Pragmatic and Prophetic: Managing Connections to Christian Networks

Once a month, our panel of mentors answer your practical business questions. Send us your questions!

Dear BAM Mentor,

How do you manage your associations with Christians and Christian networks – both national and international – in light of security concerns? My ideal is to maintain my relationships with churches and Christian organisations (and indeed receive vital support/services from these); and I want to be well connected into the local church. However, I am concerned about how those connections may endanger my business. How have you managed both the relational side and other more formal associations you have with organisations or churches?

~ Feeling Cautious

Dear Cautious,

This is first and fundamentally a theological-missiological issue, secondly a relational issue, and thirdly a risk-related issue. Let’s tackle the question in this order.

By “theological-missiological” I mean that the question takes us to the core issues of spiritual warfare, identity with the Kingdom of God, and the often overlooked and neglected matter of suffering for the sake of righteousness, in fulfilment of God’s purposes. The point is that, ultimately, our security is not our concern! We are engaged in a spiritual warfare, in which the advance of the Kingdom of God is often painfully slow and subject to setbacks, and that suffering, even to the point of shedding blood, let alone expulsion, is the New Testament norm. It’s commonplace, but profoundly erroneous, to assume that because we are doing something as value-added as business, we have therefore some sort of iron-clad guarantee that we’ll be exempt from the same tests, trials and trauma of any other missional effort.

By “relational” I mean that our being blood-bought brothers and sisters in Christ by definition implies a willingness to be associated with this community, to take pride in our shared identity, and to find meaningful ways to engage with other Christians. Our businesses should not be seen by the host country as discriminatory (i.e. don’t hire all Christians!) or a cover for activities that may be illegal at worst, or at least misunderstood (i.e. avoid associations with certain styles of activities or messaging that can be counter-productive). But we should resist any fear or shame in being identified with the local and global Christian community which shares the Name of Jesus, just to protect our business – which, while important, is of secondary importance to the Body of Christ. Read more

5 Lessons Learned About Developing Products and Finding a Market

Once a month, our panel of mentors answer your practical business questions. Send us your questions!

 

Dear BAM Mentor,

I’m developing a business plan for a BAM company. What are some ideas, tips or resources you would suggest as I conduct market research and analysis, especially in a BAM setting?

~ Anticipating Analysis

Dear Anticipating,

Start with “Why”

If I could ask you to understand anything about this, I would encourage you to understand the “why.” Motives determine outcome. If the company motives don’t line up with solid business principles, undergirded by correct biblical understanding; your hard work may never get past a good read by the intended audience. It could end up in a desk drawer. Or worse, it could alienate an entire culture, damaging years of relationship building. And please, whatever you do…don’t spiritualize motives. Just because we choose to spiritualize a motive does not justify it in God’s eyes. Nor does it guarantee successful execution. The sage advice of noted author and TED speaker Simon Sinek provides great clarity on the reason we want to start with the “why.”

Lesson Learned #1 – Ask lots of bad questions which lead to really good questions, and Google comes in handy at this point.

Get your Planning Head on Straight

Once you have clarity and understanding on the “why”, you are better equipped to move forward with the “what and how.” The “what and how” has everything to do with proper planning, researching, testing and… fingers-crossed… implementation. It’s important to know, as one mentor previously mentioned, when to set the planning aside to start testing assumptions. Read more

Business Planning and Market Research for a BAM Company

Once a month, our panel of mentors answer your practical business questions. Send us your questions!

 

Dear BAM Mentor,

I’m developing a business plan for a BAM company. What are some ideas, tips or resources you would suggest as I conduct market research and analysis, especially in a BAM setting?

~ Anticipating Analysis

Dear Anticipating,

The basic idea of a business plan is to help you think through all of the different issues that will make a strategic difference to your proposed business. There are literally hundreds of issues to think about and that can be daunting. The business plan helps you structure your thoughts, assess the risks and opportunities and, perhaps most significantly, helps you see what you still need to research and learn.

 I’ll try to address some of the most significant issues for a cross-cultural BAM startup.

 Almost everything in a business starts with the market:  Read more

Getting Started with Market Research

Once a month, our panel of mentors answer your practical business questions. Send us your questions!

 

Dear BAM Mentor,

I’m developing a business plan for a BAM company. What are some ideas, tips or resources you would suggest as I conduct market research and analysis, especially in a BAM setting?

~ Anticipating Analysis

Dear Anticipating,

The question of market research comes up constantly and is both a very important part of a business plan and at the same time can be a big waste of time. Let me explain.

If you are doing a business plan to guide your launch and actions, then all you really need is to figure out a few basic things:

1. Who else does what you plan to do?

2. In what ways are you better, faster, cheaper, easier to access, etc.?

3. What price point will your potential customers accept? What do your competitors charge?

4. Where, how, when will you distribute your product/service? Does it fit with where, how, when people want to buy?

5. How many potential customers are there? How many of them will you be able to convert into actual customers?

6. What laws, taxes, licenses, etc. exist that will affect your business?

Beyond these few things much more research will not give you ROI. So don’t do it. Read more

Two Essential Attributes to Have in Your Team: Intellectual Firepower and Fire in the Belly

Once a month, our panel of mentors answer your practical business questions. Send us your questions!

 

Dear BAM Mentor,

I am a co-owner in a BAM company (in Thailand) with my business partner and we are looking to add one other to our senior management team. What sort of characteristics or background should I be particularly looking for as I recruit? How should we be preparing them (or encouraging them to prepare)? No one person is going to be the complete package, so what should I focus on and is there anything you would consider a ‘deal breaker’?

~ Rookie Recruiter

Dear Rookie,

My recommendation is to find someone who brings two attributes to the table. The first is intellectual firepower. The second is fire-in-the-belly.

Intellectual firepower is the person’s ability to think strategically and find solutions to complex problems. Irrespective of the nature of work that the business will engage in, availability of startup capital or the type of organization that you plan to build, it is essential that one of your first co-workers, especially someone who will be a part of the senior management team, be a person who is full of high caliber ideas. This individual will help you make tough decisions during the early years of the business. Most of these decisions will not be black and white. The hardest decisions are those that are made in the grey areas of spending limited resources on the ever-increasing needs of the business as you start from scratch. These early decisions will set the pattern for years to come as you grow into a mature organization. In many ways the organizational culture is formed in the first couple of years of starting the business and an intellectually strong person will help you to make the best choices, and will help them take shape. He or she must have the ability to think creatively and strategically for long-term planning and then break down strategic plans into step-by-step action plans, based on what needs to be done, and when. Read more

Questions to Consider When Recruiting and Preparing a New Team Member

Once a month, our panel of mentors answer your practical business questions. Send us your questions!

 

Dear BAM Mentor,

I am a co-owner in a BAM company (in Thailand) with my business partner and we are looking to add one other to our senior management team. What sort of characteristics or background should I be particularly looking for as I recruit? How should we be preparing them (or encouraging them to prepare)? No one person is going to be the complete package, so what should I focus on and is there anything you would consider a ‘deal breaker’?

~ Rookie Recruiter

Dear Rookie,

You are wise to seek advice on this topic. Although business is very complex, most things such as pricing, margins, overheads, etc. can be addressed and adjusted as required. However, if you bring the wrong person into the core management team it can be disastrous. It is similar to adding way too much salt to a soup – once it’s done, it’s hard to undo and you may have to start over.

Since it is usually so hard to find someone with the right Kingdom goals it is tempting to put on your rose colored glasses, find any reasonably close fitting candidate and then hope for the best. This is always risky.

Your question is rather vague, so the first thing to do is systematically address some fundamentals. Many failures in hiring are caused by a lack of proper communication from the hiring organization towards the person being hired. The following overall factors must be addressed: detailed role definition, relationships to existing and future staff, management style, authority boundaries, incentives, performance evaluation and termination conditions and procedures. In addition, some specific items about the candidate, including the questions you mention, need to be considered; characteristics and background, is this person currently in a similar position, suggested areas of preparation and “deal breakers”. Read more

Good Practices for Recruiting a Senior Team Member

Once a month, our panel of mentors answer your practical business questions. Send us your questions!

 

Dear BAM Mentor,

I am a co-owner in a BAM company (in Thailand) with my business partner and we are looking to add one other to our senior management team. What sort of characteristics or background should I be particularly looking for as I recruit? How should we be preparing them (or encouraging them to prepare)? No one person is going to be the complete package, so what should I focus on and is there anything you would consider a ‘deal breaker’?

~ Rookie Recruiter

Dear Rookie,

Much of what you need to look for in a new senior management team member is what any business would look for: skill and experience that will add to the business. Every BAM business requires a complex set of skills and competencies and these are generally met by contributions from a number of different people working together. Be clear first on what skills the business needs, then on what skills you have in place. You can then see more clearly what skills you would want to bring in this new person you’re recruiting. The skills could be administrative, marketing and sales knowledge, financial expertise or skill regarding local language, culture and spiritual dynamics, just to name a few. But don’t expect anyone to bring everything. We all bring our weaknesses as well as our strengths to any position! Read more

16 Years of Developing People in the Daily Rhythm of Business Life

Once a month, our panel of mentors answer your practical business questions. Send us your questions!

Dear BAM Mentor,

I work in Human Resources in a BAM initiative in Nepal. We’re working on developing a discipleship program and ways to develop our staff as people. We’re exploring ideas for one-on-one mentorship and weekly values teachings, maybe going through a book together? Does anyone have any recommendations and/or resources they’ve used? Also ways they’ve made this kind of staff development work for employees who are illiterate?  

~ Needing Advice in Nepal

Dear Needing Advice,

When any new employee joins any of our businesses, they begin a 3 to 6 month training course. Integral to this is an introduction to faith and as part of this, each working day begins and ends in a devotional time. At recruitment, it is mentioned that we have this daily devotional time open to all. Those joining are then introduced to our faith from the beginning. Once a week this time is led by a local pastor and once a month a special service is held, on a Saturday, at this local church. Discipleship on a one-to-one mentorship basis is also available whenever asked for. The language that we use is contextualised, e.g. Hindu and Muslim words are quite different for prayer, thankfulness etc., and we use different versions of the Bible accordingly. Resources for these are readily available from the Bible Society or Gideons International.

For those that are illiterate – and this is the majority – then spoken word, actions and songs are so important. Good storytelling is vital. We have held workshops on storytelling and using actions and these have really helped and encouraged women to then go on and tell others in the safety of daily company devotions. This further encourages them to repeat the stories at home. The Lord’s Prayer is recited each day and this has proved to have encouraged and modelled prayer. In this corporate setting, breaking up into groups of 3 to 5 women has encouraged others to pray with each other as well. Videos of the gospel stories in their own language, especially around Easter and Christmas time, have been powerful tools in our context. A Luke version is readily available in most languages and needs no explanation (the Hindi version is readily available, if Nepali is not). Read more

Investing in Your Staff: Resources for Staff Development

Once a month, our panel of mentors answer your practical business questions. Send us your questions!

Dear BAM Mentor,

I work in Human Resources in a BAM initiative in Nepal. We’re working on developing a discipleship program and ways to develop our staff as people. We’re exploring ideas for one-on-one mentorship and weekly values teachings, maybe going through a book together? Does anyone have any recommendations and/or resources they’ve used? Also ways they’ve made this kind of staff development work for employees who are illiterate?  

~ Needing Advice in Nepal

Dear Needing Advice,

Firstly, I want to commend you on investing into your staff. So often groups focus solely on the their client group, as that is where the need they are trying to address lies, and neglect their staff’s growth and development. Investing in your staff will ultimately benefit your your clients through staff become more skilled, wise, engaged, appreciated and will lead to less staff turnover. As Richard Branson said, “Clients do not come first. Employees come first. If you take care of your employees, they will take care of the clients”.

You asked the question about resources for staff development and discipleship and there are a number out there. There are Christian foundations courses like Christianity Explained, or the Alpha Course that can be beneficial for those very new in their faith. There are Christian ‘Bible Study’ Books either on books of the Bible or on topics or you can even just take a book of the Bible and read through it and discussing things together, such as one of the gospels. You can also just pick a topic and create something of your own. In one of my past roles I would each week use a passage or principle from the Bible and link it to a principle in business, organisational operations or relational wisdom and ask staff to discuss and come up with applications for their context. Read more

Imagine This: People Are An Organization’s Best Resource

Once a month, our panel of mentors answer your practical business questions. Send us your questions!

Dear BAM Mentor,

I work in Human Resources in a BAM initiative in Nepal. We’re working on developing a discipleship program and ways to develop our staff as people. We’re exploring ideas for one-on-one mentorship and weekly values teachings, maybe going through a book together? Does anyone have any recommendations and/or resources they’ve used? Also ways they’ve made this kind of staff development work for employees who are illiterate?  

~ Needing Advice in Nepal

Dear Needing Advice,

People are the most important part of any organization. This is the case for both the employees of the organization, as well as the clients which the organization is seeking to serve. Effectively valuing people is always a challenge in practice. This is even more so the case when the organization employs the very people it seeks to serve – people who are worthy of dignity and respect, and yet who may not yet have the hard and soft skills needed to succeed.

One way to deal with this gap in where they are now, versus where they need to be to succeed, is to have a dual-structured company in which the employees who are ready to face customers work on the front line, whereas employees who are still early in their healing process work in a more private space – where greater emphases can be placed on their personal development though discipleship, mentoring, etc. and where greater grace can be offered as they learn the soft-skills such as showing up to work on time, work ethic, etc. This can help at a practical level to help the business succeed without having to sacrifice employees who aren’t yet optimal, as well as not making the business suffer because of its commitment to patiently helping employees mature. And yet, in doing so, it is important not to make certain employees feel like they are second-class citizens, but rather to communicate that all employees are valued members of the team no matter where they are in their personal and professional development process. Thankfully, modern human resource development theory supports the value of developing employees – all employees, not just those who are also “clients.” Read more