Business As Mission: Strategic questions consultants need to ask; and Business As Mission owners need to answer

Coaches have one composite skill – the asking of questions with resulting skillful conversation.  Bob Hancox, who co-authored the book Coaching for Engagement: Achieving Results Through Powerful Conversations.defines coaching as “a way of focusing and leading a conversation with the intent of facilitating learning, heightening engagement, and encouraging higher performance… the focus of the coach is on the thinking process of the coachee.” (page 21).

He continues, “In essence, when you are coaching, you are helping people get better at thinking their way through problems, opportunities and making decisions themselves.”  (page 22). With this in mind, management guru Peter Drucker, gave us with five simple questions which coaches and consultants need to ask and process with all clients.  Most readers will recognize these immediately but we all need reminders sometimes.

  1. What is your mission? Why does your organization exist in the first place? What are you trying to accomplish for your customers? What are the challenges? The opportunities?

We often talk about the quadruple bottom line in Business as Mission lingo.  We exist to disciple followers of Jesus.  We exist to love our neighbor by creating jobs.  We exist to grow a profitable and sustainable business.  And we exist to be stewards of our people and God’s creation.  All of these are important – for every customer; and each should have a metric to measure results and a plan for achieving that metric.

It is good to put the mission statement in writing.  Here is one example from the mission statement for a business owned by an IBEC board member, “It is the desire of DFS, Inc to be an indispensable ally in delivering value through knowledge, honoring God in all that we do.”

  1. Who are your customers? Describe the person you wish to satisfy with your actions. Consider primary and supporting customers.

The Business As Mission ecosystem includes the community of individuals which benefit with the business on a regular basis.  The most connected customers are employees, suppliers, clients, buyers, vendors, plus the upstream and downstream supply chain.  Others however include, neighbors, tax and other legal authorities, associations where there are memberships (clubs, schools, churches), etc.  All of these are the customers for a BAM operation; all should be satisfied with our actions.

Example:  A business owner I worked with in India made a point of considering their neighbors in the high-rise apartment building their secondary customers.  By that he meant that they wanted to live out the love of Jesus with them and be good stewards of the relationships.

  1. What does your customer value? What is it that you do especially well that you are uniquely suited to provide to your customers? How can I gain knowledge from our customers? How can you exceed the standards set by your competition?

While there are variances depending on the type of business, everyone mentioned as a customer should expect excellence, integrity, fairness, quality of product, and good service.

Example:  I visited a BAM manufacturing business in Indonesia.  As part of some interviews for a video, I asked several employees what they liked about working there.  Every one of them said, “We just love Sam (the owner).”  And when I pursued it further they said that he was fair with them when they lost contracts because work was slow, for example, and he paid wages on the high side of the market rate.

  1. What results are you trying to accomplish? How do you measure success? How are results defined? How do we know we are succeeding?

Every business has financial metrics designed to measure the financial health of the business.  One can use HR metrics and numbers of jobs created to measure the job creation goal.  In addition, one can also measure stewardship of resources using some of the CSR and other social enterprise techniques.

But the spiritual dimension is somewhat harder to quantify.  How does one know that there are more followers of Jesus?  Some may be “following afar off” and not yet committed followers.  There may be social and community transformational factors which may be encouraging and may demonstrate emerging “followership”.  BAM workers are unlikely to be able to measure success by “converts” or by church members.  Despite these considerations, each business can do something to help them know they are making progress.

One business I visited placed a “proverb” in writing in the national language on the office door where each worker came to work every day.  It was not long until the workers asked where it came from to which the owner replied, “from my holy book”.  This was the beginning of significant spiritual conversations, a measurable result from the decision to place the proverb in a very prominent place.

  1. What is your plan? How do you go about satisfying your customers and getting the results that are most important? How do we effectively implement the plan?

A Plan is the strategy for the successful completion of a project. A strategy is not a list of objectives, but the means of achieving those objectives. Any project or business without a Plan is a project wandering in the wilderness. IBEC first talks about the 9-segment lean startup process with the added component for disciple-making.  This means that faith objectives are integrated into typical business planning.

An example of a value which is incarnated into the business can be seen in this grid which IBEC uses to train business owners:

1  Hancox Bob, Hunter; Russell Hunter; and Boudreau, Kristann.  Coaching for Engagement:  Achieving Results Through Powerful Conversations. Vancouver, Canada: Tekara, 2010.

Larry Sharp, Director of Training, IBEC Ventures

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