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When Things Go Wrong: 9 BAMers Share Mistakes & Misadventures

We asked some (otherwise very successful) BAM Practitioners that we know to share some of the errors, disasters and unfortunate events that they have experienced in their business as mission journeys. Here nine BAMers share eleven stories about their mistakes and misadventures:

They Didn’t Come…

In our first years we did not have enough focus on sales and revenue, it was more of a “build it and they will come” mindset. It almost killed us. Then the solution was to hire a sales guy in the US, but the problem was twofold; first I should never have tried to outsource sales so early as CEO and second I hired a great guy but one that had bigger company experience and not the early entrepreneurial sales experience needed at our stage. This was a second failure on the sales side that almost killed us. I have come to fully understand the saying “no margin, no mission” and put sales as a key priority for myself until we got fully into orbit and could hand it off to the right person with right experience for our company stage, deal size and industry. MC

Too Many Cabinets

There’s two ways you can kill a startup: too little business and too much business. A couple of years ago, our 5 month old custom cabinet business was featured on our local news station. In our exuberance, we signed up too many customers with an unrealistic view of how quickly we could complete jobs. In less than a month, we had ended up with upset customers and significant cash flow problems as we made mistakes in our rush to complete jobs whilst also missing deadlines. In this case, we were able to recover our financial footings through a few key factors: Our product ultimately was a good fit with customer demand, so after apologizing and then completing jobs satisfactorily, we were able to refine our product and service to even better serve our customers. We started specializing in only Shaker Cabinets which sped up our production time and allowed us to more strategically market to our customers. Finally, our grasp of our cash flow position enabled us to raise funds in time (through God’s abundant blessing) to make it through our mistake and onto the future. JR  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

7 Creative Ways that Practitioners Integrate Business and Mission

A defining characteristic of a BAM company is that it intentionally integrates mission with business. But what does that look like in practice? What are some creative ways that practitioners work out their goals for spiritual impact, alongside their commercial, social and environmental goals?

We asked a small group of practitioners to share what they do in the business context that moves them towards their missional goals and spiritual impact. This could be something they did when establishing the company, or practices they do on a regular basis in the day-to-day life of the business. The practitioners shared a diverse range of specific practices, but there were some common themes. These seven ways to integrate business and mission stood out:

Keep Purpose Front and Center

Keeping the purpose, vision and objectives of the company at the forefront emerged as a key principle. This is important all the way through the life of the company, from the planning stages and goal setting, to evaluating those goals and choosing measures, to on-boarding processes for new hires, to daily communication with employees. Read more

Making a Pivot

by Michelle McDonald Pride

Before a strategic rebrand, our business was called Trading Hope. We were growing, but well aware of looming trends in the marketplace and patterns in our business that indicated a future decline in revenue. A mentor to me half joked and half warned that if we did not change something, we would soon be called Fading Hope. Our rebrand was an outward representation of a major strategic pivot.

Some of the most well known brands have successfully pivoted. Wrigley Gum used to give away pieces of gum on the soap they sold. Facebook and YouTube began as dating sites. Even Avon began as a book business that gave away free perfume with a purchase. While these examples are drastic, they are all incredible pivots that recognized the advantage of changing strategy.

Being able to pivot as a social enterprise is one of the most important, yet difficult concepts to approach. How do you pivot your social enterprise without sacrificing your impact? Most social entrepreneurs do not begin their business based on a market need and opportunity; they begin based on targeting a social problem or a particular community group in need. The entire business model is often upside down. For this reason alone, pivots are of critical importance for social enterprises.

What is a pivot

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How Agriculture Ends Poverty: 
3 Discoveries About What Works

by Roxanne Addink DeGraaf

Growing up in Iowa, the agricultural heartland of the United States, I was surrounded by farms. I remember childhood summers milking cows and “walking beans” (walking between rows of soybeans to pick weeds) on my grandparent’s farm. I saw how the farm put food on the table, as I always enjoyed a cold glass of milk from the dairy after chores.

After college, I began to understand agriculture from the perspective of small-scale farmers in Kenya. I worked for two years alongside women who spent long days in their fields to not only put food on the table, but also to earn an income for their families. Everything from buying school uniforms to medical services relied on their farm’s output.

And this is not unique to Kenya. Traveling the globe with Partners Worldwide, I’ve continued to witness the centrality of agriculture in many countries and communities where we work, from subsistence farmers to thriving cooperatives.

Agriculture: A Primary Occupation of the Poor

While employment in agriculture is declining overall, agriculture is still the primary occupation for one in three people in the world (FAO). For people living in poverty, 70% live in rural areas and the majority are involved in agriculture (World Bank/Gates Foundation).

At Partners Worldwide, these facts are shaping how we work towards our vision to end poverty through business so that all may have abundant life.

We recently launched a pilot initiative focused on supporting and leveraging the resources of our partners in Africa who were already serving the agricultural sector. This pilot has been our learning lab. We’ve had some failed experiments, while other interventions have led to powerfully positive outcomes. Overall, the results affirm the vital role that agriculture plays in ending poverty.  Read more

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

AND THE AWARD GOES TO...

Our goal is to provide the BAM Community with the best content and resources available. As we head into summer we are highlighting various articles and resources which have stood out in the past 6 months. Below is the “Staff Pick” for January to July 2017.

Please enjoy and thanks for following!

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

When Things Go Right: 8 Success Factors to Keep You from Failing

To round out our ‘Learning from BAM Failure’ series, we circle back around to what helps you succeed. We asked the same BAM practitioners who shared failure stories to also share what kept their businesses from going under completely.

We asked: If you had to give the top two or three reasons for your overall business success, what factors would you share?

Here is a rundown of their combined responses in a Top 8 list of ‘What Went Right’

1. Build a wider network and community

Mentioned in some form by almost all the practitioners we asked, top of the list is creating a robust network around the business and its owners. These BAMers said that forging strong partnerships and building a community of mentors/supporters was key. Avoiding isolation is vital.

Having world class partners has been essential.

As an owner, share the challenges you face with your board, investors, mentors, etc. Tell the truth, early and often.

Surround yourself with counsel. Stay attached to God and his people either through a church/agency or personal mentor or coach.

I’ve succeeded because I’ve had a spouse that has stood by me through thick and thin, not to mention a relationship with my business partner built on tremendous trust and respect. It’s also been important to have mentors and coaches walking closely with us.

A success factor for me has been being well networked in the wider business community as well as the BAM community nationally.

Integration with the local University has been essential. Strong relationships with key professors has allowed us to get first picks on some of the best students who come to do internships with us and eventually become junior staff members.

Read more