by Mike Baer
In all entrepreneurial circles, the hot topic is “How to scale the business.” How do we take our company from me (and possibly a few others) to many? How do we add more employees? Customers? Lines of business? Locations? Profits?
Scaling in General
“Scale or Die” is the cry that comes from many startups and from virtually all investors. Growth is an evidence of life and health. Healthy companies grow. But it’s not easy, especially in a business as mission endeavor.
Where will you find the funding to expand? Bootstrapping or “cash-flowing” expansion is extremely difficult and tediously slow.
What about managers sufficiently skilled and knowledgeable to lead a larger business who also share your faith and focus? Where will you find them? How will you pay them? Who will move to your location? Do you use locals? Expats?
And, most importantly, what about your own experience or lack thereof? If you’ve never done it before, it’s daunting and difficult to say the least! The overwhelming majority of startups fail to scale.
For help with these general challenges, may I suggest two resources. First, read Scaling Up by Verne Harnisch; Verne is an expert in entrepreneurial companies, a great guy and a great author. Second, contact IBEC Ventures; IBEC is a team of believing growth consultants dedicated to helping BAM companies succeed.
Scaling for the Unreached
I love startups. I love business. I love entrepreneurship. I love growth. But most of all, I love being a part of what the Lord Jesus is doing among the ‘Unreached People Groups’ – the UPGs – of the world. Scale for them!
This is especially important because so few of the global church’s resources are working among these people groups. When Jesus said “disciple the nations” He meant ALL nations, not just those that are easy to get to. We are to take the Gospel to the ends of the earth!
Business may be the very best way to do this – not just to enter restricted access countries but to meet people where they are – in genuine workplace settings that meet their immediate felt needs.
Therefore, we should build our companies among UPGs and aim to scale the businesses we start. There are three particular reasons to commit to this:
1. Scale brings opportunity for increased employment
One of the cardinal shortcomings of the modern BAM movement is the failure to provide jobs in any impactful way. Scaling increases the jobs you can offer to expats and nationals and there’s no better way to reach people with the Gospel than in the context of meeting the fundamental need of gainful employment.
2. Scale brings opportunity for increased community impact
More customers bring more relationships and it’s through relationships that the Gospel spreads and spiritual impact is made. Whether they are suppliers, customers, or even competitors, every new contact is a stewardship from God for the Truth. Additionally, as your company grows and your profits are well managed there comes an increased chance to do things for the community – funding or contributions to hospitals, schools, poverty aid, education, stopping human trafficking, etc. This is not a uniquely Christian endeavor; most large companies have a “give back” strategy; how much more a Kingdom Business?!
3. Scale brings opportunity for increased governmental influence
Just as employment and education are major issues in the Unreached World, so is government corruption. Through a successful, growing and contributing business (read that, “We pay taxes!”), Gospel Entrepreneurs are able to walk the corridors of power. You may find yourself, as I was, part of launching a university at the request of government officials, offered powerful committee seats, asked to consult on issues of taxation, trade, business climate, ethics, etc. This is the Old Testament idea of a being a “man at the gate,” i.e. a trusted and respected elder of the community. Frankly, very few BAM operators have ever achieved this status due, simply, to the small size of their businesses.
To be sure this short blog is not a detailed roadmap for growth. My purpose is to encourage and ignite a passion to go beyond micro and small enterprise efforts. Micro-enterprise is where I cut my teeth in the BAM movement back in the early 1990s and I love it. It has had and will continue to have arithmetic impact on the world of the unreached. However, if I want to see exponential or geometric impact then I must and we must move beyond MED to full blown scalable businesses in our target countries. Let’s do it!
This post is part of a series of blogs in April 2019 focused on solving global issues with innovative BAM solutions.
The BAM 2.0 Series
Over the coming months we will go into greater depth on each of these key issues.
In March we will continue with our introduction to the series, looking at how far we’ve come and some of our ‘big hairy audacious goals’ for the future.
In April we’ll take a deep dive into our ‘Why’ – what are some of the pressing global issues that BAM can address, including poverty, unreached peoples, the refugee crisis and human trafficking.
In May we’ll look at some limiting issues such as the sacred-secular divide, our definition of success, our geographical depth and our connectedness; issues that we must overcome for future growth.
In June we’ll look at resource gaps to overcome, including human capital, financial capital, mentoring, prayer and continuity planning.
Mike Baer was one of the early leaders in the modern Business as Mission movement. He started his career as a pastor and church planter. After 15 years in the pastorate Mike was led into business where he gradually began to discover the potential for believers in business to bless their communities, evangelize the lost and spread the Kingdom of God, especially among the unreached. Today, Mike is the Chief People Officer of EmployBridge, a $3.2 billion employment company based in the US. He has written numerous books: Business as Mission, Kingdom Worker, Gospel Entrepreneur, The Pastor and the Business Person, Business as Mission When You’re Not the Boss, and How to Be Big Yet Small. Mike is Founder and CEO of Third Path Initiative and a regular contributor to the Third Path Blog. Today Mike and his wife reside in the mountains of North Carolina where they enjoy their 5 grandchildren.