Seven HR habits for Effective BAM leaders

I asked my daughter, Trudy, who is a SHRM certified HR professional with twenty years of experience, about this subject and she was able to help me refine my initial ideas. These are seven HR habits which contribute to a successful BAM operation. All examples are from current BAM companies in Africa, East Asia, SE Asia, and the USA. All seven BAM examples are referenced from the book cited below.

1. Ensure all employees understand the mission, vision, and strategy of the company, and how their jobs are connected.

The Sunshine Nut Company in Mozambique makes all of this clear not only in written statements but also in observable, measurable practice.  By God’s grace Don and Terri Larson have seen a startup grow into an operation which provides a transformational values-driven company and tens of thousands of jobs. The following can be measured.

  1. Buy cashews at fair prices from the local Mozambican community.
  2. Roast and package in-country to assure freshness, quality, and the best tasting cashews in the world.
  3. Hire impoverished adults who have been abandoned and orphaned.
  4. Sell at competitive prices and eliminate the middlemen.

Give 90% of the profits back to the people. –Page 163

2. Design jobs clearly and intentionally to provide meaningful work and then evaluate roles and performance regularly.

It was easy for me to see this at First Step English Institute in a large Asian country, because all of the sixty plus national teachers spoke flawless English.  The teachers had overcome serious obstacles from parents and the community because of the meaningful work they did each day (even though they were not doctors, lawyers, and engineers like their parents thought they should be). 

Excellence defined everything that took place and teachers were promoted to higher level jobs based on effective and honest performance appraisals, and on the discipleship model developed by Jack and Sue. One teacher told me, “We know that Sue loves us, and we are learning to love others too.” The teachers told me how much they loved their jobs because of the culture of love, care, passion, character, mentoring and family. –Page 122-125

3. Foster a learning culture where failure is normalized, change is anticipated, and employee growth is owned by company and individual alike.

Sinapis is a business accelerator started by Courtney in Kenya. When I spoke with her in preparation for the book, she was able to count 4500 jobs created by Sinapis, which supported over 22,000 others.  She told me of a gigantic mistake and how she learned from it and was able to later model how failure can lead to growth.

One of the graduates of the program was a bright young entrepreneur who brought on his wife as partner. Tensions ensued, however the culture of learning from tough times helped them to overcome. The couple, like Courtney earlier on, took ownership of company values and the company grew because of it. –Page 154

4. See your employees as whole people and invest in their physical and mental well-being and safety.

Tim’s Coffee and Bakery (SE Asia) demonstrates this as the owners find and develop the handicapped and former human slaves, believing that they too are whole people and deserve the skills for employment. Tim’s believes in the dignity of every person and their intrinsic God-given worth, so the company trains them to know and grow their talents.

Such an investment at Tim’s has allowed them to grow leaders internally and demonstrate the wisdom of the former CEO of ServiceMaster, Ken Wessner. “Our responsibility…is to stir up the gift, the abilities of each individual so each person becomes fully developed and mature for making his or her contribution to the winning team and then goes on to be a leader on his own team.”  –Page 168-169

5. Build a culture where all employees belong and feel included.

Eurofragance Philippines Inc. (EPI) puts a priority on their corporate culture.  EPI, for more than 20 years, has been a distributor of fragrances and flavors. They consider God to be the owner of the company with a theme of ‘to God be the Glory’ and core values that they actually talk about – God-fearing, integrity, dedication, loyalty, teamwork, and excellence.

Within the context of the above, ‘people are a priority’ with a focus on continuous learning, career development, and personal growth.  Through various programs and trainings, they promote the overall well-being and inclusion of each employee.  They model the idea that the success of one is the success of all. Co-owner Richard Tan is often heard saying “everyone’s spiritual growth and maturity takes precedence.   –Page 80

6. Invest in the strengthening of competencies for managers at all levels – competencies for managing self, managing others, and for leading the organization. Engineering 77

Brandon manages a team of twenty engineers in a factory in Asia. He wrestles with how his HR practices will make sense to national engineers, and at the same time, demonstrate biblical values.  The national culture is one of high “power distance” which means it is accepted by all that some have less power and thus less value than those with high power.

One day, Brandon saw an opportunity to show that he valued everyone equally, because God created all people with equal value and worth. “Our roles are different,” he explained, “but our values as individuals are equal and precious”.  This resulted in a growing company ethos of respect for each employee.  He thus was able to more easily strengthen the competencies for all levels and consequently observe and train future leaders. –Page 76-77

7. Lead by example in honesty, transparency, and humility – this will do much to build a culture of trust.

I enjoyed a trip to visit Dave Kier and the business he built in NW Iowa, DFS Feeds.  The company employed over 100 men and women with the united goal to feed the world by “honoring God in all we do.”  As I toured the plant and then by myself walked around talking to plant operators, truck drivers, office workers, and customers, I was amazed with unsolicited comments about Dave’s consistent honesty, humility, and transparency in the management of the business. He walked the talk.  He could be trusted. He meant what he said and said what he meant.

  • The source for these examples is the book Missions Disrupted: From Professional Missionaries to Missional Professionals, Hendrickson Publishers, 2022. Page numbers are indicated. The book can be purchased from or Amazon.

Larry W. Sharp, BAM Support Specialist, IBEC Ventures

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