7 Practitioners Give Start Up Advice for BAM in the Agriculture Industry

In the first half of 2017, we are looking at BAM companies in different industries. We are currently focused on business as mission in the agriculture industry, sharing insights and stories from experienced company owners.

We asked BAMers involved in agriculture:

What advice would you give to someone starting out BAM and wanting to run an agriculture business?

The best advice is always to start small. It is easy to scale up as you gain understanding.  The greatest cause of failure in the industry is getting bigger than you can handle and overextended financially. All of this can be avoided by being realistic in your expectations from the beginning. It is always better to do a small thing well and scale up as time, energy and finances allow. We must remember that agriculture involves a great deal of waiting and trusting God to bring the growth. It often involves much experimentation to get the right things growing in the right place at the right time. Don’t ever trust that there is a “one style fits all” approach. Every place and every situation will bring its own challenges and its own victories. Remember, our God is a God of abundance and if we do things in His way, He will provide the increase. It is important to get a team involved and a good business plan in place. Even on a small scale, we must concentrate on the business side of things. If we don’t, we may end up with a big pile of cucumbers rotting in the yard. – Carl, Caribbean & Asia  Read more

What are the Advantages of Doing BAM in the Agriculture Industry?

In the first half of 2017, we are looking at BAM companies in different industries. We continue with business as mission in the agriculture industry, sharing insights and stories from experienced company owners.

We asked BAMers involved in agriculture:

What are the advantages of being in the agriculture industry when it comes to doing BAM?

I see three advantages of being in the agricultural industry when it comes to doing BAM. First of all, everybody in the world needs food to eat. Food comes from agriculture. So if somebody has know-how in food production and food preservation it is the best industry for business. Second, it is easy to start in the agricultural industry. In every location there is already existing agricultural activity. No or only few imports are needed. Finally, it is easy to connect to people on the level of food because everybody relates to it. – Decent, Malawi

I think there is a big advantage in that with agriculture most of the grassroots people in your area can relate to you. They can see what you are doing and how it can have direct benefits to them. They can also get involved by utilizing your products on their farm, or learning and implementing what you are introducing, if it is new technology or improved methods. This can impact a huge number of people right there where you are. The people receiving those benefits are those who are working hard to legitimately provide a life and future for their families. If you impact them, and help them, you provide hope. Just like the hope and dignity you give to your employees, this can be multiplied out to the recipients of your product or technology, allowing them to better provide for their families. – Ben, Central Asia  Read more

6 BAM Practitioners on Engaging the Customer with Stories

Stories can be a powerful way to engage clients and bring more of a personal connection between your customers and your staff or products. We asked 6 professionals and company owners engaged in business as mission to share how they have used stories to connect with customers, build their brand and sell products, here’s what they shared:

 

In the case of the fashion industry, consumers have largely lost the association of the human impact our purchases make. I believe it is key that businesses use stories wherever they can to add value to their brand, the more personal the better. All our team members and crafters have published stories on our website. Our brand is built on the stories and connects the consumer to “Who Made Yours” with a unique, identifying tag on each item. – Brad, South Asia

 

As our company has grown, then yes, we have used the life stories of our staff to connect with customers. Stories are certainly powerful but with that comes huge responsibility. This should never be taken lightly! Stories of transformation should always be highlighted rather than their past. Everyday examples should always dwell on the positive and not the negative. It could be a temptation to use sensationalism, but that while that is powerful, it should never be the motivation! There are definitely pros and cons to using real stories of employees and we would strongly advise that you first earn the trust of the person whose story you are telling, and inform and gain their consent before using it as a marketing tool. Any photo or video captured also has to have  consent, along with an explanation of the power of social media. As a rule of thumb we do not use facial recognition unless consent is given and we have a no photo policy for any visitors, with photos and videos only being taken by trusted team members. We also always change the name when publishing as a safeguard. – Kara, South Asia

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How Stories Build Company Culture: 5 Business Leaders Share

We asked 5 professionals and company owners engaged in business as mission to share how they have experienced stories being used to build company culture:

 

We often use stories of our past experiences to show empathy and encourage our staff.  When we feel they are having a hard time on a project or feel uninspired by their current workload, I tell them about times in my past of how I have felt the same, but sticking through it has helped me grow and become who I am today. We have a family-like company culture and we want our staff to feel their boss or manager is not a distant authoritarian figure but a father/mother or big brother/sister figure whom they can respect yet find comfort with. – Yumi, Southeast Asia

 

Story telling from THE book we follow has certainly been a way forward to introducing true freedom in our company. We tell stories from the Bible each and everyday in all our business units and this also helps with setting culture! Life stories are also shared as women are brave enough, this then becomes a wonderful way of talking about freedom – we often use the term “freedom journey”.  Life stories also are powerful when recruiting and encouraging other women to leave “the trade”. When they are told about women who have managed to do that, and the transformation that can happen as a result, that is a powerful inspiration to do the same. – Kara, South Asia

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Painful Events, Stories and Company Culture

By Dave Kahle

Stories can be powerful tools to shape behavior and dramatically communicate expectations. Wise executives continually seek for opportunities to capture and then relate a story that supports and illustrates the organization’s culture. If the story can be tied to a piece of physical support, then it’s even better. Here’s an example.

In the days before email, we had a marketing program that consisted of developing an individualized prescription for a series of marketing letters for each prospect we encountered. We would customize and send these monthly.  Thus, one prospect would get a series of letters based on the size and type of his business, and another prospect would get a different series. This was the backbone of our marketing effort, and we produced hundreds of customized, first-class letters each week.

For reasons that I can’t remember, I reached into the wastebasket and retrieved a crumpled up letter. It was one of our prescription letters that had been sent back to us. There were typos and obvious errors in the first paragraph, including the incorrect spelling of the prospect’s name. The recipient had circled the errors and hand-written this message across the top: “Dave, if you can’t produce a letter without errors, how can you possibly help me?” He had mailed the letter, with his notes, back to us. Read more

The Business is the Mission? A Story from History

By Robert McArthur

The Year: 1758

The Month: April

The Situation: Sending thirty cash-strapped Moravian Missionaries to Suriname

Additional Requirements: a shipment of stripped linen; and one Moravian, Jonas Paul Weiss, to do some hard thinking on economic activities in missions, to articulate and pioneer this way of doing missions.

Long Term Results: Over two centuries of successful missionary commerce.

The Story: For the experienced businessman, Weiss, business offered as many opportunities for Christian witness as for profit. [1] His business brain and passionate missionary heart thus laid the foundation for what is now two centuries of missionary commerce.

It was however Sarasin, from another likeminded mission, The Basel Evangelical Mission Society who, in a letter to India in 1854, articulated best the principles of this ‘missionary commerce’ when he wrote:

“The Business arm of the Mission is not just an aid to missions but it is the mission itself

  • a mission not through preaching but through the power of example
  • a mission of revealing Christianity in practical life situations
  • a mission doing everything possible to make godliness visible
  • a mission that shows Christianity to have promise not only for the life to come but also for this life.” [2]

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The Power of a Story: Orality in Business

By Howard Partridge

While attending a very high level, exclusive leadership training, we were taken to the largest independent advertising agency in the U.S.

We were taken on a tour of the massive, modern office space inhabited by over 700 employees that included a gym that would rival any local health club, nap rooms, and most importantly the large, open stairwell that connected all the floors of this modern building.

The stairwell is the one and only place that all 760 team members can all be together. There is a catwalk that is prominently suspended in the middle of the open stairwell where the company news is shared. This is where potential clients are brought to be introduced, it’s where the good and the bad is shared. And, this is where stories are told.

In order to effectively tour the company, our group of about a hundred was broken into small groups of ten people. A staff member named Emily led our tour. She told story after story about their culture, why they do what they do, and why it was important. I was impressed that she was so passionate about the stories, the culture and the meaning behind everything they do. Read more

5 Leaders Give Advice for Starting BAM in the Hospitality Industry

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 Read more

What are the Advantages of Doing BAM in the Hospitality Industry?

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 are the advantages of being in the hospitality industry when it comes to doing BAM?

The hospitality industry is a great option when it comes to doing BAM, especially when food is involved. Having a meal is an essential human need, and so is shelter. As a service provider, you meet those basic needs and provide a common space for people to gather in a very non-threatening way – especially helpful in gospel-sensitive countries. Jesus’ first miracle was performed at a wedding when he turned water to wine, he also fed thousands with five loaves and two fish, he ate at Zacchaeus’ and Matthew’s houses, and the Bible gives us an account of his last supper with his disciples, as well as many other examples of having meals together. There is a saying that “the way to a man’s heart is through his stomach” and it is so true! – VL, Restaurant in East Asia Read more

New Year’s Resolutions? 3 BAM Owners Share Their Goals for 2017

On New Year’s Sunday my pastor asked for a show of hands of all the people who made New Year’s Resolutions. Out of a crowd of 500 people, he counted only three. I was surprised at the extremely low number. Back in the day, everyone seemed to talk about it. Maybe we have finally faced the fact that bad habits don’t turn off when the new year turns on! Gym memberships mentally expire in February, diets last until the next dinner invitation, To Do lists remain undone… although all start with the best intentions.

Even if New Year’s Resolutions are facing extinction, articulating hopes for the year ahead and setting realistic goals definitely should not be – certainly not for BAM company owners! We thought it would be fun to hear from some hard working vision-filled business people who have a lot at stake for reaching their goals this year.

For a business, setting and reaching goals is essential for company health and growth. Business goals that encompass the four bottom lines of business as mission will impact staff, customers, suppliers and the community broadly. The goals shared below are a snapshot from the longer list of goals each company has for the year. Read more