We asked our team of BAM experts to give some practical advice for BAM practitioners in the beginning stages of business planning. For this post we asked them to share ideas about developing goals and vision.
Robert Andrews, Larry Sharp and Garry all actively mentor frontline BAM companies – as well as teach and write on BAM. Read more about them below.
What kinds of preliminary research or on-ground preparation would you emphasise as particularly important to someone planning a BAM company – especially in a cross-cultural context?
A business plan is intended to help you work through the key issues you will face in running your business and should include all of the factors that have critical importance. It should addresses the design of the product, distribution, manufacture, finance, marketing, purchasing, and capitalization. It should also address how all of these business functions fit in to the work God is doing.
You should be praying about your market and finance. You should be praying too about the impact God is calling you to make. You start a marketing plan by understanding the local market – the people, the society, the culture, the economic circumstances and people’s needs. You start a spiritual plan similarly – the people, the society, the culture and the spiritual circumstances and needs of the people around you. What is the spiritual climate, both the Heavenly and the demonic? What are the identified needs and priorities of the local church? What are other Christian workers focused on and praying for? What are the major spiritual dynamics of the society? How open are people to Christians, to Christianity or to foreigners in general? Are you likely to have legal, social or spiritual attacks if you are very open with your faith?
Newcomers can’t answer these questions by themselves. You will need to research with local Christians and church leaders, with other BAMers in the community. By asking lots of questions and listening carefully you can start to see where the kingdom as a whole is headed and what the spiritual challenges are in your location. By looking and praying about this while understanding the collective gifting of the Christians in your business you can start to identify the intersecting point where your gifts and talents and the role of the business can contribute to the needs of the kingdom in your local context.
Evaluate your own talents and skills. Absolutely get some help in this area. Most people cannot do a good job at this – it’s hard to do. Get more than one piece of advice on this – the world is full of naysayers who will happily squash your vision just to prove to themselves how smart they are. You have to like what you are doing. Some people love Sales, some hate it. Some people love Accounting, some hate it. Do what you like to do! Only 1 in 100 people are entrepreneurs. It’s okay to be a business contributor, such as an accountant (these are vital for any BAM business), or a sales person, etc.
For your chosen business, go and find out how it works. Talk to business owners in your field. Do a “day-shadow” with them. Find out what they do all day. It will surprise you. It’s not all about sitting in that corner office with the view and practicing your putting. It’s dealing with the totally unexpected disaster that will sink your company in a few months that you have no idea how to deal with. I’ve sat in my corner office with a view many times and said to myself, “I have no idea what to do about this problem.” But you have to do something – you have to get out and talk to your staff, advisors, customers, etc. and come up with a plan. It takes guts and courage to own a business.
Visit the country you are thinking of working in. Why are you considering going there? Many young people felt called to serve in China. It turns out that the real reason they felt called to China was that they like Chinese food! However, be ready to serve wherever you are called to. I once said to our Father, “Take me anywhere except Mongolia.” Guess where I am now? Mongolia! Our Father has a sense of humour, it appears.
If you think I’m trying to scare you, you’re right. Better to be thoughtful about all of this now rather than have regrets and cause damage later.
I usually default to a couple of questions first.
Who is the customer? One does not have a business if there is no customer willing to pay for the product (good or service). Secondly, what is the problem you are trying to solve? This is an effective way to discover an opportunity, from which a business model can emerge.
Having started there, the things important to me in preliminary research are:
- ‘Doing Business’ Guides – use the World Bank and other websites to learn what it takes to do business in that country and reason
- Put together a business model (not a complete plan) i.e. value proposition, market segmentation, customer description, value chain, revenue generation model, competitive strategy and cost structure. All of this is hypothesis-driven, agile and pivot-ready.
- A pilot study – maybe a feasibility study to test the idea – this will develop a “proof of concept”
- Risk Analysis and PEST Analysis (political, economic, social-cultural, technological) and religious conditions
- Analyze and understand the competition.
- Research training and coaching opportunities
More from our expert panel:
Larry Sharp is the Founder and current Director of Strategic Training and Partnerships of a Business for Transformation (BAM, B4t) consulting firm, International Business and Education Consultants (www.ibecventures.com). Larry served 21 years in Brazil and then 20 years as Crossworld VP of Operations and as Vice President of Business Partnerships. He is currently a VP Emeritus and consultant with Crossworld. Since 2007 he has devoted energies toward Business as Mission (BAM) and currently is a consultant on BAM and education themes. Larry travels within North America speaking and teaching in conferences, colleges and churches on themes related to Business As Mission (BAM, B4t) and missions. His travels abroad relate to BAM, crisis preparation and management, and team building.
Robert Andrews is a westerner who has lived in Turkey since the early 1990’s working in manufacturing, consulting and business training. Part of Robert’s consulting work is with TransformationalSME.org, managing the global mentoring process for missional businesses. Robert also serves as a leader at a Protestant church in Turkey where he often teaches on the theology of work and on discipleship in the workplace. Robert tells us he married a woman he doesn’t deserve and with her has raised a bunch of great kids who are now raising grandchildren for him!
Garry is a retired businessman who has been mentoring small businesses for the last 20 years. He has been involved in cross cultural business activities for the last 10 years and has visited 20 countries during that time. Garry and his wife are doing small business training and funding in a restricted access country in Asia. Having started, grown and sold his own business he understands the trials, potential pitfalls and necessary success factors of day to day business activities. He continues to learn and share about the cross cultural aspects of business and especially the need to learn about and manage expectations in the local cultural context.