Setting a Course: How to Clarify Vision and Implement Strategy for BAM Pioneers

by Bernie Anderson

My name is Bernie Anderson and I have the honor of taking over the BAM blog for the next several weeks. I am a certified business and nonprofit consultant with Growability® – read more in my bio below. 

This is Part 2 of a series. Read Part 1 here.

 

Like many American kids growing up in the 70s and 80s, my parent’s car always had a copy of the Rand McNally Road Atlas under the seat. In fact, I’m certain my parents still keep one.

Our family habit was road trips to obscure points in middle-America, and sometimes I could sit in the front seat. That meant I took on the position of navigator. In my family, the navigator’s job was to hold the Atlas, make sure we stayed on route, and warn the driver (always my dad) of upcoming turns or changes in directions. It all felt so important. Indeed, sometimes it very much was. A more reliable GPS has replaced the Rand McNally Road Atlas in the lap of a 10-year-old navigator. But the fact remains: Navigation is a crucial part of any road trip.

Navigation is the primary task of leadership in a business.

Every business leader should know two things:

  • Where we’re going
  • How we’re getting there

In my consulting work with Growability®, we provide clients with a “business operating system” built on the three simple ingredients of every organization: Leadership, Management, and marketing. I can’t understate the crucial nature of each of these.

Let’s begin with the most foundational element.

  • Leadership is your business’ navigation system.
  • Leadership is the flour in your bread.
  • Leadership is the seed and the branches of your tree.

Leadership health is critical. Leadership toxicity will kill a business.

There are two critical tasks for leadership in your business.

1. Clarify vision
2. Implement strategy

Read more

Business and Bread: Build your BAM Project with 3 Simple Ingredients

by Bernie Anderson

My name is Bernie Anderson and I have the honor of taking over the BAM blog for the next several weeks. I am a certified business and nonprofit consultant with Growability® – read more in my bio below. 

 

Flour. Water. Salt.

Three of the most basic ingredients imaginable.

Yet, when properly combined, processed, and timed, these three ingredients produce what might be the perfect food: Crusty, soft, sourdough bread with complex flavor and texture.

Yes, I was one of those COVID-shutdown sourdough people. And I’m still at it three and a half years later.

I started simple. Created a starter.

Fed the starter until it was active.

Made a few discard recipes.

Keep that starter alive and flourishing.

I was well over a year in before I started creating actual sourdough loaves without added yeast.

Then I went in deep.

The magic of sourdough is the chemical creation of natural yeast. And it really is a miracle. Flour, water, and salt, mixed with a fermented starter made of a living fungus (yeast) and a living bacterium called lactobacillus. They work together to eat the sugars in the flour. These living creatures basically poop acid – a tasty, savory acid that puts the sour in sourdough. When the fungus and bacteria finish their feast and have suitably relieved themselves, the dough is ready and baking can begin.

The result is a crusty, airy, flavorful loaf of delicious. The complexity of flavor and texture in a loaf of sourdough is a veritable miracle given the simplicity of ingredients.

It’s possible to complicate the recipe. Add sugars and oils, preservatives and shelf stabilizers. But complexified breads are rarely as good as simplified loaves. Three simple ingredients, with time and a specific process, will bring extraordinary results.

The simple believe everything, but the clever consider their steps.

Proverbs 15:15

Like anything in life worth doing, starting a business is difficult. Starting or running a BAM project adds more complexities. But, one of the biggest stumbling blocks for entrepreneurs is overcomplicating the essentials. You can read thousands of business books, take hundreds of online courses, attend seminars, and even go to University and get an MBA – but the simple ingredients for starting a business stay the same.

And that’s exactly what makes a BAM project both exciting and daunting!

Business done right makes life better for everyone involved, from customer to employees to the community where it lives. Let’s simplify your BAM project by extracting the essential ingredients for starting and running a business anywhere in the world.

Every business, no matter how large or small, simple or complicated, grows from a combination of these three simple ingredients: Read more

How to Resolve Conflict: Navigating the Culture Map

by Bernie Anderson

Navigating conflict in any setting can be treacherous. I hate it. But it’s an absolutely essential skill.

One of my favorite books on the subject of cross-cultural work is The Culture Map by Erin Meyers which should be required reading for anyone even thinking about working cross-culturally. The conflict strategy grid that I created below is derived from her research.

Even if you’re not in a cross-cultural situation, The Culture Map is a wonderful GPS for navigating conflict.

It’s important to remember, while cultures lean a certain direction, each person has a different perspective. There are over 8 Billion ways to see the world. Boxes like this are not intended as a way of slapping labels on people on calling it a say. They are helpful for understanding ourselves — as well as others. This article is my distillation (Shall we say, FeetNotes?) of Meyer’s research and my experience.

I’m passing this article along to you this week because I think there’s help here, even if you’re not working cross-culturally. Two things to note:

  • Where are you on the conflict strategy grid?
  • How do you build culture on a team?

Conflict. Avoid at all costs?

That’s how I managed conflict in my early years.

Don’t compete. Avoid the bully. Let everyone else win.

My early-in-life strategy of complete conflict avoidance doesn’t work in adulthood.

Marriage, ministry, and missions made sure of that. Every leader faces unavoidable conflict. Avoiding conflict is a strategy that won’t work. We all must learn how to manage conflict in the family and workplace in life-giving ways.

Then I moved to Mongolia, and conflict got complicated.

One would assume Asia to be a great place for default conflict-avoiders, like me. Many Asian cultures also avoid direct confrontation. This was not true of the culture I was learning.

I was living in conflict-forward Asian culture.

While learning Mongolian language and culture, I kept to my avoidance strategy. If there was ever an issue with a government official, police officer, or even a shopkeeper, I went back to my childhood ways of “letting them win.” A fight was not worth the stress. It seemed like the “Christian” thing to do.

As I became more familiar with my host culture, I discovered this was not always the best approach. While no one should go around picking fights, Mongolian culture gives more respect to those who stand their ground. I discovered this one day when a police officer threatened to take away my driver’s license at a routine traffic stop. Rather than giving up and giving in, I refused. It’s probably risky to deny the request of a police officer, but I knew well enough he didn’t need my license—and I did not want to go through the hassle (and expense) of going to the police station later to retrieve it. After a few minutes of argument, the officer handed me back my license, with a smirk and complimented my use of the language.

What I discovered that day, is this: Mongolian culture leans into the aggressor quadrant for conflict. Perhaps it’s why the Mongolian empire once dominated most of Asia.

Everybody deals with conflict differently. Contributing factors exist, for sure. Upbringing, personality, culture, or treatment by a disgruntled math teacher. There are over 8 billion ways to experience the world.

With conflict, this framework is helpful. Conflict culture works at two levels:

1. Emotional expression: People are on a spectrum of expression, from stoic (no emotional expression) to spirited (emotions worn externally like a button on a coat pocket).

2. Level of directness: Directness runs on a spectrum from avoiders (do not engage in this fight at all costs) to aggressors (I will find something to fight with you about).

 

It’s helpful to place these two on an XY grid*

 

*The idea for this framework is from Erin Meyer’s excellent and highly recommended book called The Culture Map

For starters, it’s helpful to understand where you fall.

I am a spirited-avoider.

Now think about your home culture. Americans, as a culture, are in the spirited aggressor quadrant, while UK culture is stoic-avoider. Japanese culture takes stoic-avoidance and moves it all the way to the right. German and Dutch cultures are stoic-aggressors, while Greeks, Italians, and Israelis are spirited-aggressors (Much more than the US!). Philippine culture is on the far edge of spirited-avoiders.

You can see the obvious challenge for cross-cultural teams!

Most of you already know how to navigate cross-cultural living. We adjust to our host culture. I had to learn to be a little more stoic — and a little more aggressive when dealing with the Mongolian public. We can adjust. It is a skill that takes practice. But is entirely doable.

Now things get complicated.

What if you’re on a multi-national team, with people from Germany, the US, the Philippines, and Korea?

Individual team members on this sort of team spread wide across our conflict grid. What do you do, now?

The best way to prevent and resolve current and potential conflict is to create and cultivate a transcendent team culture.

Since coming off the field and working as a Growability® Consultant, I’ve found that helping teams to establish a team communication playbook is a great way to build this transcendent culture that navigates conflict in healthy ways. Begin with understanding where each team member falls on this grid. Then, no matter the cultures involved, every team can implement communication and conflict ground rules.

I recommend beginning with these three:

1. No Strife.

This is primarily for team members who land on the aggressor and/or spirited side of the grid. Strife is when you try to win by being the loudest, most confrontational person in the room. If I can drown out every other voice, my voice wins. Our team culture doesn’t do strife. It’s simply not allowed.

2. No Silence.

This is when the people who are stoics or avoiders assert their power by simply being silent, to the point of discomfort. I will say nothing. I’ll stew in my silence and let you win — all while harboring bitterness and resentment for the rest of the team that brought me to this miserable place. Silence is not allowed! Everyone has a voice and is, in fact, required to use their voice.

3. No Sarcasm.

This is a tendency for the spirited avoider (Ahem. I’m looking in the mirror here). But it is available for everyone. Humor is wonderful until used as a weapon. Sarcasm is a way to engage, while remaining “the likable one”. Sarcasm (humor as a weapon) destroys team culture. Sarcasm is forbidden (At least, with team disagreements).

While conflict is inevitable, it is possible to disagree in healthy ways. On our cross-cultural teams, disagreements can edify, rather than destroy when we take the time to build a transcendent team culture.

Begin building your team’s communication and conflict playbook.

Here are three steps for getting started.

1. Know your default conflict strategy. Are you a:
  • Stoic-Avoider?
  • Stoic-Aggressor? 
  • Spirited-Avoider? 
  • Spirited-Aggressor? 
2. Understand each team member’s conflict strategy.

Having a conversation about conflict strategies with your team will help everyone recognize differences in personalities and cultures. Acceptance is the first step to resolution. While many contributing factors exist, culture remains an enormous part of this.

3. Create common ground rules.

I always start with these three:

  • No Strife
  • No Silence
  • No Sarcasm

This is the beginning to negotiating conflict healthily. Best practice is to establish this playbook as early as possible, well before conflict’s inception.

Cross-cultural teams can be life-giving. Labor to establish a team culture that brings together the unique internal wiring of each person to form a working, beautiful whole.

 

This article was first published by my gracious friends over at Global Trellis, one of the best resources for people who work cross-culturally on the internet (in my opinion).

If you want more help to develop your team culture, Growability® provides a variety of team building resources and tools. Visit Growability.com/coaching for more information about working with a coach.

 

First published on Global Trellis, a resource for cross-cultural workers, and Furry FeetNotes weekly newsletter by Bernie Anderson and reposted on The BAM Review with kind permission of the author.

Bernie Anderson is a consultant, coach, and trainer with Growability® Consulting, specializing in non-profit and cross-cultural business and leadership. Check out the Growability® Podcast at all your favorite podcast places. He currently lives in Greenville, SC USA, with his wife of 34 years. Bernie’s career has certainly been a diverse one. He spent 13 years as a pastor and the better portion of 10 years living in Central Asia, while developing entrepreneurial, Christian leaders. Since returning to the US in 2014, he has been a major-gifts fundraiser for an international nonprofit and is currently a certified business and nonprofit consultant with Growability®, where the mission is to equip business and nonprofit leaders to enjoy meaningful work by creating scalable, effective, and generous organizations. For further help for your organization (or his exact sourdough process) feel free to email him bernie@growability.com.

 

>> Read more from Bernie on The Culture Map here.

 

Photo by Kristina Litvjak on Unsplash

6 Ways BAM Practitioners Build Their Company Culture

We asked 12 BAM Practitioners how they have gone about developing their company culture and what values and behaviors they have intentionally tried to instill. Their responses showed six clear themes: 6 ways to build company culture.

1. Visible Values That Are Thoroughly Integrated into Operations

Having a set of clearly articulated values is a key to developing an intentionally-driven company culture. These values must then be woven through everything that happens in the company.

We try to integrate our core values into everything that we do. Our job applications are built with questions that try to assess these values in applicants. Our HR training is basically a series of lessons on these specific values. Most problems that arise can be answered by looking back at these core values and applying them to individual situations. However, it is sometimes tough to remember to take opportunities to teach values. Often our employees come to us with problems and we have tried to develop a habit of pointing them to the core values and asking them which ones apply to their particular problem. This means slowing down from the demands of the day and taking the time to walk through it with them. It is often tempting (because it is easier and faster) to just tell them what to do. However, we find that when we are intentional and take the time, it is a huge blessing to both parties and to the long-term effectiveness of our business. – Steven, Service Company, Thailand

The best opportunities to reinforce our values are the difficult ones, decisions that are made which cost the company contracts or money, but which we make because they are right. It’s easy to be honest when there’s lots of money being made, but much harder when the crunch comes! I have threatened to terminate employees for lying to customers and disciplined others for misleading suppliers. I’ve learned that my employees generally want me to treat them with honesty and integrity and to treat them with respect, but they don’t really want to have to treat others that way. Culturally they value strength over humility and consider a crafty deal to be good. I push them the other way and used to get push back from them for that. So difficult days do have their bright side; they test our commitment to our values and help us apply them. – Robert, Manufacturing and Consulting, Middle East  Read more

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.

Read more

Starting Lean: Soft Launches Help Avoid Hard Landings

by Mike Baer

Adapted from material developed for a Third Path Initiative training module.

A very common story among highly excited entrepreneurs goes something like this: get a great idea, build the product, go whole hog to market, wait and lose a lot of money. It’s equivalent to the leadership anti-mantra “ready, fire, aim.” I call this the “emotional/entrepreneur syndrome” where any action is preferred to analysis and patience.

Contrast that with a less common but much wiser approach. Get an idea, test the idea, check out the landscape, build a sufficient product to try out, go lightly to market, listen, and adjust. Boring? Not at all…unless you just get off on failure.

This approach has been called many things over the years. It’s not new. Soft opening. Soft launch. Lean startup. Trial and error. Jesus put it this way:

For which of you, desiring to build a tower, does not first sit down and count the cost, whether he has enough to complete it? Otherwise, when he has laid a foundation and is not able to finish, all who see it begin to mock him… – Luke 14:28-29, ESV

Out of context, I admit but true nonetheless. Take your time and do it right.

Here are the steps I’d use if I was doing another startup. After my initial ideation, testing the market, and market research, I’d:

Develop a Minimal Viable Product

This is a concept not created but made popular by Eric Ries in The Lean Startup. A “minimal viable product” or MVP is defined as:

…that version of a new product which allows a team to collect the maximum amount of validated learning about customers with the least effort.” – Wikipedia

… a development technique in which a new product or website is developed with sufficient features to satisfy early adopters. The final, complete set of features is only designed and developed after considering feedback from the product’s initial users. – Techopedia

In other words, don’t try to create the perfect website, application, food, widget. Instead, build just enough, barely enough, the minimum to actually go to market. You will improve and update and complete your product later but for now I just want my car on the track.  Read more

How Does Spiritual Impact Intersect with Your Product or Service?

It goes without saying that the product or service you develop will be tightly interwoven with your missional goals: social, economic, environmental and spiritual. We can learn a lot from mainstream business about how to most effectively develop products and market share that will turn a profit and create economic impact. We can also learn much from the social enterprise movement and other socially responsibility companies about how products and services integrate with both social and environmental impact. But business as mission integrates a fourth bottom line, that of spiritual impact. In what ways does the product you develop or the service you offer intersect with the spiritual impact of a BAM company?

We asked four BAM practitioners in very different sectors in different parts of Asia to share why they chose their business and how it connects with the spiritual goals for their business:

Extreme Sports Equipment – Wholesale and Distribution

For us it’s impossible to separate our products from the impact we want to have as a business. First of all we want to make sure that all our products have integrity. We use the finest quality materials to make our equipment. Factories here tend to use a lower grade of materials when mass producing this type of equipment. We asked our manufactures to use the highest grade of materials possible and have a good standard of quality control in place. We pay more, but we feel that supplying top-quality equipment is integral to our credibility and our message. We also include graphics and images on our equipment that have a gospel meaning behind them. Every graphic has a story and we include booklets with our products that explain what the images mean and essentially tell the gospel. We are actively engaged with the extreme sports community here, we sponsor competitors and hang out with the people who are into our sport. We’ve started a kind of church among this group, we go where they all gather together and we do a bible study there, we regularly meet with a core group of 20 to 30. We send representatives from our company out as they do product distribution to other cities and they are able to build relationships with community leaders and begin to disciple them. – Jon and Dave

Language Academy – Education

I have a passion for training and my wife loves to write curriculum, so taking over a Language Center was a natural fit for us. It was a struggling company at the time, but we could see how it had potential to make an impact in the Muslim nation we are in. People from all over the Middle East come here to learn English and other languages – we offer five languages all together. Some of our staff work exclusively within our Academy, others teach part-time and very intentionally engage in evangelism and church planting work, much of that out of the relationships they build through the center. Education and training work is a great environment in which to be a witness for Jesus and share biblical ideas since we get to spend intensive time with our students. We also have a children’s language program that mostly focuses on English teaching, since the demand for that is so high. We go into Arab Schools and teach children from 4 to 18 years, mainly immigrants from Middle Eastern countries, many coming from difficult situations. The English language represents hope for the future for them and we get to build really good relationships with whole families. We talk in our classes about religious beliefs, for instance at Christmas we were able to share all about who Christ is. We also get to go and drink coffee with the parents and make friends outside the classroom. – Steve  Read more

The Value You Offer: How to Create a Value Proposition

by David Skews

 

The value proposition is a clear statement of what value you offer, to whom, and in what way. It is different from a mission statement because it focuses on differentiation, or the compelling reason why customers should choose you and not your competitor.

Over the next few years the forces of competition will intensify – even for BAM businesses. Although there is growing evidence that some businesses can offer a premium product or service and simultaneously reduce unit cost, this ‘increasing returns’ phenomenon is a mainly a characteristic of the knowledge economy (e.g. for an internet based service where the variable cost is very small). Usually a business has only two positioning choices: increase margin by lowering costs and charging what the market will bear, or increase margin by premium pricing based on a distinctive value proposition, consistently delivered, which gives customers a compelling reason to purchase.

A value proposition must be written in clear language using simple words, so that all your employees can work out the things they must do to deliver it consistently. A clear proposition will make resource allocation choices easier for you. When money is tight, you will want to spend on the things which maintain or extend your value proposition. The value proposition will also act as an attractor for new customers – it will define your position in the market and give you a reputation and therefore a brand. It will unify the actions of your board and employees and it will act as a deterrent to competition; the key to becoming a “price setter” in the market because you can then control your margin.

Your value proposition must answer these questions:

What are the specific products or services you are going to offer, including a clear statement as to what is special about your product/service?

What exact needs or wants does it satisfy for customers, considering very carefully things like how will they use it, what will they expect it to do for them, and what is it made up of?  Read more

Brand Strategy is for Everyone (Not just marketing!)

by Bruce McKinnon

I started my business back in 2009 to solve a specific problem. Namely that companies found it hard to define the value of their brand and put that value into an order. When I asked them to tell me their most important message I would invariably be told it’s not possible because it depends on the audience, the current campaign, the territory, the product, etc. all of which have their place, but the brand has to be able to rise above that minutia and be able to be defined in a concise and cohesive way.

So I developed the Brand Arrow® as a framework to help companies make good choices because it’s their job to make those choices – not the agency they hire to build a website or the PR agency writing a press release. Why?

Because nobody knows the brand better than the company that owns it. And that’s the truth!

And whilst we’re at it here are 4 more truths about the value brand strategy can deliver:

1. Brand Strategy is for the whole company, not just marketing because its job is to represent the whole company

Whilst the marketing team may well be the first to use a brand strategy in developing its communications, it’s just as important for the HR team for example, to use the values of the brand in managing the culture of the organisation; the sales team to use the key messaging in developing relationships with prospects, finance to know why the budget is being focussed on particular areas and of course, the CEO to be able to communicate a clear vision for the company. Read more

How the Church Can Engage in Discipling Marketplace Leaders

by Dr. Phil Walker and Renita Reed-Thomson

There is a story told about a frog in a kettle. The frog is placed in a kettle of cold water. The frog does not notice that the water temperature is being turned up gradually until it is too late. He dies from the heat of the water, not realizing the danger he was in.

The Global Church is suffering from the “frog in the kettle” syndrome. As people increase in financial security, they tend to decrease their dependence on God. It is time to get the frog out of the kettle! In many parts of the world the local church has moved from an evangelical, spiritual force in the community to a closed off social activity in the corner. This move away from the vitality of government, education and business is slowly making the local church irrelevant to the community it is called to serve as a light. Like the frog in the pot, we are slowly reaching a boiling point from which we will not recover our critical role and calling. The dropping statistics of church attendance in both Europe and North America is alarming. Failure to make Jesus relevant in the marketplace will lead to a failure of mission. While business as mission has found a niche in the Christian community, it is not fulfilling its potential.

In 2004 the Occasional Paper on Business as Mission from The Lausanne Movement called on the church to disciple and release its members to be lights in the community.

We call upon the church worldwide to identify, affirm, pray for, commission, and release business people and entrepreneurs to exercise their gifts and calling as business people in the world—among all peoples and to the ends of the earth.

In the same proclamation it called on the business people to live out their calling as Ambassadors, moving out of the four walls of the church into the four corners of the marketplace. Read more