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After the Tsunami: Business on the Edge

Little did James know just how strategically God had placed him fourteen years prior to the adversity that rocked multiple countries and millions of people when the 2004 tsunami hit Asia. As the ocean bulldozed its way through the coastline, sparing nothing in its path, so came a flood of both urgent and long-term needs. The physical destruction was almost incomprehensible, with hundreds of thousands of homes leveled and those that weren’t completely destroyed sustaining major water damage.

The area James lived in had long experienced government versus rebel conflict. Trust levels were at a low between people groups. Most things had ground to a complete halt as a result of years of unrest. The infrastructure was almost nonexistent, and what little infrastructure was there was almost completely dysfunctional. The civil unrest had already led to massive financial devastation. The additional destruction of the tsunami made for a completely corrupt situation where everyone grabbed for whatever money they could get their hands on.

For Such a Time as This

After the tsunami’s destruction of homes, multitudes lived in refugee camps which were a hotbed for the advancement of political unrest or conflict. The circumstances were ripe for anything but a successful BAM venture! Except that James and his wife and team knew they were called ‘for such a time as this’ and the Holy Spirit was leading them. James also had some ‘street smarts’ when it came to working in his location, which helped him move farther, faster. They hadn’t seen it coming, but along with the devastation of the tsunami came opportunities to start businesses that could help rebuild. Read more

Guidelines for Cross-Cultural Business Ethics

By Larry Sharp

This article is designed to help with decision making for business owners working cross-culturally in developing countries. It recognises that there are few absolute standards which apply to all contexts all the time and thus hopefully these guidelines will assist business owners in making tough decisions on matters related to ethics, corruption, morality, bribery and similar themes.

Some would like to believe that the Bible gives a single definitive perspective for all situations. While this is not true, the Bible does give us principles for decision making, thus in preparing for decisions it is important to understand Biblical absolutes in the light of:

  • Biblical culture
  • Our own culture of socialization
  • Our host culture of doing business

Ethics may be defined as the moral philosophy of knowing the difference between what is right and wrong and acting accordingly. It includes a moral duty and obligation to do good, a statement which seems straightforward but which is complex in light of diverse cultures. Ethics has its root in the Greek word “ethos” which means character; therefore an ethical framework is a systematic set of concepts which provides guidelines for correct behaviour that demonstrates ideal individual and corporate character.

It is important that we treat these guidelines as just that – “guidelines” that are a means to guide our customization in the application of God’s principles to contextual situations in our modern world. Read more

Four Personal Experiences of BAM in Hard Places

The BAM Global Think Tank Report on BAM in Hostile Environments shares numerous personal stories and cases from BAM companies in hard places. Here are four brief experiences:

Boat Building in East Asia

In 2009 Josh was living in East Asia and had an opportunity to buy a boat building company there. He saw the opportunity to own a company in an unreached area and use it for ‘triple bottom line’ impact: to be profitable and sustainable, to create jobs, to live out ‘Jesus’ and to make disciples of Jesus among the Muslim and Hindu population. Josh was a fully qualified architect; he had 25 years of boating experience together with experience of teaching design and construction technology; he had lived in country for five years and spoke the language fluently; he had made several disciples of Jesus on other islands. While Josh brought considerable assets to the table, he did not have a business background, he had no money and he had not rubbed shoulders with the cutthroat business world of the country. While the company for sale had proven profitable, there were several hostile factors: the previous owner had not paid taxes and had a system for smuggling profits out of the country; the owner had some debts and potentially serious liabilities against the company; the country’s tax and other typical business laws were not obvious or easily known and Josh knew of no place in country where he could go for honest help; the location was isolated for a family with three children. Read more

BAM in Hard Places: The Challenge of Business in Hostile Environments

BAM ventures are one of the innovative ways that we are called to do mission in the two-thirds of the world’s countries that are highly corrupt and require risk management skills, sound judgement, discernment, strong leadership and spiritual maturity.

Launching and/or managing a business as mission company within a hostile environment encompasses a set of risks that are unique and varied, in contrast to the more familiar kinds of risk that most businesses encounter. By anticipating, recognising and managing these risks, a BAM team is more likely to achieve business sustainability and spiritual fruitfulness. 

The Risks That Face Us  

We are conceiving risk as falling broadly into three areas:

1. Business

2. Mission

3. Personal (including family)

Risks in these three areas can overlap and vary in intensity from situation to situation.

Understanding and managing risk in any environment is usually challenging for most business owners, but navigating unfamiliar risks within a hostile environment is part of the learning process that successful BAM entrepreneurs must navigate. Successful management of these risks requires the entrepreneur to exercise a high degree of discernment and good judgment.  Read more

Corruption Cheat Sheet

BAM Cheat Sheet Corruption

Click image to open PDF, save or print.

 With thanks to Larry Sharp and Dwight Nordstrom.

25 Years of Business in China: Interview on Tackling Corruption

Interview with Dwight Nordstrom

Dwight, you have been in business for 25 years in China, and not just any business, you’ve been involved in manufacturing in big industries, like chemicals and telecommunications, regularly importing supplies and exporting products. How big has the issue of corruption been?

Well let me just start by saying: This is real! This is not hypothetical stuff, it’s a big issue for us. I would say I have to deal with about 25 cases a year of substantial corruption-related situations. To put that in perspective with other common issues faced by businesses, in last 20 years, across our operations of about 5000 people in Asia, I have had zero illegal drug issues, a couple of alcohol related issues, I have had two sexual harassment issues of a serious nature to deal with, but the major issue by a long way is corruption which I have had to deal with at least twice a month. Corruption is a big issue.

Can you give us an example where you’ve had to deal with someone trying to bribe you?

We’ve had situations where we’ve lost business over refusing to pay a bribe. We had a speciality chemical and the representative in a wholly-owned German company asked for a 5% kickback, with 1% going into a personal account. That was a million dollar plus account per year and I don’t even know now six years later if we’ve ever recovered the value of the account. Read more

Doing Business in Kazakhstan: Economic Implications of Worldview

by Kevin White

Kazakhstan is one of the top ten fastest growing economies in the world. This multicultural developing nation is home to 140 various ethnicities and 17 religious groups. The capital city Astana is slated to host the Expo 2017. Kazakhstan’s ambitious 2050 plan is to become one of the top thirty most developed economies in the world. In this vein, Kazakhstan is engaging in unprecedented efforts to attract foreign investment. Recent legislation is offering investors 30% government subsidies on their investment and up to ten years tax free. This offer has been marketed to Western audiences through canny ad campaigns in popular media venues such as Euronews.

Yet in spite of these sincere efforts, corruption behind the scenes is still all too prevalent. A spokesman for the Dutch embassy, who wished to remain anonymous, stated that recently a Dutch company took Kazakhstan up on its attractive offer. However, shortly after completion of their new facility, Kazakhstan “inspectors” found a piece of machinery in violation to some obscure code. As a result the Dutch company had their investment subsidy rescinded and were fined 40% of their investment for a penalty. Similarly, a German businessman stated that German companies are still hesitant to invest substantially because of the routine problems of corruption and bureaucracy.    Read more

Lessons from the Edge: Dealing with Bribery in China

Insights from a BAM Practitioner

Dwight Nordstrom is a veteran of doing business in Asia for almost 30 years. He is on a continuing journey of learning how to deal with bribery and corruption as he leads Pacific Resources International, to expand manufacturing operations in China.

Don’t make blanket statements about bribery and corruption. 
This issue is simple, yet complex! It is good practice to talk about individual cases versus making unilateral statements. Brainstorm with others. Ask, What does this mean in this context?  Is there a different way we could do this? Is there a way we could still win this business? 

Have a zero tolerance approach in your top leadership. 
Within your own company leaders – especially in your purchasing and financial operations – you have got to have a zero tolerance for bribes. Have good frameworks in place to train, implement and evaluate that zero tolerance approach.

Be incredibly selective about what industry and type of business you get into. 
There are a lot of businesses I wouldn’t touch because it is such a corrupt industry. Select the type of industry very carefully since that will determine how much corruption you will face. Build your competency in an industry that is less corrupt before taking on business in more corrupt sectors.

 

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

Ask a BAM Mentor: Dealing with Corruption

Twice a month, our panel of mentors answer your practical business questions. Send us your questions!

Dear BAM Mentor,

My customs broker tells me I have to give a gift to the customs officials to get our materials out of customs. He said it’s standard, no big deal. I asked the pastor at our local church and he said it would be terrible to pay a bribe like that – it’s illegal and gives a very bad lesson to others.  I’m new in the business and to importing here, and our business may fold if I can’t get this out soon. Is this a time to die for my principles or should I go with “when in Rome, do as the Romans do”?

~ Contemplating Corruption

Dear Contemplating Corruption,

Over which principle are you considering ‘dying’?  Is it God’s call to honesty? Or is it obedience to the local church and, if so, is the church correct?  I suspect that untangling the issues will help.

It sounds like you live in one of the many countries where written law differs from applied law. That’s how speed laws work in the UK, incidentally – they are applied, but not strictly. Most western country laws against foreign bribery make an explicit exclusion for “expediting payment”, which morally can be classified as extortion by the official who is withholding your legal rights until he or she gets their bribe. That’s fundamentally different from bribing an official to get something for which you don’t have the right. Paying an extortionist is generally a bad idea, but it’s on a different moral level than bribery. I wouldn’t die over an extortionists demand. Read more

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