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Marketing and Customer Service through a Spiritual Lens

by Ross O’Brien

In part 1 and part 2 of this series, we began looking at Porter’s value chain as a useful tool for business people seeking to maximize the value they deliver to customers while also seeking to gain a competitive advantage as they execute their strategy. Beyond the traditional use of the analysis, we also sought to use the tool as a way to help a follower of Jesus steward the resources of God’s company. In this third part of the series, we examine marketing and service, the final two primary activities in the value chain.

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Operations and Outbound Logistics Through a Spiritual Lens

by Ross O’Brien

In Part 1 of this series, we began looking at Porter’s Value Chain Analysis as a useful tool for business people seeking to maximize the value they deliver to customers while also seeking to gain a competitive advantage as they execute their strategy. We looked at Inbound Logistics as one of the primary activities in the value chain.

Beyond the traditional use of the analysis, we also unpacked how the tool could be used as a way to help a follower of Jesus steward the resources of God’s company. After all, while our names might be on the legal documentation as “owners,” we realize that the business belongs to God and we are co-laborers with him in restoring creation throughout the marketplace.

In the second part of the series, we continue to examine the primary activities of the value chain, this time focusing on operations and outbound logistics.

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Value Chain Analysis Through a Spiritual Lens: Introduction

by Ross O’Brien

In his 1985 book Competitive Advantage: Creating and Sustaining Superior Performance, Michael Porter introduced the value chain analysis. Many business people are familiar with Porter’s Five Forces Framework as well as his three generic strategies. The five forces address industry-level issues that to a large degree shape the potential for a return on investment in any given industry. The generic strategies help business leaders select the appropriate strategy for operating within a given industry and market. Both are helpful tools in the strategy toolbox.

Many are not as familiar with the value chain analysis. This tool looks closely at each of the activities involved in a business to examine how each activity can add value to the company as it seeks to execute its strategy. These activities are divided into primary activities and support activities.

Primary activities are those in which employees are “hands on” with the product at any stage in its development or involved with the customer at any stage in the customer’s interaction with the company.

Support activities are those necessary for the business to carry out the primary activities.

It is important to see both primary and secondary activities as a whole system as well as component parts. In doing so, you can understand how a competitive advantage is only possible when the various activities operate in harmony, not in isolation. Below is an image showing each of these activities.

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10 Guiding Principles for Business as Mission

Read this classic blog from our Archives, an excerpt from the Lausanne Occasional Paper on Business as Mission.
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A good business as mission business will, by definition, have many of the characteristics of any well-run business. A kingdom business must be profitable and sustainable just as any other business. Integrity, fairness and excellent customer service are characteristics of any good business, not just a business as mission venture. As such, while important, those characteristics will not by themselves necessarily point people to Christ. A kingdom business begins with the foundation of any good business, but takes its stewardship responsibilities even further.

What follows is a list of principles that should underpin a business as mission business. First we list the basic foundational principles that must exist in any good business. Following that are the principles that distinguish a good business as mission business.

Foundational Business Principles

1.  Strives to be profitable and sustainable in the long term

Profit is an indication that resources are being used wisely. It indicates that the product or service being produced and sold does so at a price that covers the cost of the resources, including the cost of capital. For most businesses, profits are fleeting, and never a sure thing. It is common for businesses to experience periods of low profit, and even negative profit. Thus it is important to take a long-term view of profitability. Occasional windfalls are often what will sustain a company through periods of financial losses. For that reason a well-managed business will use extreme care when considering whether and when to distribute profits. Profit, and its retention, is not necessarily an indication of greed. Read more

Practicing Jubilee Through Entrepreneurship

by Stu Minshew

Last week, I shared how Michael Rhodes and Robby Holt’s new book, Practicing the King’s Economy: Honoring Jesus in How We Work, Earn, Spend, Save, and Give, challenges readers to consider ways to provide employment opportunities for those on the margins of society. Throughout the world, we are surrounded by those in need. Many individuals, and even entire groups of people, live on the margins of our society, including racial or ethnic minorities, low-income communities, single moms, the elderly, and those who have served time in jail.

As Christians in business, we are called to provide opportunities for those on the margins to build equity and take part in Christ’s abundant provision for His people.

My last post discussed shifting from a soup kitchen mentality to a potluck mentality, equipping us to more effectively walk alongside those on the margins.

Today, I want to explore another concept from Practicing the King’s Economy, unpacking what the Bible says about equity and the concept of Jubilee. As Christians in business, we are called to provide opportunities for those on the margins to build equity and take part in Christ’s abundant provision for His people. I’ll also discuss specific ways that entrepreneurship can create pathways to equity for those on the margins.

Jubilee and Restoration

To show God’s plan for everyone to have an equity stake in His economy, Rhodes and Holt go to the Book of Exodus. When the Israelites disobey and are sent to wander the desert for forty years, God uses this time, not only to discipline them, but also to show them what His economy should look like. As He provides manna, God shows them that He is a God of abundance and provides enough for everyone. At the same time, those who try to store up more than they need find it rotten and full of maggots the following day.  Read more

A Potluck Approach: Engaging the Marginalized with Meaningful Work

by Stu Minshew

Work is good, and we are called to glorify God through the work that we do, but what does that look like in our day-to-day lives as entrepreneurs and Kingdom businesspeople? A new book by Michael Rhodes and Robby Holt, Practicing the King’s Economy: Honoring Jesus in How We Work, Earn, Spend, Save, and Give, has challenged me to intentionally consider how I can provide employment opportunities for those on the margins of society. Today, I want to share two key takeaways for as we seek to engage those on the margins through our work.

Where Do We Start: Potluck vs. Soup Kitchen

No matter where we live and work, we are surrounded by those in need. Many individuals, and even entire groups of people, live on the margins of our society. There are those who have committed crimes and served time in jail, those treated as inferior because of their race or ethnicity, members of low-income communities, single moms, and the elderly. Almost everywhere in the world, these individuals are afforded less encouragement and fewer opportunities for work, and are often prevented from even pursuing meaningful work.

How should Christians respond? We must start by realizing the value inherent in each individual, a value that comes from the fact that they are created and loved by God. As His followers, we are also called to love them and we demonstrate that love in the way we engage them.  Read more

7 Creative Ways that Practitioners Integrate Business and Mission

A defining characteristic of a BAM company is that it intentionally integrates mission with business. But what does that look like in practice? What are some creative ways that practitioners work out their goals for spiritual impact, alongside their commercial, social and environmental goals?

We asked a small group of practitioners to share what they do in the business context that moves them towards their missional goals and spiritual impact. This could be something they did when establishing the company, or practices they do on a regular basis in the day-to-day life of the business. The practitioners shared a diverse range of specific practices, but there were some common themes. These seven ways to integrate business and mission stood out:

Keep Purpose Front and Center

Keeping the purpose, vision and objectives of the company at the forefront emerged as a key principle. This is important all the way through the life of the company, from the planning stages and goal setting, to evaluating those goals and choosing measures, to on-boarding processes for new hires, to daily communication with employees. Read more

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

by David Skews

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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Don’t Lose Your Way: The Importance of the Business Development Process

AND THE AWARD GOES TO...

Our goal is to provide the BAM Community with the best content and resources available. As we head into winter we are highlighting various articles and resources which have stood out in the past 6 months. Below is the “Staff Pick” for August to December 2017.

Please enjoy and thanks for following!

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

Crucial Questions for BAM Startups

AND THE AWARD GOES TO...

Our goal is to provide the BAM Community with the best content and resources available. As we head into winter we are highlighting various articles and resources which have stood out in the past 6 months. Below is the “Most Popular Post” for August to December 2017.

Please enjoy and thanks for following!

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