We asked a team of BAM experts to give some practical advice for BAM practitioners creating business plans. For this post we asked them about key stakeholders in the business planning process.
A stakeholder is anyone with an interest in a business. Stakeholders are individuals, groups or organisations that are affected by the activity of the business. – BBC
Mats Tunehag, Larry Sharp and Garry all actively mentor frontline BAM companies – as well as teach and write on BAM. We also asked business woman Julia to share about a stakeholder she has found helpful in her business in Mongolia. Read more about them below.
Here are 12 stakeholders they mentioned, there are others:
- Investors – owners, bank or investment company
- Business people – in companies working cross-culturally in your business or industry
- Business consultant – someone with specialist knowledge
- Colleagues – management and staff
- Customers – those likely to be your clients
- Suppliers – of essential materials and services for your business
- Community – local society and also the physical environment
- Cultural expert – someone with insight into engaging with local community
- Government official – someone who can give you insight and be an advocate for you
- Body of Christ – local church community, mission organisations and supporting churches
- Spiritual advisor or mentor – someone with wise counsel you can be accountable to
- God – the most important stakeholder
Who do you feel it is essential to engage with as you develop a business plan for a BAM company? Why are these particular stakeholders so important?
First list all the stakeholders, and make sure God is one of them. Secondly, try to understand how your business will affect various stakeholders, and possibly have positive impact on them. How will you / the business serve them? Thirdly, realize that the business is accountable to many stakeholders, but in various ways and degrees. Some will be formal and direct. Others informal and indirect. How will you be accountable to them? Example of stakeholders: Investors, Staff, Customers, Suppliers, Community, God
There are three people that you should certainly engage:
- Business person – someone that has already done the business you are interested in doing. Often new potential business owners see the world through rose colored glasses. This is actually an essential quality of any business person – you have to believe that success it at least possible. But you also have to find out what is actually required to do this business.
- Cultural expert – someone who is familiar with the culture. Roles, responsibilities and attitudes towards work are not necessarily the same from one culture to another. Evaluating your own expectations and then linking them with local expectations is essential. Not recognizing this is like launching a perfectly good brand new boat into mine-filled waters. You’ll be fine for a while, but sooner or later you’ll hit a mine and there goes your new boat to the bottom of the ocean.
- Spiritual advisor or accountability person – BAM is not merely an exercise in business practices. You will be under attack. Learn from others what to expect and how to deal with it. This kind of mentor is the hardest person to find. Many mission agencies don’t yet truly understand BAM, so relying on them for this support, while certainly a good first step, should probably not be your only resource in this area.
I would suggest that if the “would-be BAM practitioner” is an entrepreneur or business owner it is mandatory to engage with the following persons:
- Your investors – people who take an equity position usually have something to say about one or more elements of the business.
- A business consultant who has experience in one or more of the following: your product; your country; business startups, or experience in success or failure. No startup should be without consulting help.
- Another similar business owner doing business cross culturally. I usually recommend that you visit another company which is functioning and is very similar to what you hope to accomplish, no matter where it is in the world – though it should be cross-cultural.
We involved our local official (responsible for the district we work in) in our plans. This is the lowest level but also grassroots level government official. She appreciated our communication with her and that we didn’t only go to the high level offices. We related our goals to improve the lives of young people and workers with the healthy environment we aimed to create. She was on board from the beginning and made much of our set up smooth by her advice. We try to touch base once a year and keep her in the loop if we make changes that might affect or reflect on the district.
Any tips for engaging with those stakeholders? Any wisdom to share or best approaches?
One tip to start with is to ask for their wisdom and experience. Most people feel valued when you ask them questions and have a spirit of wanting to listen, learn and apply what is learned. Secondly I have found developing an advisory team to be productive. For example, an advisory team we set up for a company in North Africa has someone from the home church, a consultant, an investor, and a successful owner of another company in the country. Another thought would be to have a regular phone or skype call with people like this (stakeholders) to share your hard things and good news and ask for their thoughts. They know you are the owner and are doing BAM in another culture and they know you will have to sift through their input, but you will likely pick up some pearls of wisdom from their life and business experience.
Mentors and advisors are busy people. When I owned my own business I would get random phone calls from young people asking to come and chill with me for a while during the busy business day so we could discuss their future. I would say to myself, “What are you talking about? I’m up to my neck in alligators trying to keep this place going and you want to come and waste my time? I don’t think so.” However, I have mentored many young people. Here’s how we would find each other: I would look for young people that appeared to have the initiative, training, had done some preliminary work on their idea and also demonstrated the potential to accept advice. Therefore, if I did spend my valuable personal time with them then there was at least a chance that it was not time wasted and might even prove to be beneficial.
Mentors, don’t grow on trees. You have to search them out. Ask people in your circle of acquaintances who they recommend for advice and mentoring. Your approach is also very important. Be prepared. Don’t start off a conversation with something like, “I want to start a bakery in Tuktoyaktuk (a real place), what do you think?” Do some homework about bakeries. Find out what the local bakeries in your target area do and why might there be a demand for your products and services. Think of a mentor/advisor as a car racing coach. It will go a lot better with any potential advisor if you show up with a race car instead of showing up and asking them how to build a race car so can then enter the race!
When engaging with investors please make sure that you and the investors appreciate the purpose and the nature of a BAM business. This includes embracing multiple bottom-lines and multiple stakeholders. For all of us in general but for investors in particular we need to understand the difference between a Wall Street concept and a BAM Street Concept.
When engaging with the church and mission agencies remember that BAM is not doing business with a touch of ‘churchianity’. We also need to understand that we cannot convert anyone or force a spiritual impact. In the words of the apostle Paul: I planted, Apollos watered, but God caused it to grow. Prayer is essential with God as our prime stakeholder. We must be prepared for another day, week, year, and decade in the business, as we constantly and intentionally shape the business for God and people – for many stakeholders and for multiple bottom-lines. God may in his wisdom and time use our professionalism, excellence and integrity in business to bring people to himself. For further glimpses on what we are to do and what we can expect God to do, as we do BAM, see Business as Mission: Chronos and Kairos. A Biblical worldview on time is essential.
Larry Sharp is the Founder and current Director of Strategic Training and Partnerships of a Business for Transformation (BAM, B4t) consulting firm, International Business and Education Consultants (www.ibecventures.com). Larry served 21 years in Brazil and then 20 years as Crossworld VP of Operations and as Vice President of Business Partnerships. He is currently a VP Emeritus and consultant with Crossworld. Since 2007 he has devoted energies toward Business as Mission (BAM) and currently is a consultant on BAM and education themes. Larry travels within North America speaking and teaching in conferences, colleges and churches on themes related to Business As Mission (BAM, B4t) and missions. His travels abroad relate to BAM, crisis preparation and management, and team building.
Mats Tunehag serves on the European Economic Summit Steering Committee and is the Senior Associate on Business as Mission for both the Lausanne Movement and World Evangelical Alliance Mission Commission. He is the co-editor of the Lausanne Occasional Paper on Business as Mission and currently the co-chair of BAM Global. He also serves with a global investment fund based on Christian values that helps SMEs to grow in size, profitability and holistic impact in the Arab world and Asia. Visit MatsTunehag.com for more resources from Mats.
Garry is a retired businessman who has been mentoring small businesses for the last 20 years. He has been involved in cross cultural business activities for the last 10 years and has visited 20 countries during that time. Garry and his wife are doing small business training and funding in a restricted access country in Asia. Having started, grown and sold his own business he understands the trials, potential pitfalls and necessary success factors of day to day business activities. He continues to learn and share about the cross cultural aspects of business and especially the need to learn about and manage expectations in the local cultural context.
Julia has been a business owner in Mongolia for 12 years.