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Finding the Right Business Model or Being the Right Business Leader?

By Dave Kahle

“Is there one business model that you would recommend to a budding entrepreneur?”

That was the question a young man asked me recently. I reflected for a moment over the past 25 years, and answered this way:

“No. I’ve worked with over 500 businesses, and in that pack there were lots of different business models. What I’ve seen is that the model is less important than the implementation on the part of the company’s leadership.”

Let me explain. It is, of course, possible to have a flawed business model. But, honestly, I have only seen one or two of those, where, no matter what the leadership does, the business is not going to survive. It’s just a bad idea.

These are usually the result of people who are passionate about a product or idea. Unfortunately, that passion displaces common sense, and they ride that idea until it has siphoned their resources and depleted their energy.

The world is not full of bad business models. On the other hand, it is crammed with models that can and do succeed, providing the leadership is effective.

The path toward success is rarely formed by the business model. Far more important are the skills and character of the leadership. Drop a highly skilled, high-character entrepreneur into any model, in any market, and watch as he/she leads that company to growth, prosperity and market leadership.

The ultimate path for business success is far more about improving yourself than it is about finding the right product, market or model. Read more

Lessons from Leadership: Interview with a Coffee Chain Owner

by Chris Cloud

The following interview is the fourth of a series of four interviews with missional business owners on the lessons they’ve learned about leadership.

 

Pete has established a chain of cafes and a hospitality training business in Asia. His business employs over 120 people and has trained staff for 50 other businesses.

1. What is your philosophy of leadership?

A test of leadership is that people around you are growing. If I want to look at whether my leadership is effective, I look around and see are my people growing as people, is their capacity increasing? Is my leadership creating capacity in others, making disciples, growing other leaders? That’s my benchmark, my measurement of leadership.

I realize now that a growing business is the only kind of business that can truly develop and grow people because it forces people to grow with the business, otherwise there’s a tendency to just stagnate and that doesn’t help anyone. Our business is growing fast, and it’s given so many people an opportunity to rise to the occasion and grow up with the business.

2. What experiences, people, or philosophies have most influenced the way you view and practice leadership?

My big brother has a big influence on me because of his style. He influences people, but it’s through humility. He’s the teaching pastor of a very large church, but he’s just another guy when we’re together.

My mother has also been a big influence – she has been our greatest fan and our greatest critic. Not in the sense that she’s always criticizing, but she knew you had more to give and could go higher. A secure home gives kids a good launching pad. Mom was always for me. She would praise little things like, “you are so helpful, the way you helped that person was so great…” She elevated us in a positive sense and she would definitely pull us aside and give us critical feedback as well. With my staff, I want them to know “I am for you, I want you to succeed so desperately” – then they are secure and I can help them “be more” rather than settle for mediocrity.

In business and in life, you have to first know yourself. What are your strengths? What are your passions? Don’t try to be someone else, or copy someone else’s business. Have a strong core identity and values, and then go and be the best version of yourself that you can be.

3. How has your view of leadership changed over your years leading a BAM company overseas?

I used to be a consensus builder, I like everybody happy, so I’ve led before in the past where it’s all hugs and “ra ra” and everybody likes you. However, but I’ve seen that fail and I realize that it requires more than just leading by consensus. I have to ask, “What’s the most loving thing I can do for this person, within the context of my company and business?” Sometimes the kindest thing I can do is really have a hard conversation with somebody and tell them “you are not measuring up”.

The weakest form of leadership is when I have to say, “I’m the boss” so I try not to operate that way.
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Lessons from Leadership: Interview with a Manufacturing Founder

by Chris Cloud

The following interview is the third of a series of four interviews with missional business owners on the lessons they’ve learned about leadership.

 

Jim co-founded a manufacturing company in South Asia focused on creating jobs for the marginalised and exploited.

1. What is your philosophy of leadership?

Know the principles you believe in and follow them when you encounter difficult decisions.

2. What experiences, people, or philosophies have most influenced the way you view and practice leadership?

Probably 4 years at the Air Force Academy and 7 years active duty. They strongly emphasized character in leadership and following core values, which for the Air Force are: Integrity First, Service Before Self, and Excellence in All We Do.

3. How has your view of leadership changed over your years leading a BAM company overseas?

I’ve realized that taking the “nice guy” route is easy, but isn’t always the best thing for the people you lead.
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Lessons from Leadership: Interview with a CEO to CEOs

by Chris Cloud

The following interview is the second of a series of four interviews with missional business owners on the lessons they’ve learned about leadership.

 

Brett is a CEO who coaches and advises other CEO’s on how to run their companies wisely. He is a Christ-follower in the marketplace, involved in mentoring businesses around the world.

What is your philosophy of leadership?

To be a good leader, you must first be a good follower. Everyone follows someone or something.  Even if you’re the CEO, you must follow after a purpose greater than yourself or what you consider to be ‘the right thing’ to do.

Here’s why: If you think of yourself as a mere island, leading by yourself, for yourself, you will be here today, gone tomorrow and no one will notice, or even care, that you’re gone. You will have lived, you will have died, and at best … you will have simply not mattered. At worst, not only will you have failed to contribute to society in any meaningful way, you quite possibly may have become complicit in evil. But, if choose to lead from an other-centered perspective, regularly connected to and informed by the source that imagined, formed and breathed life into your very being, for purposes far greater than anything you could ever ask or imagine on your own; then, you will have led effectively and will have truly lived a life worth living.

What experiences, people, or philosophies have most influenced the way you view and practice leadership?

I’ve learned vastly more from my failures and times in the ‘desert,’ than from my successes and ‘mountain-top’ experiences.  Times of trial purify us. Suffering quickens us and sensitizes us to the needs of others around us. I’ve seen this to be true in the lives of all great leaders I admire (Washington, Lincoln, Mandela, Gandhi, Joseph, David, Jesus himself), and I’ve found it to be true in my own life.  Read more

Lessons from Leadership: Interview with a Multinational BAM Owner

by Chris Cloud

The following interview is the first of a series of four interviews with missional business owners on the lessons they’ve learned about leadership.

 

Martin leads a multinational company with operations in three countries and clients around the world.

1. What is your philosophy of leadership?

Partnering with God to mobilize a group of people towards carrying out a specific part of His Will.

2. What experiences, people, or philosophies have most influenced the way you view and practice leadership?

I remember back to Grade 9 of Junior High student council elections. I felt unequipped to run for school president but a couple key friends promised to partner with me if I did it, so I did, won and the year was a huge success, we were able to bring clear leadership to enact change for the good. That was a turning point where I felt I could step up and lead in different situations when there was a need. The numerous sports teams I played on from age 12-25 absolutely helped shape my view and practice of leadership. I think sports are a fantastic “playing field” to develop leadership, grit, teamwork, etc.

3. How has your view of leadership changed over your years leading a BAM company overseas?

There has been a greater introduction of humility. Mostly due to the cross-cultural aspect. There has also been an increased passion to wait on the LORD and not just do things out of my own desire and strength.  Read more

Cashews with a Social Mission: From Hershey Exec to Sunshine Nuts

From Forbes Magazine

Do you have to be a little nuts to give up all the trappings of corporate success, move your family to Mozambique to start a cashew company and pledge to give away 90% of your profits to help orphans and farmers?

More than a few people suggested as much to Don Larson, a former Hershey Company exec who  sold his Porshe, his hot air balloon and his house with a swimming pool to buy a small factory in Matola, Mozambique to launch his social enterprise.

Larson’s Sunshine Nut Company, sells roasted cashews,  grown by small farmers in Mozambique and produced entirely in-country.  The company, which turned its first profit 18 months ago, sold about $2 million worth of cashews last year, and  Larson is projecting $3 million to $5 million in revenue this year.  The nuts can now be found in  some 2,000 U.S. stores,  including Whole Foods and Wegman’s.

More than 30 years ago, Mozambique led the world in cashew production. But, following independence in 1975, 16  years of civil war and bad banking policies decimated the industry. Now, Larson is trying to bring it back – this time, by empowering local communities, paying farmers fairly for their product and creating   jobs with upward mobility for the country’s orphans and abandoned children in Sunshine’s factories. The company is devoting 30% of its net proceeds to support agricultural development and 30% to care for orphans and vulnerable children; another 30% will be directed to expanding to other developing regions, and, eventually, to other crops.

Most social entrepreneurs like to stress their founding story, the goals they hope to accomplish, the motivations that drive everything they do. The product itself? Sometimes, it’s just good enough, but nothing special. The really savvy social entrepreneurs have learned that a sincere mission and a superior product must go hand-in-hand.  Read more

Poultry Farmer to BAM Mentor: Interview with an Agriculture Veteran

Dan Wiebe grew up in a farming family and started his own poultry business in 1970. With decades of experience behind him, he has more recently connected with the business as mission community and become a mentor to others. We asked him to share a little about his story and some of his advice for those doing BAM in the agriculture sector.

Dan, could you share a bit about your own experience in the agriculture sector, about your own background and how your family business grew?

I grew up in a family agri-business as the youngest of 7 children. My father, a second generation Canadian, had taken Teachers Training in the 1920s and by 1940 retired from teaching to manage his farm in the prairies of Manitoba, Canada. In 1949 he moved our family to western Canada to begin intensive farming with poultry.

By 1970 I was ready to begin my own poultry operation with one chicken house and 10,000 chickens. This was a time when poultry became the consumer’s more popular choice over beef.  Not only was the market expanding rapidly because chicken was a healthy alternative to red meat, but the cost of producing chicken dropped significantly as scientific improvements were introduced in nutrition and selective breeding to bring chickens to market much faster. The use of hormones in chicken production has never been legal in North America so chicken is still the safest and healthiest meat available to consumers.

I grew up observing in our own family business ways to involve all segments of a farming enterprise with the support industry in order to produce a better quality and more efficient end product. I used these lessons to integrate my own farming operation into the only fully vertically integrated chicken farm in Canada, from farm to plate.  Read more

7 Practitioners Give Start Up Advice for BAM in the Agriculture Industry

In the first half of 2017, we are looking at BAM companies in different industries. We are currently focused on business as mission in the agriculture industry, sharing insights and stories from experienced company owners.

We asked BAMers involved in agriculture:

What advice would you give to someone starting out BAM and wanting to run an agriculture business?

The best advice is always to start small. It is easy to scale up as you gain understanding.  The greatest cause of failure in the industry is getting bigger than you can handle and overextended financially. All of this can be avoided by being realistic in your expectations from the beginning. It is always better to do a small thing well and scale up as time, energy and finances allow. We must remember that agriculture involves a great deal of waiting and trusting God to bring the growth. It often involves much experimentation to get the right things growing in the right place at the right time. Don’t ever trust that there is a “one style fits all” approach. Every place and every situation will bring its own challenges and its own victories. Remember, our God is a God of abundance and if we do things in His way, He will provide the increase. It is important to get a team involved and a good business plan in place. Even on a small scale, we must concentrate on the business side of things. If we don’t, we may end up with a big pile of cucumbers rotting in the yard. – Carl, Caribbean & Asia  Read more

What are the Advantages of Doing BAM in the Agriculture Industry?

In the first half of 2017, we are looking at BAM companies in different industries. We continue with business as mission in the agriculture industry, sharing insights and stories from experienced company owners.

We asked BAMers involved in agriculture:

What are the advantages of being in the agriculture industry when it comes to doing BAM?

I see three advantages of being in the agricultural industry when it comes to doing BAM. First of all, everybody in the world needs food to eat. Food comes from agriculture. So if somebody has know-how in food production and food preservation it is the best industry for business. Second, it is easy to start in the agricultural industry. In every location there is already existing agricultural activity. No or only few imports are needed. Finally, it is easy to connect to people on the level of food because everybody relates to it. – Decent, Malawi

I think there is a big advantage in that with agriculture most of the grassroots people in your area can relate to you. They can see what you are doing and how it can have direct benefits to them. They can also get involved by utilizing your products on their farm, or learning and implementing what you are introducing, if it is new technology or improved methods. This can impact a huge number of people right there where you are. The people receiving those benefits are those who are working hard to legitimately provide a life and future for their families. If you impact them, and help them, you provide hope. Just like the hope and dignity you give to your employees, this can be multiplied out to the recipients of your product or technology, allowing them to better provide for their families. – Ben, Central Asia  Read more

A Journey into Freedom Business: One Woman’s Pre-BAM Story

While many of our readers are post-business plan, trying to figure how to fully implement what’s on that sacred document – making payroll, brokering deals, marketing to clients etc. – there are many other readers still in the ‘dreaming phase’. Perhaps seeds were planted years ago that left a deep imprint on their purpose and direction and since then these pre-BAMers keep taking notes, asking questions and scoping out the market for their product – praying and preparing for the day when the light turns green.

When I first met Rebekah at a BAM conference in 2013, her desire to network and learn from others was immediately obvious. Her gentle yet determined spirit and unyielding passion for vulnerable women keeps her pushing forward to this day. We met together again recently and she updated me on where her BAM journey is up to.

Sharing Rebekah’s story highlights what goes through heart and mind in the lead up to the birth of a BAM company. The hopes and fears, the longings and motivations, the voices of encouragement and discouragement, and the vision that keeps us moving.

When did the idea of you starting a BAM business first take root?

I was on a community development project for two years and saw the underlying problem of people needing jobs. The lack of employment or sub-standard pay in the region resulted in uneducated daughters being sent out to work. In the area I live and work in I did research on human-trafficking. I visited communities that were affected by the problem. I saw girls with little education being trafficked or lured into the big cities with the promise of jobs. I joined a team with the focus on after-care for little girls who came out of the trauma of trafficking. Now looking forward in time, I know that long-term these girls will become women who will still need good jobs. Read more