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Is Business As Mission Disruptive Innovation?

by Larry Sharp

A disruptive innovation is an innovation that creates a new market and value network and eventually disrupts an existing market and value network, displacing established market leading firms, products and alliances. The term was defined and phenomenon analyzed by Clayton M. Christensen beginning in 1995.1

BAM takes into consideration, the human condition of poverty and pain (both spiritual and physical) with the creation of a profitable business which creates jobs, which in turn creates wealth (a Biblical value stated in Deut. 8:18). It links that with the goal of making followers of Jesus and with the importance of wise use of human and natural resources. In summary, Business as Mission (BAM) at its core has a Quadruple Bottom Line: 1) Profit and Sustainability, 2) Job Creation, 3) Followers of Jesus, 4) Stewardship of Resources.

So how might this be innovative and how might it be disruptive?

First look at some well-known disruptive innovators. Jeff Bezos did not just improve book sales when he started Amazon. He disrupted everything – speedy book deliveries, then other products to become the world’s largest online shopping retailer. His latest disruptive talk: drones and space warehouses. His mantra, “if you are going to invent, you are going to disrupt.”

Looking back a few decades, some of us can remember the advent of the transistor radio. People first thought of them as Japanese junk, with poor quality, but they were portable and teenagers could take them to the beach easily. Gradually the sound improved and the product totally disrupted and made redundant the old cabinet radios.

I remember when a visitor showed up at our school in Brazil in the early 1970s with a portable calculator. Our bookkeeper was using a manual adding machine which did the job but was big, clumsy and noisy. I took the leap of faith and asked to purchase this calculator from the visitor before he left the country. I paid $180.00 for what today can be bought in Wal-Mart for $5.99. Portable calculators were disruptive because they did not just improve on existing technology, they disrupted it by introducing simplicity, convenience, accessibility and eventually affordability.

Perhaps one of the biggest examples of disruptive innovation is the development of the personal computer, when the big main frames ruled the day in the 1960s-70s. Even the chairman of IBM, Thomas Watson is famously quoted: “I think there is a world market for maybe five computers.” But the personal computer formed a niche market that appeared unattractive and inconsequential at first but eventually the new product completely redefined the computing industry.

Mobile phones – the same story. The idea is that the historic technology and industry concentrates on improving their product while the innovative disruptors focus on the bottom end of the market tapping into new customers with new and different needs. They create new demand and find overlooked customers. Think Blockbuster and Netflix.

Back to the question: Is Business as Mission disruptive innovation? BAM spokesperson Mats Tunehag likens Kingdom Business today to a 21st century reformation. The Protestant Reformation was disruptive in that it focused Jesus followers on simpler easier forms of faith – reading their own scriptures, the priesthood of individual believers and faith over works as the way of salvation, among other things.

So perhaps BAM is disruptive in the following ways:

Business is returned to its rightful place as the only institution which creates wealth in society; it is not government, nor education, nor health care and not the church. All of these, as good and important as they are, consume wealth. Business creates it. And it is ordained by God.2

Business is the modern means ordained by God to address the issue of poverty. It creates wealth through job creation and gives dignity, honor and empowerment to individuals, families and communities. Jesus gave the Great Commandment requiring believers to love God and love their neighbor. Today loving our neighbor is creating a job for him/her and this becomes the modern equivalent of feeding the five thousand, or healing the leper. BAM is what Jesus would do today.3

Business and faith are easily integrated. Business leaders are together with people many hours each week so the principles of faith can be lived out in the marketplace of life. In most cultures, people learn by observing and doing and when it comes to knowing Jesus, one learns by observing a Jesus follower living and acting like Jesus in every life. Dale Losch in his book A Better Way, talks about living and loving like Jesus.

Whereas most of the 20th century became accustomed to outsourcing missional work to the professional clergy, Business as Mission is a reformation. It is the work of all believers in the workplace, not just the clergy, or those paid to be missional with their faith.

BAM is innovative in that it is cost effective. It does not require an endless infusion of charity monies which often become toxic by creating dependency and destabilization. It addresses issues of declining mission funding, and “America first” perspective.

Today Business as Mission and related means such as Tentmaking4 are disrupting the market. They have the potential (as the little guy at the bottom of the market) to replace the multi trillion dollar aid industry, and make the traditional mission professional mission groups redundant in much of the world.

Business as Mission is making the product (Quadruple Bottom Line) simple, accessible, convenient and affordable. It is not just improving on what has been done in the past; it is disrupting things in modern times by returning to an old order of “faith without works is dead”, creating wealth and promoting dignified sustainability. In one sense it is an ancient idea; but because it has been largely lost, it may be considered innovative, and certainly disruptive.

 

1   – See more at: http://www.christenseninstitute.org/key-concepts/disruptive-innovation-2/?gclid=CMTS6OL_8dECFQaVfgodUtoILw#sthash.CKUPSk41.dpu/

2 Deut.8:18 “But remember the Lord your God, for it is he who gives you the ability to produce wealth.”

3 https://www.youtube.com/user/povertycure

4 Tentmaking is mission done in accordance with the model of the apostle Paul. He was a tentmaker by profession, and made a living through his work when he was on his mission journeys (Acts 18:3, 1 Cor 9). Today the ‘tentmaking’ label is used to describe everyone who seeks to serve God in other cultures through his or her profession. It includes business people, professionals, and students bringing the “Good News” onwards to new places. https://www.lausanne.org/networks/issues/tentmaking

 

Larry Sharp is the Founder and current Director of Strategic Training and Partnerships of a Business for Transformation (BAM, B4t) consulting firm, International Business and Education Consultants (www.ibecventures.com). Larry served 21 years in Brazil and then 20 years as Crossworld VP of Operations and as Vice President of Business Partnerships. He is currently a VP Emeritus and consultant with Crossworld. Since 2007 he has devoted energies toward Business as Mission (BAM) and currently is a consultant on BAM and education themes. Larry travels within North America speaking and teaching in conferences, colleges and churches on themes related to Business As Mission (BAM, B4t) and missions.  His travels abroad relate to BAM, crisis preparation and management, and team building. 

 

 

Damaging Beliefs About Work and Missional Calling

by Larry Sharp

In recent years I have taken notice of what pastors have stated on topics related to Business as Mission (BAM), the theology of work and the Great Commission. Here are some comments which give me particular concern and have caused me to wonder how typical they are or if they are part of the cause for the slow growth in the BAM movement.

I was part of a workshop at a BAM conference designed for pastors with about 30 in attendance. At one point after much had been presented and then discussed by the group, one pastor remarked that he was not in agreement with some things because “after all work was a result of the fall of man.” I was shocked, and wondered how long it had been since he read the book of Genesis.

The truth:  God is a God of work demonstrated in the creation of all things, and then He gave a job description to the earth’s first human inhabitants.

 

When I lived in Pennsylvania, I was part of a mid-sized church and a member of the missions committee. We organized a week-long conference each year and many of the 70+ missionary units were in attendance. A special speaker was always invited. One year on the first night, the pastor got up to introduce the mission speaker like this. “It is a privilege to have Mike Sullivan share with us this week. He trained as a Biochemical engineer and worked in that industry for six years until God called him to a higher calling. He then served in Indonesia and is now president of Mission XYZ. Welcome Mike.”

Of course, people clapped in appreciation for Mr. Sullivan and his response to God’s call. I did not clap and I have changed the names and places because of the unbiblical nature of the introduction.

The truth:  Religious “ministry” is not a higher calling but God wants all believers to use their God-given capacities for His glory and that is their highest calling. There is no spiritual hierarchy.

 

I was invited to give a full-day Saturday seminar in a nearby church. About 40 people attended including the pastor. He listened carefully but did not contribute to the discussion opportunities. Shortly after I arrived home, I received a phone call. Pastor Dave invited me to come to his study on Monday morning. I welcomed the opportunity to talk further on these topics.

I was not long in his office when Pastor Dave stated cogently and clearly that he did not believe I was doing the right thing and the Great Commission was not given to business people and laymen. He said God called special people for the role of apostles and missionaries and the spread of the Gospel was their “calling”.

I left that office discouraged and saddened, until later in the day when business people started to call me inviting me to share with other groups and to talk about how they could get involved.

The truth:  The Great Commission was given to all believers and is not the purview of the clergy class.

 

When I am asked to be part of a training weekend or series of seminars in a church, I prefer if the senior pastor is in attendance and if that is impossible at least one of his associates should be there. One time when I inquired about the pastor’s whereabouts after we had discussed his coming, the missions pastor said that the senior pastor declared to him that “BAM is just a fad and it will soon pass”, and will not be attending.

The truth:  This pastor is the precise person that needed to attend because BAM is not a fad, it the re-discovery of how the gospel spread in the first century, where the everyday believer lived his relationship with Jesus in the marketplace of life, for the glory of God.

 

It was the Sunday for dedicating the new missionaries who were heading to Central Asia. The couple gave a few words and several people came forward to lay hands on the young missionaries. The pastor concluded with his prayer of dedication with a clear reference to these special people who were “called to full time ministry”. In talking later with people in the church I realized that all of God’s people in that church were not expected to be in ministry. The unbiblical sacred-secular dichotomy was alive and well.

The truth:  There is no full-time ministry and part-time ministry. Everything we do in every aspect of life is full-time living like Jesus, being and making disciples.

 

I am convinced that the foundational principles for Business as Mission are rooted in the truths of God’s word and his purposes for the peoples of the world. Without accurate theology and raison d’etre, we will lack the enduring substance for real change in how the “mission of God” is accomplished in the world.

 

Larry Sharp is the Founder and current Director of Strategic Training and Partnerships of a Business for Transformation (BAM, B4t) consulting firm, International Business and Education Consultants (www.ibecventures.com). Larry served 21 years in Brazil and then 20 years as Crossworld VP of Operations and as Vice President of Business Partnerships. He is currently a VP Emeritus and consultant with Crossworld. Since 2007 he has devoted energies toward Business as Mission (BAM) and currently is a consultant on BAM and education themes. Larry travels within North America speaking and teaching in conferences, colleges and churches on themes related to Business As Mission (BAM, B4t) and missions.  His travels abroad relate to BAM, crisis preparation and management, and team building. 

 

 

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

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

7 Things We Have Learned in 10 Years of BAM Consulting

by Larry Sharp and Gary Willett

IBEC Ventures was incorporated in 2006 as a consulting group to provide consulting services primarily to Business as Mission startups in areas where there is high unemployment, great injustice and where there a few followers of Jesus.

IBEC’s Purpose: IBEC helps build sustainable businesses through consultative expertise that changes lives and transforms communities.

IBEC’s Vision: We envision an increasing number of small-medium sustainable Kingdom businesses with our special emphasis on areas that are both economically impoverished and spiritually unreached.

So what have we learned in these last ten years? We have made significant mistakes to be sure; and we have seen some successes, but recently three of us senior leaders considered the question of what we have learned. Here are some of those lessons:

1. Business as mission should be fully integrated

We have learned that this is not business as usual, and this is not missions as usual. BAM is a based in a theology of a ‘worker God’ who created man to be a worker and a creator (Gen 1-2). He also created mankind with various ‘wirings’ and gifts and many are business people with abilities to create wealth (Deut 8:18), as an act of worship and as their unique ministry. Business is a high and holy calling and those gifted to serve the kingdom of God in this way are ministers, fulfilling their spiritual calling. Read more

Don’t Miss This: Essential Preliminary Research for a BAM Company

We asked our team of BAM experts to give some practical advice for BAM practitioners in the beginning stages of business planning. For this post we asked them to share ideas about developing goals and vision.

Robert Andrews, Larry Sharp and Garry all actively mentor frontline BAM companies – as well as teach and write on BAM. Read more about them below.

What kinds of preliminary research or on-ground preparation would you emphasise as particularly important to someone planning a BAM company – especially in a cross-cultural context?

Robert Andrews

A business plan is intended to help you work through the key issues you will face in running your business and should include all of the factors that have critical importance. It should addresses the design of the product, distribution, manufacture, finance, marketing, purchasing, and capitalization. It should also address how all of these business functions fit in to the work God is doing. Read more

Startup Planning Questions: Discovering your Business Model

by Larry Sharp

This is Part 2 of a two-part post, read Part 1.

What is the business model?

I have always found that plans are useless, but planning is indispensable.
– General Dwight Eisenhower

I am not a big fan of complex business plans in the early stages, but prefer to develop a business model typical of the lean start-up strategy.1 Don’t get me wrong – proper plans are necessary in time especially to qualify for a business loan or to record key research, but at an early stage I prefer modeling that is hypothesis driven. This mind-set should be intuitive to the entrepreneur and be at the heart of the consultant’s strategy.

Business founders should begin with a search for a business model which is driven by a hypothesis which can be tested in the marketplace of customer need. The model canvas contains a series of theories or good guesses which must be tested. These are sketches of how the company anticipates creating value for the customer. Read more

Startup Planning Questions: What to Do Before the Launch

by Larry Sharp

 

What is the opportunity?

By failing to prepare, you are preparing to fail.
– Benjamin Franklin

IBEC’s first consultant and later CEO, Ken Leahy drilled into me, “You do not have a business if you do not have a customer”. Since then the key question for me is to identify a meaningful business opportunity early on. Vision is important, but it cannot be the key component at the beginning. Do you have a customer? What is the problem to be solved? The answer can be derived from research and counsel, but it is important to determine the need for the product before moving too far toward planning and product development. Some call this the value proposition and it articulates why customers need the product or service. With no need, customers will not pay, and without sales, there is no business.

A couple planning to start a business in a large Asian country came to us with an idea. They planned to make wedding dresses in the country at a low cost and market them in the USA for considerable profit. The idea sounded good to everyone they discussed the idea with. Fortunately, they retained a consultant who pushed them in the direction of robust research and analytics. The day when everyone realized there was no ‘business opportunity’ here, there was sadness and tears – it seemed to be the death of a dream! Read more

How to Develop a Vision and Goals for Your BAM Company

We asked our team of BAM experts to give some practical advice for BAM practitioners in the beginning stages of business planning. For this post we asked them to share ideas about developing goals and vision.

Mats Tunehag, Larry Sharp and Garry all actively mentor frontline BAM companies – as well as teach and write on BAM. Read more about them below.

What advice would you give a new BAMer about developing a vision and mission plus goals/objectives for a company?

Larry Sharp
I am not so big on ‘vision’ initially (though it ultimately is important) but I am more interested in ‘opportunity’. Is there an opportunity to sell a product or provide a service? Is there an opportunity to reach a people group with discipleship? Is there an opportunity to transform a community? I would start there and when answers emerge, a vision and purpose should be articulated – and from there some goals for reaching the vision.  Then I would bounce my ideas on the vision – purpose – goals continuum off of some experienced BAMers. I have had many long-time BAM practitioners tell me that they welcome people to “come and see” and ask questions.

Mats Tunehag
Remember that BAM, is not a technique. It is a worldview and a lifestyle. It is about following Jesus in the marketplace – to the ends of the earth – loving God and serving people through business.

BAM is not Christians just doing social enterprise. BAM always considers God as a stakeholder who has a vested interested in multiple bottom lines and multiple stakeholders. Read more

12 Stakeholders You Should Engage in Your Business Startup

We asked a team of BAM experts to give some practical advice for BAM practitioners creating business plans. For this post we asked them about key stakeholders in the business planning process.

A stakeholder is anyone with an interest in a business. Stakeholders are individuals, groups or organisations that are affected by the activity of the business. – BBC

Mats Tunehag, Larry Sharp and Garry all actively mentor frontline BAM companies – as well as  teach and write on BAM. We also asked business woman Julia to share about a stakeholder she has found helpful in her business in Mongolia. Read more about them below.

Here are 12 stakeholders they mentioned, there are others:

  1. Investors – owners, bank or investment company
  2. Business people – in companies working cross-culturally in your business or industry
  3. Business consultant – someone with specialist knowledge
  4. Colleagues – management and staff
  5. Customers – those likely to be your clients
  6. Suppliers – of essential materials and services for your business
  7. Community – local society and also the physical environment
  8. Cultural expert – someone with insight into engaging with local community
  9. Government official – someone who can give you insight and be an advocate for you
  10. Body of Christ – local church community, mission organisations and supporting churches
  11. Spiritual advisor or mentor – someone with wise counsel you can be accountable to
  12. God – the most important stakeholder

Read more