Marketing and Customer Service through a Spiritual Lens

by Ross O’Brien

In part 1 and part 2 of this series, we began looking at Porter’s value chain as a useful tool for business people seeking to maximize the value they deliver to customers while also seeking to gain a competitive advantage as they execute their strategy. Beyond the traditional use of the analysis, we also sought to use the tool as a way to help a follower of Jesus steward the resources of God’s company. In this third part of the series, we examine marketing and service, the final two primary activities in the value chain.

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Operations and Outbound Logistics Through a Spiritual Lens

by Ross O’Brien

In Part 1 of this series, we began looking at Porter’s Value Chain Analysis as a useful tool for business people seeking to maximize the value they deliver to customers while also seeking to gain a competitive advantage as they execute their strategy. We looked at Inbound Logistics as one of the primary activities in the value chain.

Beyond the traditional use of the analysis, we also unpacked how the tool could be used as a way to help a follower of Jesus steward the resources of God’s company. After all, while our names might be on the legal documentation as “owners,” we realize that the business belongs to God and we are co-laborers with him in restoring creation throughout the marketplace.

In the second part of the series, we continue to examine the primary activities of the value chain, this time focusing on operations and outbound logistics.

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Value Chain Analysis Through a Spiritual Lens: Introduction

by Ross O’Brien

In his 1985 book Competitive Advantage: Creating and Sustaining Superior Performance, Michael Porter introduced the value chain analysis. Many business people are familiar with Porter’s Five Forces Framework as well as his three generic strategies. The five forces address industry-level issues that to a large degree shape the potential for a return on investment in any given industry. The generic strategies help business leaders select the appropriate strategy for operating within a given industry and market. Both are helpful tools in the strategy toolbox.

Many are not as familiar with the value chain analysis. This tool looks closely at each of the activities involved in a business to examine how each activity can add value to the company as it seeks to execute its strategy. These activities are divided into primary activities and support activities.

Primary activities are those in which employees are “hands on” with the product at any stage in its development or involved with the customer at any stage in the customer’s interaction with the company.

Support activities are those necessary for the business to carry out the primary activities.

It is important to see both primary and secondary activities as a whole system as well as component parts. In doing so, you can understand how a competitive advantage is only possible when the various activities operate in harmony, not in isolation. Below is an image showing each of these activities.

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10 Guiding Principles for Business as Mission

Read this classic blog from our Archives, an excerpt from the Lausanne Occasional Paper on Business as Mission.
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A good business as mission business will, by definition, have many of the characteristics of any well-run business. A kingdom business must be profitable and sustainable just as any other business. Integrity, fairness and excellent customer service are characteristics of any good business, not just a business as mission venture. As such, while important, those characteristics will not by themselves necessarily point people to Christ. A kingdom business begins with the foundation of any good business, but takes its stewardship responsibilities even further.

What follows is a list of principles that should underpin a business as mission business. First we list the basic foundational principles that must exist in any good business. Following that are the principles that distinguish a good business as mission business.

Foundational Business Principles

1.  Strives to be profitable and sustainable in the long term

Profit is an indication that resources are being used wisely. It indicates that the product or service being produced and sold does so at a price that covers the cost of the resources, including the cost of capital. For most businesses, profits are fleeting, and never a sure thing. It is common for businesses to experience periods of low profit, and even negative profit. Thus it is important to take a long-term view of profitability. Occasional windfalls are often what will sustain a company through periods of financial losses. For that reason a well-managed business will use extreme care when considering whether and when to distribute profits. Profit, and its retention, is not necessarily an indication of greed. Read more

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

God in Your Foundational Statements

By Dave Kahle

There is a certain power and attractiveness that accrues to those folks who take a stand and publicly express it. That’s called leadership, and the world is full of people looking for a leader. There is something compelling about a person who is committed to a cause that is bigger than just himself, who has the courage to declare that commitment not only for himself but on behalf of those in his sphere of influence, and to do so publicly for anyone who wants to hear it. The impact can be incalculable — spreading across geographies and dripping down into several generations.

Of course, we’ve all seen this principle in our lives — significant people influencing multitudes with the strength of the commitment to a cause. My mind leaps to Billy Graham on the positive side, and Hitler on the negative. These are grand-scale examples, but there are scores of others in our families and communities who don’t get the same level of notoriety, but for whom the principle is just as operative.

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7 Creative Ways that Practitioners Integrate Business and Mission

A defining characteristic of a BAM company is that it intentionally integrates mission with business. But what does that look like in practice? What are some creative ways that practitioners work out their goals for spiritual impact, alongside their commercial, social and environmental goals?

We asked a small group of practitioners to share what they do in the business context that moves them towards their missional goals and spiritual impact. This could be something they did when establishing the company, or practices they do on a regular basis in the day-to-day life of the business. The practitioners shared a diverse range of specific practices, but there were some common themes. These seven ways to integrate business and mission stood out:

Keep Purpose Front and Center

Keeping the purpose, vision and objectives of the company at the forefront emerged as a key principle. This is important all the way through the life of the company, from the planning stages and goal setting, to evaluating those goals and choosing measures, to on-boarding processes for new hires, to daily communication with employees. Read more

Foundation: An Act of Worship

by Mike Baer

Like Business as Mission, the term Business as Worship has many meanings. As I listen to speakers and read current writing it seems that these fall rather easily into two major thought buckets:

  1. Business or Work as an Act of Worship
  2. Business or Work as an Act of Spreading the Worship of God

These are by no means mutually exclusive nor are they contradictory. In fact, both are wonderfully true and accurate. They are simply looking at the near term versus the eternal.

An Act of Worship

The core idea here is that worship, the act and attitude of ascribing worth to God and of prostrating ourselves, literally and figuratively, is not at all limited to what happens in a church building on Sunday morning. Singing, praying, listening to the Word of God and giving are all recognized forms of worship. But what about loving others and serving others? Or providing for our families and generating income for employees? What about honest labor? Accurate scales? Are not all of these also acts of worship? Indeed, when we speak of work as worship we are building on the Biblical truth that all of life, every single bit of living is meant to be done from a heart of submission to God and affection for Christ and our fellow man. All of life, except for sin, is in fact worship.

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Is Business As Mission Disruptive Innovation?

by Larry Sharp

A disruptive innovation is an innovation that creates a new market and value network and eventually disrupts an existing market and value network, displacing established market leading firms, products and alliances. The term was defined and phenomenon analyzed by Clayton M. Christensen beginning in 1995.1

BAM takes into consideration, the human condition of poverty and pain (both spiritual and physical) with the creation of a profitable business which creates jobs, which in turn creates wealth (a Biblical value stated in Deut. 8:18). It links that with the goal of making followers of Jesus and with the importance of wise use of human and natural resources. In summary, Business as Mission (BAM) at its core has a Quadruple Bottom Line: 1) Profit and Sustainability, 2) Job Creation, 3) Followers of Jesus, 4) Stewardship of Resources.

So how might this be innovative and how might it be disruptive?

First look at some well-known disruptive innovators. Jeff Bezos did not just improve book sales when he started Amazon. He disrupted everything – speedy book deliveries, then other products to become the world’s largest online shopping retailer. His latest disruptive talk: drones and space warehouses. His mantra, “if you are going to invent, you are going to disrupt.”  Read more