The Viking Spirit: BAM In and From the Nordic Region

We share 4 short excerpts of BAM stories both in and from the Nordic region. For the full case studies, see the BAM Global Think Tank report on BAM In and From the Nordic Region.

BAM In the Nordic Region

Hans Nielsen Hauge: Changing a nation 200 years ago

We might call Hans Nielsen Hauge the first social entrepreneur in the Nordic countries. Indeed it would also be true to say that he carried the values of business as mission as he clearly had a huge impact on individuals and society in financial, social and spiritual aspects.

As a serial entrepreneur he started as many as 30 companies in Norway within a period of 4 years in 1800-1804 – that is almost one company every second month. Busy man! These companies were not micro enterprises but rather larger scale industries such as factories, mills, ship yards, mines and printing presses.

Hauge traveled – mostly by foot – throughout most of Norway, from Tromso in the north to Denmark in the south. He held countless revival meetings, often after church services. In addition to his religious work, he offered practical advice, encouraging such things as settlements in Northern Norway and helping people start businesses.

As a social entrepreneur Hauge wasn’t motivated by becoming rich and did not pay dividends to shareholders. He was rather motivated to serve society. He plowed money back into the business and then turned operations and ownership over to others and moved on. His followers started many other industries in turn and in a period of extreme economic crisis, when almost all the prosperous timber barons and iron works owners went bankrupt because of the Napoleonic wars, he showed a way to prosperity for anyone with initiative. This led to a new rise in Norwegian economics some years after the independence in 1814. In this matter Hauge was but one of several contributors, but he was one of the most influential. He was especially influential in the way he combined economics and Christian morals: modesty, honesty and hard work, among others.

Outdoor Adventure Company in Norway

The company was established in March 2007 out of a desire to put Meløy and the district on the map. The owner and founder Anne wanted to see a population growth in the municipality of Meløy by being innovative, offering and creating new services and employment opportunities.

The company is an adventure and activity concept based in Engavågen, in the north of Norway. They organize and lead paddle tours, glacier tours, mountain tours, and cave tours and winter-arranged tours on skis. They are keen to help people in coping with life. Through participation on the trip a person gets to develop himself and his team in communication and (self) management and learn to cooperate with others. There are many exciting days with activities and adventures spiced up with good content.

Anne and her co-workers offer outdoor coaching with follow-up. They work with different issues depending on the needs of the group. The outdoor experience combined with coaching is to give a holistic approach to development and achievement. They arrange trips for tourists, businesses and leadership groups, schools and individuals. They serve both local and international markets. The business has been growing through publicity on TV, magazines and newspapers. This has resulted in a growing customer base within the region.

Anne has a passion for outdoor activities and also for influencing her community for Christ. Anne has grown up in a conventional, Dutch reformed church, where a steady Biblical foundation was given from early childhood – this made her even more excited to see change in people and see Gods principles lived out in the community and business life. Anne shares, “To me, being a Christian is about doing whatever you do with great passion and devotion. I want to step up and become better, more focused and point out the God who is already present – living my life modeling Christ, changing things around me because He lives within me.” 

Anne realised that building a business was the best way to achieve the dreams she had for using outdoor activities and would allow her to get more in touch with the community, making an impact on the region.

BAM From the Nordic Region

THEGG: Soft Skills in the Middle East

The story starts in 2003 when three partners interested in the BAM concept got the license for a well-known international leadership training company. They embraced the business project with enthusiasm; a board was formed with a mix of people from different backgrounds, staff were hired and so on. But quite early on THEGG faced financial problems, relocation to the business capital, lack of support from sending organizations, essential staff leaving, the financial crisis in 2008, and so on.

THEGG is active in the soft skills training industry and is mostly serving the middle management level of staff in global companies in the region and large to mid-size local companies. They have focused on training for productivity, leadership and many of the other soft skills typically needed by large and mid-size companies internationally. The business model was a franchise and therefore financial objectives were handed to them from start. 

Although there have been positive impacts, there have been many lessons learned the hard way. These have included poor financial viability, lack of experience of running a company of this kind, failure to locate the company in the business capital from the beginning, problems to reach top executives with training, lack of natural business networks, failing to address unpleasant realities of the market, high pressure from the parent company to localize new material and deliver new trainings.

Summary of lessons learned:

  • If possible involve a local partner and build a strong leadership team early on.
  • Don’t overrate the value of a verbal confession of faith when employing local Christians and make sure to invest in their character development.
  • Build relations to the sending organisations of partners, to avoid that their HR priorities add financial risk for partners and investors.
  • Invite an advisory board and treat them with professional respect. They can provide needed problem solving creativity and accountability.
  • Don’t underestimate the level of initial capital needed.
  • Face reality quickly and brutally, even at high cost. It can save the company from a slow death.
  • Decide from the start what each partners responsibilities and contributions shall be and how differences in work capacity and involvement will affect the distribution of shares.
  • Decide an exit strategy and process for company evaluation before starting up.
  • Conduct thorough market research to understand where to establish the company, what the size of the market is, what market segment to focus on and the product-market fit.
  • Be aware and clear about the teams competence mix and recruit early on the vitally needed additional competence.
  • Expect the unexpected at all times and if possible be the unexpected yourselves.
  • Do not underestimate the challenge—it is probably going to be twice as hard and four times as expensive as you think.
  • Make sure your motivation is solid—you will need it to break through the many walls you will face. If you have endurance it will be so worth it!
Language Center in Central Asia

The Language Center was established in 1993 and registered in Central Asia. Staff of the mission agency Youth With A Mission (YWAM) helped start the company under the leadership of YWAM Norway after the first YWAM teachers taught at a local university for two years. This gave them a platform but little freedom. After that they helped with the establishment of the company.

The Language Center is a private educational operation. It offers interactive, engaging courses in American English, the local language, and Korean. All teachers are train professionals. Different methods are used in the courses: education takes place through interaction, multimedia presentations and conversations. The Language Center also promotes the teaching of folk dancing and teaches about the national culture and values. These courses are offered to foreign students. The Center also offers workshops, for example, on general economics, business management, financial management and psychology.

Most students enrolled in the Language Center come from Central Asia and are part of the middle-class. These are the people who have the greatest need to learn English to be supplement their education. The Language Center also has some foreign students. Students have reported that they feel that there is a different atmosphere when they come into the building. This has also been said by non-believers or people who are followers of other religions. They see that the employees are Christians and thus is the Language Center a (pre) evangelism platform where relationships are given prominence.

The Language Center is important as a meeting place for foreigners. It also creates opportunities for obtaining visas and residence permits in the country, which is a substantial challenge. It creates jobs for believers and is a tie-in point for the team where they can immediately relate to young people and students. The Language Center also aims to train leaders, who in turn learn to discuss, talk and “argue”, so enabling them to be more effective witnesses. Personal faith is viewed as very important, both in terms of relationships and at work. Many have become Christians through the Language Center: through café visits outside the office or through home visits to/by the employees. Some of those were employed as teachers.

Read full stories in the BAM Global Think Tank Report

This post was adapted from original material published in the BAM Global Think Tank Regional Report on BAM In and From the Nordic Region.

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BAM is a global phenomenon. God is on the move around the world, calling men and women from all continents to start businesses for His Kingdom purposes. To highlight just some of what He is doing, and emphasise that business as mission is a global movement, we will take a tour around the BAM world for the next six weeks or so. We hope you enjoy the trip!