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Have You Reached a Growth Ceiling?

by Chris Cloud

Continuing on the theme of ‘maximizing BAM success factors’ we have invited guest authors to highlight what they consider key factors contributing to success and growth for BAM practitioners. Business consultant Chris Cloud shares this mini-series on how to break through your growth ceiling.

 

A former client of mine, a venture capitalist, said he noticed an interesting trend. Each company his firm invested in, their leader would have a personal ceiling where he/she couldn’t grow the company past a certain point. For some it was $3 million in annual revenue, for others it was $300 million, but every single leader had a growth ceiling. That company never grew past a certain level until they brought in an entirely new management team.

From what I’ve observed, each growth phase of a company requires a different way of thinking, so most people can’t adopt new ways of thinking easily as the business or organization grows. All kinds of added responsibilities, dealing with high level investors, more employees, different market strategies, it all requires a different skill set.  Read more

New Year’s Resolutions? 3 BAM Owners Share Their Goals for 2017

On New Year’s Sunday my pastor asked for a show of hands of all the people who made New Year’s Resolutions. Out of a crowd of 500 people, he counted only three. I was surprised at the extremely low number. Back in the day, everyone seemed to talk about it. Maybe we have finally faced the fact that bad habits don’t turn off when the new year turns on! Gym memberships mentally expire in February, diets last until the next dinner invitation, To Do lists remain undone… although all start with the best intentions.

Even if New Year’s Resolutions are facing extinction, articulating hopes for the year ahead and setting realistic goals definitely should not be – certainly not for BAM company owners! We thought it would be fun to hear from some hard working vision-filled business people who have a lot at stake for reaching their goals this year.

For a business, setting and reaching goals is essential for company health and growth. Business goals that encompass the four bottom lines of business as mission will impact staff, customers, suppliers and the community broadly. The goals shared below are a snapshot from the longer list of goals each company has for the year. Read more

Apples to Apples: Measuring Progress Across an Organisation

We interviewed Timothy, a consultant with a mission sending organisation that has been developing a metrics tool to evaluate businesses across their organisation globally.

How did this metrics tool come about?

I work as part of a team that consults to and supports BAM-type entities across Asia and we were looking for a way to evaluate how those entities were performing and started to develop this benchmarking tool. At the same time another region was working on a similar idea and we realised that it would be far more effective to work on one tool that could be applied globally across our organisation. We want to be able to compare ‘apples to apples’ and get a better read on what is working well worldwide.

What is the tool’s purpose and how has that shaped its design?

Well first of all we wanted it to be a tool that would help business owners identify areas in which they could grow and improve. It has to serve those on the field at the sharp end of doing business so we have tried to make it straight-forward to use and informative. For instance, we have limited the number of questions practitioners have to answer so that it is not an unwieldy time-waster. The reports are laid out in a user-friendly way using various charts and formats so that areas for growth can be quickly pinpointed. It’s a tool that we’ll use when we are consulting with individual companies as a way of focusing on strengths and weaknesses. The results will be part of the ongoing conversation with the business owners, providing a framework for accountability and planning. Read more

Getting Started: Essential Metrics for your BAM Company

Every business is unique, metrics need to be tailored to the company to reflect the company’s unique goals, context and challenges. That said, there are certain metrics which should be monitored as a minimum by any business. These essential metrics are all aimed at ensuring the owners of the BAM company are able to answer for themselves the key questions:

  • Are we doing what we set out to do?
  • Are we being responsive to God’s call and the Spirit’s leading?
  • Do we have the cash we need to operate and meet our commitments and is it likely that we will continue to be solvent in the coming year?
  • Are we being good stewards of the money that has been invested with us?
  • Are we caring for and developing our employees?
  • Are we damaging or helping the environment?

Not every business needs dozens of charts and numbers to answer these questions. In many cases the answers will be obvious. However, a few carefully selected, measured and reported metrics can help bring clarity. The following list contains recommendations for how to cover these questions. Read more

Forever Crystals: A Missional Business with Latin Flair

‘Every Crystal Has a Story’, is the tag line of Forever Crystals. Every person also has a story. Here is the story of Merari Pena and her business Forever Crystal Jewelry.

It started with her father. Merari, a native of Puerto Rico, was raised in the church and at the age of 16 she became a Christian. However it was some years later, in 2003, that she came back to the Lord, wanting to passionately follow Jesus. Although Merari comes from a missionary family, she has always been a business person. Early on in her business career Merari had a specialist advertising agency selling outdoor media space. It was out of a motivation to help her father reach his dream of going to Cuba as a missionary that she got involved in the family jewelry business.

Living from commissions on successful advertising sales, Merari had a lot of time on her hands and she offered to help manage her father’s jewelry kiosks to support him in his work in Cuba. “It really started because I had a desire to serve and do something for God. Running the kiosks was the only thing holding my father back,” she explains, “I didn’t know anything about the jewelry business when I started helping my father. For me it was an enlightening process of learning by trial and error, and just walking with God and him showing the way because I didn’t know anything about it!” Read more

Making Sense of the World of Metrics

Measurement and metrics can be deceptively simple. We pick an aspect of our business and ask some basic questions about it, for example:

  • How many tables did each of the servers take care of each day?
  • How many sales calls did each of the sales staff make each day?
  • What is the company’s net profit each month?
  • How many people viewed our latest Google ad last week?
  • Which of our products gives the highest profit and which gives the lowest?

Answering such questions can help a manager understand a bit more about the business, however, there is a lot more to establishing metrics than simply asking and answering a few questions. It matters a great deal that we ask the right questions, that we get correct answers in a timely fashion and that we analyze the answers carefully then apply what we have learned.

Why are you measuring?

Metrics can be used for a variety of reasons. Purpose drives design, that is the design of the measure changes depending on how it will be used. Sometimes the desire will be to assess the state of the business for a one time decision that needs to be made. Other times the goal will be to establish a base and ongoing input for process improvement and management.  For example, a loan company will likely make an assessment of the business for a simple yes or no answer to the question “Is this company capable of repaying the loan?” Or an outside owner may want an answer to the question “Is management accomplishing its objectives?” However, an internal manager is likely to ask questions such as “Are we on track with our sales plan and if not, how can we get back on track?” The manager’s question is likely to be a process question, looking for diagnostics. The investor’s question is to make a one-time decision. The outside owner’s question falls somewhere in between, sometimes it would be a matter of replacing the manager and other times—one hopes—it would be aimed at helping the manager improve performance. Read more

Measuring the Impact and Performance of BAM: Intro to Metrics

Business as mission is hard. Very hard! Missionaries with little business experience but plenty of vision start businesses and struggle. Experienced business people start businesses in new countries or cultures and struggle. Too many business as mission (BAM) companies wander in the desert aimlessly. They need a compass to guide them—something to remind them of their direction and tell them if they are on track. Well designed and implemented metrics can help.

Metrics are measures. They are like the control panel on a car—the gauges, lights and dials that tell you how fast you’re going, how much fuel is left and whether you’re headed for trouble. You can drive a car without a fuel gauge or a speedometer, but you will likely run into serious trouble before too much time has passed.

Measures can be numbers, stories, graphs, or generalized reports. These metrics provide an insight into what’s really going on inside the operation. That matters to all who are working hard to see the business achieve its purpose—to glorify God. Read more

Staying on Track: Metrics and Accountability for BAM Companies

How are we doing? How do we know how we’re doing? These are two important questions for all businesses!

One of the most commonly mentioned fruitful practices for BAM practitioners is to have solid input from either mentors or an advisory board, or both. These are the people that will help keep a BAM company on track. Alongside people, systems for measuring and evaluating progress are needed. BAM companies will stay on track as they set goals and then hold themselves accountable to those goals, measuring and evaluating progress as they go.

Many Counsellors

No BAM practitioner is an island! BAM companies are part of a web of relationships, with clients, suppliers, employers and stakeholders of all kinds. Part of that web is the support network that the BAM practitioners have around them. BAMers need what I think of as 360° support – and that includes different people who will give them coaching, mentoring and wise counsel on various aspects of their BAM objectives. Read more