Second in Command

by Larry Sharp

Business as Mission (BAM) narratives oftentimes focus on the founder or the entrepreneur credited with the initial startup leadership; and rightly so; but sometimes the real reason for success may rest with the #2 or #3 person. Sometimes key success factors can be traced to the “second in command”.

Since graduating with a business degree in 1968, I have had more than one opportunity to lead an organization both in Brazil and in Pennsylvania, but most of my life in management has been as the #2 guy – in Alaska managing a fish plant; in Brazil; and as VP of operations and business partnerships for Crossworld for 19 years. What is positive about being second in command?

  1. Flexibility in use of abilities.

My years as the second guy gave me an opportunity to maximize my skills, giftedness and interests. Oftentimes the CEO is required to do things because of his/her position which are not aligned with skills and interests. I observed my bosses consumed with fund raising, capital development, spontaneous thinking, or public speaking, all of which were not appealing to me. The scriptures are clear that God creates all people differently and when it comes to a Kingdom business, employees contribute best when in positions that maximize their God-given wiring and experiences.1

  1. Influence on specialized audiences.

Mike Baer in his book 2IC: Business as Mission for the Rest of Us, uses the Biblical characters of Daniel and Joseph to demonstrate that what they accomplished relative to God’s purposes and influencing people was highly correlated with their positions as the number two guy. I was very grateful for the opportunities to influence individual employees while managing a fish processing plant because I wasn’t on the phone all day or up in the office. Similarly, while supervising a home mission office I was able to develop people, solve problems and make strategic plans – something that was less true for my boss, the CEO.

  1. Identification with regular employees.

While it is true that those who are second in command do have influence and authority, there is a certain advantage with not being the top dog. People tend to look at you also as having a boss and can identify with you and that gives you respect and identity with many. In more than one situation, I found it acceptable to participate in “community work day” with everyone else, while it was less likely that the President, my boss, could get so involved with mundane tasks. Such activities endeared me to the employees.

  1. Time to think and plan.

“In Consiglieri (an Italian word for adviser or counselor that dates back to the Middle Ages but was made famous by The Godfather), Richard Hytner writes about two types of what he calls “C” executives: Those who have taken advantage of the No. 2 role to prepare themselves for the top job—think Tim Cook, who was Steve Jobs’ longtime deputy at Apple before becoming CEO—and those who value the position for its own sake. For one thing, he likes “having the time to think through a problem deeply, which most CEOs do not have,” he says. “If you are curious and contemplative by nature and enjoy influencing strategy and events from behind the scenes, then there really is no better job.”2

Second in command people often have different motivations than A leaders. They often crave time and space to think, opportunity to create and shape practical outcomes, and the satisfaction of directly helping others. I well remember receiving Sunday phone calls from our president with his latest “wild idea” asking me if we could do it and could I prepare a draft plan for early in the week. When the CEO is open to reason and discussion, such scenarios are often a welcome challenge to the number two person.

  1. Opportunity to be mentored for the CEO job.

I well remember being appointed as president of a group in Brazil after being a vice president and being mentored by my predecessor. He continually assured me that I could do it even though ten years earlier he was clear that I couldn’t. His faith in me at the right time was a real confidence builder.
A recent study of top positions in US corporations indicated that 60% of those second in command did not aspire to the top job. However, in the world of the startup and especially Business as Mission initiatives, there is high probability that the entrepreneur or founding owner may not survive until profitability. Thus, he or she must be on the lookout for number 2 or 3 individuals as part of succession planning. In small startup companies, a person with aspirations and competency for the CEO role may have a shorter pathway to the top role than in big corporations. Taking the number two position, when determined to learn and grow, can be a great positive factor.


This blog is reposted from IBEC Ventures:

Larry Sharp is the Founder and current Director of Strategic Training and Partnerships of a Business for Transformation (BAM, B4t) consulting firm, International Business and Education Consultants ( Larry served 21 years in Brazil and then 20 years as Crossworld VP of Operations and as Vice President of Business Partnerships. He is currently a VP Emeritus and consultant with Crossworld. Since 2007 he has devoted energies toward Business as Mission (BAM) and currently is a consultant on BAM and education themes. Larry travels within North America speaking and teaching in conferences, colleges and churches on themes related to Business As Mission (BAM, B4t) and missions.  His travels abroad relate to BAM, crisis preparation and management, and team building. 

Flying Fish: Lessons I Learned from a Risk Taker

by Larry Sharp

I was recently driving through Tucson, Arizona and decided to go out of my way and visit the famed airplane graveyard in the desert. Hundreds of planes are parked there because it is a safe, dry place. Many will never fly again but many are still very useful; it is just that there is no market for them.

The scene reminded me of my mother-in-law who was the first person I met who was a true entrepreneur, one characteristic of which is having a high tolerance for taking risks. I had taken a job in a fish processing plant which she owned. I quickly learned the ‘ins’ and ‘outs’ of fish processing in Alaska and the ‘ins’ and ‘outs’ of working with a risk taker.

First a little background on the salmon industry in Alaska. The salmon return to their streams to spawn on a God-given cycle and they return at different times throughout the summer. So when they come to Cook Inlet, the fishermen are ready for the summer’s catch; similarly when they come to Bristol Bay, or to the Copper River area or to the Yukon River. The trick is that no one knows when that time is.

The net result of all this is that the processing plants (such as the one we operated) have a feast or famine situation. There are either so many fish we can’t keep up processing 24/7; or we are sitting around waiting for the fish, paying stand-by crews to do nothing.
An innovator comes up with a novel workable idea; and the entrepreneur makes it happen.

I don’t know who thought of the idea, but I know that Doris made it happen.
The novel idea was to fly fish by airplane from an area with a glut of fish to an area waiting for fish to process. So if Bristol Bay had too many fish to handle, why not fly them by the plane load to Cook Inlet where the plants were waiting for their fish. Then when Cook Inlet is glutted, fly their fish to the plants in Bristol Bay which are winding down their operations. A novel and gutsy idea!

Many things needed to happen. Many things could go wrong. But Doris looked at this challenge the way she always looked at such challenges with a “why not? not “why?” perspective. She made some phone calls to the Arizona desert and discovered that DC-3s, 4s, and 6s where sitting there still operable. She also knew the Vietnam war was winding down and young pilots who had returned, were still itching to fly.

So she made it happen – hiring pilots, paying licensing fees, leasing planes, renting tarmac space at small airports, buying fish totes and bringing it all to Alaska. People thought she was crazy. I was one of them. However, not only was it profitable for our company, but she set the stage for an industry of flying fish which continues to this day.

This Alaskan seafood company provided me with my first real business management experience and its owner, Doris, with my first experience working for a risk taker and industry innovator.

Time and again, Doris proved to be a master risk taker. Though it wasn’t always easy, working for her taught me countless lessons that have helped me throughout my life and particularly in my work with BAM (Business as Mission) businesses. I’ll pass on these nine to you, in hopes that you can learn from them as well:

  1. Tolerance: Entrepreneurs think outside the box. Doris’ ideas were uncomfortable to me as a manager and to the finance people who continuously watched the financial bottom line. This was another scary idea from Doris. One day I asked where Doris was and she was on a plane for the capitol to talk to the Governor. Wow, I thought, I could have used that money to hire someone to fix an ailing compressor. I either had to learn tolerance for her risk tolerance or get out. As hard as it was, I decided to stay.
  2. Comfort with chaos: As Lewis Carroll said, “Sometimes I’ve believed as many as six impossible things before breakfast.” That was Doris. It irritated me. I wondered where the money would come from. I wondered where it went. All this was not my comfort level. Again, I had to learn to accept difference and be comfortable with chaos.
  3. Adaptability: As a manager I had a plan. I had goals for the shift, for the fish from the first sight of them as they surfaced from the boats in the brailers, to the semi-trailers that hauled the frozen fish away to faraway places like Norway and Japan. I scheduled breaks for the guys and knew how to put shifts together. Now I was called to the office to think about something new. I had to be patient and learn to adapt.
  4. Communication: I had to learn that sometimes risk-taking entrepreneurs need people like me and I need the courage to ask questions and make comments. That means advanced levels of communication because risk-takers sometimes have their mind made up before you first hear about the idea. It might be too late for my comments, but I needed to learn how to do it appropriately and in a timely manner.
  5. Togetherness: In the business world we cannot afford a “we-them” approach as we aim toward common goals. I had to try to get along with Doris, not only as my mother-in-law, but as my boss, and as a person taking risks which sometimes seemed impossible. Some were unreasonable, but when we saw success, I learned to say, “you were right – congratulations Doris.”
  6. Acceptance of failure: Not all of Doris’ big ideas were successes; in fact, many were not; not unlike big industry in America. Remember the Ford Edsel, New Coke, and Apple Lisa. According to a recent Wall Street study, it is normal for 40% of new product launches to flop. While working with Doris in Alaska’s fish industry I learned that risk-takers accept failure, and I needed to understand that.
  7. There is always another day: With all the things that cause discomfort in working with an entrepreneur who takes risks easily, it can be easy to lose sleep. Maybe it was working the long days and nights, but I eventually learned to sleep and not worry about it and try to develop strategies for learning things like tolerance, adaptability, togetherness, communication, and acceptance of how a risk-taker operates.
  8. It is all about the customer: Managers can get myopic about the details of operation, but it is important to keep the big picture in mind. Doris often thought about the value of salmon to the customer – its nutritional value and lofty goals like “feeding the world”. It was all about good food and healthy people. It was about the customer.
  9. Leadership: Doris was a leader and I learned that leaders lead, set direction and inspire followers. I wanted to be a leader, too, so I watched, listened and learned so that even though I had the innate qualities of a manager, I could learn leadership qualities, see the big picture and drive toward satisfying customer needs, improve product quality and employee development. I started to learn to do the right thing and not just to do things right, as Warren Bennis reminds us “Leaders are people who do the right thing; managers are people who do things right.”.


This blog is reposted from IBEC Ventures:


Larry Sharp is the Founder and current Director of Strategic Training and Partnerships of a Business for Transformation (BAM, B4t) consulting firm, International Business and Education Consultants ( Larry served 21 years in Brazil and then 20 years as Crossworld VP of Operations and as Vice President of Business Partnerships. He is currently a VP Emeritus and consultant with Crossworld. Since 2007 he has devoted energies toward Business as Mission (BAM) and currently is a consultant on BAM and education themes. Larry travels within North America speaking and teaching in conferences, colleges and churches on themes related to Business As Mission (BAM, B4t) and missions.  His travels abroad relate to BAM, crisis preparation and management, and team building. 

Want to Change the World? Make Disciples

by Joyce Ahn

In response to millennials being labelled noncommittal, cynical, entitled, slacktivists, Grant Skeldon started Initiative Network in order to shift the culture of Dallas by training millennials to be Christ-loving, city-changing, church-investing, disciple-making local missionaries. Initiative has impacted thousands of young leaders from over 540 different churches across the greater Dallas region.

Grant spoke at the 2017 BAM Conference in Dallas. Here are some key insights he shared about the importance of discipleship. This is a summary of Grant’s talk. 

The Missing Key: DISCIPLESHIP!

Jesus himself focused a majority of his three years in ministry closely investing in the lives of the twelve disciples. If my friend was on his deathbed, I would listen closely for what he asked me to do. The same is true for when I look at Jesus’ life. Some of his parting words to us before ascending to heaven were to GO AND MAKE DISCIPLES! Yet as I travel and speak, when I ask, “How many of you are getting discipled?” or “How many of you are discipling?” many Christians I meet are not making disciples. However, this can change. As more and more of the older generation is discipling the young generations, amazing things are happening!

Bridging the Generational Gap

I encourage all seasoned leaders to invest in the lives of young people. There are many millennials making choices you might not understand or agree with. Yet what millennials are missing is relationships with godly, wise leaders who can help them build their character and live out all that they are meant to be. You might be making a difference as you serve in your ministry, but whose life are you deeply investing in? Without committed discipling relationships, it’s very hard for you to influence the next generation. Read more

Dream Big and Move Forward! 6 Tips for Impact from a Modern Abolitionist

by Joyce Ahn

David Batstone is a human rights activist and co-founder of Not For Sale, an organization that provides human trafficking survivors and at-risk individuals with tools for long-term self-sufficiency through work-readiness skills and job placements. David is also the cofounder of REBBL, a health-drink company, and senior managing partner of ‘Just Business,’ an international investment group that incubates social enterprises.  

In his final keynote speech at the BAM Conference 2017, David shared 6 tips for business people who want to make a major impact on society:

  1. Fearlessly Pursue Your Passion

Don’t get stuck asking,“What’s the next step?” or “What does God want me to do?” Instead, start taking steps based off of what you know and the opportunities right in front of you. Reflect on the gifts and calling that God has given you. What’s the burning passion in your heart? Rather than getting stuck pursuing someone else’s dream for your life, take ownership of your vision and do something about it!

  1. Look Back Before You Look Forward

You might find this surprising, but we often can see God’s path for us most clearly not when we look forward, but as we look behind us. As you look at your past, you will start to see how all the seemingly unconnected parts fit together and how even your mistakes played a role in shaping the bigger picture. Read more

Foundations: BAM 101

by Mike Baer

So what exactly is Business as Mission? In its original intent (I was one of the first to use the term, so I can say this!) it meant that business—my job, my company, my skills—can and should be deliberately connected to what God is doing in the world, i.e. His mission. Nothing more. Nothing less.

What BAM is Not

 Over the past 25 years the term Business a Mission and the concept has been adulterated and abused. For some it has come to mean:

  • Ethical Business—simply being honest in a Christian sort of way
  • Business as Visa—setting up fake or quasi-fake businesses in the effort to secure an entry visa for missionary work in a restricted access country
  • Poverty Alleviation—programs to help the poor make a better living
  • Business Justification—making business OK or more valuable to God by somehow doing it overseas (I write as an American)

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Inviting Others To Not Be Sheepish

by Patrick Lai

John Piper writes, “For much of my Christian life I have had a one-sided view of “speaking the truth in love” (Ephesians 4:15). I assumed that the verse meant only that when hard news or rebuke needed to be brought, it should be done with tenderness and sensitivity. I was wrong. Not totally wrong. I understood correctly the verb and the love: that hard news and rebuke should always be brought with appropriate sobriety, humility, and never with arrogance and harshness. But I neglected to focus on the other part of Paul’s phrase: the noun and “the truth.”

Just two verses prior to that the Apostle Paul clarifies that the goal of building up the body of Christ is to attain to the unity of the faith and the knowledge of the Son of God. So the “building up” begins with people who are agents of truth. As we work together we need to look for opportunities to speak the truth in love to one another. This is how we serve and protect one another in Christ. This is how we build up one another and build unity and teamwork in our lives and work. This is how God gives grace to others through us. And as Paul summarizes in verse 4:29 this what is helpful for building others up according to their needs, that it may benefit those who listen.

Good accountability requires feedback. Yet honest feedback is hard to come by. To become more effective and fulfilled – more Christ-like – in our life and work, each of us needs a keen understanding of what other’s think and perceive of us. Direct feedback is the most efficient way for us to gather this information on ourselves and grow from it.

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Business as Mission: An Expression of Biblical Integrity

by Mike Baer

The word “integrity” has been bandied about so much over the last decade or so that it has practically become meaningless. Politicians are described in their self-serving advertisements as men or women of “integrity.” We like the word. It’s right up there with “tolerant”—another empty term. In fact, who could argue with someone who was tolerant and had integrity. He or she would be a postmodern super hero.

Unfortunately, we don’t think about words much any more. We don’t dwell on what they mean. As a result, we lose the richness and power of a great concept. So, in this article, I want to spend a few moments unpacking two dimensions of integrity, especially in the context of Business as Mission.

Integrity and Ethics

When I first began teaching business in the Former Soviet Union twenty years ago, the first hurdle I had to overcome was establishing that business was legitimate in the first place. Most people viewed business as inherently corrupt and dishonest. Today’s America has very much the same opinion. And why not? We hear constant news flashes of another scandal in Apple’s China factory or fraud in CitiGroup’s financial products or theft on Wall Street, or…ad nauseum.  It is erroneous to confuse business with the business person. The person is corrupt but business is not. Nevertheless, few think that deeply and so they condemn all things business as dark, greedy and devilish.

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Are You Really a Second-Class Christian?

By Dave Kahle

For much of my Christian life, I’ve struggled with a difficult and painful image of myself: I was a second-class Christian. No one ever said that to me in so many words, but a certain belief permeates our Christian culture so deeply that few Christians would ever question it:

Real ministry is defined by the time you spend in the official efforts of the church to evangelize the lost and edify the saved. This is the work that God is interested in, that He considers most important, special, and significant.

By accepting this false belief, our fruitfulness is hindered by shrinking and distorting our views of what we and our businesses can be. As a result, millions of Christians, like myself, lead lives that are far less productive than God wants. And hundreds of thousands of businesses are hampered in achieving their full potential. And that means that the Church’s influence and impact is light years away from that which it could be.

Here are some ways this belief is expressed in Christian culture:

A client recently told me that one of his salespeople left the company to go into full-time ministry. The implication was that the former employee merely ‘made a living’ when they worked for my client; now they did ‘real’ ministry – that work that is only in the context of the church.

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Consequences of the Business as Money-Giver Mentality

By Dave Kahle

“Our business should just make money so that we can give it away” – that’s the message our contemporary evangelical culture teaches us. Those who look for a higher purpose in their business may find this message easy to accept but is this message actually short-sighted and missing the mark on all God has for Christian owned businesses?

There are books written advocating that the sole purpose of a business is to make money to fund religion. What if God has a much larger and full purpose for business? It is easy to conclude from the Biblical theme of giving that the sole purpose of our businesses is to give. And besides, it feels good and gives great CSR standing in the community! With so much support for the idea, it’s no wonder that most Christian business people believe it.

But is our perspective skewed?

Could it be that this giving paradigm, that feels good and seems reasonable, is actually hindering our growth and thwarting the growth of the Kingdom?

If we could unleash the potential of Christian owned and influenced businesses to see themselves as powerful entities in the Kingdom with multiple bottom lines (Social, Spiritual, Economic, and Environmental) as opposed to merely a Kingdom check-book, we could turn the world upside down. Here are some consequences of the short-sighted view of the Business as money-giver paradigm.

Consequences of the business as money giver paradigm

Consequence #1:  It elevates money to the highest priority in business.

By stating that the purpose of a business is to make money so that you can give it away, money is elevated to the highest priority in business. Now, all of the other purposes of a business — to provide community, to develop future leaders, to bless communities, to demonstrate the fullness of Christ, etc. (find the full list in The Good Book on Business) — slide down the scale and become subservient to the quest to make money. While a business should make money, that is not its highest calling. A business only achieves its potential when it steps out of the money-is-everything mentality.

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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.

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