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Business Planning: Developing Your Product, Identifying Your Market

We are starting a new series this month on Business Planning: Product and Market. Figuring out your product or service offering is obviously at the very heart of any new business. However, it is at this crucial, early stage that many would-be BAMers go wrong by failing to properly consider whether there is a real market need – and therefore customers – for the product or service they want to sell. There is no business without a customer.

A recent blog for The Institute for Faith Work and Economics on starting a social business puts it this way: [It] is imperative to have the customer in front of your mind when starting a social business… To start a social business, you have to know what will be marketable to your target customers.

The first thing you have to do is figure out what sells – don’t start with the cause. The cause is what moves us… but, you can’t start a business around a cause.Jimmy Quach, via TIFWE

Many BAMers get the ‘cart before the horse’ – they start with a cause, or they start with the potential employees they are hoping to empower, or they think of a ‘great’ idea for a product or service that feels doable to them. However, if that idea doesn’t have a market – if there are no customers – then there will be no sales, no cash, no empowered employees, no credible business and the cause will be lost. You need both the ‘cart’ and the ‘horse’ to move forward. There is nothing wrong with having a cause, or trying to empower a certain group of employees or pursue a particular product; however you better make sure that there are customers and sales to drive that business forward towards making the impact you hope to make. Read more

9 Keys for Successful BAM Deployment

Here are 9 Keys for Successful BAM Deployment that have been themes shared over and over by experienced BAM practitioners and mentors. These are principles and practices observed over years of listening to BAM pioneers, writing BAM stories and collecting information about how to do BAM. Many of these Keys have been shared by BAMers and BAM leaders over the last few weeks as we have explored the topic ‘Launching Out and Landing Well’ – they come out in the stories, snippets, and teaching we’ve shared, as well as in the BAM Think Tank research we’ve been drawing on.

1. Walk with God

Abide in Christ. It’s essential to be connected to the Vine, a growing disciple of Jesus, if we are to bear fruit! That means spending time listening and talking to God in prayer and being attentive to His calling and direction for your life. It means growing in Godly character as you are rooted in His word, and opening up to spiritual input from others. Prayer is mentioned over and over by BAMers as a foundation stone for BAM in practice, at all stages: preparation, launch and continued growth. Having a sense of call and leading from God is another often cited core driver for BAMers. Spiritual formation through discipleship and teaching is a life-long pursuit – whether through books, sermons, devotional materials, courses, retreats or intentional relationships. Making yourself accountable to peers or elders that will challenge you to grow in Christ-like character is another way to keep soft and open to the refining work of the Holy Spirit in our lives. Read more

Launching Out and Landing Well: Getting Started in Business as Mission

A to B diagramHow do people get from A to B? What propels them towards BAM? What factors help launch them out into stable, successful business as mission enterprises – wherever that might be?

We will address these questions, and others, on The BAM Review Blog this month as we delve into the topic of ‘Launching Out and Landing Well’. Here’s a preview of some of the issues we’ll cover:

Launching Well

How do we most effectively recruit and mobilise for business as mission? What are some of the challenges and opportunities we face? What are the skills and characteristics that BAM companies are looking for as they recruit? Are we recruiting in the right places and what could we do better? How do potential BAMers best develop themselves and prepare for doing business as mission? What is holding them back? Read more

Business as Mission: What Do I Have to Offer?

by Larry Sharp

Post first published on the IBEC Ventures Blog, reposted with kind permission.

This question is sometimes asked me by North American kingdom business persons who own or manage businesses: “What can I offer as consultant, advisor, mentor or coach?”  It is a natural question for business persons living and working in a very different context from a business startup in Asia, Africa or the Middle East.

What is business anyway? Is it not something like this: an organization with appropriate management that provides a good or service and is created to earn a profit, serve customers and create jobs, community value and increase wealth? That is universal. Followers of Jesus have an integrated kingdom perspective in all they do (1 Corinthians 10:31) so they operate businesses for the glory of God. Faith is integrated into daily work.

A person who has owned a small or medium-sized business (or has worked in the management of such) has likely learned a great deal about one or more of the following. The things that have been learned can be passed on in a consulting, coaching, teaching or mentoring venue. Read more

10 Critical Human Resource Challenges in Business as Mission

We asked 25 BAM Practitioners one simple question:

What have been the most important HR issues in your BAM business experience?

Here are the Top 10 issues that they mentioned the most:

 

1. Finding the complete package
Recruiting and hiring people with the right mix of business skills, character formation and mission-motivation.

 

2. Cultural differences
Dealing with different cultural norms between expat staff or business owners and national staff, that significantly impacts the business Read more

Business as Mission and the End of Poverty

Adapted and excerpted from the BAM Global Think Tank report on BAM at the Base of the Pyramid.

The Call to Poverty Alleviation Through Business

Business has a role in alleviating poverty. Christians in business have a unique opportunity, and responsibility, to address the suffering and injustice of the 2.5 billion people who live on less than US$2.50 per day. 

The call to bring poverty-alleviation back as a central focus and purpose of business as mission (BAM) is built on several foundational understandings:

1. We are all created in God’s image: equal, creative, and imaging God in our work

Every person on this Earth is created in God’s image, from those our world defines as the most humble to the greatest, we are equals. This foundational Christian understanding of who we are has profound implications for our understanding of work, of business, and unemployment. Timothy Keller in his new book, Every Good Endeavor: Connecting your Work to God’s Work, provides a fresh perspective on work, starting with Genesis and God’s work in Creation, to Christ’s humble role as a carpenter, and each of our own unique vocational callings in this world. On the definition of calling in his book, Keller states, “Our daily work can be a calling only if it is reconceived as God’s assignment to serve others.” (Keller, 2012 p66) Read more

5 Funding Models for Your Kingdom Startup

by Mike Baer

Post first published on the Third Path Blog, reposted with kind permission.

The still famous line from the movie Jerry McGuire is “Show me the money!” Some of you have been thinking that as you’ve read the rest of this series. How do I get money to launch my startup? I’m going to outline several “programs” you can consider:

The “Missionary for a Moment” Model

I have to tell you upfront that I have rejected this model for years. However, recently a close brother whom I respect greatly challenged my thinking and got me a little closer to acceptance than I was before.

The Momentary Missionary Model essentially uses raised donations or support to cover living, travel and certain startup expenses just like a normal missionary would raise support to cover living, travel and ministry expenses. What makes this work is that you are committing to your “donor-investors” to be off their giving roles within a specified period of time, to have your business profitable and to live off it.

Your donor audience in this scenario is sympathetic although they may not be the most investment savvy. Be careful to not take unintentional advantage of that sympathy. This is business. Read more

The Challenge of Corruption

Corruption is defined as the misuse of power by someone to whom it has been entrusted, for their own private gain. The most common form of corruption is bribery, which is defined as the giving or receiving of money, a gift or other advantage as an inducement to do something that is dishonest, illegal or a breach of trust in the course of doing business.1

Corruption is one of the biggest issues that business people face globally today, and is a highly relevant topic for business as mission practitioners – Joseph Vijayam, Director of Olive Tech, a BAM company in India and the USA.

Bribery and corruption not only represent a significant risk for your company, but keep millions in poverty.

“[Corruption] constitutes a major obstacle to reducing poverty, inequality and infant mortality in emerging economies” according to Daniel Kaufmann, the World Bank Institute’s director for Governance.According to World Bank Institute (WBI) research, more than $1 trillion dollars (US$1,000 billion) is paid in bribes each year. This US$1 trillion figure is an estimate of actual bribes paid worldwide in both rich and developing countries and does not include embezzlement of public funds or theft of public assets. WBI research also shows that countries that tackle corruption and improve their rule of law can increase their national incomes by as much as four times in the long term, and child mortality can fall as much as 75 percent.2

Christian Aid predicted in 2008 that illegal, trade-related tax evasion alone will be responsible for some 5.6 million deaths of young children in the developing world between 2000 and 2015. That is almost 1,000 a day.3 However, corruption is not just happening in the developing world. Read more

Business as Mission: Where social impact and profit, and much more, converge

Post first published on the IBEC Ventures Blog, reposted with kind permission.

Some people find it confusing to read about socially conscious business, social entrepreneurship or values-driven business. Isn’t business just business – driven by profit margins acceptable to shareholders? What’s all this talk of values, social impact and community development?

For the past decade or so it has become increasingly popular to talk about social purposes, meaning that some entrepreneurs have a motive beyond profitability. They want to solve social problems and bring a positive return to society. Big corporations sometimes address this through the concept of Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR); and business startups sometimes call themselves social entrepreneurs meaning they start businesses which inherently provide for maximum job growth in their area, or they hire the marginalized in the community, or they take gigantic steps to benefit the community by helping solve problems that exist in the community, or all of the above. Some entrepreneurs are driven by a cause, like a software developer eager to provide a better way for people to connect.
Read more

Business as Mission: The Global Movement Today

Mats Tunehag has been speaking, writing and convening on business as mission for nearly 20 years. When he visited The BAM Review office recently, we asked him a few questions about the business as mission movement.

Mats, what have you seen changing in business as mission in the last 15-20 years?

We are seeing a reawakening of what it means to be a Christian in business in our day and age. There has been remarkable growth of people getting engaged in doing business for God and the common good. If we take a 15 year time span, there are things we have today that didn’t exist 15 years ago. Now, we have a greater common understanding globally of this idea that we call ‘business as mission’. There are significant common denominators in our understanding, even though terminology may vary from group to group.

15 years ago when you mentioned business as mission, there were many questions about ‘What is that?’, ‘Is this something we want to get involved in?’. Today you can travel to almost any country and bump into people who have heard of, or are talking about, or practicing, business as mission. That is one of the major changes globally. Read more

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