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Get Started Growing: Maximizing Startup Success

AND THE AWARD GOES TO...

Our goal is to provide the BAM Community with the best content and resources available. As we head into summer we are highlighting various articles and resources which have stood out in the past 6 months. Below is the “Editor’s Pick” for January to July 2017.

Please enjoy and thanks for following!

by Stu Minshew

On the theme of ‘maximizing BAM success factors’ we’ve invited guest authors to highlight what they consider key factors contributing to success and growth for BAM practitioners. Previously we’ve covered ‘breaking through your growth ceiling’ for an established business. But what if you are a startup? What if you have a business idea and want to know how to maximize your success from the get-go? We asked entrepreneur and CO.STARTERS trainer Stu Minshew to share what he’s learned about maximizing startup success in this five part mini-series.

Part 1: Get Started Growing

Starting and growing a business is a calling from the Lord. If you ask anyone who has done it, they will tell you how exhilarating it can be, but also how it sometimes seems overwhelming and impossible. The truth is that it doesn’t have to be this way. Yes, it always requires hustle and flexibility, but taking a few simple actions can equip you to overcome obstacles to starting and growing your business to a level of sustainability.

During this series, we will explore these steps, but before we get to those, we need to discuss a few foundational points.

Foundational Point 1: Startups & Small Businesses Have Different Needs

In 2016, The Bureau of Labor in the United States shows that about 50% of businesses make it five years, while only about 30% make it past the ten year mark. If this is the reality, then starting a business doesn’t look like such a good idea.  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 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 would 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

When Things Go Wrong: 9 BAMers Share Mistakes & Misadventures

We asked some (otherwise very successful) BAM Practitioners that we know to share some of the errors, disasters and unfortunate events that they have experienced in their business as mission journeys. Here nine BAMers share eleven stories about their mistakes and misadventures:

They Didn’t Come…

In our first years we did not have enough focus on sales and revenue, it was more of a “build it and they will come” mindset. It almost killed us. Then the solution was to hire a sales guy in the US, but the problem was twofold; first I should never have tried to outsource sales so early as CEO and second I hired a great guy but one that had bigger company experience and not the early entrepreneurial sales experience needed at our stage. This was a second failure on the sales side that almost killed us. I have come to fully understand the saying “no margin, no mission” and put sales as a key priority for myself until we got fully into orbit and could hand it off to the right person with right experience for our company stage, deal size and industry. MC

Too Many Cabinets

There’s two ways you can kill a startup: too little business and too much business. A couple of years ago, our 5 month old custom cabinet business was featured on our local news station. In our exuberance, we signed up too many customers with an unrealistic view of how quickly we could complete jobs. In less than a month, we had ended up with upset customers and significant cash flow problems as we made mistakes in our rush to complete jobs whilst also missing deadlines. In this case, we were able to recover our financial footings through a few key factors: Our product ultimately was a good fit with customer demand, so after apologizing and then completing jobs satisfactorily, we were able to refine our product and service to even better serve our customers. We started specializing in only Shaker Cabinets which sped up our production time and allowed us to more strategically market to our customers. Finally, our grasp of our cash flow position enabled us to raise funds in time (through God’s abundant blessing) to make it through our mistake and onto the future. JR  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

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

Iterations Through Feedback: Maximizing Startup Success

by Stu Minshew

On the topic of ‘maximizing BAM success factors’ we’ve invited guest authors to highlight what they consider key factors contributing to success and growth for BAM practitioners. But what if you are a startup? What if you have a business idea and want to know how to maximize your success from the get-go? We asked entrepreneur and CO.STARTERS trainer Stu Minshew to share what he’s learned about maximizing startup success in this five part mini-series.

Part 5: Iterations Through Feedback

In my last post, we explored the benefits of a small start with a focus on providing value to the customer. This allows you to get your product or service into the hands of your customers quickly and begin collecting feedback. Today, we will discuss what type of feedback you are looking for and what to do with it once you have it.

Capturing Customer Feedback

Once you have the product into your customer’s hands, you will need to to create a system that allows you to learn from your customer. This will allow you to capture their feedback and make improvements to your business, product, or service. In every successful business, learning to meet customer needs is a top priority.

Find a way to hear stories about how your offering is helping to solve your customers’ problems. How is it meeting a need? How are they using it on a daily, monthly, or yearly basis? Ask the questions that will get people to tell you those stories. This is most effective through face-to-face interaction, where you can learn through what they say, and how they say it. If face-to-face isn’t an option, phone or video call is a solid second option. Make sure you are asking open ended questions that are allowing them to tell their stories about how your business is changing their life.  Read more

Starting Small: Maximizing Startup Success

by Stu Minshew

On the topic of ‘maximizing BAM success factors’ we’ve invited guest authors to highlight what they consider key factors contributing to success and growth for BAM practitioners. But what if you are a startup? What if you have a business idea and want to know how to maximize your success from the get-go? We asked entrepreneur and CO.STARTERS trainer Stu Minshew to share what he’s learned about maximizing startup success in this five part mini-series.

Part 4: Starting Small

In my last post, I focused on the importance of living out your Kingdom values by loving and serving your customers. This allows you to sustain and grow your customer base as you deepen your relationship with those you serve. However, before you can get customers, you need a product or service for them to buy. The sooner you can get your product or service to them, the closer you are to making money and creating a sustainable business.

Dream Big, Start Small, Grow Smartly

Earlier in this series, in the post titled It Starts With You, I talked about the big dreams that motivate and inspire us. Often times our big dreams cause us to do too much or take on too much too fast. This can be overwhelming and result in a failure to do anything well. Or, it can put a large financial burden on our business too quickly. Neither of these is helpful as you are seeking to create sustainability.

Dream big, but start small.

To be good stewards of what God has given you, I encourage you to find the quickest and easiest way to get your product or service in front of your customer, while continuing to communicate the unique benefit you offer. This means you may not be able to offer everything you envision to your customer at first. By simplifying your long term vision to focus on the first step in achieving your dream, you will define a way forward that looks much more manageable. This allows you to serve your customer NOW, instead of someday, and helps you make the customer an important part your startup journey.  Read more

Understanding Your Customer: Maximizing Startup Success

by Stu Minshew

On the topic of ‘maximizing BAM success factors’ we’ve invited guest authors to highlight what they consider key factors contributing to success and growth for BAM practitioners. But what if you are a startup? What if you have a business idea and want to know how to maximize your success from the get-go? We asked entrepreneur and CO.STARTERS trainer Stu Minshew to share what he’s learned about maximizing startup success in this five part mini-series.

Part 3: Understanding Your Customer

As a current or future business owner, your customer is critical to your success. While we may believe that our customer exists to buy our products or service, the reality is that we exist to serve our customers. I appreciate how CO.STARTERS intensely focuses on knowing and serving your customer. This customer-centric view aligns with Christ-honoring Kingdom values. Jesus calls us to love, care for, and serve our neighbor, or customers, in the same manner that we desire to be served. In order to serve our customers well, keep them coming back, and increasing in number, we must deeply listen to and understand their needs and desires.

What’s inside your customer?

Traditional customer research focuses on demographics including age, gender, location, income, etc. While these are important, it is vital to understand the the factors that lie beneath the surface. What are their interests, passions, skills, beliefs, and values? For example, if you have a product or service for dog lovers, your customer will cover a wide-range of demographics, but it is important to realize they share a common trait, a love for dogs.  Read more

It Starts With You: Maximizing Startup Success

by Stu Minshew

On the topic of ‘maximizing BAM success factors’ we’ve invited guest authors to highlight what they consider key factors contributing to success and growth for BAM practitioners. But what if you are a startup? What if you have a business idea and want to know how to maximize your success from the get-go? We asked entrepreneur and CO.STARTERS trainer Stu Minshew to share what he’s learned about maximizing startup success in this five part mini-series.

Part 2: Success Starts With You

Why would a series on starting and growing your business begin with a whole post dedicated to you? A good product or service is all it takes, right? While it is important to have a good product or service, the most important factor in the success or failure of your business is YOU.

Most businesses don’t fail because of poor products or fierce competition. They fail when finances are mismanaged, passion is lacking, and expectations are unrealistic. By starting with an in-depth look at yourself – including your passions, strengths, weaknesses, expectations, and financial literacy – you can take the critical first steps to launching a successful business.

Identify and Test Your Assumptions

We all have an idea of what our successful business will look like in the future. At this point, that picture might be a little blurry if your business is only a concept. However, getting a clearer picture of that vision is important for your success. It is going to provide you with a general target for how you grow your business.  Read more