Evaluating Business Ideas for Freedom Business Startups

by Christa Crawford

 

What are the most important questions to ask myself when evaluating a business opportunity?

My background is Business for Freedom – that is using business to bring freedom to people who would otherwise be trapped in trafficking, prostitution, or other forms of exploitation. The traditional model for reaching these people is the charity model, but in recent years there is a movement toward business, including business as mission. As such, much of my audience knows very little about business basics. For them, I would say that the most important questions are:

  • Is this business a good fit for the market?
  • Is this business a good fit for me?
  • Is there someone who can do this business better, and how can we partner together?

Is this business a good fit for the market? While this question may seem basic to business people, to many getting started in business for freedom the first question they ask themselves is “What can we sell?”, where they should really be asking, “What do people want to buy?” We must ensure that we are selling products that have the demand and quality to sell on their own, and not merely as “pity purchases.” Read more

How We Built Consistent, Committed Prayer into our Company

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

Dear BAM Mentor,

What prayer habits have you found helpful in your business? How have you experienced prayer and hearing direction from the Lord fitting alongside ‘normal’ business practices and hearing from advisors and others?

~ Exploring Prayer

Dear Exploring,

Whatever we attempt for God has to be in accordance with His will and be blessed by Him if we are to see genuine success (in the heavenly definition of success). This is true for every venture, whether operated under the auspices of a local church, a Christian organisation or an overtly commercial business venture. In fact, because of the pressures and expectations that the world brings to bear on business ventures, it is all the more important to ensure close communion and communication with God. Whatever this may mean in practical terms, it has to include prayer.

The most obvious biblical instruction about how we should pray is Jesus’ introduction to His model prayer – that which most people refer to as the Lord’s Prayer – as recorded in Matthew 6. What these instructions boil down to is: keep it sincere, keep it personal (you and God) and keep it short and to the point. How this operates in practice will vary according to local circumstances. Our own experience was developed over a short time but then served the business well for many years – but not without some hiccups along the way, it may be added. Read more

Helpful Prayer Habits from a 27 Year BAM Journey

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

Dear BAM Mentor,

What prayer habits have you found helpful in your business? How have you experienced prayer and hearing direction from the Lord fitting alongside ‘normal’ business practices and hearing from advisors and others?

~ Exploring Prayer

Dear Exploring,

Early in our history, while I was still segmenting my life pretty well, the Lord spoke to four of our leaders within 48 hours. He said to each of us that we had to begin meeting to pray. We had allowed the security problem here in our location to become an excuse to not get together. We began that week and continued every week for over 15 years. It wasn’t easy. Two of the people became car sick every time they rode the bus to my house. It eventually blended into a church prayer meeting. Read more

3 Types of Prayer for the Business Context

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

Dear BAM Mentor,

What prayer habits have you found helpful in your business? How have you experienced prayer and hearing direction from the Lord fitting alongside ‘normal’ business practices and hearing from advisors and others?

~ Exploring Prayer

Dear Exploring,

Prayer in a business context can be divided into three types. First, there is personal prayer for strength and guidance from God in matters relating to the Business. Second, there is corporate prayer by those who work in the business, a group of colleagues who are committed to praying for the business and all its stakeholders. Third is engaging individuals or groups outside the business who are well-wishers, family or friends and are committed to praying for the business and/or the people who work in it. I want to share some thoughts and personal experiences for all three:

I believe that the entrepreneur’s dependence on God is no different from that of a missionary working in a hostile environment. The world of business is fraught with dangers, temptations and opposition. We live and work in a fallen world that embraces values which are contrary to those of God’s Kingdom. Besides the constant onslaught of the enemy, there are ups and downs in any business over a period of time. To hang in there during hardship requires nothing short of total dependence on God. I have had to lean on God and He has carried me through difficult seasons in a manner that seems most often found in the lives of missionaries I read about. An incident that I recall of such an experience is when one of my colleagues took away important company information and a few relationships as he went and joined a competitor. I remember feeling crushed by the betrayal of trust. I became bitter and guarded in my relationships with others in the company. After a couple of weeks I was on a long flight and read the biography of Adoniram Judson. I realized that he was betrayed multiple times but each time he went on with his work with joy and resolve having been strengthened by his disciplined prayer life. One of his famous quotes is, “Our prayers run along one road and God’s answers by another, and by and by they meet.” As I took this matter to God in prayer I felt the burden roll off my back. Read more

5 Questions to Ask Yourself About Business, Language and Church Planting

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

 

Dear BAM Mentor,

I can see that language acquisition is going to be essential to both business and church planting efforts in my target area, but it is a lot to think about. How have you seen language learning combined with business development and start–up? What has worked? Any other tips for successfully putting together business strategy and church planting strategy?

~ Planning to Plant

Dear Planning,

This is a good question and there are no easy answers. Your approach will depend your goals and your constraints.

Here are a few questions to consider:

1. How do you define business: one where you will be totally supported by your operations or one in which you will still receive outside funding to support your living expenses?

If you are okay with being subsidized through outside funding and able to raise such funding, even if for an initial timeframe, this will allow for more options. One option could be to spend more time learning a language for a period while you do some business-related work. Another benefit if you started a business would be that this support could sustain a period of losses, before profitability is reached. Read more

The Lost Will be Won in Their Heart Language: Business, Church Planting and Language Acquisition

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

 

Dear BAM Mentor,

I can see that language acquisition is going to be essential to both business and church planting efforts in my target area, but it is a lot to think about. How have you seen language learning combined with business development and start–up? What has worked? Any other tips for successfully putting together business strategy and church planting strategy?

~ Planning to Plant

Dear Planning,

I find it impossible to think of ministry that could be in any way divorced or separated from what is happening in the course of everyday work during an entrepreneurial phase of starting a business. Ministry in this context must flow through the day to day activities of getting the business off the ground. You develop relationships with potential clients, government officials, employees, etc. It is these people you are able to reach with your witness, it is these people you do life with, and are able to share the Hope that you have in your Savior. However, having said that, I think it would be impossible to work on a church plant alone, and also successfully start a business. It is essential that a new entrepreneur be part of a church planting team where the rest of the team is not at the same stage of early development of their business. Otherwise there won’t be the capacity do everything that needs to be done in church planting and the business. One or the other will flounder.

To be an entrepreneur and pull off everything that needs to happen to successfully start a new business requires 150% of our capabilities. This will be the greatest walk of faith that we have ever experienced. Successful entrepreneurs have come to the realization that, until the business is off the ground, the thought of a 50 hour work week is long gone, perhaps for years. They will live, breathe, and dream their venture day and night. Whether in the shower, sitting at their desk, meeting with clients or suppliers, eating lunch, or watching their kids’ baseball game, they are constantly planning, processing, and thinking about their business. If you are not consumed by the business during the first phase of the launch, you are unlikely to succeed. Read more

The Importance of Language Skills for BAM and Church Planting

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

 

Dear BAM Mentor,

I can see that language acquisition is going to be essential to both business and church planting efforts in my target area, but it is a lot to think about. How have you seen language learning combined with business development and start–up? What has worked? Any other tips for successfully putting together business strategy and church planting strategy?

~ Planning to Plant

Dear Planning,

We’ve seen that for 10/40 locations – such as China, India, the Islamic world – the statistics for BAMers wanting to stay more than 5 years are clear: you have to get to working proficiency in the local language!

Among PRI’s several hundred non-nationals (since 1990), 90% of those who made it to working proficiency in the local language achieved this proficiency prior to working in a job of 40 hours per week. There are exceptions to the rule, but very few BAMers get to working proficiency after starting working full-time on the field. If they do manage it, it is by bringing in a tutor from 7:30 to 9am in the morning – not recommended! Instead we recommend financial support from donors for the language acquisition period. It’s not current 2015 market reality to ask to ask the company to pay for it. Read more

More About Company Boards and How to Build Them

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

 

Dear BAM Mentor,

I keep hearing that having an Advisory Board is good idea for a BAM company. How is an advisory board different from other kinds of boards and how should I go about setting one up?

~ Needing Advice

Dear Needing Advice,

We must first determine what type of Board you are inquiring about. Usually, an Advisory Board is used to give strategic advice on a narrow topic. A Board of Directors, on the other hand, is who the CEO is accountable to. They give advice on a broader range of issues. This position has some legal responsibilities and Board members on large companies can wield considerable power since they hire and fire the CEO.  This is highly unlikely in a BAM company, however. 

Let’s talk for a minute about a Board of Directors. You should have such a Board. You, as CEO, need to be accountable to someone outside the company that has direct experience in what you are doing and can likely spot a potential pitfall before you can. Otherwise, it is more likely that you will make a significant mistake – and we all do – and there will be no one to help guide you through a particularly tricky situation. Read more

An Abundance of Counselors: Practical Steps to Set Up an Advisory Board

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

 

Dear BAM Mentor,

I keep hearing that having an Advisory Board is good idea for a BAM company. How is an advisory board different from other kinds of boards and how should I go about setting one up?

~ Needing Advice

Dear Needing Advice,

The question arises as to the purpose and practicality of an Advisory Board for a small business or a startup. I have had advisory boards for several of the businesses I’ve launched and served on advisory boards for others. Needless to say, I am a big fan.

King Solomon put it like this:

“Where there is no guidance, a people falls, but in an abundance of counselors there is safety.”  Proverbs 11:14

“…for by wise guidance you can wage your war, and in abundance of counselors there is victory.”  Proverbs 24:6

The basic premise of an Advisory Board is that, rather than try to figure out everything on your own, you can enlist the wisdom, perspective and experience of others to help you “wage your war.” In addition to advice there is also a healthy element of accountability – something many entrepreneurs don’t want, but something all of them need. Read more

The Role of an Advisory Board for a BAM Business

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

 

Dear BAM Mentor,

I keep hearing that having an Advisory Board is good idea for a BAM company. How is an advisory board different from other kinds of boards and how should I go about setting one up?

~ Needing Advice

Dear Needing Advice,

When we hear the word “board” most of us think of large corporate Boards of Directors. A Board of Directors in a joint stock company in most jurisdictions is the legal voice of the owners and is responsible to them for giving strategic direction to the company and for selecting and monitoring company management. This sort of board has the authority to hire or fire the general manager and is the highest decision making body short of the general assembly of all the owners. But there are other types of boards as well. 

Advisory boards differ from boards of directors primarily in that they do not have the legal authority to enforce their decisions. Advisory Boards are used around the globe for different purposes and can be boards of key customers, boards of technical experts or, as is common for many BAM companies, non-binding management advisory boards. Read more