Posts

Foundations: BAM 101

AND THE AWARD GOES TO...

Our goal is to provide the BAM Community with the best content and resources available. This summer, we are highlighting various articles and resources which have stood out in the past 6 months. Below is the “Most Popular Post” for January to June 2018.

Please enjoy and thanks for following!

by Mike Baer

So what exactly is Business as Mission? In its original intent (I was one of the first to use the term, so I can say this!) it meant that business—my job, my company, my skills—can and should be deliberately connected to what God is doing in the world, i.e. His mission. Nothing more. Nothing less.

What BAM is Not

Over the past 25 years the term Business a Mission and the concept has been adulterated and abused. For some it has come to mean:

  • Ethical Business—simply being honest in a Christian sort of way
  • Business as Visa—setting up fake or quasi-fake businesses in the effort to secure an entry visa for missionary work in a restricted access country
  • Poverty Alleviation—programs to help the poor make a better living
  • Business Justification—making business OK or more valuable to God by somehow doing it overseas (I write as an American)

Read more

Breaking Down the Sacred-Secular Divide

by Mike Baer

Adapted from material first published on the Third Path Blog, as part of a series, reposted with kind permission.

What is the Sacred-Secular Divide?

You don’t have to go very far today to hear some reference to the ‘sacred-secular divide’ or the ‘sacred-secular dichotomy.’ It’s in all the books, blogs, conferences – and occasionally in a sermon. And it’s always in a negative connotation.

So what exactly is the sacred-secular divide? In one sense, it’s impossible to define. It’s a kind of culture, a nuance, an entirely too subtle way of looking at life, vocation and ministry. It’s a shadow that covers many other aspects of our lives. It seems innocuous, but it’s not. The divide is a false dichotomy, a false worldview, an infection in the minds of Jesus’ followers that has done incalculable damage to the cause of the Church.

However, we can at least approximate the meaning of the divide in this way. It is a view of life built on a separation or distinction between those things, people and places someone believes to be sacred (holy and of God) and those believed to be secular (worldly and not of God). Certain callings are holy (missionary, pastor) and others are secular, i.e. of the world and therefore unholy (business, medicine, construction, etc). Certain places are sacred as well—church buildings, graveyards, seminaries while others are secular—my house, your house, schools, and athletic stadiums. I know you might like the sentiment, but a candle lit in a church building is no more holy or special to God than a candle on my 2 year old grandson’s birthday cake. Caution: if that statement offends you, then you are living in the divide. In short, it is all about distinctions and separations and classes and castes. Read more

Foundation: Expanding into Hard Places

by Mike Baer

I don’t want to bury the lead so here it is: BAM is one of the most strategic ways to engage the worlds unreached people groups and that focus should dominate the movement.

Now, in the spirit of fairness, I am for BAM everywhere and believe that all Christians in all callings should be directly and deliberately connecting all of their lives (including their careers) to God’s eternal purpose. To me, this is the sine qua non of true BAM and certainly means more than just doing business among UPGs. It means doing business to the glory of God and with a free conscience wherever He has placed us.

Yet, how can we look at the world and the billions who live in the hardest to reach places, the people groups with no viable Gospel witness or church and not recognize the priority of UPGs. 25 years after the birth of the modern Business as Mission movement in Central Asia, the overwhelming majority of BAM enterprises are among the reached countries.

Read more

Foundation: An Act of Worship

by Mike Baer

Like Business as Mission, the term Business as Worship has many meanings. As I listen to speakers and read current writing it seems that these fall rather easily into two major thought buckets:

  1. Business or Work as an Act of Worship
  2. Business or Work as an Act of Spreading the Worship of God

These are by no means mutually exclusive nor are they contradictory. In fact, both are wonderfully true and accurate. They are simply looking at the near term versus the eternal.

An Act of Worship

The core idea here is that worship, the act and attitude of ascribing worth to God and of prostrating ourselves, literally and figuratively, is not at all limited to what happens in a church building on Sunday morning. Singing, praying, listening to the Word of God and giving are all recognized forms of worship. But what about loving others and serving others? Or providing for our families and generating income for employees? What about honest labor? Accurate scales? Are not all of these also acts of worship? Indeed, when we speak of work as worship we are building on the Biblical truth that all of life, every single bit of living is meant to be done from a heart of submission to God and affection for Christ and our fellow man. All of life, except for sin, is in fact worship.

Read more

Foundations: BAM 101

by Mike Baer

So what exactly is Business as Mission? In its original intent (I was one of the first to use the term, so I can say this!) it meant that business—my job, my company, my skills—can and should be deliberately connected to what God is doing in the world, i.e. His mission. Nothing more. Nothing less.

What BAM is Not

 Over the past 25 years the term Business a Mission and the concept has been adulterated and abused. For some it has come to mean:

  • Ethical Business—simply being honest in a Christian sort of way
  • Business as Visa—setting up fake or quasi-fake businesses in the effort to secure an entry visa for missionary work in a restricted access country
  • Poverty Alleviation—programs to help the poor make a better living
  • Business Justification—making business OK or more valuable to God by somehow doing it overseas (I write as an American)

Read more

Business as Mission: An Expression of Biblical Integrity

by Mike Baer

The word “integrity” has been bandied about so much over the last decade or so that it has practically become meaningless. Politicians are described in their self-serving advertisements as men or women of “integrity.” We like the word. It’s right up there with “tolerant”—another empty term. In fact, who could argue with someone who was tolerant and had integrity. He or she would be a postmodern super hero.

Unfortunately, we don’t think about words much any more. We don’t dwell on what they mean. As a result, we lose the richness and power of a great concept. So, in this article, I want to spend a few moments unpacking two dimensions of integrity, especially in the context of Business as Mission.

Integrity and Ethics

When I first began teaching business in the Former Soviet Union twenty years ago, the first hurdle I had to overcome was establishing that business was legitimate in the first place. Most people viewed business as inherently corrupt and dishonest. Today’s America has very much the same opinion. And why not? We hear constant news flashes of another scandal in Apple’s China factory or fraud in CitiGroup’s financial products or theft on Wall Street, or…ad nauseum.  It is erroneous to confuse business with the business person. The person is corrupt but business is not. Nevertheless, few think that deeply and so they condemn all things business as dark, greedy and devilish.

Read more

Financial Planning: How Do I Prepare to Present to Investors?

by Mike Baer

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

Starting Lean: Soft Launches Help Avoid Hard Landings

by Mike Baer

Adapted from material developed for a Third Path Initiative training module.

A very common story among highly excited entrepreneurs goes something like this: get a great idea, build the product, go whole hog to market, wait and lose a lot of money. It’s equivalent to the leadership anti-mantra “ready, fire, aim.” I call this the “emotional/entrepreneur syndrome” where any action is preferred to analysis and patience.

Contrast that with a less common but much wiser approach. Get an idea, test the idea, check out the landscape, build a sufficient product to try out, go lightly to market, listen, and adjust. Boring? Not at all…unless you just get off on failure.

This approach has been called many things over the years. It’s not new. Soft opening. Soft launch. Lean startup. Trial and error. Jesus put it this way:

For which of you, desiring to build a tower, does not first sit down and count the cost, whether he has enough to complete it? Otherwise, when he has laid a foundation and is not able to finish, all who see it begin to mock him… – Luke 14:28-29, ESV

Out of context, I admit but true nonetheless. Take your time and do it right.

Here are the steps I’d use if I was doing another startup. After my initial ideation, testing the market, and market research, I’d: Read more

Developing a Flight Plan for Your Business

by Mike Baer

Adapted from material first published on the Third Path Initiatives Blog.

Values. Vision. Purpose. Operating Principles. Those are pretty lofty altitudes in your business development process. They are all necessary; just as a solid foundation is necessary if you are going to build a home that lasts. However, with the foundation laid it’s time to begin executing on what you actually want to do.

We call this Flight Planning. It’s part strategic plan and part market plan and part organizational plan and mostly action plan. Over the last 20 years we’ve seen a large number of startups and small businesses achieve amazing results by devising and then doing this simple 3-step process.

Step 1: Set Targets and Objectives

The first step of the Flight Plan is to determine where you actually want to be in the next year (Objectives) and the next three years (Targets). It’s useful to set the information out, as follows. Read more

Getting Started with Market Research

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

 

Dear BAM Mentor,

I’m developing a business plan for a BAM company. What are some ideas, tips or resources you would suggest as I conduct market research and analysis, especially in a BAM setting?

~ Anticipating Analysis

Dear Anticipating,

The question of market research comes up constantly and is both a very important part of a business plan and at the same time can be a big waste of time. Let me explain.

If you are doing a business plan to guide your launch and actions, then all you really need is to figure out a few basic things:

1. Who else does what you plan to do?

2. In what ways are you better, faster, cheaper, easier to access, etc.?

3. What price point will your potential customers accept? What do your competitors charge?

4. Where, how, when will you distribute your product/service? Does it fit with where, how, when people want to buy?

5. How many potential customers are there? How many of them will you be able to convert into actual customers?

6. What laws, taxes, licenses, etc. exist that will affect your business?

Beyond these few things much more research will not give you ROI. So don’t do it. Read more

Portfolio Items