It has been interesting to observe and analyze IBEC consultants throughout the 12 years of our existence. It has been a fun and informative learning experience as I have traveled with some amazing people. Each one has added value to the projects we visited and helped.
IBEC consultants offer encouragement
Bob Bush consults with four projects on three continents. His help includes coaching on the business and ministry plans, marketing expertise, and old-fashioned business common sense. In listening to Bob report monthly on his projects, I am also impressed with a key emphasis. Bob says that perhaps the most important thing we can do as coaches and consultants is to encourage these business owners.
Think about it! Most of them are first-time entrepreneurs. They are operating in a culture different than the one they were socialized in, and they need to speak a foreign language. The management team is likely cross-cultural, and the regulatory environment is at the crosshairs of local corruption, USA foreign investment and trade law, and Biblical principles. They are raising a family overseas and investors likely do not understand any of this. There is a lot to learn, implement and decide upon. On top of it all says Bob, “the least I can do is encourage them in the process.”
IBEC consultants provide guidance
Not long ago, three ophthalmologists wanted to start a for-profit clinic in Ethiopia following the Arvind model from India. They obviously had the skill set for the product delivery, and they wisely knew their inadequacy in the business side for developing the model. IBEC consultants Ken and Gwen were invited to provide guidance in the development of the business. They both visited the project, and interviewed the visionaries, local authorities, and partners; all the while giving guidance from their experience.
In another instance two consultants, Ken and Matt helped an architect from California buy a boat-building business in Indonesia. They were not experts in boat building, but they understood business, and by using that experience and background, were able to guide the owner through the process of local and national tax laws, personnel management; customer and marketing questions, ministry planning and much more. Think of it. The owner knew the language, the family loved living in the islands, he was an architect, he had already built small boats, and he had started two churches. What he needed was someone to guide him with business expertise – and IBEC’s two consultants did just that!
IBEC consultants clarify the situation
Two IBEC consultants worked significant hours on a tour company in Gujarat state in India. I pretty much tracked with the process from the beginning and observed how two coaches at two stages helped bring clarity. Good coaches ask questions, which promotes the client to think through the answer for themselves.
For example, the idea of a tour company did not emerge naturally and intuitively. It emerged when the coach forced clarity about markets, customers, international currency transfer, and the labor pool. When the client searched for answers, it became evident that Plan A was not a good one, and a pivot emerged. Later, when the tour company was ready to roll out and we attended a Beta test tour, Gary spent a full day with a group of about ten Beta tourists plus the owners clarifying what we had just experienced during the previous ten days. The owners were immensely grateful.
IBEC consultants give training
Not long ago, I headed to China at the request of a company in the southeast. They sensed the need for training in risk assessment, contingency planning and crisis management. They had been in existence for a decade or so and had built a sustainable company with 60 employees; only three of which were expats.
Every company needs such training, and, in this situation, we provided a tool for crisis preparation (establishing policy protocol, awareness and avoidance), a contingency plan (mitigation of probability, and analysis of likely impact) and a management process in the case of a crisis (communication, decision-making, debrief, etc.). When we left town, we left them with policies, a risk assessment, contingency plans, a communication plan, management training, and “go to” resources if a crisis occurred. They were more prepared to mitigate the potential of an eventuality and to manage it, should one occur.
IBEC consultants provide a consistent model
One of our board members and consultants owns and operates a feed company, DFS Animal Nutrition, in Iowa. The business has proven to be a kingdom business in the USA where scores of employees have secure jobs, and where the gospel is lived out on the job. The company mission states, “It is the desire of DFS, Inc to be an indispensable ally in delivering value through knowledge, honoring God in all that we do.” And they practice what they preach.
No wonder that Dave is a respected consultant on issues of feed at a poultry ranch in south Asia. The owners respect him because he has integrated “excellence” in the feed business while living out principles of godliness and servanthood.
IBEC consultants provide subject matter expertise
One of the key areas of a business where there is often no room for a “judgment call” is in the area of accounting, financial decisions, and legal constraints. Phil is an amazing “go-to” guy when it comes to knowing international finance law or knowing someone who does. He has advised many of business start-ups on issues related to the use of charity monies abroad, or in advising investors for businesses which were small start-ups in developing countries. It seemed Phil always knew what to do – he was a Subject Matter Expert.
One time, I received a call from a manufacturing company East Asia. He had some machines which were old and imported and the owner did not know how to get repair help. He called me asking for help. I had just met a mechanical engineer and I gave him a call. He agreed to interact with the owner in Asia using Skype. A few weeks later I was told that Mike had solved the problem in two short skype calls. Mike was a Subject Matter Expert.
IBEC consultants tell it like it is, even if unpopular
In the early days of IBEC, we made many trips abroad in search of understanding of our markets and our own capacity to provide value; and to provide help in established businesses, start-ups, and in pre-start-ups.
One time, in an Asian country, we visited three American couples. One of the businesses had already scaled to a significant level but needed some help with specific details which we provided. The second business was really a small mom and pop cottage industry, with no real intent to grow and develop. We advised the owners and the agency with which they were connected that there was little chance of success unless there would be some intentional change and commitment to the hard work of business. Neither the owners or the agency liked our report. Before long they left the country.
The third couple came with a plan and with a national partner. Things looked good at the start, but within a few hours it was evident this couple was not ‘wired’ for business. It was not in their DNA, but we observed their skill set to be in teaching. When we reported this to their supervisors and to them personally, there was much unhappiness. However, the courage of the consultants was rewarded when the couple took teaching jobs in the country and became amazingly successful, even to this day.
Larry Sharp, Director of Training, IBEC Ventures