7 Creative Ways that Practitioners Integrate Business and Mission

A defining characteristic of a BAM company is that it intentionally integrates mission with business. But what does that look like in practice? What are some creative ways that practitioners work out their goals for spiritual impact, alongside their commercial, social and environmental goals?

We asked a small group of practitioners to share what they do in the business context that moves them towards their missional goals and spiritual impact. This could be something they did when establishing the company, or practices they do on a regular basis in the day-to-day life of the business. The practitioners shared a diverse range of specific practices, but there were some common themes. These seven ways to integrate business and mission stood out:

Keep Purpose Front and Center

Keeping the purpose, vision and objectives of the company at the forefront emerged as a key principle. This is important all the way through the life of the company, from the planning stages and goal setting, to evaluating those goals and choosing measures, to on-boarding processes for new hires, to daily communication with employees. Read more

6 Ways to Build Trust for Greater Impact

by Larry Sharp

In early 2016 I picked up a copy of the The Economist, entitled “The World in 2016”. An article on page 90 intrigued me entitled, “A Crisis of Trust” by Richard Eldelman.1 Mr. Edelman maintains that “trust – or, often, the lack of it – is one of the central issues of our time”. He may be right.

The Edelman Trust Barometer has been tracking trust issues for fifteen years, particularly between countries in the categories of government, business, technology, media, and NGOs. Technology is the most trusted sector and government is the least trusted institution worldwide. While trust in business is recovering, trust in CEOs has declined by ten points since 2011.

A recent Maritz poll2 indicates that only seven percent of workers strongly agree that they trust their senior leaders to look out for their best interest. John Blanchard’s research demonstrates that 59% of respondents indicated they had left an organization due to trust issues, citing lack of communication and dishonesty as key contributing factors.3 Clearly everywhere and in every sector, trust is at a tipping point.

All of this got me thinking about missional business startups. Certainly trust is fragile – in all aspects of life, and also in business. It is imperative for clients, customers, employees and team members to trust the owner because it is often easier to mistrust than to trust. What can a business owner do to develop high levels of trust?

The simplest understanding of trust is that it centers in competence and character. If owners and managers are competent in their knowledge, practice, and in getting things done; and they are persons of integrity, reliability and promise, they are probably a person of trust.

Perhaps the following concrete actions will go a long way to building trust in the business environment:

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Second in Command

by Larry Sharp

Business as Mission (BAM) narratives oftentimes focus on the founder or the entrepreneur credited with the initial startup leadership; and rightly so; but sometimes the real reason for success may rest with the #2 or #3 person. Sometimes key success factors can be traced to the “second in command”.

Since graduating with a business degree in 1968, I have had more than one opportunity to lead an organization both in Brazil and in Pennsylvania, but most of my life in management has been as the #2 guy – in Alaska managing a fish plant; in Brazil; and as VP of operations and business partnerships for Crossworld for 19 years. What is positive about being second in command?

1. Flexibility in use of abilities.

My years as the second guy gave me an opportunity to maximize my skills, giftedness and interests. Oftentimes the CEO is required to do things because of his/her position which are not aligned with skills and interests. I observed my bosses consumed with fund raising, capital development, spontaneous thinking, or public speaking, all of which were not appealing to me. The scriptures are clear that God creates all people differently and when it comes to a Kingdom business, employees contribute best when in positions that maximize their God-given wiring and experiences.  Read more

Flying Fish: Lessons I Learned from a Risk Taker

by Larry Sharp

I was recently driving through Tucson, Arizona and decided to go out of my way and visit the famed airplane graveyard in the desert. Hundreds of planes are parked there because it is a safe, dry place. Many will never fly again but many are still very useful; it is just that there is no market for them.

The scene reminded me of my mother-in-law who was the first person I met who was a true entrepreneur, one characteristic of which is having a high tolerance for taking risks. I had taken a job in a fish processing plant which she owned. I quickly learned the ‘ins’ and ‘outs’ of fish processing in Alaska and the ‘ins’ and ‘outs’ of working with a risk taker.

First a little background on the salmon industry in Alaska. The salmon return to their streams to spawn on a God-given cycle and they return at different times throughout the summer. So when they come to Cook Inlet, the fishermen are ready for the summer’s catch; similarly when they come to Bristol Bay, or to the Copper River area or to the Yukon River. The trick is that no one knows when that time is.

The net result of all this is that the processing plants (such as the one we operated) have a feast or famine situation. There are either so many fish we can’t keep up processing 24/7; or we are sitting around waiting for the fish, paying stand-by crews to do nothing.

An innovator comes up with a novel workable idea; and the entrepreneur makes it happen.  Read more

Want to Change the World? Make Disciples

by Joyce Ahn

In response to millennials being labelled noncommittal, cynical, entitled, slacktivists, Grant Skeldon started Initiative Network in order to shift the culture of Dallas by training millennials to be Christ-loving, city-changing, church-investing, disciple-making local missionaries. Initiative has impacted thousands of young leaders from over 540 different churches across the greater Dallas region.

Grant spoke at the 2017 BAM Conference in Dallas. Here are some key insights he shared about the importance of discipleship. This is a summary of Grant’s talk. 

The Missing Key: DISCIPLESHIP!

Jesus himself focused a majority of his three years in ministry closely investing in the lives of the twelve disciples. If my friend was on his deathbed, I would listen closely for what he asked me to do. The same is true for when I look at Jesus’ life. Some of his parting words to us before ascending to heaven were to GO AND MAKE DISCIPLES! Yet as I travel and speak, when I ask, “How many of you are getting discipled?” or “How many of you are discipling?” many Christians I meet are not making disciples. However, this can change. As more and more of the older generation is discipling the young generations, amazing things are happening!

Bridging the Generational Gap

I encourage all seasoned leaders to invest in the lives of young people. There are many millennials making choices you might not understand or agree with. Yet what millennials are missing is relationships with godly, wise leaders who can help them build their character and live out all that they are meant to be. You might be making a difference as you serve in your ministry, but whose life are you deeply investing in? Without committed discipling relationships, it’s very hard for you to influence the next generation. Read more

Are You Really a Second-Class Christian?

by Dave Kahle

For much of my Christian life, I’ve struggled with a difficult and painful image of myself: I was a second-class Christian. No one ever said that to me in so many words, but a certain belief permeates our Christian culture so deeply that few Christians would ever question it:

Real ministry is defined by the time you spend in the official efforts of the church to evangelize the lost and edify the saved. This is the work that God is interested in, that He considers most important, special, and significant.

By accepting this false belief, our fruitfulness is hindered by shrinking and distorting our views of what we and our businesses can be. As a result, millions of Christians, like myself, lead lives that are far less productive than God wants. And hundreds of thousands of businesses are hampered in achieving their full potential. And that means that the Church’s influence and impact is light years away from that which it could be.

Here are some ways this belief is expressed in Christian culture:

A client recently told me that one of his salespeople left the company to go into full-time ministry. The implication was that the former employee merely ‘made a living’ when they worked for my client; now they did ‘real’ ministry – that work that is only in the context of the church.

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Are Our Beliefs Stunting Our Businesses?

by Dave Kahle

“For my whole life, I was led to believe that we were the richest country on earth. Now, I see that we are the poorest. It’s like my whole life has been wasted.”

This comment comes from John, the 80-year old father of one of our Albanian foster children, who was visiting the USA and our home for the first time in his life. He had lived his whole life under the communist government of Albania – one of the most oppressive in the world — and was now venturing out of the country for the first time. We couldn’t help but feel for him. He had been led to believe a lie, and that belief shaped his actions and his attitudes, and organized his life. Now, at an age where there was little to be done about it, he regretted his life lived in accordance with a belief that turned out to be false.

While not nearly as poignant and heart-breaking as John’s experience, we all allow the same thing – false beliefs – to impact our thinking and therefore, our businesses and our lives.

For the past 30 years, I have served as a sales consultant, trainer, and speaker. I have worked with at least 459 businesses and served thousands of others in seminars and speaking engagements. In all of this experience in the trenches, I’ve made some observations about what it takes to build a successful, thriving business – and what hinders the growth of those businesses who have the potential for great things, but languish in mediocrity.

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Not the Typical Strategic Plan: Creating a Plan for Performance

by Bill Cousineau

In Part 1 – Planning for Breakthrough Performance, we discussed the issues of traditional strategic planning. We summarized it by saying that in too many instances, the polished business plan is nothing more than a highly thought-out collection of concepts and ideals, tied together by wishful thinking. None of which result in customers flying through their doors with money in hand, nor in an organization that is united, focused and intentional in its execution.

By contrast, the Strategic Action Plan describes how an organization defines success and how it intends to create value for its stakeholders, customers, and team members. The critical distinction is that this is a living document that does not sit on the shelf collecting dust. This document is used to not only guide priorities and decisions, but it is a plan that is measured, tracked, monitored, and discussed regularly.

Before you begin to create the Strategic Action Plan there are critical prerequisites and five steps in the process:

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Not the Typical Strategic Plan: Planning for Breakthrough Performance

by Bill Cousineau

Some years ago I worked at an Aerospace company. At one offsite location, a man by the name of Dave Hanna coined the phrase, “Every organization is perfectly designed to get the results they are getting!” That phrase has always stuck in my mind. Think about it: As leaders in business we may find ourselves plateaued or under-achieving our organizational goals. These times call for us to look deeply at every aspect of our business and leadership to determine why the desired results are yet unattained.

When a business really takes this key statement to heart, they begin to peel back the layers of their company and come to reveal the deficiencies in their strategic planning process. My experience has shown that as leaders examine their planning process, they realize they do not have consistency of purpose. Their organizations tends to work as silos, optimizing their individual silo at the expense of the larger organization.  How can this happen?  No matter how much time Executive Teams spend preparing for and conducting their Strategic Planning session, their plans fail to achieve the desired results.

In Part 1 of this article, we will discuss the difference between traditional strategic plans and developing plans that engage the organization for breakthrough performance.

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6 Reasons Why Your Vision May be Failing (And What to Do About It)

by Chris Cloud

Since there are many excellent articles on Vision Casting out there, I have decided to come at this from a different angle. My question is: Where is a vision likely to fall off the rails? I’d argue that most individuals, and most organizations, are not guided by a clear vision.

I have been a part of a few organizations that nailed it, and a few that could have achieved so much more if they had a clear vision and steered towards it. I’ve also consulted with dozens of companies regarding their brand and strategy, and inevitably vision comes up as one of the most powerful elements of growth and impact.

Without a vision, the people perish. – Proverbs 29:18

Here are some simple observations on where a vision commonly goes off the rails, and what to do about it. Note: I believe a clear vision is just as transformative, and sadly, just as rare for an individual as it is for a group or organization. So even if you aren’t leading a company, this is for you.

Where do Visions Fail?

Lack of Clarity: “What exactly is our vision?” It’s either too complicated, or it’s too ambiguous. Keep it simple enough for a 4th grader to understand. Poor vision: “we’re going to be big and successful one day”. What does that even mean? Strong vision, “We’re going to put all of the world’s information online.” (Google’s vision). It’s clear. It’s stupid simple, though it’s not easy by any stretch. It’s ambitious, almost pretentious, but it’s compelling. It conjures up visceral imagery. The old explorers were great at this. For example, Ernest Shackleton’s vision was, “To accomplish the first crossing of the Antarctic continent.”  Read more