Cash Flow Mishaps: Stories from BAM Practitioners

We asked BAM practitioners to share their insights about cash flow. Here are 6 mini-stories of BAMer ‘cash flow mishaps’ or near misses!

[Read Part 1: 10 Cash Flow Tips and 10 Red Flags from BAM Practitioners]

6 Cash Flow Stories

One cash flow mishap we’ve experienced is significantly underestimating cash needs to service a period of significant growth. This can happen when long lead time raw materials are needed, with up-front payment. It can also happen when financing growth requires organisational learning and capacity building, it then takes extra time to ramp up production, and the working capital cycle is longer than expected. Another real danger is when a series of smaller mishaps all happen at the same time, for instance low quality raw materials, late delivery of materials, late payment by customers for finished products. Each of these on their own are manageable, but create a serious issue when stacked together. We have been able to develop some cashflow forecasting tools using MS Excel which give us visibility on future cash needs, including graphs, which feed into weekly reporting. This has been invaluable to us. – MH, Manufacturing, Asia

 

A few years ago I led a new initiative at our company to build a software product for retail banking. I was hoping that the recurring revenue from product sales would offset the erratic cash flows that are typical of a project-based software company. A project team of eight members spent 18 months building the product and we spent another year having a sales team sell the product. For a small company like ours the outflow of funds in this experiment resulted in a major blow to our cash flow for a couple of years. What I learned from this costly mistake is that a project oriented service company is not automatically good at being a product sales company. They are two different types of organizations with different team structures and competencies. – Joseph, IT, India/USA

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The 3 Greatest Challenges to Marriage and Family Life: BAM Practitioner Stories

Some BAM practitioners are married. Some are married to their business partners! Some BAMers have children. Others don’t. The shape and size of our families – and our companies – varies tremendously. Those who have a family and run a BAM company will have already experienced the challenges and stresses in one spilling over into the other! Threats to the healthy functioning of family life can end up becoming threats to the health of the business, and vice versa.

As we close this BAM Endurance series, we share insights from 12 married BAMers on the three greatest challenges to marriage and family life they face while running a company.

In Part 2, we offer 8 ways to strengthen marriage and family relationships that these BAM practitioners have shared from their own experiences.

The 3 Greatest Challenges to Marriage and Family Life

Of all the challenges to health marriage and family relationships that the 12 BAMers shared, they essentially boil down to one of three main issues:

1. Time management and stress build up

2. Blurred lines between business and home

3. Lack of understanding and support

1. Time Management and Stress Build Up

The sheer scale of the task and the responsibilities of the business can easily overtake family priorities. Running a business can become all consuming and erode time that should be spent with family. For those who work together, this problem may be exasperated if you both enjoy working hard and end up with a lack of balance between work and family-focused time. In the short-term there may be seasons where the pressures of the business mean working longer hours. However, if this is allowed to become a long-term pattern, a build up of personal and relational stress will become a threat to healthy marriage and family relationships – and ultimately the business itself. Read more

The Ingredients for a Healthy Business Team Part 1: Business Story

‘Team troubles’ were one of the top 4 reasons BAM mentors gave for practitioners giving up and going home. The ability to build effective teams and work through difficult team dynamics is therefore crucial for the sustainability of BAM companies. In this interview, we talk to Luke, a BAM business owner living in the Middle East, about his business story and what ingredients make for healthy business teams.

Luke, you have a company in the Middle East that offers corporate team building experiences. What lead you into that business?

My professional background is in engineering and engineering requires a high degree of collaboration. There is a strong need to work in effective teams. Then early on in my career, I worked on some projects in the Middle East that got me interested in the dynamics of business and recognising how companies create employment and other benefits for communities.

Over 20 years ago, we got involved in youth ministry with a mission organisation. As part of their training, this mission uses a very intensive week-long personal and team building exercise. Trainees are put under extreme pressure to see how they cope in a team situation. Our experience with that opened my eyes further to the need for healthy team dynamics. Mission workers spend months, maybe years, preparing to go overseas, but if their team falls apart, they may have to come home.

I realised I’d had years of training as an engineer and I didn’t just want to give all that away. I was learning lessons about effective teams myself and becoming motivated to help others be effective. Alongside that, I felt drawn to do business at a heart level. So I had a sense of calling to business, but  it was also becoming a personal passion. I was praying and asking God, “What should I do, youth ministry with this mission organisation or business and engineering?” When God spoke he said, “It’s AND, not OR – do both.” Read more

So What Shall We Do Tomorrow? How We Have Endured

One day down

Sleep deprived, stressed, hiding in the office to cry, then pulling it together and working hard physically, attempting to speak a foreign language, smiling at potential customers, doing everything for the first time, from start to finish, from nerve-wracking open to exhausted and exuberant close. We did it! There was cash in the drawer to prove it. Success!!! We made it through… Day one.

We arrived home near midnight, our three small boys in tow. As we straggled through the door, my husband turned to me and said, “So what shall we do tomorrow?”

I stopped. I stared at him. Then I’m pretty sure I laughed. Barely.

All the focus for years and months had been to start a business. Now it was started. We were worn out, but the real work had just begun.

Later we learned that starting a business is like having a baby. In so many ways. One moment it appears unbelievably fragile. The next moment it’s screaming its lungs out in a show of robust strength. Helpless. Demanding. Exceedingly needy!

There was one American woman who understood this business-baby analogy before we did. She visited us the first day at the shop, congratulated us, and gave us a lasagne. Read more

How They Got Started: 3 Different Routes into Business as Mission

AND THE AWARD GOES TO...

Our goal is to provide the BAM Community with the best content and resources available. As we wrap up the spring and head into summer we are highlighting various articles and resources which have stood out above the rest. Below is the “Most Popular Post” for the summer of 2016.

Please enjoy and thanks for following!

From Dream to Island Reality: Samantha

At the tender age of nine, rather than dreaming of make-believe castles and glass slippers, Samantha dreamed about living her life on a certain archipelago in Asia. After college Samantha spent a year in China teaching English then returned to the States to get her Master’s degree in Teaching English as a Foreign Language. Upon graduating, she taught English for several years at high school level. Then one day God began stirring that dream from her childhood of living in Asia. After months of seeking wise counsel and pushing on doors, a plan began to take shape. True to His word, God did “more than she could ask or imagine”, doors opened for her to join an organisation that fit her youthfulness and passion. She raised long-term support, and took a survey trip. Within a short time Samantha had moved and begun studying the local language on a main island of the archipelago. She was open to God’s provision, setting no expectations on how long she would remain long-term in the country.

Three months into her language studies Samantha received a phone call from a certain small business ministering out in the islands asking if she would join them in their endeavor. Samantha had connected with this business months prior during her survey trip, hoping that God would open the door for her to join their business since their vision was the same as hers for the islands. With her teaching skills and a passion for the Islands, she immediately said, “Yes!” – believing she could do anything God called her to, including small business. Read more

Streams in the Desert: Sowing Seeds for Transformation

Sami is a man with a dream for a nation. It is a dream that took root in the dry and dusty ground of an Islamic country in the early 90s and that has grown up over nearly 20 years through both success and adversity. His vision is to raise up servant-leaders in the marketplace, a group of national business and community leaders that are following God’s ways and shaping a nation from the inside-out. The dream is for nothing less than transformation – of people and values, of communities, and ultimately of a nation. This is a nation that we will call “Gongori” – an impoverished state that is crippled by corrupt leadership.

This is not a dream for the short-term. When Sami and his team first started their business in 2007, it was within the context of a 30 year long strategy to disciple Gongori leaders in Godly principles and with years of preparation and planning behind them.

However, for all the long-term planning, tough lessons can bring about necessary adaptation! Lately, Sami has been thinking a lot about the Biblical account of Joseph and how he was able to bring influence from the ‘inside’ in a nation because he had an ‘Egyptian face’. The unique challenges of working in a country like Gongori have paid a heavy price and Sami is now embarking on revised strategy based on what he is calling the ‘Joseph Approach’. Read more

Business in Brick Lane: Reinventing Church in Multicultural London

“I’ve had more significant conversations in this coffee shop in one week, than a whole year working in a church building,” tells Paul Unsworth. “We need new models of church where people can have a sense of belonging regardless of what they believe.”  In a busy, multicultural and popular street in East London, this Baptist pastor is re-inventing church. He and his team started a commercial coffee shop – as a church. They learned some keys on the way.

The coffee shop opened its doors June 2012 in Brick Lane. In this area twenty thousand people come to visit the shops and market on a regular Sunday. Many kinds of faiths are shared, but Christians are hardly to be found. While walking here one Sunday, Paul knew, ‘We have to be here, among these crowds’. They named the coffee shop Kahaila, which is a word play with the Hebrew word Kahila, meaning community, and the word Chaim/hai, what is connected with ‘life’. These words represent their purpose of bringing life to the very centre of the community: to plant a church as a café. Paul, “Traditional churches work well for Christians, but we want to explore how we model a church that engages people outside the church. Those kind of people who see church like they do a red telephone box – an amazing building that’s part of our heritage. They don’t want these telephone boxes removed and love to see it standing somewhere in a street, but they will never use it. They look at church the same way: they love the architecture and the fact that it is part of British culture, but it’s not for them.”

No business, no mission

The whole coffee shop endeavour did cost a lot of money and effort. Over a hundred thousand pounds were invested; partly donated and partly borrowed. This meant that they had to run the business well in order to raise an income, and to attract clients. Their aim was to become one of the best coffee shops in London and they seem to be well on their way: nearly four times as much profit was made as initially anticipated. But what’s more: people are finding them and recommending Kahaila on internet for their good coffee, food, service and atmosphere. While regularly adding the comment online: ‘Oh, and these guys are Christians’. Read more

The Viking Spirit: BAM In and From the Nordic Region

We share 4 short excerpts of BAM stories both in and from the Nordic region. For the full case studies, see the BAM Global Think Tank report on BAM In and From the Nordic Region.

BAM In the Nordic Region

Hans Nielsen Hauge: Changing a nation 200 years ago

We might call Hans Nielsen Hauge the first social entrepreneur in the Nordic countries. Indeed it would also be true to say that he carried the values of business as mission as he clearly had a huge impact on individuals and society in financial, social and spiritual aspects.

As a serial entrepreneur he started as many as 30 companies in Norway within a period of 4 years in 1800-1804 – that is almost one company every second month. Busy man! These companies were not micro enterprises but rather larger scale industries such as factories, mills, ship yards, mines and printing presses.

Hauge traveled – mostly by foot – throughout most of Norway, from Tromso in the north to Denmark in the south. He held countless revival meetings, often after church services. In addition to his religious work, he offered practical advice, encouraging such things as settlements in Northern Norway and helping people start businesses.

As a social entrepreneur Hauge wasn’t motivated by becoming rich and did not pay dividends to shareholders. He was rather motivated to serve society. He plowed money back into the business and then turned operations and ownership over to others and moved on. His followers started many other industries in turn and in a period of extreme economic crisis, when almost all the prosperous timber barons and iron works owners went bankrupt because of the Napoleonic wars, he showed a way to prosperity for anyone with initiative. This led to a new rise in Norwegian economics some years after the independence in 1814. In this matter Hauge was but one of several contributors, but he was one of the most influential. He was especially influential in the way he combined economics and Christian morals: modesty, honesty and hard work, among others. Read more

Muslim Village Transformed Through Prayer, Business People and Owls

It was warm and humid. One may say almost too hot for a Swede. But the story that emerged was more than cool.

I listened to the mayor of a small Muslim village. We sat outside his house, drank tea and nibbled on fruit, nuts and sweets. He was enthusiastic and composed. As a devout Muslim he had come to appreciate Christian business people in a way that surprised him. There is a long and sometimes violent history of severe distrust and tension between Muslims and Christians in Indonesia.

The village used to be quite poor. Rats ate 40 percent of the crops every year. These creatures also spread disease. Collaboration for irrigation was non-existent. There was a lack of entrepreneurial spirit and seemingly no-one thought about praying for a difference.

But some good friends and colleagues of mine visited the mayor and his village. They are Christian business people, they wanted to help and they wanted to build bridges across a religious divide.

At first the mayor declined. Why did business people come, and not charity workers or government people? On top of that, these people were Christians – not Muslims. But one Christian businesswoman suggested that they at least could pray. She said that prayers make a difference; yes God can make a difference. It was agreed. Something happened and it became a turning point. The mayor invited them to come back and they did. Read more

In Business for Freedom: The Red Light District of Kolkata

The company ‘FBA’ is located in the largest, and most infamous sex district in Kolkata, India. Within a few square miles more than 10,000 women stand in line selling their bodies to thousands of men who visit daily. Many are trafficked from Bangladesh, Nepal and rural India. For others poverty has left them without options. The cries of hungry children drive them to sell their bodies. FBA opened its doors in 2001 starting with twenty women who were desperate for an opportunity to be free. It was hard work teaching uneducated and unskilled women to sew jute bags at a quality acceptable for the export market. Some could barely use a pair of scissors and in those early days the average daily output per person was less than two bags. It was particularly frustrating when bags were sewn upside down and inside out and nobody noticed. Slowly these problems were overcome with much training and patience. Today, while many of the women are still not the fastest sewers, the business produces around 1000 bags a day made from jute and cotton material.

FBA entered a new market in 2009 by offering fair trade organic cotton tees (t-shirts). Girls showing ability in bag sewing were given the opportunity to train and learn new skills sewing t-shirts. Although smaller than the bags unit, FBA Tees is capable of producing 400 tees per day.

In the first few years all screen-printing was outsourced locally, however print quality and timely supply was out of our control. To overcome these problems and take advantage of the opportunity to create more jobs for freedom, FBA now has its own screen-printing unit supplying two customers, FBA Bags and FBA Tees.

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