Business as Mission: What Do I Have to Offer?

by Larry Sharp

Post first published on the IBEC Ventures Blog, reposted with kind permission.

This question is sometimes asked me by North American kingdom business persons who own or manage businesses: “What can I offer as consultant, advisor, mentor or coach?”  It is a natural question for business persons living and working in a very different context from a business startup in Asia, Africa or the Middle East.

What is business anyway? Is it not something like this: an organization with appropriate management that provides a good or service and is created to earn a profit, serve customers and create jobs, community value and increase wealth? That is universal. Followers of Jesus have an integrated kingdom perspective in all they do (1 Corinthians 10:31) so they operate businesses for the glory of God. Faith is integrated into daily work.

A person who has owned a small or medium-sized business (or has worked in the management of such) has likely learned a great deal about one or more of the following. The things that have been learned can be passed on in a consulting, coaching, teaching or mentoring venue. Read more

Friday Links: Posts and Resources from the BAM Community

Every Friday we connect you with some of our recent favourite links. This week:

Posts and resources from the wider BAM community

The All Important Power of Accountability – Third Path

This last post in the Value to Vision series deals with how to create a culture of accountability because even the very executable plan you read about in the previous post will experience “failure to launch” without accountability. Accountability is exactly what the word says. Account-ability. It’s the ability to give account, to tell the story, to give an update on progress and struggles in executing a responsibility, action plan or project. When I ask someone where they are on a particular task what I’m looking for is information, a story, an update. “I’m here” or “I’m behind” or “I need more resources” or “I could use your input.”

Read more

Business on the Frontiers: Creating Jobs in Nepal

A landlocked nation hedged in by the Himalayas, Nepal is an isolated frontier. With high shipping costs, an unstable government and corruption cascading from the top down, Nepal presents a challenging climate for incoming foreigners to start a business – to put it mildly. Yet there are huge needs and opportunities. There are deep labour issues, with low minimum wages, a societal caste system that gives little hope for advancement, and 40% of the workforce currently unemployed. Many are vulnerable to the deceptive promises offered by human traffickers, whose main target is children from ages 5 to 14 years. Hundreds of thousands of Nepali migrants are already working as migrant laborers in the Middle East, often in dangerous or abusive situations. There is a great need for employment and job creation in Nepal.

Jimmy and Donna

Donna saw Nepal through the eyes of an 8 to 16 year old as she lived out these formative years in Kathmandu with her missionary parents. Returning to the United states she got her Bachelors degree at the University of Colorado and later took classes at Harvard, with a view to eventually work in the nonprofit world. Jimmy grew up in an Air Force family, attended the United States Air Force Academy (USAFA) and went on to graduate school at Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT). Jimmy and Donna met on a spring break mission trip while Jimmy was at USAFA in Colorado. Altogether Jimmy had 7 years of active duty service, including an assignment teaching at the Air Force Academy. During that time, they also volunteered at a Youth With a Mission (YWAM) training center.

Peter and Marit

Peter’s business story begins with chickens. It was the chickens he raised and sold on a farm growing up, to make his own money, that helped develop his mind for business. From those small beginnings, the seed for business grew and after high school Peter ran a small construction company. Read more

10 Characteristics BAM Recruiters Are Looking For [Infographic]

BAMer Ingredients

Created by Evan McCall for The BAM Review.

With thanks to Peter Shaukat – The Right Ingredients: 10 Essential Characteristics of a BAMer.

The Right Ingredients: 10 Essential Characteristics of a BAMer

Interview with Peter Shaukat – Part 2

With 15 years of experience recruiting for, mentoring, and investing in BAM companies all over the Arab world and Asia, Peter has a unique perspective into Human Resources for business as mission. Continuing our interview, we asked him to share what he sees as essential characteristics of a BAMer.

Tell us more about those character traits or criteria that you identify and look for in a potential BAMer.

This is where the rubber hits the road. We have developed an interesting questionnaire for potential BAM practitioners which get to some of these criteria. Here are ten of the top ranking criteria in our experience:

1. Well-rounded thinking
We look for a genuine, thoughtful understanding of work as ministry, with the experience and capacity to grapple with ethical issues, able to live with a certain degree of ambiguity – i.e. they are not black and white in their thinking.

2. Servant leaders
BAM practitioners, fundamentally, are called by God to a ministry of exercising servant-leadership in the marketplace – the arena which is, in our time, the most influential, agenda-setting nexus of human activity.  Understanding how to be an agent of redemption and transformation in such a context – and bringing some tangible experience to the table in doing so – is indispensable. Read more

Lessons from the Edge: Human Resources

Insights from a BAM Practitioner

‘Julia’ has been a business owner in Mongolia for 12 years.

Investing in people is challenging, but worth it
My husband likes to quote his habitat for humanity friend on this: “It is easy to build houses and so hard to build people”. Houses stay put where you build them and people are always changing – but the costly things are the precious ones. I have tried to be somewhat friendly with my employees and try to model respect, servant leadership, and creating a healthy work environment. I have also had to balance that by being firm in my approach and following up with consequences. Finding a healthy balance between respect and the friend who is the boss has been a key. Some of our oldest, most mature workers, have come back to me years later and thanked me for this model that they now understand but didn’t when they first worked for us.

Tread carefully with strongly held cultural-values
We’ve had lots of problems with staff not wanting to report to younger colleagues, or do certain jobs, because of their status in the culture. I used to think it was good to push them into this to learn humility. Now I think it is more respectful of the person to work with them in this up to a point. It is only the Lord who can work humility in people. I still have to consider the good of the business but as much as possible I try to work with my employees until they are ready for more. When I find someone willing and secure enough to take on cross-status challenges, I try to reward them and treasure their maturity with more responsibility and privilege.

It’s worth paying for good talent
We always paid minimum wage until the last two years when I found an over-qualified and competent worker. I just about broke the bank to get her a somewhat acceptable salary and she was worth her weight in gold! We never have to worry about our books going in the red with her around. I have learned that when you find a good worker it is well worth it to really do all you can to take care of them. I can’t afford not to, even if it is a stretch.

Friday Links: Posts and Resources on Faith at Work

Every Friday we connect you with some of our recent favourite links. This week:

Posts and resources from the marketplace ministries movement.
We hope you have a joyous Easter celebration!

What Christ’s Resurrection Means for How we Live and Work – Institute for Faith, Work and Economics

Does our earthly work matter to God? Yes it does, replies Darrell Cosden in his book The Heavenly Good of Earthly Work. Central to his argument is the bodily resurrection of Jesus, which the church celebrates this Easter. Cosden correctly asserts that Christ’s resurrection means three things for how we live and work in the world. 1. Christ’s Resurrection Affirms the Goodness of the Material World. God made us in his image, but we were made to be physical images as well. Our physicality isn’t a result of the Fall. We were created that way.

Read more

In the Shoes of a BAM Practitioner Part 2: More HR Challenges

Last week we unpacked the Top 3 biggest HR issues in business as mission – as related to us by 25 BAM Practitioners. We asked them:

What have been the most important HR issues in your BAM business experience?

Here are the rest of the Top 10 most frequently mentioned Human Resource challenges and some of the comments that business owners shared with us.

4. Lack of required skills in employees

The need for significant training and staff development when hiring locally, especially when targeting job creation for a specific group.

We employ adults with low literacy skills and chronically poor, with very complex lives  – this presents nested and multiple challenges – in a sense though this is why the business exists. – David, Asia

My biggest HR challenge is the critical thinking and problem solving skills within my Kenyan employees. They grew up in the rote educational system that didn’t develop it and they lack that capacity. There are few Kenyans that do have these skills, but they are typically already successfully running businesses and I can’t compensate them, or give them ownership stake in a way that will motivate them to join my company. – Brian, Kenya

Another challenge is building soft skills such as communication, creative thinking, team spirit, etc., among the staff. – Joseph, India

 A significant challenge is poor technical training. Usually it’s their first job. – Hans, Angola Read more