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.
2. Keep an eye on the cash
From being adequately capitalised to start with, to knowing exactly what money is moving where, knowing your numbers was the next most mentioned success factor, with over half the BAMers citing it as key.
Know your numbers every day at least.
For us it’s been really important to have a firm grasp of our cash flow position and projections through daily accounting reports.
Start with adequate capital!
Positive cash flow and profitability is essential. We need good stewardship and management skills to work out revenue vs expenses in order to stay financially positive. That way we’ve been able to plan wisely for future expansion, company and career growth for staff. Sure, money is not the ultimate goal for a BAM model but without it, there’s no sustainability.
Organic growth has allowed us to succeed. We hire based on the business that comes in. God has really blessed us in this area and He has dictated our growth by providing both the clients and staff needed at the right time.
3. Give it your all
Personal commitment and dedication is an essential factor for BAM success. From risking your own money and having ‘skin in the game’, to working hard and not giving up. Guts, determination and persistence has been a key ingredient for the BAM practitioners we asked.
Believing in the business enough to be heavily personally invested has been important; demonstrating our own commitment and risking our own finances in first, before asking others.
Persistence and perspiration is essential.
Loads of perseverance underpinned with prayer. Finding life-giving sources of strength and inspiration and drawing on them. Keeping going and not being willing to give up.
Being tenacious and not giving up has been a top factor in our success.
Execute tasks without procrastination – a poor decision is better that no decision, you can always change it later.
4. Hire the right people
Having the right people with the right mix of skills, experience and passion is a significant factor for BAM success.
Hiring well has been vital. We’ve been able to hire senior staff who are not only talented technically but also have good interpersonal skills who work well within a team.
We’ve had the right leadership in place in our manufacturing facilities and that has been crucial.
Having a vision is important, but then having experienced business people on board who believe in that vision and commit to bringing their skills and resources – mainly around financial planning / reporting, and market access – that has been really significant.
5. Produce quality products and services that meet a market need
Without customers and sales there is no business – sustained sales growth will not come without a reputation for quality goods and services.
Majoring on quality has been a key success factor: in production, in responses with customers, in our communication and in our servant leadership stance.
There has been a good fit between our product/service and the market we serve – we specialize on a particular product and complete our jobs to customer satisfaction.
When you have great products and services, business will come to you. I strongly believe that if you’re called to be an entrepreneur for missions, you must aim to excel in your products and services. That in itself, is a great testimony to glorify God’s craftsmanship in you!
6. Establish your brand and market well
Closely following on from having a great product or service is making sure your potential customers know about it. Focus on brand positioning and marketing was mentioned a number of times as a key factor in keeping these BAMers in business.
Marketing, marketing, marketing!
Having a great ‘brand image’ and reputation for delivery top quality services is key. As is developing a ‘pipeline’ for contracts leading through from initial marketing to sales and to contract completion.
Developing a unique product concept and brand positioning was central to our success. Our food concept was unique to the dining scene in China and became an almost instant hit among the expatriate community. Word of mouth spread and lots of media coverage on our great food, amazing service and chic interior design propelled our popularity.
7. Follow a business plan
Business planning comes further down on the list than you might have been expecting, but it is definitely still on the list as a vital factor in business success.
Do your homework! Plan!
Ask lots of questions when you are starting up! Don’t forge ahead in pride and arrogance – do research, develop a business plan and then ask lots of difficult questions about it.
Having a business plan and following it was paramount for avoiding failure.
8. Keep your vision and purpose central
And last, but definitely not least, having a clearly articulated vision and purpose for a BAM company is integral to staying on track and longevity. Strong values and company culture that stem from the core purpose of the business is an important factor for success.
Keeping focused on what we want to achieve has been critical.
Our company culture (built on our vision) has been essential. Strong purpose has kept the team united towards a clear vision such that smaller operational ups and downs felt mostly like bumps in the road.
Having a clear vision is important.
Compiled by Jo Plummer, with thanks to the BAM practitioners who shared their experiences.
Jo Plummer is the Co-Chair of the BAM Global Think Tank and co-editor the Lausanne Occasional Paper on Business as Mission. She has been developing resources for BAM since 2001 and currently serves as Editor of the Business as Mission website.