We asked eight people who have got involved in BAM in the last 5 years to share how they got launched and how well they landed. We asked them:
- What helped propel you towards business as mission?
- Was there anything that held you back that you had to overcome?
- What were some of the most important things you did to prepare to launch?
- Did any gaps in your know-how or preparation come to light as you landed?
Part 4: Did any gaps in your know-how or preparation come to light as you landed?
On the business side, there’s always a lot that needs to be figured out on how to setup and manage a company as a foreigner. A benefit for us is that we had some operational and strategic experience in business before starting our own here. For BAM, we are continually working on how to best integrate ministry within business. Speaking with other BAM workers and hearing their experiences and how they do it has been crucial and insightful. – Ben and Yumi, Vietnam [have been operating a software development company for 18 months, before that they spent 10 months intentionally preparing to do BAM, 4 months in their home country and 6 months in Vietnam]
I didn’t find any gaps. I think taking it easy was a good strategy. Some employees are more interested than others but eventually they all come to be interested. The bigger issue is to take the BAM concept to our suppliers and distributors. That will be a real challenge but doing so will maximize our impact. – Daniel, Haiti [transitioned his company to being a BAM-focused company 2 ½ years ago, he spent 2 years before that preparing to do BAM]
Most of the things I had to learn where language, culture, who the players were in the business realm, how to work with the government, and then learn the markets. This is all pretty basic stuff but it takes time and energy. Lots of it. So network like crazy, and study hard on the culture, people, and language before opening up a business. If you have a healthy and growing relationship with Jesus, then He will show you the rest. – Jacob, Nepal [has been working for PacMoore in Kathmandu, Nepal for 3 ½ years, after 2 years of God preparing him to go]
By the grace of God and thanks to come good training and coaching, we were quite well prepared. – Steven, Thailand [co-founded a BAM company 3 years ago, after 2 years of language learning, he spent 5 years before that growing a startup and getting ready to go overseas]
We had to get up to snuff with our accounting methods, COGS (cost of goods sold), and our marketing techniques, all of which got well on their way with about one year of coaching. We also had a person with a business background run our cafe for a year while we were gone. This gave it a great boost and we learned by seeing the changes made with us out of the picture! – Julia, Mongolia [has been doing BAM for 3 years ‘on purpose’ in Mongolia after 18 months of working on a not-so-BAM-intentional version of the cafe]
I don’t know if this was a ‘gap’ or not but we did realize after being here that we are more inclined toward building businesses than starting businesses. This changed our approach in terms of looking for a business to join instead of start. Although I’ve been told that we might get more of a taste for starting businesses as we get more into BAM! – Evan, Thailand [is now transitioning to work at management level in a BAM company after working in BAM mobilising and training for 2 years]
There are some Brazilian practitioners that are doing BAM, but singly. Our duty is to help Brazilian church to have a better comprehension and support Brazilian practitioners and candidates in the process of preparation, sending, and caring for them. At the current time, the big issue is to have a clear strategy of how we can mobilize the Brazilian church efficiently, mainly because we, as mobilizers, don’t have much experience. The Brazilian church has a very low interest in mission, it has a sacred-secular division mentality, and we have very few Brazilian BAMers. We are addressing it with prayer and resilience – a strong willingness to make it happen. God in His majesty and grace is opening doors to be in places that I, personally, never thought to be able to share about BAM. These big and other small things that happened make me feel that we are on the right path. – Sergio, Brazil [is employed in a large corporation and has also been working in a BAM mobilisation team since he heard about BAM, he and his wife are now intentionally preparing to be practitioners]
Yikes, I don’t know even know how many lessons I’ve learned! Sometimes it felt like it was daily other times it felt like a few months would go by without much new. Lessons would probably fit into buckets like: growing in faith, professional skills, communication and cross-cultural skills, questions about purpose and identity, questions about the definition of success, what roles can or should people with differing worldviews or beliefs play in the business, and tactical/strategy decisions…do we expand, wait, pivot etc.? – Evan, USA [recently moved back to the USA to work in a University setting after working in management in a BAM company in Nepal for 3 years]
by Jo Plummer
Jo Plummer is the Co-Chair of the BAM Global Think Tank and co-editor the Lausanne Occasional Paper on Business as Mission. She has been developing resources for BAM since 2001 and currently serves as Editor of the Business as Mission website.
With thanks to the BAM practitioners who shared their experiences