are met, hearts will be opened and disciples made. They should be trained to use their work on the field to reach the unreached people. With the gospel in one hand and their work in another, they are able to come in contact with their communities especially in Muslim areas” says my friend Kawashi in an open letter.
Metrics for business? Yes – paying customers for the pepper, scale allowing for more fields and employees, increased profits and market share, etc.
Metrics for mission? Yes – significant conversations on a regular basis; Muslim friends who appreciate him, young people who are studying the Bible, and a church of 20 adults plus children.
Business As Mission (BAM) is real business (profit, job creation) and real mission (making followers of Jesus and stewarding God’s creation). Levi is doing just that in Togo. BAM can be done anywhere in the world, and IBEC’s vision is to help those who are committed to seeing it happen.
Larry Sharp, Director of Training, IBEC Ventures