Discovering the Right Thing to Build: How to Get Started with Business Planning

by Colleene Isaacs

In every new business I have had the pleasure of being able to build, or at least participate in the process, the ultimate plan that proved successful for the business was not the original idea that got the team on board. My partners and I started out on one path and soon found in each case, for a variety of different reasons, that if we didn’t “pivot” or change course the business had a high probability of failure. Fortunately, we did change course quickly enough, such that resources were preserved and we were able to build and scale the business to a successful outcome. Other start-ups in which I participated made assumptions based on existing businesses and markets, and unfortunately never tested those assumptions. The businesses ultimately failed, because the assumptions were wrong.

I have met MBAs that have plowed considerable resources into researching and defining a business model, only to take so long and be so far off mark, they never got the business off the ground. Read more

10 Questions to Ask Yourself When Evaluating a Business Idea

By Robert Andrews

I would ask questions like these in a couple of iterations, meaning I would go through them once quickly to see if there is some clear deal breaking problem, and then again in more detail, and finally as part of the development of a detailed and researched business plan:

1. Is it a product or service that honors God?  (Helping society, is good for the environment, etc.)

2. Is the business viable? Is there a market need for the product/service? Is the market ready and able to pay for the product/service?

3. Are there ways in which the business can make a positive contribution to the needs of the kingdom in this city/country?

4. Are staff, suppliers and other essential services available?

5. Are there legal restrictions or other government regulations that would make it unworkable?

6. Do I have the skills and other resources necessary to run the business and, if not, can I get them through training, hiring, consulting or other partnerships?  (This would include management skills, technical product skills, local business knowledge, language and culture skills, just to name a few.)

7. How much capital will it take to start and maintain?  (Estimate the capital requirement. Then double it. Then double it again!)

8. What happens if it all goes the wrong way… can I afford the loss if it comes?

9. Do I have the time and energy to make this work and is my family willing to make the sacrifice with me?

10. Are there other opportunities available that will bring a better financial and/or spiritual return on my invested time, money and effort? Read more

5 Stages of the Birth of a New BAM Company

by Peter Shaukat

Peter Shaukat, CEO of Transformational SME (TSME), identifies five stages in the emergence of a new business as mission company. Each stage, from conception to launch, involves the integration of missional and commercial elements.

Preparation Stage

This is before the ‘baby is born’, the preparation that has taken place even before the business journey starts. It is about recognising what God has already done in the practitioner’s life in regards to their sense of missional call and life experiences; the tapestry woven together in their life before the BAM entity begins to be incubated. Preparation includes both business preparation and missiological preparation. What has God been doing to both missionally and professionally prepare the person, in terms of their skills and competencies?

This is where mentoring should begin: Tell me what God has been doing in your life? Tell me what your sense of call is? Tell me how God has been preparing you? The incubation process needs to begin there. The incubation of a new BAM business is the result of the process that God has already been doing before that.

Perception Stage

The perception stage is the next step. This is about gaining an understanding of what is going on in the environment that God has called you to do business as mission within; and what God wants to do through the business. What is going on in that environment in commercial terms? What are the needs? What is the market? What is the specific missional element? What is the missional calling to the people group? How is God raising up your business? The perceiving stage addresses the question: What is your business going to be about, commercially and missionally? This is the beginning of the gestation stage of the new business. Read more

4 Natural Tensions of the Pushed Together Model

We are exploring the integration of business and mission, and the tensions this integration can produce. In Part 1 I introduced two different models of connecting mission with business: ‘Hitched Together’ and ‘Pushed Together’. In Part 2 I unpacked some of the tensions that occur when you ‘Hitch Together’ business and mission. Here is more about ‘Pushed Together’ and the tensions that tend to arise with this model.

The ‘Pushed Together’ Model

Business as mission is where the goals and roles of business operations and missional life are aligned. The ‘ministry’ happens in the context of life in business and out of the activities of the business itself. Although it’s all ‘mission’, it is legitimate to consider different kinds of goals and impacts: commercial, social, environmental and spiritual – because we measure along multiple bottom lines. Specific activities will be focused on producing results for one or more of those bottom lines.
Pushed Together graphic 2
Those pushing the circles together will not, however, be immune to tension. Here are just a few of the kinds that will be encountered:
Read more

4 Tensions to Avoid of the Hitched Together Model

We are exploring the integration of business and mission, and the tensions this integration can produce. In Part 1 I introduced two different models of connecting mission with business: ‘Hitched Together’ and ‘Pushed Together’. Here is more about ‘Hitched Together’ and the tensions that tend to arise with this model.

The ‘Hitched Together’ Model

‘Hitched Together’ is when ministry goals/job description do not overlap very significantly with the business operation. For instance, you work in a business, but you do your primary ‘ministry’ work outside of office hours. Perhaps the business is a means to a particular end – you need it for a visa, or money, or access – but you don’t see it as the primary sphere where your missional goals and role is outworked.Hitched Together graphic
Some might say this isn’t really ‘business as mission’ because it is hardly integrated. They might call it ‘business for mission’ or ‘bivocational work’. There is nothing inherently wrong with being bivocational. For many people in ministry all over the world, it is the way they make life work. However, I would suggest there are some pitfalls to this model, especially in the context of cross-cultural work, and some natural tensions that arise, including: Read more

Hitched Together Versus Pushed Together: BAM Integration

Business as mission is all about the two I’s: Intention and Integration. In BAM we take the innate God-given potential of business to produce innovation, resource multiplication, job creation, community development, and so on, and intentionally leverage that power for ‘missional’ goals.

Business as mission is demonstrating what the Kingdom of God is like in the context of business – and as we do so, engaging with the world’s more pressing social, economic, environmental and spiritual issues.

A hallmark of a BAM company is the intentional layering business operations and mission together into an integrated whole. However, just because something is intentional, it doesn’t mean it is without tension. Practitioners share that when mission and business are layered together, there will inevitably be tensions of one sort of another. But what kind of tensions and how can they be resolved?

Not All Tension is Bad

Tension is not necessarily a bad thing. Forces that tear apart can also, when managed correctly, support great loads. BAM Mentor and, Peter Shaukat, neatly illustrates this point with a picture of the Golden Gate Bridge. Suspension bridges use the forces of tension to support the weight of the bridge across wide spans. Shaukat argues that because success in BAM is measured along multiple dimensions – including commercial returns, spiritual impact, expanding reach and long-term influence – that success in BAM is therefore is dependent on being able to effectively manage tension. Read more

Keeping Your Eye on the Ball: Resolving Business Tensions

by David Skews

Tensions tend to arise when we take our eye off the ball. We need to be constantly asking the questions, Why are we here? Why are we doing what we are doing?

Because we are in business and are employing business methods, it is easy to allow our motivations to become aligned with the world’s motivations, e.g. to make profit for its own sake or only increase shareholder value. There may be nothing inherently wrong with these goals but they do not reflect the primary aims of a BAM business. The focus should be on the benefits generated for people and for pleasing God, which then results in profits and shareholder value.  When our motivations become hijacked, our priorities become distorted and tensions arise, particularly between stakeholders.

Specific actions we have found to be valuable in combating these dangers include:

Clearly define the mission, vision, values and objectives

Spend time to ensure your mission, vision, values and objectives are all very clearly and precisely defined and documented. The idea is that when tensions, arguments or disagreements arise, these clearly defined statements become the arbiters against which differing views can be evaluated. For this reason, woolly definitions are worse than useless since they are open to being interpreted and reinterpreted in different ways to suit and support whatever arguments are being put forward. It is worthwhile revisiting these definitions on a fairly regular basis, first to tighten them up where they have been found wanting and secondly to keep them at the front of people’s minds and avoid them gathering dust on the shelf. Read more

7 BAMers Talk About Why Their Industry is Strategic

We’ve been taking an in depth look at BAM companies in the IT Industry in the last few weeks. Here’s what two BAM company owners said about how IT is strategic for business as mission:

The advantage of an IT company for a B4T is that programming is a skillset that transcends borders and language. Code is the same everywhere and can be used anywhere in the world, so in theory an IT company can be set up anywhere in the world as long as there is electricity and an internet connection. It is an industry that is and will continue to be in high demand.  – Yumi, IT, Vietnam

Technology has real implications for humankind, it can be used to enlighten the world and make it a better place, or it can destroy humanity. As Christian technologists we have the awesome opportunity to bring honor and Glory to God in all that we do. We are here to reflect His character in ourselves and in the technology we build. – Joseph, IT, India

BAM practitioners are in many different industries. Here are other BAMers sharing why they have found their particular business strategic: Read more

Pioneering an IT Company in India: Interview with a Founder

It was after a survey trip to a small city in India 20 years ago that Ajay and colleague Jason saw a desperate need for someone to live out the gospel there. They both committed to relocate with their families and went about assessing the needs and opportunities there. One great need in the community was to provide jobs for the skilled IT workforce so they wouldn’t need to move away for work in the bigger cities, which was separating families. Ajay and Jason co-founded an IT business, and over the last 14 years their understanding about how God can use business has significantly evolved and expanded, along with their business model. We asked Ajay to share some of his experiences.

What is the goal of your company?

We say that our mission is to be the best IT company in our region. Ultimately our goal is to do everything with excellence, to exceed customers expectations at an affordable cost and for our staff to see their work as something that they can take pride in. They thrive in serving one another through serving the client. Through that process God is giving us amazing opportunities to share with them what it is to know God and to follow Him. For example, one of the key employees is going through a very difficult time emotionally, and we have the opportunity to share that healing and peace can only come through Christ. So our goal is to have an impact holistically: providing a service with excellence, giving the staff the opportunity to thrive, and being able to talk about life and family – and being able to point them to Christ in the midst of that. We are trusting that God will use the way we do business and build relationships every day in our company.

Why did you choose the IT industry?

The city where the company started is a relatively small city with very little direct influence of the gospel, there is no gospel ministry and very few believers. Even constructing a church building would not be welcome in this place. We saw a need for the gospel in this city so we explored the question, what would be an opportunity here? Read more

Tips for Hiring and Staff Training in the IT Industry

by Joseph Vijayam

Information Technology is a knowledge industry that relies almost entirely on the knowledge of people working in the industry. If you are setting up an IT company you will need to look for people with skills and experience that are aligned with the services you aim to provide.

If you are unable to find people with the right skills and experience, I suggest elevating the skills of people living in your region by setting up an IT training institute. I assume you are an IT professional and that you would have the skills required to teach. Additionally, you might want to recruit one or two staff members or volunteers who are able to teach IT as you prepare a workforce. IT training in itself can be a profitable business, depending on the ability for students to pay for courses, and you can ultimately benefit from your end product of trained IT professionals. From among this newly trained workforce you can recruit your staff for providing IT services in the long run.

I have seen the rise of the IT industry in India over a period of 30 years. It all began with the establishment of numerous IT training institutes across all major cities of India back in the early 1980s. Some of the same training institutes moved up the value chain in the IT industry and have now become global IT businesses. There is now no dearth of trained IT professionals in India, but it all started with a few entrepreneurs who set up institutes to train people who often ended up working with the same team responsible for their initial training. Some examples of Indian companies which followed this model are NIIT, Satyam (now Tech Mahindra), HCL, and so on. Read more