God Uses Business to Bring You Closer to Him

by Dave Kahle

God uses our businesses as devices to nudge us closer to Him and to build the attitudes and practices that enable our next step up the spiritual growth continuum.

It was 2010, and the financial crises which exploded in 2008 was, at last, reaching my business. My clients, B2B sales organizations, were shrinking and a few were going out of business. Investing in developing their sales force – the heart of my business – was nowhere on their agenda.

Whereas we had done fully-subscribed sales seminars around the country for ten years previously, now we canceled 9 of 10 seminars for lack of registrations. Individual speaking engagements had disappeared, and sales of books and videos had shrunk to next to nothing. Our corporate income declined by 80%.

The business that had consumed most of my time and energy for 20 years was disappearing. It was like a big part of me had withered away and was being amputated.

On the day that I canceled the last three seminars for lack of registrations, I realized that we had nothing booked for the future. I was going to have to lay off most of my staff.

I closed the door to my office and burst into tears. The business that had consumed most of my time and energy for 20 years was disappearing. It was like a big part of me had withered away and was being amputated.

“Lord,” I cried, “what do you want from me?”   Read more

8 Business Failures: What we Learned

by Larry Sharp

‘Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it.’ (George Santayana-1905). In a 1948 speech to the House of Commons, Winston Churchill changed the quote slightly when he said (paraphrased), ‘Those who fail to learn from history are condemned to repeat it.’

I was recently cleaning up some physical files, when I ran across a spreadsheet from 2008/09 listing IBEC projects which provided data on the status of the start-up, metrics for success and other interesting information. I found it curious that many of these businesses we worked with in the first two years of our existence have “failed”.

It reminded me of a conference in Arizona a few years ago, when after I had cited many success stories, a person in the audience asked me, “don’t you guys have any failures?”

Now I would be the first to recognize that “failures” are not really failures, but more accurately experiments in learning. In the famous words of Thomas Edison, “I have not failed. I’ve just found 10,000 ways that won’t work.” And so it may be with those early years in IBEC.

There is no perfect assessment of a cause-effect relationship, and I acknowledge that my perspective is personal and anecdotal, however I believe those closest to these situations would concur that what I relate here is at least at least one primary reason for the demise. Here is an effort to “remember the past” with a view to giving reasons for the demise of each dream and a statement of what we learned. I will not provide specific identification of the geographical area nor the persons involved out of respect for security issues and the fact that I do not want to disparage the efforts of anyone.  Read more

Pride, Humility, and Failure

by Dave Kahle

Remember John Delorean?  He was the superstar General Motors executive who started the Delorean Motor Company.  When the company began to falter, he was arrested and charged with complicity in a drug deal that some speculated was an attempt to raise money to prop up the company.

All of this was big news in Detroit, where I was living at the time.  One particularly insightful article in the Detroit News theorized that he had been supremely successful his whole life, and thus never learned to deal with failure.  His development was stunted by a lack of failure in his life.  Faced with the pending failure of his auto company, he had nothing to lean upon and lost his moral compass.  A long string of successes had not developed his character.

Perhaps.  There is one thing for certain, regardless of the individual circumstances for Mr. DeLorean.  If we choose to, we learn more from our failures than we do from our successes.  Within every failure there is the seed of a lesson well learned, of a solid character trait emerging.  It is our failures that contribute most intensely to our development.

To this day, I can recall with vivid detail the events of my most humiliating failure as a sales person.  It was early in my career, about three decades ago, and I had made the mistake of speaking badly about the competition to a customer.  The customer was a personal friend of the competitive sales person and was personally affronted by my comment.  The dressing down that I received at the hands of that customer remains painfully with me today.  I don’t believe that I have ever made that mistake since. Read more

The Risk of Making Assumptions When Hiring Christians

by Jim Nelson

Making the right hiring decisions is crucial to a company’s well-being. From a BAM company perspective, I have sought to hire local Christians to work for me. By our shared faith, we can understand each other better and seek Kingdom values in the company and surrounding community. If proper research, interviewing and trust building is cut short, the consequences I have experienced have been less than ideal. Here are a few stories of lessons I learned in hiring Christians to work for my business.

Caught Off-Gaurd

In 1999, I had a chance to open an office in a new business area. An older Chinese Christian recommended I hire Zhang, a Chinese Christian who could speak the local dialect. I interviewed him on his business thinking and agreed to let him manage the office. I felt the older Chinese Christian who recommended him knew about his faith, so I did not bring up the topic during the interview.

Zhang then hired two local Christians to join the team. I learned that the local Christians he hired did not own Bibles so we eagerly provided them. We assumed all were Christian and ethical to run the business. The business soon had trouble and I realized that Zhang could not be trusted. We found he had stolen a few hundred dollars. I let him go.

Read more

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 to 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 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.

Read more

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