Created by Evan McCall for The BAM Review.
Interview with Peter Shaukat – Part 2
With 15 years of experience recruiting for, mentoring, and investing in BAM companies all over the Arab world and Asia, Peter has a unique perspective into Human Resources for business as mission. Continuing our interview, we asked him to share what he sees as essential characteristics of a BAMer.
Tell us more about those character traits or criteria that you identify and look for in a potential BAMer.
This is where the rubber hits the road. We have developed an interesting questionnaire for potential BAM practitioners which get to some of these criteria. Here are ten of the top ranking criteria in our experience:
1. Well-rounded thinking
We look for a genuine, thoughtful understanding of work as ministry, with the experience and capacity to grapple with ethical issues, able to live with a certain degree of ambiguity – i.e. they are not black and white in their thinking.
2. Servant leaders
BAM practitioners, fundamentally, are called by God to a ministry of exercising servant-leadership in the marketplace – the arena which is, in our time, the most influential, agenda-setting nexus of human activity. Understanding how to be an agent of redemption and transformation in such a context – and bringing some tangible experience to the table in doing so – is indispensable. Read more
Insights from a BAM Practitioner
‘Julia’ has been a business owner in Mongolia for 12 years.
Investing in people is challenging, but worth it
My husband likes to quote his habitat for humanity friend on this: “It is easy to build houses and so hard to build people”. Houses stay put where you build them and people are always changing – but the costly things are the precious ones. I have tried to be somewhat friendly with my employees and try to model respect, servant leadership, and creating a healthy work environment. I have also had to balance that by being firm in my approach and following up with consequences. Finding a healthy balance between respect and the friend who is the boss has been a key. Some of our oldest, most mature workers, have come back to me years later and thanked me for this model that they now understand but didn’t when they first worked for us.
Tread carefully with strongly held cultural-values
We’ve had lots of problems with staff not wanting to report to younger colleagues, or do certain jobs, because of their status in the culture. I used to think it was good to push them into this to learn humility. Now I think it is more respectful of the person to work with them in this up to a point. It is only the Lord who can work humility in people. I still have to consider the good of the business but as much as possible I try to work with my employees until they are ready for more. When I find someone willing and secure enough to take on cross-status challenges, I try to reward them and treasure their maturity with more responsibility and privilege.
It’s worth paying for good talent
We always paid minimum wage until the last two years when I found an over-qualified and competent worker. I just about broke the bank to get her a somewhat acceptable salary and she was worth her weight in gold! We never have to worry about our books going in the red with her around. I have learned that when you find a good worker it is well worth it to really do all you can to take care of them. I can’t afford not to, even if it is a stretch.
Last week we unpacked the Top 3 biggest HR issues in business as mission – as related to us by 25 BAM Practitioners. We asked them:
What have been the most important HR issues in your BAM business experience?
Here are the rest of the Top 10 most frequently mentioned Human Resource challenges and some of the comments that business owners shared with us.
4. Lack of required skills in employees
The need for significant training and staff development when hiring locally, especially when targeting job creation for a specific group.
We employ adults with low literacy skills and chronically poor, with very complex lives – this presents nested and multiple challenges – in a sense though this is why the business exists. – David, Asia
My biggest HR challenge is the critical thinking and problem solving skills within my Kenyan employees. They grew up in the rote educational system that didn’t develop it and they lack that capacity. There are few Kenyans that do have these skills, but they are typically already successfully running businesses and I can’t compensate them, or give them ownership stake in a way that will motivate them to join my company. – Brian, Kenya
Another challenge is building soft skills such as communication, creative thinking, team spirit, etc., among the staff. – Joseph, India
A significant challenge is poor technical training. Usually it’s their first job. – Hans, Angola Read more
Have you got any advice for me concerning HR issues that involve a clash of cultural or Biblical values? I want to pay my workers equally for doing the same job and in Nepal where I run my business, men and women don’t usually receive equal pay. It’s not so much an ethical dilemma for me, but a practical question about how I can approach this well. How do I best communicate and lead my Nepali team through this issue?
The first issue that needs to be discussed in regards to anything to do with money is how the local community views foreigners working among them. It has been our direct experience and that of other BAMers that we have talked to the mere fact that you are in the country – and can leave at will – indicates that you are filthy rich and can do whatever you want to do. Foreigners, therefore, are often viewed as walking dollar signs no matter who they are.
The Biblical point of view in Proverb 31 does give us the illustration of the industrious women in a Middle Eastern context going out and buying a field (which my wife did once when I was on a business trip, much to my surprise). The Proverbs 31 woman was not from a poor background as far as I can determine, so it’s applicability to this situation is uncertain. However, it is clear that women are encouraged to be industrious, be self-motivated and be allowed to manage staff if they are able and willing to do so in whatever culture they are in.
Since every situation is different there is no standard answer to making difficult decisions.
However, the following steps need to be followed in most decision-making situations: Read more
by Mike Baer
I’ve consulted with a lot of business startups – usually after they’ve stalled or run into trouble. The problem in almost every case I have seen is not funding. It’s people.
Not having the right people around you from Day One is Problem One.
This post will address some of the key things to think about when it comes to your team.
Exactly what you need in term of skills depends largely on the type of business you are starting and the particular impact strategy you’ve chosen. Nevertheless, here are some basic positions you need to have filled – even if you have the same person filling two boxes on the organisational chart or if you outsource. Read more
Once a month, our panel of mentors answer your practical business questions. Send us your questions!
Dear BAM Mentor,
Have you got any advice for me concerning HR issues that involve a clash of cultural or Biblical values? I want to pay my workers equally for doing the same job and in Nepal where I run my business, men and women don’t usually receive equal pay. It’s not so much an ethical dilemma for me, but a practical question about how I can approach this well. How do I best communicate and lead my Nepali team (managers and workers) through this issue?
~ Hiring in the Himalayas
I want to humbly submit that the issue here runs deeper than that of pay equality, I believe the root of this issue speaks to gender equality within the workplace and whether we as Christ followers believe it is a biblical value that we are charged to uphold. As a woman who has had a long career in the workplace, I have to say my experience has not always been positive, even with my male co-workers of faith. As people conducting business in a second culture, by all means we must be culturally sensitive, but we must recognize the mandates of our Lord have been corrupted by culture, and we know Jesus came to make all things new. To me, one of the most personal personifications of this ideal was in His encounter with the Samaritan woman at the well. Jews did condescend to speak with Samaritans in public, and male Jews were rabbinically prohibited from speaking with women in public to eliminate opportunity for gossip. Yet this beautiful narrative provides a clear example of how He wants us to step outside the boundaries of culture to engage with our world in a restorative manner.
Our lives and how we operate our businesses should speak into the lives of our employees in ways they have never experienced; to lift them up, to value them for their contribution to the business, to recognize their inherent worth as uniquely created and specifically gifted individuals, and thus move them towards reconciliation to the Lord they do not yet know, but whom they can experience through you and your example. How else can we give an answer for the hope that is within us, if our lives and our businesses do not model the life of our redeemer? We know that in Him we are all equal, thus in our business we must make every attempt to live out that principle. Read more
Insights from a BAM Practitioner
Brian Albright has been involved in international development and business (in agriculture and health care) in East Africa since 2004. He currently teaches Business as Mission and Social Entrepreneurship at Hope International University in Fullerton, California, USA.
Invest in your key relationships and stay teachable
I’ve been blessed to partner with two amazingly gifted Kenyans to run our companies. They have strengths and weaknesses—as I do—that must be understood and managed. The cultural differences are real, and I could share many stories where my presence, perspective, and opinion were detrimental, and I learned to stay teachable. I know the most valuable investment we have made in our long-term business success is the time we have taken to build trust, communication, and a more open relationship. If I were to start over new in another location, the first thing I would do would be to find the right partner and develop that kind of relationship.
Monitor the numbers regularly
In the context we work in, there is a strong donor mentality due to a long history of handouts. With some of our employees and clients, it is hard to make the switch in mindset to running a business that is sustainable, where “finding a donor” isn’t the proper response to financial problems. The way we avoid this mentality is to set specific quantitative goals and monitor costs, revenues, client totals, labor hours, profitability, etc. on a regular basis. This focus on the numbers reminds us that we are a business.
You can’t do it all, work with others
While working alongside the poor, many issues emerge such as AIDS, alcoholism, nominal Christianity, sexual promiscuity, children’s school fees, costs of health care, etc.. Our business exists to meet these social and spiritual needs, but our primary role as a business is to provide goods and services and to create jobs. There are churches, health clinics, and NGO’s that we partner with in our community so that our company isn’t all things to all people. While our goals are beyond that of a traditional business, we are not experts in all of these areas, nor should we try to be. I think we are better at accomplishing all of our goals because we partner in this way.
Once a month, our panel of mentors answer your practical business questions. Send us your questions!
Dear BAM Mentor,
One of the purposes of my business is to create jobs in an area where there is a lot of need. I am feeling the tension between hiring more people who are particularly vulnerable and desperately in need of a job versus hiring people with more skills. Have you got any advice as I try balance making good business decisions alongside fulfilling this core mission of the company?
~ Hopeful Hirer
This is a very common concern in our community, so thanks for asking! BAM has great potential in poverty relief, but most of us don’t get there, largely because we fail to ask this sort of question at the beginning.
I would start by changing the challenge from finding the right balance to managing the tension. That’s a healthier way to look at this and a lot of issues. On one side of the tension is the pressure to hire lots of people who are unemployed, many of whom likely lack skills and have a less than optimal work ethic. On the other side of the tension is the need to keep the business alive. If the business fails you won’t be able to hire or help anyone. Look at profitability as a necessary precondition for fulfilling your objective and hiring and training the vulnerable and desperately in need. Profit is like oxygen. No one worries about breathing unless it’s a problem, and then it becomes their entire focus. So make sure you structure and grow your staff so that the business has enough profit so that you are able to give to and equip the vulnerable and needy. Read more
Interview with Dr. Steve Rundle
Steve, I know you have been doing some interesting research on BAM in the last few years, can you briefly describe what you have been looking at?
As an economist, I’ve always been interested in the relationship between the structure and governance of a company and its performance. Since the 1990s, when I first started meeting people who were combining business and missions, I naturally asked lots of nosey questions about the company’s financing, revenues, profits, and so on. I was especially intrigued by the role venture capital might play in funding businesses that were not only extremely risky, but were being managed by people who, in many cases, admitted that they weren’t too concerned about profits and that in fact they would be satisfied with just breaking even. I was not surprised to discover that no venture capital firms existed in this space, at that time. Most of these businesses were either donor funded, or in some cases funded with the help of one or two “Angel Investors.”
But this raised lots of new questions about the performance of these businesses. What are the expected outcomes, and how are practitioners incentivized to achieve those outcomes? Practitioners who are affiliated with a missionary sending organization may be discouraged from being too serious about business for fear that it will distract them from their ministry goals. One way to remove that distraction is to require the practitioner to raise donor support, in which case they will not be dependent on the business for income. This might sound logical at first, until you start meeting other BAM practitioners who are entirely dependent on their businesses for their salaries who are having an incredible impact. So I wanted to look at this more carefully by comparing the outcomes of people who drew 100% of their income from donors with those who are 100% business supported. Read more