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Ask a BAM Mentor: Should I Shut My Business?

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

 

Dear BAM Mentor,

Should I shut my business down if I’m not seeing spiritual fruit?

~ In Two Minds

Dear In Two Minds,

I think this is far too simplistic a question. The most obvious oversimplification is “not seeing spiritual fruit”. This begs at least two continuation questions:

What is meant by ‘spiritual fruit’?

Who has the right to demand to ‘see’ fruit and on what timescale?

In response to the first question, the book Fruitfulness on the Frontline by Mark Greene recognises six distinct forms of spiritual fruit, namely:

  • Modelling godly character
  • Making good work
  • Ministering grace and love
  • Moulding Culture
  • Mouthpiece for truth and justice
  • Messenger of the gospel

In contrast to these six, many people would define spiritual fruit as the number of people who have committed their lives to Christ as Saviour. This is fine as far as it goes, but we have to remember that Christ’s disciples are responsible for preaching the gospel and for making disciples. The miraculous transformation between those two is the responsibility of the Holy Spirit and we must never attempt to usurp that responsibility. Read more

Is My Business Going to Be Fruitful This Year? Ask Me in 24 Years

by David Stone

What is the great divide? We categorize certain activities as sacred and others as secular. Orphanage ministry or business activity. Sacred or secular? We are still stuck in the divide!

On a recent trip to Kathmandu, Nepal, I was visiting with a small expat short-term missions team on outreach. Two of the team members felt called to business AND missions. I inquired about their business AND missions activity on outreach. They said they had researched (via the internet) Micro-Enterprise Loan organizations in Nepal for a local Business As Mission company. The BAM company is fighting sex trafficking at the source – the families.

The BAM company wants to provide economic opportunity to keep the families from selling their daughters. The BAM strategy includes opening up new trekking routes into the region. That would require hostels and cafes on the routes. Local families can start businesses that would provide an economic alternative to selling their daughters. The new businesses may require small loans, and they need to know what local lending organization are a good fit.

The two young missionaries identified one local Micro-Enterprise Lending company that warranted further consideration. The following dialogue took place. Read more

Ask a BAM Mentor: Equal Pay

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

 

Dear BAM Mentor,

Have you got any advice for me concerning HR issues that involve a clash of cultural or Biblical values? I want to pay my workers equally for doing the same job and in Nepal where I run my business, men and women don’t usually receive equal pay. It’s not so much an ethical dilemma for me, but a practical question about how I can approach this well. How do I best communicate and lead my Nepali team (managers and workers) through this issue?

~ Hiring in the Himalayas

Dear Hiring,

I want to humbly submit that the issue here runs deeper than that of pay equality, I believe the root of this issue speaks to gender equality within the workplace and whether we as Christ followers believe it is a biblical value that we are charged to uphold. As a woman who has had a long career in the workplace, I have to say my experience has not always been positive, even with my male co-workers of faith. As people conducting business in a second culture, by all means we must be culturally sensitive, but we must recognize the mandates of our Lord have been corrupted by culture, and we know Jesus came to make all things new. To me, one of the most personal personifications of this ideal was in His encounter with the Samaritan woman at the well. Jews did condescend to speak with Samaritans in public, and male Jews were rabbinically prohibited from speaking with women in public to eliminate opportunity for gossip. Yet this beautiful narrative provides a clear example of how He wants us to step outside the boundaries of culture to engage with our world in a restorative manner.

Our lives and how we operate our businesses should speak into the lives of our employees in ways they have never experienced; to lift them up, to value them for their contribution to the business, to recognize their inherent worth as uniquely created and specifically gifted individuals, and thus move them towards reconciliation to the Lord they do not yet know, but whom they can experience through you and your example. How else can we give an answer for the hope that is within us, if our lives and our businesses do not model the life of our redeemer?  We know that in Him we are all equal, thus in our business we must make every attempt to live out that principle. Read more

Ask a BAM Mentor: Hiring Dilemmas

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

 

Dear BAM Mentor,

One of the purposes of my business is to create jobs in an area where there is a lot of need. I am feeling the tension between hiring more people who are particularly vulnerable and desperately in need of a job versus hiring people with more skills. Have you got any advice as I try balance making good business decisions alongside fulfilling this core mission of the company?

Hopeful Hirer

Dear Hopeful,

This is a very common concern in our community, so thanks for asking! BAM has great potential in poverty relief, but most of us don’t get there, largely because we fail to ask this sort of question at the beginning.

I would start by changing the challenge from finding the right balance to managing the tension. That’s a healthier way to look at this and a lot of issues. On one side of the tension is the pressure to hire lots of people who are unemployed, many of whom likely lack skills and have a less than optimal work ethic. On the other side of the tension is the need to keep the business alive. If the business fails you won’t be able to hire or help anyone. Look at profitability as a necessary precondition for fulfilling your objective and hiring and training the vulnerable and desperately in need. Profit is like oxygen. No one worries about breathing unless it’s a problem, and then it becomes their entire focus. So make sure you structure and grow your staff so that the business has enough profit so that you are able to give to and equip the vulnerable and needy. Read more

Bootstrapping your Business vs Seeking Outside Investment

What would you say were the most important things to prepare or think about as I approach a BAM investor? What are some typical pitfalls or mistakes I could avoid?

Before you walk down the road of approaching an outside investor, why not consider the possibility of self-funding – also known as “bootstrapping” – your company? If you decide to bootstrap, you may be surprised at how differently you approach your business, as well as the funding process. Bootstrapping can create a healthy foundation from which to begin your business, and can provide invaluable lessons to entrepreneurs. Lessons learned from bootstrapping can include:

  • Tests your business plan – A bootstrapped business that can bring a product or service to market, develop a customer base, and create a revenue flow will help you identify the strengths and weaknesses in your plan. You now have the solid proof you need to affirm your ideas and build on them. You will have determined if the market needs or wants your product, what the market is willing to pay for your product or service, and what will be required to put the business on a path to profitability. In addition, you will have a better sense of true costs, not just cost of goods, but hidden costs that are usually not considered or may not be known when a plan is developed. Bootstrapping will also force you to consider how the product or service is being developed, and it may cause you to re-consider aspects of product development as being unnecessary for product or service launch.
  • Provides incentive for a low burn rate – Limited financial resources will greatly influence the decisions required to operate your business, while at the same time maximizing efficiencies. This may include hiring employees that can function in more than one role, outsourcing certain roles until you can afford to bring them in-house, minimizing overhead like office space (know anyone with a spare garage?), as well as using a creative approach to marketing.
  • Skills and values development – Self-funding can be a useful mechanism in helping you gauge your true passion and commitment to your business. It will help you develop a higher level of accountability as well as resourcefulness, resilience and courage. It will most certainly test your risk aversion.

Read more

How to Prepare for Investors

What would you say were the most important things to prepare or think about as I approach a BAM investor? What are some typical pitfalls or mistakes I could avoid?

Funding for your new business is obviously crucial – no cash, no business. So let’s think about this from an investor’s perspective. What is it that interests him or her? What does he or she want to see? What questions answered?

Here’s what I’d be asking:

  • What exactly is the product or service that you intend to sell? Don’t assume that I understand it. Make it simple for me.
  • What is the market demand for this? Is it a cool idea, a “me too,” or is there a real demand? In other words, do people really need/want your product or service?
  • Who will your competitors be? How is your idea better than and different from theirs?

This first set of questions is about your viability in the market place. Is this a real business? This second set of questions is about you. Can I count on you? Read more

Ask a BAM Mentor: Financing a BAM Company

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

Dear BAM Mentor,

What would you say were the most important things to prepare or think about as I approach a BAM investor? What are some typical pitfalls or mistakes I could avoid?

Getting Prepared

Dear Getting Prepared,

Funding for your new business is obviously crucial – no cash, no business. So let’s think about this from an investor’s perspective. What is it that interests him or her? What does he or she want to see? What questions answered?

Here’s what I’d be asking: What exactly is the product or service that you intend to sell? Don’t assume that I understand it. Make it simple for me. What is the market demand for this? Do people really need/want your product or service? Who will your competitors be? How is your idea better than and different from theirs?

This first set of questions is about your viability in the market place. Is this a real business? The next set of questions is about you. Can I count on you? What is your background? Why are you particularly qualified to launch a business like this one? Do you have a specific knowledge base or experience that would give me confidence that you can actually pull this off? Who do you have around you? What is your track record? Who will vouch for your character? Your commitment to Christ?

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

Ask a BAM Mentor: Evaluating a Business Opportunity

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

 

Dear BAM Mentors,

What are the most important questions to ask myself when evaluating a business opportunity?

~ Business as Mission Newbie

 

 

Dear BAM Newbie

First and foremost, set your goals according to the principle, “Seek ye first His kingdom and His righteousness and all these things shall be added to you.” (Matthew 6:33). Then, ask God for guidance into a business ministry of His choice for you, wait for His answer with a listening heart and mind. Third, allow God to choose life and business partners who identify with your God-given vision and mission objectives by asking everyone who wants to be an investor or active partner in the business whether they understand, agree and fully embrace the vision God has given you. – Joseph Read more

Questions for Business Building

What are the most important questions to ask myself when evaluating a business opportunity?

When I first heard this question my reflex response from 30 years experience of running a business was… When will I get my investment back, what is the percentage return on investment and what is the risk?!

My more considered response is to ask three initial questions. There are obviously many other issues but these are those I consider the most significant:

First Question – What is the purpose of this business and what is my real motivation for taking on this opportunity to build a business?

I would ask myself, what am I really focused on – my vision, mission and strategy to bless the nations. I would consider the eternal rather than short-term goals for the business and would seek to discover how the business could sustain itself having once outgrown me and my start up team. Read more