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.

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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.

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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.

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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.
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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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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.

 

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Lessons from the Edge: Ingredients for Sustainable Success

Insights from a BAM Practitioner 

‘Andrew’ was in business in China for 8 years and now consults to other BAM companies.

Finding a good fit for you is critical
This business is what you will be doing day in and day out, so it’s really important that you have an idea that you feel passionate about, that you understand how it’s a good fit for you and your goals. Is it a good business for your personal strengths? Business as mission can be really, really hard and finding that good fit will see you through many challenges. If you get into a business just because you have to, it can end up feeling like drudgery.

Don’t do it by yourself
It’s important to have good partners. Build a team or find a partner that has complementary skills to your own. Find partners locally that can work with you, whether it’s locals or other foreigners. I don’t think I would have made it in my own business if I didn’t have a key partner working with me, we kept each other going when the going got rough. Get good people around you and have the right people in the right roles.

Engage advisors
Find good mentors, consultants or advisors. That could look like having regular contact with consultants, finding a specialist mentor, or setting up an advisory board. Advisors might be other business folks in your local context, either foreigners or consultants that are further down the road than you, or local business people. They might be business people, lawyers and other experts from your home church network. One model that we’ve seen work well is to engage several different people from your home church from the beginning of the business. They would help with planning, make some site visits, get to know the local context and the difficulties, so that they can give business advice that is helpful for the situation.

 

Apples to Apples: Measuring Progress Across an Organisation

We interviewed Timothy, a consultant with a mission sending organisation that has been developing a metrics tool to evaluate businesses across their organisation globally.

How did this metrics tool come about?

I work as part of a team that consults to and supports BAM-type entities across Asia and we were looking for a way to evaluate how those entities were performing and started to develop this benchmarking tool. At the same time another region was working on a similar idea and we realised that it would be far more effective to work on one tool that could be applied globally across our organisation. We want to be able to compare ‘apples to apples’ and get a better read on what is working well worldwide.

What is the tool’s purpose and how has that shaped its design?

Well first of all we wanted it to be a tool that would help business owners identify areas in which they could grow and improve. It has to serve those on the field at the sharp end of doing business so we have tried to make it straight-forward to use and informative. For instance, we have limited the number of questions practitioners have to answer so that it is not an unwieldy time-waster. The reports are laid out in a user-friendly way using various charts and formats so that areas for growth can be quickly pinpointed. It’s a tool that we’ll use when we are consulting with individual companies as a way of focusing on strengths and weaknesses. The results will be part of the ongoing conversation with the business owners, providing a framework for accountability and planning. Read more

Getting Started: Essential Metrics for your BAM Company

Every business is unique, metrics need to be tailored to the company to reflect the company’s unique goals, context and challenges. That said, there are certain metrics which should be monitored as a minimum by any business. These essential metrics are all aimed at ensuring the owners of the BAM company are able to answer for themselves the key questions:

  • Are we doing what we set out to do?
  • Are we being responsive to God’s call and the Spirit’s leading?
  • Do we have the cash we need to operate and meet our commitments and is it likely that we will continue to be solvent in the coming year?
  • Are we being good stewards of the money that has been invested with us?
  • Are we caring for and developing our employees?
  • Are we damaging or helping the environment?

Not every business needs dozens of charts and numbers to answer these questions. In many cases the answers will be obvious. However, a few carefully selected, measured and reported metrics can help bring clarity. The following list contains recommendations for how to cover these questions. Read more