Posts

What is Success? Advancing Spiritual Impact in BAM

by Tom

It is easy to be confused by how success in business as mission (BAM) is defined today from a spiritual perspective.

Once-upon-a-time the core concept of BAM was to have a spiritual impact. The reality that a business needed to be profitable should also have been a given, after all, a business that does not make money can’t survive or, as we say in BAM, cannot be sustainable. Even with this relative simplicity, being able to measure spiritual impact seemed elusive.

Early definitions struggled between Business AS Mission and Business FOR Mission both of which held that a central purpose was spiritual transformation. Early theological debates centered around the secular-sacred divide, could business even be spiritual? There were common perceptions of money and profit, often portrayed as evil and exploitive among Christians, that needed to be overcome. Business AS Mission assumed that when operations aligned with spiritual values, businesses could and would produce spiritual results when driven by the influence of the Holy Spirit. Business FOR Mission simply used the profits of a business to support traditional missional activity.

Today the definition of BAM has expanded to include an emphasis on poverty alleviation and job creation etc., issues that are also popular in the secular social enterprise world. However, one danger we face is that while we are expanding, we might also lose what makes us distinctive, appearing to put less and less emphasis on spirituality or spiritual impact. Yet, without intentional spiritual impact BAM is not any different than any well-meaning secular program.

Twenty years on from the early days of the business as mission movement, we continue to wrestle with this topic of spiritual impact in BAM!  Read more

Transforming the Church, One Engaged Business Person at a Time

by Larry Sharp

Over the years I have had various business owners and executives travel with me as I’ve coached and supported companies around the world. On one particular trip, the VP of a Fortune 500 company came with me and some others to a former Soviet Republic country. He had gone on many mission trips, built churches, passed out tracts, and tutored English – all good things! But in Kazakhstan he helped Kazakh believers and expats with business mentoring on topics like making financial projections, contract law, and international marketing. On the trip home he told me that he finally saw how his skills can be used to build the kingdom of God. “Where are we going next?” he asked, after a short time of reflection at home.

I have had many experiences like this, witnessing firsthand the moment business people have felt affirmed and become engaged in using their skills and experience in business as mission. They go from seeing their contribution as limited to PRAY or PAY, and start to realise they can be actively involved – i.e. PLAY! And there are multiple ways for people to get engaged.

For the first time she saw that her business ability and position was a God-given asset.

A young fellow about 30 years old heard me speak in a large mega-church in Pennsylvania. He asked to meet with me and said, “All this is new to me and I don’t think my wife will want to move outside the state, what can I do?” After finding out he was the owner of an SEO company with 14 employees, I said absolutely – and you don’t even have to leave your computer. He has been a wonderful contributor to business startups in unreached areas of the world.

On another occasion, I spoke in a church in the Philadelphia area one Sunday morning. The pastor seemed open to all I spoke about that morning but the real encouragement was talking to several business people afterwards. One woman was a chemical engineer, a former Proctor and Gamble manager who supervised the development of Pampers. She joined our team and helped us with our “product development” when we were just getting going as a BAM consulting group.  Read more

Refugees: A Crisis or an Opportunity?

by Hakan Sandberg

Few issues have got more attention in Europe than the rapid influx of refugees seeking a safe haven in a new host country. It has toppled governments, changed the whole political landscape in several countries, and made many initially generous and empathic people eventually withdraw and instead lean towards right wing, racial nationalism. But is the refugee crisis really the “mother of all problems”? Have we given those new arrivals a real chance to contribute and be part of adding value to our societies?

If we believe all human beings are created in God’s image, then we also believe all human beings are inherently creative to some degree. This also must include these newcomers to our countries. What if we would focus on bringing that creativity out of them, so that they can flourish and be a blessing to others?

Instead many of our well-intentioned governments make them stand in line, waiting for jobs after first having gone through language and culture training, etc. etc. These are good things but represent a journey that can take years and often leads to a loss of vision and energy. Not all incoming refugees are cut out for this type of process, some have the drive to create a different future for themselves.

From Crisis to Opportunity

If we are realistic about it, migrant flows are not going disappear. Conflicts have always been there in different regions at one time or another, and they are not likely to end. Many experts are also pointing at a new reason for migration coming in the future, namely climate migrants, people who have lost everything due to the global warming and rising water levels around coastlands.

How can we turn what media have labelled as “crisis”, to become a real, tangible opportunity?  Read more

Let Freedom Ring! Fighting Slavery with Business Solutions

by Mats Tunehag

Young children sold to sexual slavery. Yes, it was a grim fact of life year after year in a remote village in the Himalayas. Poverty was rampant and there was a lack of jobs. This made families desperate and vulnerable, and traffickers exploited the situation.

Some seasoned BAMers explored how they could change the situation. In communication and collaboration with the villagers they started an adventure tourism company with village home-stays. To make a long story short: this new economic opportunity transformed the village, and its families, for the good. Jobs with dignity were created and no more young children from this village have since been sold into slavery.

This is more than a sweet, and true, story from Nepal. This is an example of a growing number of companies that fight human trafficking through business. They are dealing with root causes to modern day slavery and they are tackling the systemic issues underpinning today’s evil – and highly profitable – slavery business.

Learning from History

In the 1700’s the slave trade was widely accepted and legal. It was, in fact, a backbone of the economy of the British Empire. It was a big, organised and transnational business.

William Wilberforce and the Clapham group decided to fight this evil trade. They chose to attack the systemic issue – the legality of the slave trade and slavery. To that end they organised a decades long campaign focusing on justice, aiming at a root cause. They worked politically to change unjust and ungodly laws that permitted that dehumanising trade.  Read more

Grand Openings and Grand Opportunities: A BAM Story

We’re so excited to be open! After 3 years of planning, preparation, cutting through swathes or red tape, remodelling, investment-raising and long days of hard work, the day of our café grand opening was nearly perfect. Lots of customers showed up, neighbors congratulated and welcomed us, and we received lots of positive feedback.

Everyone who walks in says nearly the same thing; some version of, “Wow, this place is beautiful, and so comfortable and relaxing. I might not leave!”

It is gratifying to see people come in and enjoy our products and our service, and then come back again. We have already noticed how this business is giving us greater inroads to be able to share Jesus with people.

New Connections

The most encouraging thing about the opening of our café is the greater openness and acceptance from people that it has provided. The next door neighbor to our shop, who we’ve waved at and attempted to engage with over the past three years, has become our most frequent customer. He brought his family over and introduced them, and has begun having client meetings at our cafe. And, new people are coming around as well. We recently met Lek who was walking buy, decided to stop in, and then asked if I could talk for a minute. We talked about the business and then about him for over an hour. In a couple of weeks, we’re going to meet at another coffee shop in town to work on his English and my Thai.  Read more

God Uses Business to Bring You Closer to Him

by Dave Kahle

God uses our businesses as devices to nudge us closer to Him and to build the attitudes and practices that enable our next step up the spiritual growth continuum.

It was 2010, and the financial crises which exploded in 2008 was, at last, reaching my business. My clients, B2B sales organizations, were shrinking and a few were going out of business. Investing in developing their sales force – the heart of my business – was nowhere on their agenda.

Whereas we had done fully-subscribed sales seminars around the country for ten years previously, now we canceled 9 of 10 seminars for lack of registrations. Individual speaking engagements had disappeared, and sales of books and videos had shrunk to next to nothing. Our corporate income declined by 80%.

The business that had consumed most of my time and energy for 20 years was disappearing. It was like a big part of me had withered away and was being amputated.

On the day that I canceled the last three seminars for lack of registrations, I realized that we had nothing booked for the future. I was going to have to lay off most of my staff.

I closed the door to my office and burst into tears. The business that had consumed most of my time and energy for 20 years was disappearing. It was like a big part of me had withered away and was being amputated.

“Lord,” I cried, “what do you want from me?”   Read more

8 Business Failures: What we Learned

by Larry Sharp

‘Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it.’ (George Santayana-1905). In a 1948 speech to the House of Commons, Winston Churchill changed the quote slightly when he said (paraphrased), ‘Those who fail to learn from history are condemned to repeat it.’

I was recently cleaning up some physical files, when I ran across a spreadsheet from 2008/09 listing IBEC projects which provided data on the status of the start-up, metrics for success and other interesting information. I found it curious that many of these businesses we worked with in the first two years of our existence have “failed”.

It reminded me of a conference in Arizona a few years ago, when after I had cited many success stories, a person in the audience asked me, “don’t you guys have any failures?”

Now I would be the first to recognize that “failures” are not really failures, but more accurately experiments in learning. In the famous words of Thomas Edison, “I have not failed. I’ve just found 10,000 ways that won’t work.” And so it may be with those early years in IBEC.

There is no perfect assessment of a cause-effect relationship, and I acknowledge that my perspective is personal and anecdotal, however I believe those closest to these situations would concur that what I relate here is at least at least one primary reason for the demise. Here is an effort to “remember the past” with a view to giving reasons for the demise of each dream and a statement of what we learned. I will not provide specific identification of the geographical area nor the persons involved out of respect for security issues and the fact that I do not want to disparage the efforts of anyone.  Read more

A Restaurant with a Mission: Excerpt from ‘BAM Global Movement’

“Through working in my business, I’m experiencing more of God,” says Faouzi Chihabi. “I have my faith in my head and heart, but now it’s also flowing through my hands.” Faouzi studied theology to become a minister, and then worked on issues concerning vulnerable youth for both the Dutch and European governments. Presently, he owns the trattoria Borgo d’Aneto. On the riverside in Rotterdam, his former work experience and his faith merge in this restaurant-with-a-mission.

The latte macchiato is poured carefully. The Italian bun is crisp; not too soft and not too hard. The plate nicely decorated with fresh vegetables. Faouzi trains his crew to keep an eye on the customer. In every area of this restaurant, they pursue a high-quality standard.

Borgo d’Aneto is an approved apprenticeship for youth “at risk” who attend special schools offering vocational training. Faouzi reacts strongly to the assumption that it is an extra challenge to maintain high quality with these young people working in his restaurant. “These boys and girls might have a low IQ, but it’s the biggest misconception that they are not socially adept. They are actually very sensitive and intuitive.” He sees them flourish in his restaurant, although sometimes a meal ends up in the trash. “As a business we cannot afford to put something on the table that doesn’t meet a good standard. When a plate is thrown in the trash, these youngsters might feel they themselves landed there, but they learn through failure to continue, despite a setback. They realize their contribution matters, and that realization causes growth.”  Read more

Workplace Relationships: Community Interaction

by Michael Thiessen

I’m willing to bet that if you own a business, it’s not a huge mega-corporation with billions – or even millions – in revenue. You probably own a fairly small business (or might work for one). Most people would probably guess that a large share of businesses have fewer than 20 employees, but did you know that the number is 90%?

When you run a small business, your community is vital to your success. Your customers, suppliers, employees, and even your competitors, are all part of your community. The first church in Acts had a strong sense of community, which we emulate to this day in our own churches. When others need help, we provide it, whether it is financial, emotional, spiritual, or otherwise.

Communities are part of what makes us strong. But our community doesn’t stop at the doors of the church that we attend on Sunday mornings. How can we be good stewards of the business God has given to us, using it as a platform to build strong relationships with our community?

Professional Peers

We can give employees time off to volunteer, we can give discounted services to churches and other non-profits, or we can use the equipment or expertise from our business to help others in the community. I could probably list off a few dozen more, and I’m guessing you could too. Instead of spending time on those fairly obvious avenues, let’s focus instead on how we can connect with others in our industry.  Read more

Workplace Relationships: Serving Your Clients

by Michael Thiessen

Capitalism – for all of the wealth and prosperity that comes with it – has many flaws. One flaw, however, is often overlooked. Capitalism causes us to stamp out uniqueness and to treat everyone as if they were exactly the same. The industrial revolution of the 18th and 19th centuries led into the mass market revolution of the 20th century, which led us to where we are today, in the 21st century.

Along the way these revolutions significantly changed how we operate our businesses and how we treat our customers. Over time we have been trained to view other human beings as faceless numbers on a spreadsheet. In this way it has robbed us of our ability to serve each other’s unique needs. It has made it more difficult for us to love and serve our customers as individuals. But this trend is reversing. Now we have a lot more ability to serve each person’s specific needs and treat them like a fellow human, while still running a successful business.

The Mass Market and Taylorism

The mass market has profoundly shaped our society – not just by creating wealth and boosting productivity, but by changing how we think. It all started with a man named Frederick Winslow Taylor, whose ideas on what he called Scientific Management paved the way for the mass market. His innovation was simple – to apply engineering practices to the business itself.  Read more