Ask a BAM Mentor: Financing a BAM Company

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

Dear BAM Mentor,

What would you say were the most important things to prepare or think about as I approach a BAM investor? What are some typical pitfalls or mistakes I could avoid?

Getting Prepared

Dear Getting Prepared,

Funding for your new business is obviously crucial – no cash, no business. So let’s think about this from an investor’s perspective. What is it that interests him or her? What does he or she want to see? What questions answered?

Here’s what I’d be asking: What exactly is the product or service that you intend to sell? Don’t assume that I understand it. Make it simple for me. What is the market demand for this? Do people really need/want your product or service? Who will your competitors be? How is your idea better than and different from theirs?

This first set of questions is about your viability in the market place. Is this a real business? The next set of questions is about you. Can I count on you? What is your background? Why are you particularly qualified to launch a business like this one? Do you have a specific knowledge base or experience that would give me confidence that you can actually pull this off? Who do you have around you? What is your track record? Who will vouch for your character? Your commitment to Christ?

Read more

Friday Links: Posts and Resources from the BAM Community

Every Friday we connect you with some of our recent favourite links. This week:

Posts and resources from the wider BAM community

What Christianity Today Missed – Peter K Greer

It’s not news: Getting a job is probably the most basic way to get out of poverty. That’s why I’m amazed by the fact that in Christianity Today’s list of top 10 poverty alleviation strategies, only one directly involves job creation (microfinance)… These solutions are critically important, but primarily address poverty’s symptoms instead of its root cause. They also emphasize what “we” can provide instead of recognizing that imported solutions rarely last.

Read more

Corruption Cheat Sheet

BAM Cheat Sheet Corruption

Click image to open PDF, save or print.

 With thanks to Larry Sharp and Dwight Nordstrom.

25 Years of Business in China: Interview on Tackling Corruption

Interview with Dwight Nordstrom

Dwight, you have been in business for 25 years in China, and not just any business, you’ve been involved in manufacturing in big industries, like chemicals and telecommunications, regularly importing supplies and exporting products. How big has the issue of corruption been?

Well let me just start by saying: This is real! This is not hypothetical stuff, it’s a big issue for us. I would say I have to deal with about 25 cases a year of substantial corruption-related situations. To put that in perspective with other common issues faced by businesses, in last 20 years, across our operations of about 5000 people in Asia, I have had zero illegal drug issues, a couple of alcohol related issues, I have had two sexual harassment issues of a serious nature to deal with, but the major issue by a long way is corruption which I have had to deal with at least twice a month. Corruption is a big issue.

Can you give us an example where you’ve had to deal with someone trying to bribe you?

We’ve had situations where we’ve lost business over refusing to pay a bribe. We had a speciality chemical and the representative in a wholly-owned German company asked for a 5% kickback, with 1% going into a personal account. That was a million dollar plus account per year and I don’t even know now six years later if we’ve ever recovered the value of the account. Read more

Doing Business in Kazakhstan: Economic Implications of Worldview

by Kevin White

Kazakhstan is one of the top ten fastest growing economies in the world. This multicultural developing nation is home to 140 various ethnicities and 17 religious groups. The capital city Astana is slated to host the Expo 2017. Kazakhstan’s ambitious 2050 plan is to become one of the top thirty most developed economies in the world. In this vein, Kazakhstan is engaging in unprecedented efforts to attract foreign investment. Recent legislation is offering investors 30% government subsidies on their investment and up to ten years tax free. This offer has been marketed to Western audiences through canny ad campaigns in popular media venues such as Euronews.

Yet in spite of these sincere efforts, corruption behind the scenes is still all too prevalent. A spokesman for the Dutch embassy, who wished to remain anonymous, stated that recently a Dutch company took Kazakhstan up on its attractive offer. However, shortly after completion of their new facility, Kazakhstan “inspectors” found a piece of machinery in violation to some obscure code. As a result the Dutch company had their investment subsidy rescinded and were fined 40% of their investment for a penalty. Similarly, a German businessman stated that German companies are still hesitant to invest substantially because of the routine problems of corruption and bureaucracy.    Read more

Lessons from the Edge: Dealing with Bribery in China

Insights from a BAM Practitioner

Dwight Nordstrom is a veteran of doing business in Asia for almost 30 years. He is on a continuing journey of learning how to deal with bribery and corruption as he leads Pacific Resources International, to expand manufacturing operations in China.

Don’t make blanket statements about bribery and corruption. 
This issue is simple, yet complex! It is good practice to talk about individual cases versus making unilateral statements. Brainstorm with others. Ask, What does this mean in this context?  Is there a different way we could do this? Is there a way we could still win this business? 

Have a zero tolerance approach in your top leadership. 
Within your own company leaders – especially in your purchasing and financial operations – you have got to have a zero tolerance for bribes. Have good frameworks in place to train, implement and evaluate that zero tolerance approach.

Be incredibly selective about what industry and type of business you get into. 
There are a lot of businesses I wouldn’t touch because it is such a corrupt industry. Select the type of industry very carefully since that will determine how much corruption you will face. Build your competency in an industry that is less corrupt before taking on business in more corrupt sectors.

 

Friday Links: Posts and Resources on Faith at Work

Every Friday we connect you with some of our recent favourite links. This week:

Posts and resources from the marketplace ministries movement.

Entrepreneurship within a Biblical Worldview – Institute for Faith, Work and Economics

Christians have a somewhat schizophrenic view of entrepreneurs. We see them as something of a necessary evil; we recognize their value to some extent but also view them with skepticism and distrust, especially those who become wealthy. They are frequently viewed in a certain accusatory way, as though their wealth has come at the expense of others. This view stems from an incomplete understanding of what entrepreneurs do, how they function, and the role they play in God’s order. Entrepreneurs are vital to fulfilling God’s purpose. They are creative people who provide people with a way of serving others. In that sense, they display a divine characteristic.

Read more

The Challenge of Corruption

Corruption is defined as the misuse of power by someone to whom it has been entrusted, for their own private gain. The most common form of corruption is bribery, which is defined as the giving or receiving of money, a gift or other advantage as an inducement to do something that is dishonest, illegal or a breach of trust in the course of doing business.1

Corruption is one of the biggest issues that business people face globally today, and is a highly relevant topic for business as mission practitioners – Joseph Vijayam, Director of Olive Tech, a BAM company in India and the USA.

Bribery and corruption not only represent a significant risk for your company, but keep millions in poverty.

“[Corruption] constitutes a major obstacle to reducing poverty, inequality and infant mortality in emerging economies” according to Daniel Kaufmann, the World Bank Institute’s director for Governance.According to World Bank Institute (WBI) research, more than $1 trillion dollars (US$1,000 billion) is paid in bribes each year. This US$1 trillion figure is an estimate of actual bribes paid worldwide in both rich and developing countries and does not include embezzlement of public funds or theft of public assets. WBI research also shows that countries that tackle corruption and improve their rule of law can increase their national incomes by as much as four times in the long term, and child mortality can fall as much as 75 percent.2

Christian Aid predicted in 2008 that illegal, trade-related tax evasion alone will be responsible for some 5.6 million deaths of young children in the developing world between 2000 and 2015. That is almost 1,000 a day.3 However, corruption is not just happening in the developing world. Read more

Ask a BAM Mentor: Dealing with Corruption

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

Dear BAM Mentor,

My customs broker tells me I have to give a gift to the customs officials to get our materials out of customs. He said it’s standard, no big deal. I asked the pastor at our local church and he said it would be terrible to pay a bribe like that – it’s illegal and gives a very bad lesson to others.  I’m new in the business and to importing here, and our business may fold if I can’t get this out soon. Is this a time to die for my principles or should I go with “when in Rome, do as the Romans do”?

~ Contemplating Corruption

Dear Contemplating Corruption,

Over which principle are you considering ‘dying’?  Is it God’s call to honesty? Or is it obedience to the local church and, if so, is the church correct?  I suspect that untangling the issues will help.

It sounds like you live in one of the many countries where written law differs from applied law. That’s how speed laws work in the UK, incidentally – they are applied, but not strictly. Most western country laws against foreign bribery make an explicit exclusion for “expediting payment”, which morally can be classified as extortion by the official who is withholding your legal rights until he or she gets their bribe. That’s fundamentally different from bribing an official to get something for which you don’t have the right. Paying an extortionist is generally a bad idea, but it’s on a different moral level than bribery. I wouldn’t die over an extortionists demand. Read more

Business as Mission: Where social impact and profit, and much more, converge

Post first published on the IBEC Ventures Blog, reposted with kind permission.

Some people find it confusing to read about socially conscious business, social entrepreneurship or values-driven business. Isn’t business just business – driven by profit margins acceptable to shareholders? What’s all this talk of values, social impact and community development?

For the past decade or so it has become increasingly popular to talk about social purposes, meaning that some entrepreneurs have a motive beyond profitability. They want to solve social problems and bring a positive return to society. Big corporations sometimes address this through the concept of Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR); and business startups sometimes call themselves social entrepreneurs meaning they start businesses which inherently provide for maximum job growth in their area, or they hire the marginalized in the community, or they take gigantic steps to benefit the community by helping solve problems that exist in the community, or all of the above. Some entrepreneurs are driven by a cause, like a software developer eager to provide a better way for people to connect.
Read more