Posts

Ask Critical Questions: Number Crunching Quickly and Responsibly

Our panel of mentors regularly answer your practical business questions. Send us your questions!

 

Dear BAM Mentor,

I am aware of the tendency to be a bit idealistic when working through the Financials section of a Business Plan. As I start thinking about the numbers, what are the hard questions I need to ask myself – or invite others to ask?

~ Crunching the Numbers

Dear Crunching,

There always seem to be two extremes when it comes to the issue of financials in business planning. The first is what I term “magical thinking” and says, essentially, “Since I believe that God is leading in this business it is sure to succeed. Why waste time on financial plans?” The second and opposite says, “My business plan needs to look like something for a Harvard MBA project so I will be perfect on the numbers.” Both, as most extremes, are wrong.

I can fill volumes with stories of businesses that God “led” people to start that failed miserably. I can also point to businesses that either failed or failed to start in spite of incredibly deep and thorough financial analysis. However, I think we can resolve this dilemma based on some words that Jesus spoke related to discipleship:

For which of you, desiring to build a tower, does not first sit down and count the cost, whether he has enough to complete it? Otherwise, when he has laid a foundation and is not able to finish, all who see it begin to mock him, saying, ‘This man began to build and was not able to finish.’ – Luke 14:28-30, ESV

The point of this passage is to make sure of some basics before you launch into following Him and, by way of extension, before you launch into business. Loosely translated, it would be something like, “Don’t launch without thinking and don’t overthink launching.” In business planning, I’d suggest the following critical questions. Read more

Financial Planning: How Do I Prepare to Present to Investors?

by Mike Baer

Funding for your new business is obviously crucial – no cash, no business. So let’s think about this from an investor’s perspective. What is it that interests him or her? What does he or she want to see? What questions answered?

Here’s what I’d be asking:

  • What exactly is the product or service that you intend to sell? Don’t assume that I understand it. Make it simple for me.
  • What is the market demand for this? Is it a cool idea, a “me too,” or is there a real demand? In other words, do people really need/want your product or service?
  • Who will your competitors be? How is your idea better than and different from theirs?

This first set of questions is about your viability in the market place. Is this a real business? This second set of questions is about you. Can I count on you? Read more

Do You Have Clear KPIs for Your Kingdom Business?

by Larry Sharp

What if Jesus was your boss? What if he was the chairman of your board? What if you reported to him each month for your KPIs (Key Performance Indicators)?

What would he expect that those KPIs would be? How would he measure how you are doing?

A wise owner or manager continuously keeps his KPIs in mind. He knows that accountability is a key factor in driving results. So it is with God as the owner of our businesses because Kingdom business owners see themselves as stewards.

KPIs should be clear, short and understandable to everyone in the business. They should be measurable and uncomplicated. Either you achieved them or you didn’t; they are not fuzzy.

Profitability

We expect secular entrepreneurs to think profit margins and growth. But what about Kingdom business owners? Yes, definitely. Jesus himself established a KPI for profit as a measure of success when he told the parable of the talents (Matthew 25: 14-30). He made it clear that everyone is entrusted with wealth in unique proportions. In his example he told of one who received five bags of gold and he doubled it; another received two and he doubled it. Both were commended because they “put their money to work.” Jesus said, “Well done.”

On the other hand, one person received one talent and did nothing with it. We might have thought Jesus would have said: “…oh well, he is just not a business guy!” No – he also was expected to be profitable and when he did not even invest the gold in low-interest accounts, he was called “wicked”. Read more

8 Ways to Strengthen Marriage and Family Relationships: BAM Practitioner Tips

Those who have a family and run a BAM company will have already experienced the challenges and stresses in one spilling over into the other! Threats to the healthy functioning of family life can end up becoming threats to the health of the business, and vice versa.

To close this BAM Endurance series, we are sharing insights from 12 married BAM practitioners. In Part 1 read about the 3 greatest challenges to marriage and family life these BAMers have faced while running a company.

In Part 2, we offer 8 ways to strengthen marriage and family relationships that these BAM practitioners share from their own experiences:

8 Ways to Strengthen Marriage and Family Relationships

1. Get your priorities straight

At the foundations, are you putting the first things first in your life? BAM practitioners shared that having the right foundation for decision making – shaped by the word of God, and wise advice – led them to making better choices about how they spent their time.

The biggest lesson I’ve learned is that I own the business, the business doesn’t own me. If I value family time I need to structure my business in such a way that it allows me to spend time with them. There will always be busy periods at work but if I’m always working 14 hour days I’m not doing a good job structuring things. I love the classic business book, The E-Myth which is a great reminder that I need to be working “on” the business not “in” the business. It is possible to build a business the suits the lifestyle I want to live but it takes intentional planning, strategizing and structuring. – Peter, Nepal

There are certain habits I’ve leaned on over the years and one of them is reading the Word of God. While the entirety of God’s Word, through direct reading as well as through exposition by preachers, has been helpful in guiding my thoughts and actions, I have benefitted the most from reading Psalms, Proverbs and Ecclesiastes. These books of the Bible have helped me to recognize what is most important in life and to let go of things that are not fundamental to my identity and purpose in life. – John, India/USA Read more

The 3 Greatest Challenges to Marriage and Family Life: BAM Practitioner Stories

Some BAM practitioners are married. Some are married to their business partners! Some BAMers have children. Others don’t. The shape and size of our families – and our companies – varies tremendously. Those who have a family and run a BAM company will have already experienced the challenges and stresses in one spilling over into the other! Threats to the healthy functioning of family life can end up becoming threats to the health of the business, and vice versa.

As we close this BAM Endurance series, we share insights from 12 married BAMers on the three greatest challenges to marriage and family life they face while running a company.

In Part 2, we offer 8 ways to strengthen marriage and family relationships that these BAM practitioners have shared from their own experiences.

The 3 Greatest Challenges to Marriage and Family Life

Of all the challenges to health marriage and family relationships that the 12 BAMers shared, they essentially boil down to one of three main issues:

1. Time management and stress build up

2. Blurred lines between business and home

3. Lack of understanding and support

1. Time Management and Stress Build Up

The sheer scale of the task and the responsibilities of the business can easily overtake family priorities. Running a business can become all consuming and erode time that should be spent with family. For those who work together, this problem may be exasperated if you both enjoy working hard and end up with a lack of balance between work and family-focused time. In the short-term there may be seasons where the pressures of the business mean working longer hours. However, if this is allowed to become a long-term pattern, a build up of personal and relational stress will become a threat to healthy marriage and family relationships – and ultimately the business itself. Read more

The Ingredients for a Healthy Business Team Part 2: Best Practices

‘Team troubles’ were one of the top 4 reasons BAM mentors gave for practitioners giving up and going home. The ability to build effective teams and work through difficult team dynamics is therefore crucial for the sustainability of BAM companies. In this interview, we talk to Luke, a BAM business owner living in the Middle East, about his business story and what ingredients make for healthy business teams.

Read Part 1: Business Story

What general principles do you have for any company team for building healthy team relationships?

As soon as you want to build a scalable business the business team becomes super-important. The essence of a successful business is in the team, rather than the individual. To grow you need to be able to manage the business as a team, you need to be able to be on the same page.

I think at the heart of healthy team relationships there is good communication and honesty. These build trust, they reduce the sense of isolation, and they bring unity and agreement on strategy. This is particularly important for teams in multiple locations when there is a high risk of feeling isolated or misunderstood.

Honesty is crucial. Getting to the right level of honesty to enable the team to be most effective can be painful and humbling. Sometimes I don’t want to share when things go wrong, or it’s not looking as good as I hoped. Pride can lead us to partial honesty. I am talking about the temptation to overplay a lead or exaggerate about a potential client because you want to look good. However, partial honesty seriously reduces the ability of the team to manage the business, because they don’t have a clear enough picture of what’s going on. Read more

The Ingredients for a Healthy Business Team Part 1: Business Story

‘Team troubles’ were one of the top 4 reasons BAM mentors gave for practitioners giving up and going home. The ability to build effective teams and work through difficult team dynamics is therefore crucial for the sustainability of BAM companies. In this interview, we talk to Luke, a BAM business owner living in the Middle East, about his business story and what ingredients make for healthy business teams.

Luke, you have a company in the Middle East that offers corporate team building experiences. What lead you into that business?

My professional background is in engineering and engineering requires a high degree of collaboration. There is a strong need to work in effective teams. Then early on in my career, I worked on some projects in the Middle East that got me interested in the dynamics of business and recognising how companies create employment and other benefits for communities.

Over 20 years ago, we got involved in youth ministry with a mission organisation. As part of their training, this mission uses a very intensive week-long personal and team building exercise. Trainees are put under extreme pressure to see how they cope in a team situation. Our experience with that opened my eyes further to the need for healthy team dynamics. Mission workers spend months, maybe years, preparing to go overseas, but if their team falls apart, they may have to come home.

I realised I’d had years of training as an engineer and I didn’t just want to give all that away. I was learning lessons about effective teams myself and becoming motivated to help others be effective. Alongside that, I felt drawn to do business at a heart level. So I had a sense of calling to business, but  it was also becoming a personal passion. I was praying and asking God, “What should I do, youth ministry with this mission organisation or business and engineering?” When God spoke he said, “It’s AND, not OR – do both.” Read more

Succession Planning: How Do We Plan for Our Exit?

Our panel of mentors regularly answer your practical business questions. Send us your questions!

 

Dear BAM Mentor,

I keep hearing about succession planning and having an exit strategy… But when should I be thinking about this? How does it tie in with leadership development in my team?

~ Thinking Long-term

Dear Thinking,

Start the Beginning with the End in Mind

So let’s keep focused on that goal, those of us who want everything God has for us. If any of you have something else in mind, something less than total commitment, God will clear your blurred vision—you’ll see it yet! Now that we’re on the right track, let’s stay on it. – Philippians 3:15-16 MSG

Every life experience has a beginning and an end. The multiple stages of parenting is a fairly accurate depiction of this truism. First-time parents know, even in those first days of newborn-nuzzling, they must one day release that child. The busyness of the initial parenting season blurs the reality of inevitable separation. When the eventual becomes the reality, the detachment process can be palpable. As painful as this process can be, if it doesn’t happen, the child will most likely never continue to develop into a fully productive, self-sufficient individual.

Similarly, one can view the life-cycle of a business and its founder in the same manner. For founders, the early stages require us to do just about everything. We build and test product, we market and sell, we provide customer service, we make coffee, we clean toilets, and we take on any and every unenviable task, if seen as advancing our vision. Our “new baby” is solely dependent on us. For some in this stage, we can’t even leave the “baby” for fear we will return to a mess at best, or a dangerous situation at worst.  Read more

When Should I Be Thinking About Succession Planning or Exit Strategy?

Our panel of mentors regularly answer your practical business questions. Send us your questions!

 

Dear BAM Mentor,

I keep hearing about succession planning and having an exit strategy… But when should I be thinking about this? How does it tie in with leadership development in my team?

~ Thinking Long-term

Dear Thinking,

None of us will last forever. Every manager and every employee someday will move on, either to another job or another company or to retirement or to death. If Jesus returns shortly then the calculation is different, but it is a pretty good bet that no one will be in the same job 80 years from now.

Some people are pretty comfortable playing things as they come and responding to problems as they arise. Often that works. But it’s really a wiser move to have some plans in place, especially for key positions. If something unexpected happens to a key employee it’s not at all a sure thing that you will be able to find a replacement in a reasonable time. In our work we have seen expatriate managers suddenly blocked from entering the country or suddenly have a spouse announce he won’t live in the country any more. Kids get serious illnesses or require therapy that is not available locally. We have also seen national managers suddenly decide their family will be better off if they relocate to a wealthier or safer country. In most of the cases I can remember the decision was sudden and unexpected and the consequences were very hard for the company, sometimes fatal.  Read more

10 Habits for Maintaining Physical Health: Tips from BAM Practitioners

We are connected, whole human beings and our physical well-being is connected to our spiritual, mental and emotional well-being – as well as giving us the energy needed to keep our business running. Finding good habits to keep you physically healthy will be a great investment into your long-term BAM endurance.

We are all different but we can all find out what gives and what takes energy. Then we make systematic decisions to have more of the situations that give energy in our everyday lives. – HS, Europe/Middle East

Many of the helps to physical well-being that are identified below are nothing more than common sense. We are certainly not going to win any prizes for breakthrough health advice! Yet taking care of ourselves, our spirit, intellect, emotions and body, can be the first thing to be neglected when life is stressful. It’s important to revisit the basics.

Don’t miss Part 1: BAMers in Shape? The Ups and Downs of Staying Physically Healthy

The Good Habits

Here are 10 good habits for physical health that BAM practitioners have found helpful:

1. Find an exercise routine you can do anywhere

I do some exercise before going to bed. push ups and pull ups. I do a little bit of exercise in our yard as well. All of this helps. – Daniel, Haiti

Read more