We asked eight people who have got involved in BAM in the last 5 years to share how they got launched and how well they landed. We asked them:
- What helped propel you towards business as mission?
- Was there anything that held you back that you had to overcome?
- What were some of the most important things you did to prepare to launch?
- Did any gaps in your know-how or preparation come to light as you landed?
Part 3: What were some of the most important things you did to prepare to launch?
We researched and read books on BAM, as well as spending time talking to experienced workers particularly through the Open Network Expo. – Ben and Yumi, Vietnam [have been operating a software development company for 18 months, before that they spent 10 months intentionally preparing to do BAM, 4 months in their home country and 6 months in Vietnam]
First thing is pray. God can help in any way. He is our reason to live and also do business. So bringing the issue to him is very important. Once God provides all of the aspects, it’s good to meet with the employees so they can start to see the changes but slowly. Starting the meeting with a prayer can break the ice. Next time start with a prayer then read a verse. Taking it slowly gives employees time to process new ways of doing things. – Daniel, Haiti [transitioned his company to being a BAM-focused company 2 ½ years ago, he spent 2 years before that preparing to do BAM]
I have a business degree and that helps so much. So many people I see trying to do BAM don’t have any kind of business background or even a desire to learn it, which, doesn’t end well in my opinion. Get some business skills, love God, love others, and then just obey wherever God calls you. Remember that what you’re doing is opening up a business, so actually be good at knowing what that could entail and then follow God’s leading. – Jacob, Nepal [has been working for PacMoore in Kathmandu, Nepal for 3 ½ years, after 2 years of God preparing him to go]
We developed a strong theology of missions and ultimately BAM through our years of preparation. We developed a strong sense of the best and worst practices in BAM as we participated in training programs and traveled to visit many BAM practitioners during our language study. We worked hard at learning the language well and communicating clearly. We intentionally studied the culture, market, and other socio-economic factors influencing BAM in our context. We chose a business model based on the business potential, but also the ministry potential. We considered ministry potential and built the ministry into our business from the beginning. – Steven, Thailand [co-founded a BAM company 3 years ago, after 2 years of language learning, he spent 5 years before that growing a startup and getting ready to go overseas]
The best thing we ever did was to get some experienced mentors and surround ourselves with advisors. We also attended whatever online or in-person course we could to try to learn from experienced people. – Julia, Mongolia [has been doing BAM for 3 years ‘on purpose’ in Mongolia after 18 months of working on a not-so-BAM-intentional version of the cafe]
Taking a two week vision trip to Thailand was extremely valuable looking back. It gave us an idea of what it would look like to work and live there. We also attended Support Raising Solution’s Bootcamp and Missions Training International. These pre-field trainings gave us excellent foundations for personal finances, working cross-culturally, and language acquisition. – Evan, Thailand [is now transitioning to work at management level in a BAM company after working in BAM mobilising and training for 2 years]
Learning from examples of people that already have done it well. We are currently looking for Brazilian successful cases to share with the Brazilian church. When we have them, certainly it will be easily for people to comprehend that it works for Brazilians as well. – Sergio, Brazil [is employed in a large corporation and has also been working in a BAM mobilisation team since he heard about BAM, he and his wife are now intentionally preparing to be practitioners]
You have to understand business from a conceptual as well as practical point of view. If you are trying to understand local culture, learn business, learn language, adjust yourself and/or family, and identify business opportunities all at the same time…that’s ridiculous! Learn as much as you possibly can before leaving your native country. Find someone who is doing business in the region but had to adapt to your culture and learn from them. Take an internship or apprenticeship with a business as close to the one you like in a different region in your own country. Even moving from the north to south or east to the west will give you a small dose of working “cross culturally”. I think if you are launching a new business from scratch you need to learn the lean startup method and concepts. Traditional 40-50 business plans are dead. – Evan, USA [recently moved back to the USA to work in a University setting after working in management in a BAM company in Nepal for 3 years]
by Jo Plummer
Jo Plummer is the Co-Chair of the BAM Global Think Tank and co-editor the Lausanne Occasional Paper on Business as Mission. She has been developing resources for BAM since 2001 and currently serves as Editor of the Business as Mission website.
With thanks to the BAM practitioners who shared their experiences