Posts

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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Business as Mission: An Expression of Biblical Integrity

by Mike Baer

The word “integrity” has been bandied about so much over the last decade or so that it has practically become meaningless. Politicians are described in their self-serving advertisements as men or women of “integrity.” We like the word. It’s right up there with “tolerant”—another empty term. In fact, who could argue with someone who was tolerant and had integrity. He or she would be a postmodern super hero.

Unfortunately, we don’t think about words much any more. We don’t dwell on what they mean. As a result, we lose the richness and power of a great concept. So, in this article, I want to spend a few moments unpacking two dimensions of integrity, especially in the context of Business as Mission.

Integrity and Ethics

When I first began teaching business in the Former Soviet Union twenty years ago, the first hurdle I had to overcome was establishing that business was legitimate in the first place. Most people viewed business as inherently corrupt and dishonest. Today’s America has very much the same opinion. And why not? We hear constant news flashes of another scandal in Apple’s China factory or fraud in CitiGroup’s financial products or theft on Wall Street, or…ad nauseum.  It is erroneous to confuse business with the business person. The person is corrupt but business is not. Nevertheless, few think that deeply and so they condemn all things business as dark, greedy and devilish.

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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

Are We Drifting? The Dangers of Secularization for a BAM Company

The Problem

While we can talk about the dangers of “mission drift” or the “secularization of BAM businesses”, I would argue that it is not really the mission that drifts, nor do businesses, come to think about it!

Recently, while talking to the owners of a failed start-up I was advised that the reason the “business failed” was that there was not enough customers to buy their products. I mused, “How was that the business’s fault?” You may accuse me of being too particular about the use of language. However, our use of language can sometimes be a mask that causes us to deceive ourselves. Sometimes it is easier to blame “something”, anything, before fully examining ourselves.

I would argue that any “drift” or “secularization” for a BAM company is more likely to be our drift from our personal relationship with God and His people, over any external influence.

So why did that business fail? It would help if we could apply the “5 Whys” method for getting to the core issue. We can apply this method anywhere, whether it to our mission, our business, our marriage, church, school etc. Some people ask 6 or even 7 whys, like I have here:

  • Why did the business fail? (failed to plan)
  • Why did the market move? (markets do)
  • Why did you not see that before? (failed to research)
  • Why did you not do the research? (failed to appreciate the importance of research)
  • Why did you feel it was not necessary? (sales, quality, environment, staff were taking my time)
  • Why did you fail to prioritize? (failed to take time for the important things)
  • Why did you not do the important things? (failed to balance life)

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Is Your Work and Life in Balance? The BAM Balancing Act

by Patrick Lai

Ideally, every BAMer or B4Ter wants a perfect work-life balance. But as you’ve probably already experienced, this mythical balance is rarely achievable. Striving for balance can lead to more ‘stress over being stressed’ than work itself.

To help you manage the work-life balance debate, tune out the opinions of others and start checking in with what the Lord is saying to you. Ultimately it’s up to you to figure out what balance works best for your own situation, but if you need some help finding that equilibrium point, there are others who have gone before you who can help.

Starting Out

When you are first starting you’re your job overseas or your business, you may need to abandon any idea of balance. That’s a serious statement that warrants strong consideration before moving into the B4T/BAM world. You will need to get family, friends, loved ones and especially your leaders on board with your full-court push and be prepared for some backlash at the drive you’ll need to settle into your job or to get your business going.

In starting out, the work-life balance you achieve may be more like 90/10 than 50/50. Know your own contentment level. Strive to understand what that balance is for you personally and be prepared to make the commitment act upon your decision.

Evaluation and Adjustment

As you settle into your job, that balance will change and you’ll be able to invest more time at things and with people away from the office. So recognize that the fulcrum of balance will be a sliding point on the bar of life. Read more

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

Forever Crystals: A Missional Business with Latin Flair

‘Every Crystal Has a Story’, is the tag line of Forever Crystals. Every person also has a story. Here is the story of Merari Pena and her business Forever Crystal Jewelry.

It started with her father. Merari, a native of Puerto Rico, was raised in the church and at the age of 16 she became a Christian. However it was some years later, in 2003, that she came back to the Lord, wanting to passionately follow Jesus. Although Merari comes from a missionary family, she has always been a business person. Early on in her business career Merari had a specialist advertising agency selling outdoor media space. It was out of a motivation to help her father reach his dream of going to Cuba as a missionary that she got involved in the family jewelry business.

Living from commissions on successful advertising sales, Merari had a lot of time on her hands and she offered to help manage her father’s jewelry kiosks to support him in his work in Cuba. “It really started because I had a desire to serve and do something for God. Running the kiosks was the only thing holding my father back,” she explains, “I didn’t know anything about the jewelry business when I started helping my father. For me it was an enlightening process of learning by trial and error, and just walking with God and him showing the way because I didn’t know anything about it!” Read more