When Things Go Right: 8 Success Factors to Keep You from Failing

To round out our ‘Learning from BAM Failure’ series, we circle back around what helps you succeed. We asked the same BAM practitioners who shared failure stories to also share what kept their businesses from going under completely.

We asked: If you had to give the top two or three reasons for your overall business success, what would factors would you share?

Here is a rundown of their combined responses in a Top 8 list of ‘What Went Right’

1. Build a wider network and community

Mentioned in some form by almost all the practitioners we asked, top of the list is creating a robust network around the business and its owners. These BAMers said that forging strong partnerships and building a community of mentors/supporters was key. Avoiding isolation is vital.

Having world class partners has been essential.

As an owner, share the challenges you face with your board, investors, mentors, etc. Tell the truth, early and often.

Surround yourself with counsel. Stay attached to God and his people either through a church/agency or personal mentor or coach.

I’ve succeeded because I’ve had a spouse that has stood by me through thick and thin, not to mention a relationship with my business partner built on tremendous trust and respect. It’s also been important to have mentors and coaches walking closely with us.

A success factor for me has been being well networked in the wider business community as well as the BAM community nationally.

Integration with the local University has been essential. Strong relationships with key professors has allowed us to get first picks on some of the best students who come to do internships with us and eventually become junior staff members.

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When Things Go Wrong: 9 BAMers Share Mistakes & Misadventures

We asked some (otherwise very successful) BAM Practitioners that we know to share some of the errors, disasters and unfortunate events that they have experienced in their business as mission journeys. Here nine BAMers share eleven stories about their mistakes and misadventures:

They Didn’t Come…

In our first years we did not have enough focus on sales and revenue, it was more of a “build it and they will come” mindset. It almost killed us. Then the solution was to hire a sales guy in the US, but the problem was twofold; first I should never have tried to outsource sales so early as CEO and second I hired a great guy but one that had bigger company experience and not the early entrepreneurial sales experience needed at our stage. This was a second failure on the sales side that almost killed us. I have come to fully understand the saying “no margin, no mission” and put sales as a key priority for myself until we got fully into orbit and could hand it off to the right person with right experience for our company stage, deal size and industry. MC

Too Many Cabinets

There’s two ways you can kill a startup: too little business and too much business. A couple of years ago, our 5 month old custom cabinet business was featured on our local news station. In our exuberance, we signed up too many customers with an unrealistic view of how quickly we could complete jobs. In less than a month, we had ended up with upset customers and significant cash flow problems as we made mistakes in our rush to complete jobs whilst also missing deadlines. In this case, we were able to recover our financial footings through a few key factors: Our product ultimately was a good fit with customer demand, so after apologizing and then completing jobs satisfactorily, we were able to refine our product and service to even better serve our customers. We started specializing in only Shaker Cabinets which sped up our production time and allowed us to more strategically market to our customers. Finally, our grasp of our cash flow position enabled us to raise funds in time (through God’s abundant blessing) to make it through our mistake and onto the future. JR  Read more

The Postmortem of a Failure: How to Evaluate & Even Avoid Failure

by Colleene Isaacs

“Why did I fail? I did it by the book. I listened to my advisors. I corrected course based on what others recommended…”

“The business was a good idea, the timing was probably just off…”

“I knew I was in God’s will. He would provide and make it successful. How could I go wrong with Him on my side? I can’t figure out what happened…”

Does any of this sound familiar? Has this, or a variation of this, narrative been your own?

If this has been your own experience, how do you begin to dissect and understand what happened?

The Standard Reasons for Failure?

Most business experts can easily recite the top five to seven reasons for business failure. However, the reality is… the reasons for failure in any particular business cannot be summarily reduced to a quick list.

The manner in which we think about our failures is flawed, because we are flawed. Failure is multi-faceted, and complex, just like the humans who craft the scenarios in which failure thrives.  Read more

8 Counterintuitive Benefits of Failure: A Personal Story

by Chris Cloud

I’ve had many failures in my life. One of them was in business. I was partner in a healthcare related startup that launched right before the Great Recession in the U.S. We were trying to do something radical, and the market wasn’t ready. But the truth is, neither were we as company leaders. We did some things well, but we made a lot of mistakes because of our lack of experience. These circumstances eventually caused the young seedling company to go out of business.

Bottom line: we failed. I failed.

Here’s a little bit of what I’ve learned through that particular failure as I’ve reflected on it over the years.

I’m writing from a place of weakness, as I’ve made many mistakes in the way I have responded to failure – but I’ve also seen the fruit and growth that can come as a result. Before I share the 8 counterintuitive benefits of failure, here are 7 more harmful ways I have responded to failure.  Read more

We’re Only Human After All: Growing Through Failure

We take our humanity to work everyday. One day, we might fail to meet a deadline or misunderstand a client. Another day, failure might bring unrecoverable loss, the closing of a department, losing your largest account, or even filing for bankruptcy.

As failure looks us straight in the eye, we have a choice to make about how we respond. In these moments of hardship we can choose denial, blame, resentment, unforgiveness… Or we can chose to bravely take responsibility for our decisions and the impact on those around us. We can allow God to deepen our character through the roughest of circumstances.

Character Growth Spurts

No one wakes up in the morning and says, “I hope I fail today” – rather we hope not to! Yet failure, whether big or small, is part of our human existence. Indeed, it is through times of failure that our characters get a growth spurt. Hopefully, we get enough of these growth spurts early in life before the stakes get too high!

If our identity is in our work, rather than Christ, success will go to our heads, and failure will go to our hearts. – Tim Keller

God is passionate about our sanctification. He uses work spaces to cultivate people to be more like Himself. The workplace can be a place of character development if we allow our hearts to receive the instruction. Failure, more than just about anything else, can grow hardy, rock-solid character and deeper trust in God – if we allow it to.  Read more

5 Risk Factors Guaranteed to Doom a BAM Business

by Larry Sharp

 

The Good, the Bad and the Ugly: Stories from the Frontline

Last year I was leading a seminar in a conference in Arizona, when a local business owner asked the question, “Are there no failed BAM businesses?” While I readily agreed there were, I began to think about the question in a more profound way. What is the “good, the bad and the ugly” of real life BAM business experiences – those that demonstrate that there are BAM failures along with the successes?

Over the past 10 years, I have observed risk factors for BAM enterprises which should stimulate every stakeholder in the BAM community towards better recruitment, better preparation, better deployment and better accountability. Many a sports leader, military hero, or young entrepreneur has demonstrated the oft-quoted statement of Benjamin Franklin, “Failure to prepare is preparing to fail.” And that is true in the Kingdom business endeavors of today.

So what are these factors and where are the stories which help us understand basic principles for launching and landing well in a cross-cultural business? How do we best start companies designed to work out the Great Commandment and the Great Commission? How can we improve so that there will be fewer failures and a greater chance of successful transformational businesses in the areas of the world that need them the most? If these five risk factors don’t actually doom your BAM company, not paying attention to them will seriously endanger it… at the very least!  Read more

How Not to Do It: Two Failure Stories and What They Teach Us

Seasoned business leaders are typically no strangers to failure, it is not only the greenest of green BAMers who experience failure. For each superstar company in the world, there are burial grounds of companies that just didn’t work or that limped along without profit for far too long.

However, there are some common denominators among companies that succeed or fail – and their experiences can teach us something: often it is how not to do it!

Lucy’s Story

Lucy lived in a city where she had connections with many non-profits. She wanted to branch out and do business as mission but didn’t quite know how to get going. A non-profit presented a business opportunity, one that, as it turned out, was too good to be true. Under researched, unadvised, and unsustainable, Lucy fell headlong into a bad deal.

An NGO said they would produce soy milk, made possible through a grant, and give the fresh soy milk to Lucy’s new company to sell in the local community. Excited to begin her BAM dreams, Lucy jumped in and signed a three year contract with the NGO, secured a lease for an office space and hired three local staff to get the business started.  Read more

5 Mistakes I Made in My Business and What I Learned From Them

by Evan Keller

We entrepreneurs thrive on an inner fountain of optimism and courage. While these God-given virtues help us scale astounding heights, they also set us up for catastrophic falls. How so?

We simultaneously and unwittingly possess the ominous dark sides of these strengths we so prize. A healthy optimism can morph into a false sense of invincibility, and taking big risks can yield triumphs – or collapses equally as grand.

In my over-optimism about people (thus extending unwarranted trust), I took these five unwise risks early in my business career:

1) Bad choice of business partner

I took on a business partner I hardly knew who made me angry every single day as I did 95% of the work.

2) Compromise on the fine print

When the fine print of a contract with a national company made me uneasy, I went ahead and signed it after their local representative assuaged my concerns in writing. When he broke his promise, I was stuck in a contract that cost me thousands of dollars while providing no benefit to my company.  Read more

Learning from BAM Failure: Failure is Not the Enemy

by Chris Cloud

We’ve been focused on ‘maximizing BAM success factors‘ recently on The BAM Review blog. However, we believe that ‘utilizing BAM failure’ is just as important – we can learn a lot about success from failure. Business consultant and guest author Chris Cloud introduces this new series on Learning from BAM Failure.

Failure is Not the Enemy

If there’s one thing we know, it’s that we’re going to fail at something.

There’s massive, catastrophic failure, and then there’s micro-failure. People fail classes, fail at sports, fail at dating relationships. There’s ministry failure. There’s failure to live up to our values.

Failure might be small, like a bad kick of the ball when the net was wide open, or it might be as big as going out of business. Sometimes business relationships fail. Sometimes a product launch fails, or your great idea never gets off the ground. Failure is all around us, and it’s definitely a part of life.

There’s a tendency, especially in business, to think of failure as the enemy.

But what if we looked at failure a different way? What if saw it as a necessary element of the growth process?

Choose Your Failure-related Goal

Facebook’s motto during their early days was “move fast and break things.”

As a startup, they knew they had to innovate quickly, and a necessary component of rapid innovation is a high likelihood of failure. They knew they were going to break things. But even when things broke, they knew they didn’t want to be paralyzed by failure, or the fear of failure. They wanted to get up quickly when they hit the dirt, wanted to learn from it, and keep moving onto the next thing.

I’ve been a lifelong snowboarder. As I’ve got ready to hit the slopes around the world, I’ve often overheard beginners brag to each other. They’ll say something like, “I went out yesterday and didn’t fall even once!”

Some people’s goal is not to fall.  Read more