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The Role of Business Leadership Through a Spiritual Lens

by Ross O’Brien

This article picks up where we left off last year in the series on Value Chain Analysis Through a Spiritual Lens. If you have not yet read the previous articles, let me encourage you to read at least the introductory article linked here, as it will set the foundation for this and all the other articles in the series.

As we continue examining the way the value chain analysis can be useful, we need to keep in mind that these activities do not operate in isolation or for their own purposes. The activities in one functional area impact other areas and must be coordinated to help the company achieve its overall strategic objectives.

For example, if a firm takes a differentiation strategy in which its products, services, brand and marketing messages are unique from its competitors, then every functional area must seek to add value to achieving that objective of uniqueness. A company like Apple spends significant money on R&D, quality components and exceptional advertising to set its products apart. Primary activities including inbound logistics (sourcing components), production (quality control processes), and sales and marketing (advertising) must all support this objective, as well as the support activities of procurement (spending the necessary money to ensure differentiation) and human resources management (hiring, training, evaluating and compensating the kind of employees who will maintain the standards of excellence needed).

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Value Chain Analysis Through a Spiritual Lens: Introduction

AND THE AWARD GOES TO...

Our goal is to provide the BAM Community with great content and resources. As we start the new year, we are highlighting articles which have stood out in the past 6 months.

Below is the “Editor’s Pick” for July to December 2018.

Please enjoy and thanks for following!

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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Why We Need the Term Business as Mission, But Maybe Not Forever: A Response

by Ross O’Brien

Like Mats Tunehag in his original article Why We Need the Term Business as Mission, But Maybe Not Forever, I hope that one day followers of Jesus whom God has gifted for business will naturally recognize their vocational call to the marketplace as a call to fulfill the missio Dei, the mission of God.

God’s purpose in the world is to redeem all creation from the effects of sin and restore all creation back into right relationship with himself. As followers of Jesus we have the blessed privilege and responsibility of co-working with God in this mission. I agree with much of what Mats say in this article and in general.

However, I question a few points, which reflects some of my own mental pilgrimage on BAM.  Read more

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.

Read more

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