The 5 C’s of Business As Mission

I participated in a one-day Business As Mission conference in October.  There were three plenary speakers, three BAM businesses from Asia which made a pitch for $25,000 of capital, a panel discussion, and roundtable discussions. Every part was beneficial.

One of the speakers was David Nash, a Canadian investor and entrepreneur, who spends time with his wife supporting and coaching social entrepreneurship and philanthropy both in North America and internationally.  His personal journey was intriguing and informative, and he left us with five Cs, which I have found beneficial to reflect upon.

1. Calling

R Paul Stevens, in his book The Other Six Days, maintains that vocational calling starts with being called to “Someone” before we are called to do “something”.  The Latin word vocatio simply means to have a calling.  As believers, we are called to holiness and a relationship with God first and foremost; and then secondarily to a particular everyday work.  Most all reformers agree with Luther that “…the works of monks and priests, however holy or arduous they be, do not differ one whit in the sight of God from the works of the rustic laborer in the field or the woman going about her household tasks…”

We believe that business is a high and holy calling if it is what God has wired us for. Os Guinness in his landmark work, The Call, validates this with his “…the heart of our calling is work that fulfills us because it employs our deepest gifts.” (page 51).

2. Covering

No entrepreneur and no mature business owner ever accomplishes his innovation or his business alone.  “Everyone needs a coach” said Bill Gates. Mark Zuckerberg demonstrates the importance of a team by bringing the right people in to form partnerships which drive success.  “At Facebook, Zuckerberg provides the imagination, while Sheryl Sandberg, Facebook’s chief operating officer, provides the execution around his vision.”

For Christian BAM partners, “covering” not only means having a mature leadership team, but it also includes prayer support and investors who understand that the vision is to transform lives. A maturing BAM business owner who had arrived at profitability/sustainability once asked me if he should tell people that their partnership was no longer needed.  We talked about it and I focused on the all-important need to always have people faithfully praying.

3. Commitment

Starting and growing a business is a full-time job and it requires persistence, determination, and commitment.  It is hard work, and real BAM owners understand that without a profitable business, you have no ministry in people’s lives.  As IBEC coaches, it is important to realize that without the business leadership, stamina, and determination to keep learning and working hard, we would be wasting our time.  Entrepreneur and motivational speaker Jim Rohn once said, “If you really want to do something, you’ll find a way. If you don’t, you’ll find an excuse.”

Someone once said, “When the world says, “Give up,” Hope whispers, “Try it one more time.”  Certainly, for the believer, “To this end I strenuously contend with all the energy Christ so powerfully works in me.” (Colossians 1:29).

4. Capacity

One of the lessons we learned in the early days of IBEC was that not everyone is cut out to start cross-cultural missional businesses.  God has given everyone certain gifts and talents, and as we discover them, we must utilize that capacity for kingdom purpose.  If God has called us to such a business, He has given emotional, spiritual, physical, intellectual, and technical capacity.  In the words of Aslan to Prince Caspian, “You doubt your value. Don’t run from who you are.”

Some call these domains “capital” not unlike monetary capital, we must have, and we must develop Spiritual capital, Intellectual Capital, Social Capital and Technical Capital.  All of these things help to measure capacity for the business and help us measure success.

5. Clarity

Clarity is important in almost every sense of the business.  Quoting Mark Zuckerberg again, “I think as a company, if you can get those two things right–having a clear direction on what you are trying to do and bringing in great people who can execute on the stuff–then you can do pretty well.”  On the front end then is a clear vision, and on the back end is clarity in record keeping, particularly financial records.  Without a clear direction, one can go from one thing to the next and go around in circles. Without clear statements, one cannot see what is happening and then can be quickly deceived.

Every BAM business should strive for transparency.  I once told a business in North Africa, “If a lowly street sweeper asked why you are here, your answer should make sense to her; if the King of the country should ask the same question, the answer to him should make sense to him.”  Clarity and transparency are rarely a hindrance, and almost always are mandatory in a business.

Larry Sharp, Director of Training, IBEC Ventures 

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