Business Hope in Adversity: An Interview with a BAM Company in the Middle East

In our series this month “Exploring BAM as Justice: Choosing Hope in the Face of Challenge” we’re taking a deep dive into the intersection of faith, business, and complex global realities. We’ll be looking at business as mission’s impact on poverty and justice issues across the globe. In this interview, we have the privilege of hearing from a BAM practitioner in the Middle East.

 

Malika H and her husband began their tourism company in Türkiye over 20 years ago.

The couple has since fostered not only a highly successful business – bringing in sustainable profits and demonstrating their commitment to the four bottom lines – but also a vibrant and close-knit community within their company.

The couple’s appreciation for life makes them excellent curators of delightful experiences for customers and friends who travel to Türkiye. Having spent time with them in the past, I also witnessed firsthand how they cultivate a culture of genuine joy, optimism, and connection around them.

It hasn’t always been easy. External threats and difficult operating conditions have affected this company in tangible ways. For this series on BAM as Justice, we wanted to share a firsthand perspective of holding onto hope and demonstrating integrity and justice, in the face of challenge.

….and to make it your ambition to lead a quiet life: You should mind your own business and work with your hands, just as we told you, so that your daily life may win the respect of outsiders and so that you will not be dependent on anybody.
1 Thes 4: 11-14

I took a sip of my morning coffee as Malika set up her camera. It was still dark out, my eyes were still adjusting to the bright desk light, and although my questions weren’t as elegantly prepared as I would have liked, I knew that what I would hear from Malika was going to be good.

It was sweet to see her again, even if just over video chat.

I pulled up my notes and started by asking Malika to add some background:

What sort of company is it? Where are they located? How did they start? And how do they navigate operating a business in their region?

Our tourism company is located in Türkiye, which is a very desirable destination on the global travel scene. We don’t usually have to convince people to want to come here, nevertheless, it can be a volatile area.

We started our company several years after 9/11, which set the stage for the reality of what it’s like to run a tourism company in a part of the world that is connected to the Middle East. At that time, all the tourism had dropped, and it was a long process requiring a period of stability and calm to see the industry return.

Since then, we’ve had to ride several waves of ups and downs…

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Fruitful Practices for a Healthy BAM Business Team

‘Team troubles’ were one of the top 4 reasons BAM mentors gave for practitioners giving up and going home. The ability to build effective teams and work through difficult team dynamics is therefore crucial for the sustainability of BAM companies. In this interview, we talk to Luke, a BAM business owner living in the Middle East, about his business story and what ingredients make for healthy business teams.

 

What general principles do you have for any company team for building healthy team relationships?

As soon as you want to build a scalable business the business team becomes super-important. The essence of a successful business is in the team, rather than the individual. To grow you need to be able to manage the business as a team, you need to be able to be on the same page.

I think at the heart of healthy team relationships there is good communication and honesty. These build trust, they reduce the sense of isolation, and they bring unity and agreement on strategy. This is particularly important for teams in multiple locations when there is a high risk of feeling isolated or misunderstood.

Honesty is crucial. Getting to the right level of honesty to enable the team to be most effective can be painful and humbling. Sometimes I don’t want to share when things go wrong, or it’s not looking as good as I hoped. Pride can lead us to partial honesty. I am talking about the temptation to overplay a lead or exaggerate about a potential client because you want to look good. However, partial honesty seriously reduces the ability of the team to manage the business, because they don’t have a clear enough picture of what’s going on.

To reach the kind of honesty required, there has to be trust and commitment in the relationship. It’s a bit like a marriage covenant: you say to someone, “It doesn’t matter what you do, we are going to stay married.” Although a business partnership is different, there has to be a degree of trust and security in the relationship, an appropriate level of commitment.

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Helping BAM Practitioners Start Well and Endure for the Long-Term

by Jo Plummer

Recently I received a question about training resources and spiritual courses from a BAM practitioner who reads our blog. There already are lots of great resources on this site and elsewhere for helping BAMers start well and endure for the long-term. This post is designed to introduce some resources that BAM practitioners may find helpful for both preparing to launch into BAM and enduring long.

However, having asked advice from a few other business as mission leaders, we identified that there are relatively few dedicated, BAM-related resources for what the mission community calls ‘member care – that is helping ensure the personal, physical, relational and spiritual well-being of BAM practitioners. There are, however, many general member care and spiritual life resources that we can glean from in the wider Christian community, and a selection of these are also listed below.

Please get in touch if you would be interested in being part of a future task force on the specific topic of ‘Member Care for BAM Practitioners’.

Training & Preparation: Launching Well

How do people get from BAM vision to BAM reality? What training resources are there out there for BAM practitioners? What factors help launch BAMers out into stable, successful business as mission enterprises? What are the skills and characteristics that BAM companies are looking for as they recruit? How do potential BAMers best develop themselves and prepare for doing business as mission?

Here are some places to start:

  • Courses & Training Page – BAM Resource Library
    Looking for some BAM-related training? Start with the Courses & Training page in the Resource Library here on the BAM website for a list of training organisations and course providers related to BAM. Follow that up by browsing the Video & Audio Page which links to many Podcasts and Video Series which have great content and are all totally free to access. (And of course we have great Books and Papers listed too, as well as over 550 Blogs to read – see Blog Categories listed on this page!)

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Stewarding a Fruitful and Balanced Life: Questions for Self-Evaluation

by Jeff Hostetter & Evan Keller of Creating Jobs Inc

As we begin a new year, we are posting some ‘foundational’ material on our biblical foundations for business as mission and how we respond to God’s call in each of our individual lives and circumstances.

Want a tool for 2022 growth? In the tradition of assessing areas of growth in the new year, Jeff and Evan created a set of penetrating self-assessment questions in these various aspects of life: growing spiritually, investing in self, managing God’s gifts, stewarding vocations, and nurturing relationships. 

Self-Evaluation Questions for Intentional Growth in Following Jesus

“…so that you may live a life worthy of the Lord and please him in every way: bearing fruit in every good work, growing in the knowledge of God” – Colossians 1:10

Growing Spiritually

  • Christ-centered: Am I keeping Jesus, his person, his grace, his example, and his Kingdom mission at the center of my life?
  • Scripture: Am I regularly soaking in God’s Word in multiple ways (listening, meditating, memorizing, studying, and applying)?
  • Character: Do my choices reveal an intention to become more and more like Jesus? Am I growing in Christlike traits, including the fruit of the Spirit?
  • Integrity: Do my private thoughts, words and actions match the person I portray to others?
  • Humility: How am I battling pride and putting others first in my thoughts and actions?
  • Gratitude: How am I replacing complaining with gratitude throughout each day?
  • Identity: Am I secure as a child of God or do I try to prove myself by what I say and do?
  • Purpose: Am I joining God in his mission by using my gifts to glorify him and bless others?
  • Spiritual Gifts: How am I using my spiritual gifts to build up the Body of Christ?
  • Accountability: Who do I regularly lean on for prayer and support in my areas of weakness? What sins am I confessing and repenting of lately?
  • Mentors: Who am I seeking mentoring from in key areas of needed growth?
  • Maturity: How have I grown in the last six months?
  • Idols: Am I examining my heart and inviting God to destroy anything that seeks to usurp his supremacy?
  • Corporate Worship: Am I regularly encountering God and exploring His Word with other believers?
  • Prayer: Am I praying regularly for my family, community, nation, the lost, the poor, the local and global church, and for God’s Kingdom to come “on earth as it is in heaven”?
  • Death: Defying the cultural denial of death, am I “numbering my days”, preparing spiritually, relationally, and financially for my eventual passing?
  • Kingdom: Am I nurturing a longing for God’s Kingdom, including regularly imagining how small and large things in various aspects of life will be different in the Shalom of the Kingdom?

Investing in Self 

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Moving From Anxiety to Freedom as a Kingdom Entrepreneur

by Stu Minshew

 

Fear vs. Anxiety

Restless nights, imagining disaster scenarios, legs bouncing up and down, gulping caffeine to push through, poor concentration, irritable – Do any of these sound familiar? If so, you are not alone. Fear and anxiety, and their associated mental and physical markers, are extremely prevalent in the entrepreneurial world.

If you’re like me, I bet you can quickly name at least 3 fears or anxieties that you currently have about your business.

Do we have enough money in the bank?

Will our product or service sell?

What if my co-founder quits?

What if I get fired by my board?

Who’s my next major competitor?

Often, we think that once we reach our next business milestone, fear and anxiety will magically dissipate. Like me, you’ve probably found this isn’t true. In fact, each new milestone usually compounds my fears. The bigger you play, the bigger the stakes, the bigger the fears.

Success, higher profitability, and a bigger income doesn’t solve our problems and eliminate our fears. Thinking that it will is a lie Satan and our culture tells us on a routine basis. They are not bad goals in and of themselves, but when we turn them into mini “saviors”, they can have devastating effects on our mental and spiritual wellbeing.

Give It a Name

To break free from our fear and anxiety, we must begin by knowing when we are experiencing it.

Our fears often live in our subconscious, so we sometimes fail to notice when they are running the show. That’s why we need to be able to identify the mental and physical markers – insomnia, poor concentration, feeling down on yourself, jittery, eyes twitching, experiencing racing or unwanted thoughts, avoiding challenges, etc.

When you experience these markers, you’ll need to dig deeper to get to the root fears and anxieties causing them. If you are currently experiencing this, take some time to pray that the Holy Spirit will help reveal your root fears and anxieties.  Read more

So What Shall We Do Tomorrow? How We Have Endured

One day down

Sleep deprived, stressed, hiding in the office to cry, then pulling it together and working hard physically, attempting to speak a foreign language, smiling at potential customers, doing everything for the first time, from start to finish, from nerve-wracking open to exhausted and exuberant close. We did it! There was cash in the drawer to prove it. Success!!! We made it through… Day one.

We arrived home near midnight, our three small boys in tow. As we straggled through the door, my husband turned to me and said, “So what shall we do tomorrow?”

I stopped. I stared at him. Then I’m pretty sure I laughed. Barely.

All the focus for years and months had been to start a business. Now it was started. We were worn out, but the real work had just begun.

Later we learned that starting a business is like having a baby. In so many ways. One moment it appears unbelievably fragile. The next moment it’s screaming its lungs out in a show of robust strength. Helpless. Demanding. Exceedingly needy!

There was one American woman who understood this business-baby analogy before we did. She visited us the first day at the shop, congratulated us, and gave us a lasagne. Read more

Entrepreneur Mental Wellness Needs a New Story

by Stu Minshew

 

The Big Problem

As a global society, we’re having much more productive conversations about mental wellbeing. In many places, we’ve begun to normalize the struggles we all face, seek help, and encourage others to do the same. Yet some days, and in some circles, it feels like we still have a long way to go. I believe entrepreneur circles and startup communities have some work to do in this regard.

I’ve been in entrepreneur circles for many years and I wouldn’t change that for anything. But there is a problem, and as followers of Christ, we have the freedom and responsibility to shine the light on this problem. Doing so allows us to talk about it with openness and honesty in order to lovingly serve and care for our brothers and sisters who are entrepreneurs.

Businesses Creates Change

Business, and entrepreneurship in particular, can be and have been powerful change agents for God’s Kingdom. For thousands of years, business has transformed communities, cities, nations, and the globe. It has helped pull millions of people out of poverty.

Sadly, business has also had its share of greed-fueled disasters that have negatively impacted thousands of people, or even whole populations. Thankfully, these instances only represent a small portion of the history of business. The global story of business is filled with examples of positive impact. It has been used to drive development, education, and innovation. For those following Jesus, it creates opportunities to join His work to usher in the Kingdom. 

I see glimpses of God’s Kingdom in the world of entrepreneurship. The vast majority of Christian entrepreneurs I know are deeply committed to making a difference. Are they looking to make a profit and have more control over their schedule? Absolutely! But they also believe their product or service is glorifying God and improving their lives of their customers.

Many seek to improve the lives of their employees and point them to Christ. Others use the freedom created by entrepreneurship to transform their family or community. It may take on many forms, but Christian entrepreneurs are helping usher in God’s Kingdom.  Read more

BAM Endurance: Principles and Habits for Long-term Fruitfulness

One of the foundations of business as mission is that the company must be profitable and sustainable – otherwise how can it be a business long-term? We know that making sales, maintaining cash-flow and reaching profitability are a non-negotiables for BAM company health. Commercial success is critical.

But what else besides commercial success is vital to the endurance of a BAM company – or indeed to the BAM practitioners who run it?

Endurance vs Attrition

Missionary attrition is a term adopted by ‘member care’ experts to describe missionaries quitting the field earlier than planned and the factors that contribute to that. There is much we can learn from the wider mission community about the causes and cures of stress and attrition, however, when you add a commercial operation into the mix, there is an added layer of complexity.

What are the stressors common to business as mission that wear down a company’s chances of long-term survival? What causes practitioners to give up and go home? What causes BAM attrition, and conversely, what helps BAMers endure? Read more

Thriving vs Surviving: Building Skills and Support for BAMers

by Robert Andrews

Editors Note: When we asked veteran BAM leaders to identify some of the pressing issues that are facing the business as mission movement in the next decade, among the issues they identified were several areas that could broadly be categorized as ‘resource gaps for BAM companies’, including:

1. Adequate financial capital flow.

2. Adequate human capital flow – both in terms of a) recruiting the right kind of people to begin and sustain a BAM company, and b) succession planning and the successful transition of a BAM company from one generation of owners to another.

3. Adequate support for BAM practitioners, especially mentoring, accountability and care.

We have been posting articles covering each of these issues during the month of June, this week concluding with providing adequate support for BAMers.

Building Adequate Skills and Support for BAM Practitioners

There are many challenges facing the BAM community and it’s encouraging to see so much effort going to understanding and addressing these. One of the thornier issues is how best to support BAM practitioners in their work. These can be nationals trying to build the Kingdom in their home countries or foreigners who have committed to business in a cross-cultural setting. Both need support, but what support to give and how to give it is a current and urgent discussion.

Leading a BAM business requires a large set of skills, some of which one hopes the BAM practitioner has at the outset, but many of which will have to be learned, hired, purchased, or borrowed from others. A beginning list of these skills could fall under the following headings:

  • General business:  finance, marketing, sales, HR, strategy, operations, business law; the stuff of an MBA
  • Industry specific:  how to make the product or deliver the service, the industry sales and pricing dynamics, and familiarity with the global market leaders
  • BAM general:  the theology of BAM and an understanding of how to make a spiritual impact while operating a business, plus access to a BAM network
  • Country/Region specific:  language, culture, worldview, local religion, local political, social or environmental issues, local business practices and law; plus the local spiritual dynamics, the status abd challenges of the local church, and an awareness of what God is doing in the region
  • Personal/Family: emotional intelligence, strong personal spiritual life, character, care for family members, marital strength, physical health and habits

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Are We Drifting? The Dangers of Secularization for a BAM Company

by David Skews

The Problem

While we can talk about the dangers of “mission drift” or the “secularization of BAM businesses”, I would argue that it is not really the mission that drifts, nor do businesses, come to think about it!

Recently, while talking to the owners of a failed start-up I was advised that the reason the “business failed” was that there was not enough customers to buy their products. I mused, “How was that the business’s fault?” You may accuse me of being too particular about the use of language. However, our use of language can sometimes be a mask that causes us to deceive ourselves. Sometimes it is easier to blame “something”, anything, before fully examining ourselves.

I would argue that any “drift” or “secularization” for a BAM company is more likely to be our drift from our personal relationship with God and His people, over any external influence.

So why did that business fail? It would help if we could apply the “5 Whys” method for getting to the core issue. We can apply this method anywhere, whether it to our mission, our business, our marriage, church, school etc. Some people ask 6 or even 7 whys, like I have here:

  • Why did the business fail? (failed to plan)
  • Why did the market move? (markets do)
  • Why did you not see that before? (failed to research)
  • Why did you not do the research? (failed to appreciate the importance of research)
  • Why did you feel it was not necessary? (sales, quality, environment, staff were taking my time)
  • Why did you fail to prioritize? (failed to take time for the important things)
  • Why did you not do the important things? (failed to balance life)

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