Posts

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)

Read more

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

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

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

More About Company Boards and How to Build Them

Once a month, our panel of mentors answer your practical business questions. Send us your questions!

 

Dear BAM Mentor,

I keep hearing that having an Advisory Board is good idea for a BAM company. How is an advisory board different from other kinds of boards and how should I go about setting one up?

~ Needing Advice

Dear Needing Advice,

We must first determine what type of Board you are inquiring about. Usually, an Advisory Board is used to give strategic advice on a narrow topic. A Board of Directors, on the other hand, is who the CEO is accountable to. They give advice on a broader range of issues. This position has some legal responsibilities and Board members on large companies can wield considerable power since they hire and fire the CEO.  This is highly unlikely in a BAM company, however. 

Let’s talk for a minute about a Board of Directors. You should have such a Board. You, as CEO, need to be accountable to someone outside the company that has direct experience in what you are doing and can likely spot a potential pitfall before you can. Otherwise, it is more likely that you will make a significant mistake – and we all do – and there will be no one to help guide you through a particularly tricky situation. Read more

Making Sense of the World of Metrics

Measurement and metrics can be deceptively simple. We pick an aspect of our business and ask some basic questions about it, for example:

  • How many tables did each of the servers take care of each day?
  • How many sales calls did each of the sales staff make each day?
  • What is the company’s net profit each month?
  • How many people viewed our latest Google ad last week?
  • Which of our products gives the highest profit and which gives the lowest?

Answering such questions can help a manager understand a bit more about the business, however, there is a lot more to establishing metrics than simply asking and answering a few questions. It matters a great deal that we ask the right questions, that we get correct answers in a timely fashion and that we analyze the answers carefully then apply what we have learned.

Why are you measuring?

Metrics can be used for a variety of reasons. Purpose drives design, that is the design of the measure changes depending on how it will be used. Sometimes the desire will be to assess the state of the business for a one time decision that needs to be made. Other times the goal will be to establish a base and ongoing input for process improvement and management.  For example, a loan company will likely make an assessment of the business for a simple yes or no answer to the question “Is this company capable of repaying the loan?” Or an outside owner may want an answer to the question “Is management accomplishing its objectives?” However, an internal manager is likely to ask questions such as “Are we on track with our sales plan and if not, how can we get back on track?” The manager’s question is likely to be a process question, looking for diagnostics. The investor’s question is to make a one-time decision. The outside owner’s question falls somewhere in between, sometimes it would be a matter of replacing the manager and other times—one hopes—it would be aimed at helping the manager improve performance. Read more

Measuring the Impact and Performance of BAM: Intro to Metrics

Business as mission is hard. Very hard! Missionaries with little business experience but plenty of vision start businesses and struggle. Experienced business people start businesses in new countries or cultures and struggle. Too many business as mission (BAM) companies wander in the desert aimlessly. They need a compass to guide them—something to remind them of their direction and tell them if they are on track. Well designed and implemented metrics can help.

Metrics are measures. They are like the control panel on a car—the gauges, lights and dials that tell you how fast you’re going, how much fuel is left and whether you’re headed for trouble. You can drive a car without a fuel gauge or a speedometer, but you will likely run into serious trouble before too much time has passed.

Measures can be numbers, stories, graphs, or generalized reports. These metrics provide an insight into what’s really going on inside the operation. That matters to all who are working hard to see the business achieve its purpose—to glorify God. Read more