In the first half of 2017, we will periodically run short series looking at BAM companies in different industries. We start with business as mission in the hospitality industry, sharing insights and stories from experienced company owners.
We asked BAM owners in the hospitality industry:
What one piece of advice would you give to someone starting out in BAM and wanting to run a hospitality business?
The barrier of entry to this industry is quite low and hence not very difficult to set up, however keeping it running profitably is a real challenge. Many mission-minded Christians may first consider a non-profit model which in many cases will fail eventually due to financial difficulty. If anyone is seriously considering running a hospitality business as BAM, the dedication to the business and its excellence are vital to success and longevity. Great products and services are keys to maintain brand loyalty and by themselves are great testimonies and tools of evangelism. By winning the pre-believers’ stomachs, that’s already a big step closer to winning their hearts for Christ! If you have a big passion for people, then you’ve got to have a big passion for this industry as well, because you need to invest a lot of care and love into the products and your team. If you do that effectively, then the food that you serve on a table will be so stunningly good that will deeply move and touch people in their hearts. – VL, Restaurant in East Asia
I would ask, “Is this really something you are passionate about?” Often people think of starting a cafe because it’s a familiar kind of business or they enjoy cooking. However, they may not consider what a full time job it is running a hospitality business. It’s not a 9 to 5 kind of business, you will work evenings and weekends, and always holidays! If you love to cook and serve people and you get satisfaction from working hard doing that, then you will be energised by it and running the business will give you life. However, if it doesn’t give you life, if you aren’t passionate about it, it’s not a good idea to start. Along with that, staff your weaknesses. No one person can be a great entrepreneur, a great manager and a great cook or barista or host – so whichever of those you are your strengths, take that role and form a core team to cover areas where you are weaker. – Josh, Hospitality Consultant in USA & Asia
If you have an entrepreneurial gift, a well thought out and vetted business idea, a passion for seeing the business concept turn into a reality and a commitment to never give up then I would encourage you, BAM is a great career path. You should have an ability to work long hours with little family time (for first few years). To ensure your commitment, you should have ‘skin in the game’ – ask yourself how much of your own money you willing are to put into the business. Lastly, but most importantly, be committed to a holistic approach to being Christ’s hands and feet in your company and in the community. – David, Cafe in Thailand
Be prepared to be stretched! Working hours are long in hospitality companies. It’s all about service, you are there to serve people and that means you have got to be willing to give time, there are no fixed hours. If one of your hotel guests has a medical emergency, you need to make sure it’s taken care of, if your coffee machine breaks down at the weekend, you’ll need to solve it. Also, always be ready to keep growing in the area of managing people. Your financial, spiritual and social bottom lines will all depend on being excellent at what you do. Dealing with your staff, training them up to their level of full potential and giving them a safe place to make mistakes and develop is a key. You have to love your staff and train them – to see them learning more about the business and more about Jesus. However, good your intentions, not everyone has the skill of managing people, so make sure it’s something you are growing in. – K, Guest House and Cafe in East Asia
My advice would be to know that you have the word of the God about starting this business. When it gets hard you can pray and trust that God will open doors. If the government refuses your license, you can go back to prayer. Pray all the time for God’s favour, with every meeting you go to, for every decision. He will give it, but you need to ask for it! In business not everything always flows, it may take time to reach profit, you’ll spend a lot of time initially putting out fires. Knowing God has called you to start this company is an essential foundation so that you don’t wear yourself out. – R, Hospitality Training in East Asia
Compiled by Jo Plummer, with thanks to the BAM practitioners who shared their experiences.
Jo Plummer is the Co-Chair of the BAM Global Think Tank and co-editor the Lausanne Occasional Paper on Business as Mission. She has been developing resources for BAM since 2001 and currently serves as Editor of the Business as Mission website.