Workplace Relationships: Community Interaction

by Michael Thiessen

I’m willing to bet that if you own a business, it’s not a huge mega-corporation with billions – or even millions – in revenue. You probably own a fairly small business (or might work for one). Most people would probably guess that a large share of businesses have fewer than 20 employees, but did you know that the number is 90%?

When you run a small business, your community is vital to your success. Your customers, suppliers, employees, and even your competitors, are all part of your community. The first church in Acts had a strong sense of community, which we emulate to this day in our own churches. When others need help, we provide it, whether it is financial, emotional, spiritual, or otherwise.

Communities are part of what makes us strong. But our community doesn’t stop at the doors of the church that we attend on Sunday mornings. How can we be good stewards of the business God has given to us, using it as a platform to build strong relationships with our community?

Professional Peers

We can give employees time off to volunteer, we can give discounted services to churches and other non-profits, or we can use the equipment or expertise from our business to help others in the community. I could probably list off a few dozen more, and I’m guessing you could too. Instead of spending time on those fairly obvious avenues, let’s focus instead on how we can connect with others in our industry.  Read more

Workplace Relationships: Serving Your Clients

by Michael Thiessen

Capitalism – for all of the wealth and prosperity that comes with it – has many flaws. One flaw, however, is often overlooked. Capitalism causes us to stamp out uniqueness and to treat everyone as if they were exactly the same. The industrial revolution of the 18th and 19th centuries led into the mass market revolution of the 20th century, which led us to where we are today, in the 21st century.

Along the way these revolutions significantly changed how we operate our businesses and how we treat our customers. Over time we have been trained to view other human beings as faceless numbers on a spreadsheet. In this way it has robbed us of our ability to serve each other’s unique needs. It has made it more difficult for us to love and serve our customers as individuals. But this trend is reversing. Now we have a lot more ability to serve each person’s specific needs and treat them like a fellow human, while still running a successful business.

The Mass Market and Taylorism

The mass market has profoundly shaped our society – not just by creating wealth and boosting productivity, but by changing how we think. It all started with a man named Frederick Winslow Taylor, whose ideas on what he called Scientific Management paved the way for the mass market. His innovation was simple – to apply engineering practices to the business itself.  Read more

Workplace Relationships: Loving Your Employees

by Michael Thiessen

As a business owner, you provide many amazing things for your employees. You provide financial security for their families, a sense of belonging, and the emotional well-being and satisfaction that comes from doing good work. However, if Jesus were running a business, do you think he would stop there?

I believe that we are called to much more than that. We have so many more opportunities to bless our employees and care for them – to love our neighbors as ourselves. We can learn leadership lessons from Jesus, think more deeply and compassionately about who we are hiring, find ways to engage spiritually with our employees, plus some other great ways of caring more for our employees.

Leadership Lessons from Jesus

In true biblical fashion, it turns out that the best way to lead others is to serve them. Stephen Covey, who wrote one of the best-selling business books of all-time, was an advocate of this style of leadership, aptly called Servant Leadership. This is also the style of leadership that Jesus used throughout his ministry. We see this in how he washed the feet of the apostles, humbling himself to serve them even though he was their King. In fact, one of the people I have interviewed for Marketplace Disciples has based their entire business on teaching others how to lead in this way. Jannice Moore coaches the boards of businesses and non-profits, and gets to share the story of Jesus with all of her clients:

“The model of governance in which my business specializes is Policy Governance ®. One of its fundamental principles is that the board is not there for itself, but for its owners, those on whose behalf it governs, and that the board’s relationship with those owners should be one of servant-leadership.

So I build the concept of servant-leadership into every presentation, and use it as an opportunity to note that the concept was one taught by Jesus Christ.” Read more

6 Ways to Build Trust for Greater Impact

by Larry Sharp

In early 2016 I picked up a copy of the The Economist, entitled “The World in 2016”. An article on page 90 intrigued me entitled, “A Crisis of Trust” by Richard Eldelman.1 Mr. Edelman maintains that “trust – or, often, the lack of it – is one of the central issues of our time”. He may be right.

The Edelman Trust Barometer has been tracking trust issues for fifteen years, particularly between countries in the categories of government, business, technology, media, and NGOs. Technology is the most trusted sector and government is the least trusted institution worldwide. While trust in business is recovering, trust in CEOs has declined by ten points since 2011.

A recent Maritz poll2 indicates that only seven percent of workers strongly agree that they trust their senior leaders to look out for their best interest. John Blanchard’s research demonstrates that 59% of respondents indicated they had left an organization due to trust issues, citing lack of communication and dishonesty as key contributing factors.3 Clearly everywhere and in every sector, trust is at a tipping point.

All of this got me thinking about missional business startups. Certainly trust is fragile – in all aspects of life, and also in business. It is imperative for clients, customers, employees and team members to trust the owner because it is often easier to mistrust than to trust. What can a business owner do to develop high levels of trust?

The simplest understanding of trust is that it centers in competence and character. If owners and managers are competent in their knowledge, practice, and in getting things done; and they are persons of integrity, reliability and promise, they are probably a person of trust.

Perhaps the following concrete actions will go a long way to building trust in the business environment:

Read more

Putting the Enterprise in Social Enterprise

by Rudy Carrasco

Landscaping. Coffee shops. Handyman services. Training kitchens. Snow removal. Housing for single mothers.

Across the United States, church and business leaders are responding to needs in their communities through social enterprise. Social enterprise addresses a basic unmet need or solve a social problem through a market-driven approach. Many social enterprises mix earned revenue with cash donations to cover their costs—but a growing number of organizations seek to operate profitable business as they pursue shalom.

Shalom—the just conditions in which “nothing is missing, nothing is broken”—is the vision of Grand Rapids, Mich. based Building Bridges Professional Services. Building Bridges started in 2007 to employ young adults facing barriers to employment. They provide landscaping, lawn care, property maintenance, snow removal, and more. Their vision of shalom includes the flourishing of young people who have aged out of the foster care system and have few people or resources to lean on as a safety net.

In 2017, Building Bridges began the process of converting from a nonprofit to an L3C for-profit structure. “To do social enterprise well,” says Nate Beene, CEO of Building Bridges, “you have to closely integrate your social purpose and financial health.”

With support from Partners Worldwide volunteers, Nate and his team began strengthening the business-side of their operations four years ago. “Our budget wasn’t best suited for our industry,” Beene says. “We worked on account codes, breaking down expenses, and allocating costs like vendor repairs and vehicle use.”  Read more

Hyma Brings Shalom

by Ellie Hutchison

Her hand moves rhythmically, hovering in constant motion above the red earth. She draws in rice flour. A trail of white left in her wake, forming geometric swirls, arches, circles, and loops. Her kolam is elaborate, yet simple. Beautiful, but precise.

Each morning, millions of women in India rise and draw kolams on the ground outside their home. Yet their primary purpose is not decoration. Historically, they have been a sign of invitation and welcome. Made of rice flour, they are an offering to ants and other small organisms so they don’t have to walk too far for a meal.

In this way, a kolam embodies our call to care for the vulnerable among us. It is a humble effort to create a welcoming community of harmonious co-existence.

Like most people in Tirunelveli, a city in the south Indian state of Tamil Nadu, kolams were a familiar presence in Hyma’s childhood. They marked her path from home to school and back again. Her eyes would bounce from one to the next as she walked, careful not to smear the intricate designs with her footsteps. Read more

Every Man is as Lazy as He Dares to Be

by Patrick Lai

Every man is as lazy as he dares to be.  – Emerson

Emerson had it right. People do not do what is expected; we do what is inspected. Phil Parshall, after forty years of serving among Muslims, said to me, “I have my doubts about tentmaking … most tentmakers I know start out doing business and ministry, but in the end it is all business and no ministry.”

Everyone receives gratification from accomplishing tasks. Whether we are building a bridge or cleaning out the garage, we enjoy seeing the fruits of our labors. Productivity makes us feel good. It gives us value and a sense of worth. Those people groups which are still without a church in the 21st century are unreached for a reason – they are difficult to reach! Missionary work among these peoples has produced precious little fruit. Tentmakers, by definition have two tasks to do. If one task is producing fruit and the other is not, it is easy to gravitate toward the more productive, fruitful task. Therefore, it is important that every tentmaker is under some structure or relationship which provides the needed accountability to keep us growing and active in fulfilling both of our callings.
Read more

Are Our Beliefs Stunting Our Businesses?

By Dave Kahle

“For my whole life, I was led to believe that we were the richest country on earth. Now, I see that we are the poorest. It’s like my whole life has been wasted.”

This comment comes from John, the 80-year old father of one of our Albanian foster children, who was visiting the USA and our home for the first time in his life. He had lived his whole life under the communist government of Albania – one of the most oppressive in the world — and was now venturing out of the country for the first time. We couldn’t help but feel for him. He had been led to believe a lie, and that belief shaped his actions and his attitudes, and organized his life. Now, at an age where there was little to be done about it, he regretted his life lived in accordance with a belief that turned out to be false.

While not nearly as poignant and heart-breaking as John’s experience, we all allow the same thing – false beliefs – to impact our thinking and therefore, our businesses and our lives.

For the past 30 years, I have served as a sales consultant, trainer, and speaker. I have worked with at least 459 businesses and served thousands of others in seminars and speaking engagements. In all of this experience in the trenches, I’ve made some observations about what it takes to build a successful, thriving business – and what hinders the growth of those businesses who have the potential for great things, but languish in mediocrity.

Read more

7 Principles for Running a Kingdom Business from a 20 year Journey

Once a month, our panel of mentors answer your practical business questions. Send us your questions!

 

Dear BAM Mentor,

Starting out, I have BAM goals for my business and part of that is a company culture I want to intentionally develop. I expect my values and intentions will hit some roadblocks as I work that out on the ground…. How have you intentionally developed your company culture so that it reinforces and integrates with your BAM goals? What have been some challenges to that process, especially when operating cross-culturally?

~ Crossing Cultures

Dear Crossing,

Starting a business whose explicit goal and raison d’etre is to serve Kingdom concerns is difficult, but not impossible. My take on ‘Kingdom concerns’ is that they essentially boil down to developing people and glorifying God. Down through the ages, many Christians have successfully set up businesses for the same purpose. No doubt, many have also failed. While I do not have empirical evidence, I believe a majority of failures could be down to the business end of things, rather than their choice of Kingdom values over commercial interests.

I started a BAM company in India about 20 years ago. It took me three years to get to a point where I could formalize in writing how I would run the company as a “Kingdom Business”– as I referred to it at the time. Here are seven key principles that I discovered along the way, especially during those first three years of trying to figure it all out. I hope these principles will help you in your own discovery of what it means for you to be a BAM entrepreneur. Read more

6 Ways BAM Practitioners Develop Their Company Culture: Part 2

We asked 12 BAM Practitioners how they have gone about developing their company culture and what values and behaviors they have intentionally tried to instill. Their responses showed six clear themes: 6 ways to develop company culture. [Read Part 1]

Part 2: 3 more ways practitioners told us they develop company culture

 

4. Staff Orientation and Training

Communicating expectations upfront about culture and the biblical foundation for company values is a powerful way to set the stage for a strong ‘culture identity’. Regular discussion and staff training reinforces the culture and values that are being communicated and modelled.

Our business is in a Muslim country which has minorities of all the major religions. Everyone we hire is asked in their final interview, “We operate this business according to the principles in the Bible, is this a problem for you?” We have Muslims, Hindus, and Buddhists all working for us. No one has ever turned down a job because of this question. Having laid this foundation, it paves the way for prayer and using the Scriptures openly in our office. It gives us opportunities to teach godly values in all we do. – Patrick, Asia

Staff orientation is something we use to manage expectations upfront – even before making employment offers. We share the mission, history and culture of the company, along with the role of faith at the company or the personal testimony of the founder. This is all to ask if the person is “willing to come into this type of environment”. We get a verbal agreement that they are joining a faith-based or values-based company and embarking on a journey to challenge and grow themselves. We’ve found this is essential to manage expectations and open the door for follow on spiritual impact. From there we take an hour weekly during work hours, where the company is shut down, to break into teams to discuss and set goals around biblically-based principles – Mark, IT, Asia

We meet weekly as small groups to work towards character development – Ben and Yumi, IT, Southeast Asia Read more