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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

6 Reasons Why Your Vision May be Failing (And What to Do About It)

by Chris Cloud

Since there are many excellent articles on Vision Casting out there, I have decided to come at this from a different angle. My question is: Where is a vision likely to fall off the rails? I’d argue that most individuals, and most organizations, are not guided by a clear vision.

I have been a part of a few organizations that nailed it, and a few that could have achieved so much more if they had a clear vision and steered towards it. I’ve also consulted with dozens of companies regarding their brand and strategy, and inevitably vision comes up as one of the most powerful elements of growth and impact.

Without a vision, the people perish. – Proverbs 29:18

Here are some simple observations on where a vision commonly goes off the rails, and what to do about it. Note: I believe a clear vision is just as transformative, and sadly, just as rare for an individual as it is for a group or organization. So even if you aren’t leading a company, this is for you.

Where do Visions Fail?

Lack of Clarity: “What exactly is our vision?” It’s either too complicated, or it’s too ambiguous. Keep it simple enough for a 4th grader to understand. Poor vision: “we’re going to be big and successful one day”. What does that even mean? Strong vision, “We’re going to put all of the world’s information online.” (Google’s vision). It’s clear. It’s stupid simple, though it’s not easy by any stretch. It’s ambitious, almost pretentious, but it’s compelling. It conjures up visceral imagery. The old explorers were great at this. For example, Ernest Shackleton’s vision was, “To accomplish the first crossing of the Antarctic continent.”  Read more

Crucial Questions for BAM Startups

Perhaps you are a Christian professional interested in starting a Business as Mission (BAM) company, and want some guidance on next steps in pursuing that dream. There is much to learn from those who have gone before you in the BAM space. Here is a list of questions you will want to consider as your pursue starting a BAM business:

Entrepreneurial Drive

In order to start a new company, you need at least one individual that has the vision for a new product or service that meets a true felt need for a specific target market.

  • Are you an entrepreneur, and if so, do you have a team of people to partner with?
  • If you are person who enjoys keeping a business running, do you know a BAM entrepreneur that you can come alongside?
Spiritual Objectives

BAM companies are differentiated from other social enterprises in that they also prioritize spiritual objectives. If you have goals to honor and reflect Christ in the workplace, you will need leadership that is committed to those goals and has the ability to carry them out. To start a truly spiritually strong company, consider the following:  Read more

9 Strategies to Fortify Your BAM Team Against Spiritual Attack

Every business has its challenges, but BAM businesses face unique trials from the enemy who comes “to steal, kill and destroy” (John 10:10) and preys on weak points in the company as well as employee relationships. The following are nine ways to specifically position your team to be ready for the hardships that may come.

1. Be on the same page

Your decision makers need to share an understanding of the vision and values that guide the company. Discuss your vision and values from the beginning, and revisit them on a consistent basis.

2. Communicate consistently

Good communication doesn’t happen organically or naturally, but requires intentionality. Setting up good avenues for communication include having regular reviews and scheduled team meetings, as well as prioritizing clearing up discrepancies as soon as they arise.

3. Establish good boundaries between work and nonwork friendships

Some BAM employees end up spending every waking moment together and get burnt out on each other. It’s encouraged to have a variety of friends inside the business as well as outside.  Read more

7 Fruitful Practices for BAM and Church Planting

BAM companies are usually very diverse, each business with its own unique features. However, through research into real experiences of BAM and Church Planting, some shared commonalities emerged in the following fruitful practices:

1. Contact

Make sure that the business provides regular contact with the focus people.

Intentionally create a business that provides regular contact with those with whom you are hoping to share the gospel – whether they are employees, customers, suppliers or others. A bakery business owner estimates that they have a chance to meet an average of 100 people a day. Christ can be made known to staff, suppliers, and customers through business activities. One employer who hires local women who come from difficult home lives seeks to help those women achieve a greater quality of life. Another BAM company provides business opportunities and income for local Christian leaders, encouraging them to stay and carry on the church planting work rather than moving away for employment to support their families. An agricultural business enables local Christians to do church planting work by training them in an egg production business. In this model they also help the trainees set up the businesses which provides contacts for them, as well as an income. This agriculture business also provides church planting training to the locals as part of their strategy.

Although the business is usually the context in which contacts are made and relationships started, several BAM practitioners (BAMers) mentioned that conversations about spiritual matters typically take place outside of the workplace. However, in other cases BAMers reported that these conversations start naturally through a shared work environment. Read more

What’s My Role in BAM? Discovering Where You Fit in the BAM Movement

The Business as Mission (BAM) Movement is rapidly gaining momentum. More and more believers are realizing that business is a key avenue God is using to further his Kingdom purposes. Where do you think you fit into the greater picture of BAM? Without a doubt, it takes a whole “ecosystem” of individuals to make a BAM company become reality.

Support Team Members Needed!

Every BAM business will need a support team around them to implement the business strategy and spiritual strategy. Some BAM businesses start only with the entrepreneur but it is advisable to grow your support system from the beginning.

Here are just some of the types of people, skills and support that an BAM startup will need:

A Spiritual Support System

A BAM business uniquely prioritizes spirituality and bringing people closer to knowing Jesus Christ. Therefore, the following are roles needed:  Read more

5 Ways to Increase Spiritual Impact In and Through Your Business

A defining characteristic of a BAM company is that it intentionally integrates business with missional purposes. Yet, sometimes it can be challenging to figure out how to do so practically. Here are 5 areas that business owners and leaders can increase spiritual impact in the companies they oversee:

1. Keep God First

“Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord…It is the Lord Christ you are serving” (Col. 3:23-24).

  • Establish spiritual principles and values and integrate them into the mission, vision, and objectives of the company. Review how well you are abiding by these principles during all stages of the company’s development.
  • Create a Spiritual Impact Plan that has specific goals for how you run your company with spiritual objectives in mind.
  • Invite accountability to maintain the purpose of your company. Appoint a person or group (often called an advisory board) with the responsibility to assess and evaluate how well various departments and projects are aligned with the stated mission, vision, and values within the company.

Read more

When Things Go Right: 8 Success Factors to Keep You from Failing

To round out our ‘Learning from BAM Failure’ series, we circle back around to what helps you succeed. We asked the same BAM practitioners who shared failure stories to also share what kept their businesses from going under completely.

We asked: If you had to give the top two or three reasons for your overall business success, what factors would you share?

Here is a rundown of their combined responses in a Top 8 list of ‘What Went Right’

1. Build a wider network and community

Mentioned in some form by almost all the practitioners we asked, top of the list is creating a robust network around the business and its owners. These BAMers said that forging strong partnerships and building a community of mentors/supporters was key. Avoiding isolation is vital.

Having world class partners has been essential.

As an owner, share the challenges you face with your board, investors, mentors, etc. Tell the truth, early and often.

Surround yourself with counsel. Stay attached to God and his people either through a church/agency or personal mentor or coach.

I’ve succeeded because I’ve had a spouse that has stood by me through thick and thin, not to mention a relationship with my business partner built on tremendous trust and respect. It’s also been important to have mentors and coaches walking closely with us.

A success factor for me has been being well networked in the wider business community as well as the BAM community nationally.

Integration with the local University has been essential. Strong relationships with key professors has allowed us to get first picks on some of the best students who come to do internships with us and eventually become junior staff members.

Read more

5 Risk Factors Guaranteed to Doom a BAM Business

by Larry Sharp

 

The Good, the Bad and the Ugly: Stories from the Frontline

Last year I was leading a seminar in a conference in Arizona, when a local business owner asked the question, “Are there no failed BAM businesses?” While I readily agreed there were, I began to think about the question in a more profound way. What is the “good, the bad and the ugly” of real life BAM business experiences – those that demonstrate that there are BAM failures along with the successes?

Over the past 10 years, I have observed risk factors for BAM enterprises which should stimulate every stakeholder in the BAM community towards better recruitment, better preparation, better deployment and better accountability. Many a sports leader, military hero, or young entrepreneur has demonstrated the oft-quoted statement of Benjamin Franklin, “Failure to prepare is preparing to fail.” And that is true in the Kingdom business endeavors of today.

So what are these factors and where are the stories which help us understand basic principles for launching and landing well in a cross-cultural business? How do we best start companies designed to work out the Great Commandment and the Great Commission? How can we improve so that there will be fewer failures and a greater chance of successful transformational businesses in the areas of the world that need them the most? If these five risk factors don’t actually doom your BAM company, not paying attention to them will seriously endanger it… at the very least!  Read more

Identifying and Maximizing BAM Success Factors Part 2

By Paul Harrington

In this new series on ‘BAM Success Factors’ we invite guest authors to share what they consider the key factors contributing to success and growth for BAM practitioners. To open up the series, Paul Harrington gives us an overview of the most important BAM success factors he has identified through research. Read Part 1 here.

BAM Success Factors Part 2: Interpersonal and Relational Considerations

In the first part of the two-part series on the factors that determine success for BAM practitioners, we looked at the professional and technical characteristics that research shows help determine the likelihood that a BAM practitioner will meet the goals which were established for the enterprise. Many of the factors that indicate future professional success for BAM practitioners are similar to those for small business owners and include:

  • Training and/or experience in operating small or medium-sized businesses,
  • Technical and professional capabilities
  • Cross-cultural norms and skills in the context where the BAM enterprise will operate,
  • Spiritual skills both in and outside of the cultural context of the BAM enterprise, and,
  • Mentoring, support resources and capital.

There are a separate set of interpersonal/relational factors which also affect the likelihood of success for BAM practitioners. Most of these factors are shared with expatriate workers as well as missionaries and other non-profit or religious workers. Multinational companies generally spend much more on sending and supporting their workers than religious or non-profit organizations, although many of the same risk and success factors have been identified with both groups of organizations.  Read more