Thriving vs Surviving: Building Skills and Support for BAMers

by Robert Andrews

Editors Note: When we asked veteran BAM leaders to identify some of the pressing issues that are facing the business as mission movement in the next decade, among the issues they identified were several areas that could broadly be categorized as ‘resource gaps for BAM companies’, including:

1. Adequate financial capital flow.

2. Adequate human capital flow – both in terms of a) recruiting the right kind of people to begin and sustain a BAM company, and b) succession planning and the successful transition of a BAM company from one generation of owners to another.

3. Adequate support for BAM practitioners, especially mentoring, accountability and care.

We have been posting articles covering each of these issues during the month of June, this week concluding with providing adequate support for BAMers.

Building Adequate Skills and Support for BAM Practitioners

There are many challenges facing the BAM community and it’s encouraging to see so much effort going to understanding and addressing these. One of the thornier issues is how best to support BAM practitioners in their work. These can be nationals trying to build the Kingdom in their home countries or foreigners who have committed to business in a cross-cultural setting. Both need support, but what support to give and how to give it is a current and urgent discussion.

Leading a BAM business requires a large set of skills, some of which one hopes the BAMer has at the outset, but many of which will have to be learned, hired, purchased, or borrowed from others. A beginning list of these skills could fall under the following headings:

  • General business:  finance, marketing, sales, HR, strategy, operations, business law; the stuff of an MBA
  • Industry specific:  how to make the product or deliver the service, the industry sales and pricing dynamics, and familiarity with the global market leaders
  • BAM general:  the theology of BAM and an understanding of how to make a spiritual impact while operating a business, plus access to a BAM network
  • Country/Region specific:  language, culture, worldview, local religion, local political, social or environmental issues, local business practices and law; plus the local spiritual dynamics, the status & challenges of the local church, and an awareness of what God is doing in the region
  • Personal/Family: emotional intelligence, strong personal spiritual life, character, care for family members, marital strength, physical health and habits

Read more

What is Success? Advancing Spiritual Impact in BAM

by Tom

It is easy to be confused by how success in business as mission (BAM) is defined today from a spiritual perspective.

Once-upon-a-time the core concept of BAM was to have a spiritual impact. The reality that a business needed to be profitable should also have been a given, after all, a business that does not make money can’t survive or, as we say in BAM, cannot be sustainable. Even with this relative simplicity, being able to measure spiritual impact seemed elusive.

Early definitions struggled between Business AS Mission and Business FOR Mission both of which held that a central purpose was spiritual transformation. Early theological debates centered around the secular-sacred divide, could business even be spiritual? There were common perceptions of money and profit, often portrayed as evil and exploitive among Christians, that needed to be overcome. Business AS Mission assumed that when operations aligned with spiritual values, businesses could and would produce spiritual results when driven by the influence of the Holy Spirit. Business FOR Mission simply used the profits of a business to support traditional missional activity.

Today the definition of BAM has expanded to include an emphasis on poverty alleviation and job creation etc., issues that are also popular in the secular social enterprise world. However, one danger we face is that while we are expanding, we might also lose what makes us distinctive, appearing to put less and less emphasis on spirituality or spiritual impact. Yet, without intentional spiritual impact BAM is not any different than any well-meaning secular program.

Twenty years on from the early days of the business as mission movement, we continue to wrestle with this topic of spiritual impact in BAM!  Read more

The Role of Business Leadership Through a Spiritual Lens

by Ross O’Brien

This article picks up where we left off last year in the series on Value Chain Analysis Through a Spiritual Lens. If you have not yet read the previous articles, let me encourage you to read at least the introductory article linked here, as it will set the foundation for this and all the other articles in the series.

As we continue examining the way the value chain analysis can be useful, we need to keep in mind that these activities do not operate in isolation or for their own purposes. The activities in one functional area impact other areas and must be coordinated to help the company achieve its overall strategic objectives.

For example, if a firm takes a differentiation strategy in which its products, services, brand and marketing messages are unique from its competitors, then every functional area must seek to add value to achieving that objective of uniqueness. A company like Apple spends significant money on R&D, quality components and exceptional advertising to set its products apart. Primary activities including inbound logistics (sourcing components), production (quality control processes), and sales and marketing (advertising) must all support this objective, as well as the support activities of procurement (spending the necessary money to ensure differentiation) and human resources management (hiring, training, evaluating and compensating the kind of employees who will maintain the standards of excellence needed).

Read more

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.

 

800px-Porter_Value_Chain

Dinesh Pratap Singh’s visualization for Porter’s Value Chain: CC BY-SA 3.0 

Marketing

Marketing Through a Traditional Lens

Marketing covers a broad spectrum of activities including branding, selecting a target market, product development, pricing, promotional strategy and distribution. A recognizable brand can add significant value to a firm. You can go almost anywhere in the world and people know the Coca Cola brand. According to statista.com, Apple’s brand was worth almost $235 billion in 2017. That number is not Apple’s market cap, it’s the value of their brand, an intangible asset. Ensuring the quality of the company’s products and services, creating effective advertising, and extending the geographic market are three ways to improve the value of a firm’s brand.  Read more

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.

 

800px-Porter_Value_Chain

Dinesh Pratap Singh’s visualization for Porter’s Value Chain: CC BY-SA 3.0 

Operations

Operations Through a Traditional Lens

In a manufacturing business, operations include the activities of making products, inventory management, work flow management, facilities, personnel and equipment management. In a software firm, operations involve developing software; in an accounting firm providing the accounting services for their clients, etc. In our little coffee shop example, the operations activities include making and selling coffee and associated products. Knowledge of the best processes and combinations of quality ingredients are vital. The right equipment and knowledge of how to use it is also essential.  Read more

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.

Read more

Every Man is as Lazy as He Dares to Be

by Patrick Lai

Every man is as lazy as he dares to be.  – Emerson

Emerson had it right. People do not do what is expected; we do what is inspected. Phil Parshall, after forty years of serving among Muslims, said to me, “I have my doubts about tentmaking … most tentmakers I know start out doing business and ministry, but in the end it is all business and no ministry.”

Everyone receives gratification from accomplishing tasks. Whether we are building a bridge or cleaning out the garage, we enjoy seeing the fruits of our labors. Productivity makes us feel good. It gives us value and a sense of worth. Those people groups which are still without a church in the 21st century are unreached for a reason – they are difficult to reach! Missionary work among these peoples has produced precious little fruit. Tentmakers, by definition have two tasks to do. If one task is producing fruit and the other is not, it is easy to gravitate toward the more productive, fruitful task. Therefore, it is important that every tentmaker is under some structure or relationship which provides the needed accountability to keep us growing and active in fulfilling both of our callings.
Read more

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.

Read more

Don’t Lose Your Way: The Importance of the Business Development Process

How can BAM companies avoid losing their way? On the one hand, many BAM startups lose momentum, fail to break even, or simply get aborted. On the other hand, some BAM companies that reach financial success find themselves in danger of losing sight of the non-financial goals and objectives that led them to start their BAM venture in the first place. Although there are as many different reasons for BAM failure as there are struggling, closed, or misdirected BAM companies, I believe there is a common antidote to keep companies from getting off track: an ongoing rigorous business development process.

What happens to a company in the absence of an ongoing rigorous business development process? It then becomes a challenge to grow or lead the business forward in a way consistent with its BAM vision, goals, and objectives. This is often the result of two common business development failures:

1. The leader failed to articulate a sustainable BAM vision and robust strategy to begin with.

2. The leader failed to execute against the strategy and has not been held accountable to it.

The good news for BAM practitioners is that there are plenty of resources available to help with the first challenge – and putting together the right team and structures can help overcome the second. Read more

4 Resources to Help You Decide What to Measure

BAM companies have a lot to learn from the social enterprise movement. One of the things that social enterprises have been thinking about for a long time is: How do we measure more than the financial bottom line? Here are 4 resources that will help you think about metrics more holistically and give you tools to measure your impact.

 

B Corps Impact Assessmentmeasure what matters

B Corps advocates for measuring what matters most: the ability of a business to not only generate returns, but also to create value for its customers, employees, community, and the environment. Use B Corps online tool to assess how your company performs against dozens of best practices on employee, community, and environmental impact. Compare your company’s impact with thousands of others. Create a plan to improve your company’s practices, and help your staff implement them easily using the Best Practice Guides.

 

Read more