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The Power of a Story: Orality in Business

By Howard Partridge

While attending a very high level, exclusive leadership training, we were taken to the largest independent advertising agency in the U.S.

We were taken on a tour of the massive, modern office space inhabited by over 700 employees that included a gym that would rival any local health club, nap rooms, and most importantly the large, open stairwell that connected all the floors of this modern building.

The stairwell is the one and only place that all 760 team members can all be together. There is a catwalk that is prominently suspended in the middle of the open stairwell where the company news is shared. This is where potential clients are brought to be introduced, it’s where the good and the bad is shared. And, this is where stories are told.

In order to effectively tour the company, our group of about a hundred was broken into small groups of ten people. A staff member named Emily led our tour. She told story after story about their culture, why they do what they do, and why it was important. I was impressed that she was so passionate about the stories, the culture and the meaning behind everything they do. Read more

Two Company Leaders Look Back: Financial Planning Highs and Lows

When we have a major decision to make, we often ask those around us for input. Sometimes we follow that advice and other times we don’t. Occasionally we might look back and wish we had followed the advice we received from others. Hindsight is a beautiful thing!

Drawing on the wisdom of others can be helpful and the benefit of hindsight is illuminating. With those two things in mind, we asked a couple of well established BAM leaders for their advice about financial planning. We asked them to share what has been fruitful and has enabled them to grow companies that are doing well. We also asked them to share the lessons they’ve learned the hard way and what they would do differently in hindsight.

Hospitality Company 

Company A is a Hospitality company with 125 employees, it has two owners and was established 12 years ago.

What financial planning have you done to grow your company to the place it is today?

The growth of our company over the past five years has been quite substantial. We have seen our revenue increase 475%, and our earnings grow 540%. Though our financial planning was not the driver of that growth, it was certainly the foundation. Without the steps we have learned and taken over the years, we would not have been able to facilitate the amazing growth we have seen.  Read more

8 Ways to Strengthen Marriage and Family Relationships: BAM Practitioner Tips

Those who have a family and run a BAM company will have already experienced the challenges and stresses in one spilling over into the other! Threats to the healthy functioning of family life can end up becoming threats to the health of the business, and vice versa.

To close this BAM Endurance series, we are sharing insights from 12 married BAM practitioners. In Part 1 read about the 3 greatest challenges to marriage and family life these BAMers have faced while running a company.

In Part 2, we offer 8 ways to strengthen marriage and family relationships that these BAM practitioners share from their own experiences:

8 Ways to Strengthen Marriage and Family Relationships

1. Get your priorities straight

At the foundations, are you putting the first things first in your life? BAM practitioners shared that having the right foundation for decision making – shaped by the word of God, and wise advice – led them to making better choices about how they spent their time.

The biggest lesson I’ve learned is that I own the business, the business doesn’t own me. If I value family time I need to structure my business in such a way that it allows me to spend time with them. There will always be busy periods at work but if I’m always working 14 hour days I’m not doing a good job structuring things. I love the classic business book, The E-Myth which is a great reminder that I need to be working “on” the business not “in” the business. It is possible to build a business the suits the lifestyle I want to live but it takes intentional planning, strategizing and structuring. – Peter, Nepal

There are certain habits I’ve leaned on over the years and one of them is reading the Word of God. While the entirety of God’s Word, through direct reading as well as through exposition by preachers, has been helpful in guiding my thoughts and actions, I have benefitted the most from reading Psalms, Proverbs and Ecclesiastes. These books of the Bible have helped me to recognize what is most important in life and to let go of things that are not fundamental to my identity and purpose in life. – John, India/USA Read more

The 3 Greatest Challenges to Marriage and Family Life: BAM Practitioner Stories

Some BAM practitioners are married. Some are married to their business partners! Some BAMers have children. Others don’t. The shape and size of our families – and our companies – varies tremendously. Those who have a family and run a BAM company will have already experienced the challenges and stresses in one spilling over into the other! Threats to the healthy functioning of family life can end up becoming threats to the health of the business, and vice versa.

As we close this BAM Endurance series, we share insights from 12 married BAMers on the three greatest challenges to marriage and family life they face while running a company.

In Part 2, we offer 8 ways to strengthen marriage and family relationships that these BAM practitioners have shared from their own experiences.

The 3 Greatest Challenges to Marriage and Family Life

Of all the challenges to health marriage and family relationships that the 12 BAMers shared, they essentially boil down to one of three main issues:

1. Time management and stress build up

2. Blurred lines between business and home

3. Lack of understanding and support

1. Time Management and Stress Build Up

The sheer scale of the task and the responsibilities of the business can easily overtake family priorities. Running a business can become all consuming and erode time that should be spent with family. For those who work together, this problem may be exasperated if you both enjoy working hard and end up with a lack of balance between work and family-focused time. In the short-term there may be seasons where the pressures of the business mean working longer hours. However, if this is allowed to become a long-term pattern, a build up of personal and relational stress will become a threat to healthy marriage and family relationships – and ultimately the business itself. Read more

The Ingredients for a Healthy Business Team Part 2: Best Practices

‘Team troubles’ were one of the top 4 reasons BAM mentors gave for practitioners giving up and going home. The ability to build effective teams and work through difficult team dynamics is therefore crucial for the sustainability of BAM companies. In this interview, we talk to Luke, a BAM business owner living in the Middle East, about his business story and what ingredients make for healthy business teams.

Read Part 1: Business Story

What general principles do you have for any company team for building healthy team relationships?

As soon as you want to build a scalable business the business team becomes super-important. The essence of a successful business is in the team, rather than the individual. To grow you need to be able to manage the business as a team, you need to be able to be on the same page.

I think at the heart of healthy team relationships there is good communication and honesty. These build trust, they reduce the sense of isolation, and they bring unity and agreement on strategy. This is particularly important for teams in multiple locations when there is a high risk of feeling isolated or misunderstood.

Honesty is crucial. Getting to the right level of honesty to enable the team to be most effective can be painful and humbling. Sometimes I don’t want to share when things go wrong, or it’s not looking as good as I hoped. Pride can lead us to partial honesty. I am talking about the temptation to overplay a lead or exaggerate about a potential client because you want to look good. However, partial honesty seriously reduces the ability of the team to manage the business, because they don’t have a clear enough picture of what’s going on. Read more

The Ingredients for a Healthy Business Team Part 1: Business Story

‘Team troubles’ were one of the top 4 reasons BAM mentors gave for practitioners giving up and going home. The ability to build effective teams and work through difficult team dynamics is therefore crucial for the sustainability of BAM companies. In this interview, we talk to Luke, a BAM business owner living in the Middle East, about his business story and what ingredients make for healthy business teams.

Luke, you have a company in the Middle East that offers corporate team building experiences. What lead you into that business?

My professional background is in engineering and engineering requires a high degree of collaboration. There is a strong need to work in effective teams. Then early on in my career, I worked on some projects in the Middle East that got me interested in the dynamics of business and recognising how companies create employment and other benefits for communities.

Over 20 years ago, we got involved in youth ministry with a mission organisation. As part of their training, this mission uses a very intensive week-long personal and team building exercise. Trainees are put under extreme pressure to see how they cope in a team situation. Our experience with that opened my eyes further to the need for healthy team dynamics. Mission workers spend months, maybe years, preparing to go overseas, but if their team falls apart, they may have to come home.

I realised I’d had years of training as an engineer and I didn’t just want to give all that away. I was learning lessons about effective teams myself and becoming motivated to help others be effective. Alongside that, I felt drawn to do business at a heart level. So I had a sense of calling to business, but  it was also becoming a personal passion. I was praying and asking God, “What should I do, youth ministry with this mission organisation or business and engineering?” When God spoke he said, “It’s AND, not OR – do both.” Read more

So What Shall We Do Tomorrow? How We Have Endured

One day down

Sleep deprived, stressed, hiding in the office to cry, then pulling it together and working hard physically, attempting to speak a foreign language, smiling at potential customers, doing everything for the first time, from start to finish, from nerve-wracking open to exhausted and exuberant close. We did it! There was cash in the drawer to prove it. Success!!! We made it through… Day one.

We arrived home near midnight, our three small boys in tow. As we straggled through the door, my husband turned to me and said, “So what shall we do tomorrow?”

I stopped. I stared at him. Then I’m pretty sure I laughed. Barely.

All the focus for years and months had been to start a business. Now it was started. We were worn out, but the real work had just begun.

Later we learned that starting a business is like having a baby. In so many ways. One moment it appears unbelievably fragile. The next moment it’s screaming its lungs out in a show of robust strength. Helpless. Demanding. Exceedingly needy!

There was one American woman who understood this business-baby analogy before we did. She visited us the first day at the shop, congratulated us, and gave us a lasagne. Read more

Business Fights Poverty: Moving Beyond Charity to Job Creation

by Peter Greer

Excerpts from eBook ‘Stop Helping Us!’ reproduced with kind permission from the Institute for Faith, Work and Economics and Peter Greer. Buy eBook.

Book: Stop Helping Us CoverStop Helping Us! introduces a new paradigm for an evangelical response to poverty alleviation. Being effective means recognizing that there is a difference between short-term aid, which is important and necessary, and the long-term elimination of poverty, which is the best defense against receding back into material poverty and the most effective method of elevating the dignity of all God’s children. We will see the stories of those who were transformed by effective, long-term aid that focused on the individuals rather than just numbers. Included are surveys of the poor and what they desire, showing that their goals have little to do with money and everything to do with using their skills, caring for their families, and embracing their God-given dignity.

The Story of Fadzai

Every time an employer discovered Fadzai Nhamo, a woman from Zimbabwe, was HIV positive, the door shut. “Life was difficult for me when I came to Harare,” Fadzai later remarked. When Fadzai speaks, she covers her mouth to hide her missing front teeth, a daily reminder of the brutal way she contracted HIV. “I left my hometown after someone had beaten and raped me,” she said. Following the assault, a friend took her to a clinic at the capital, Harare. There she discovered she was HIV positive. “When my husband found out I was sick [with HIV], he disappeared,” Fadzai commented later. “I did not have a place to live.” After her husband’s abandonment, Fadzai was left a single mom, a stranger in a new city. With no place to call home, she moved from place to place with her children.

It is possible to debate many points of theology, but our faith clearly calls us to care for Fadzai, an individual who has been exploited and abused. She is the widow and foreigner so frequently mentioned throughout Scripture. When we hear the story of Fadzai’s mistreatment and understand the message of grace in Scripture, we are compelled to respond. Read more

Restoring Dignity Through Business: Dignity Coconuts’ Story

AND THE AWARD GOES TO...

Our goal is to provide the BAM Community with the best content and resources available. As we wrap up the spring and head into summer we are highlighting various articles and resources which have stood out above the rest. Below is the “Staff Pick” for the summer of 2016.

Please enjoy and thanks for following!

“We’re fighting this multi-billion dollar evil with a peashooter,” Stephen told Don as they wandered around the exhibition hall at an anti-human trafficking convention. At every booth they were encountering stories of abuse and human suffering. There were also stories of rescue and restoration… However, the sheer scale of global slavery seemed to dwarf the efforts of those at the front-lines fighting against it. Most organisations working with trafficked communities can only provide jobs for 5, 10, 20 or so people. This is great and essential work; giving meaningful work and a stable livelihood is central to people getting out and staying out of slavery. Yet the need for stable jobs far surpasses the supply. Don and Stephen came away with a burning question: How can we employ a growing number of people vulnerable to, or rescued from, human trafficking?

A year later in 2009 Stephen Freed and Don Byker left their long-held positions and set out to research business opportunities. They realised that if they were really going to tackle the underground slavery industry, they would need multiple, substantially-sized businesses that could employ hundreds or thousands of people. They looked at micro-enterprise solutions, but realised that there is a limit to how effective those can be. Not everyone is an entrepreneur with aspirations to own their own business – and micro-businesses rarely scale to create thousands of jobs. As they researched they found, as economists have discovered, that the key to solving poverty and bringing widespread economic development to communities is a growing number of SME-sized businesses. Read more