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Ask a BAM Mentor: Hiring Dilemmas

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

Dear Hopeful,

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

Bootstrapping your Business vs Seeking Outside Investment

What would you say were the most important things to prepare or think about as I approach a BAM investor? What are some typical pitfalls or mistakes I could avoid?

Before you walk down the road of approaching an outside investor, why not consider the possibility of self-funding – also known as “bootstrapping” – your company? If you decide to bootstrap, you may be surprised at how differently you approach your business, as well as the funding process. Bootstrapping can create a healthy foundation from which to begin your business, and can provide invaluable lessons to entrepreneurs. Lessons learned from bootstrapping can include:

  • Tests your business plan – A bootstrapped business that can bring a product or service to market, develop a customer base, and create a revenue flow will help you identify the strengths and weaknesses in your plan. You now have the solid proof you need to affirm your ideas and build on them. You will have determined if the market needs or wants your product, what the market is willing to pay for your product or service, and what will be required to put the business on a path to profitability. In addition, you will have a better sense of true costs, not just cost of goods, but hidden costs that are usually not considered or may not be known when a plan is developed. Bootstrapping will also force you to consider how the product or service is being developed, and it may cause you to re-consider aspects of product development as being unnecessary for product or service launch.
  • Provides incentive for a low burn rate – Limited financial resources will greatly influence the decisions required to operate your business, while at the same time maximizing efficiencies. This may include hiring employees that can function in more than one role, outsourcing certain roles until you can afford to bring them in-house, minimizing overhead like office space (know anyone with a spare garage?), as well as using a creative approach to marketing.
  • Skills and values development – Self-funding can be a useful mechanism in helping you gauge your true passion and commitment to your business. It will help you develop a higher level of accountability as well as resourcefulness, resilience and courage. It will most certainly test your risk aversion.

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How to Prepare for Investors

What would you say were the most important things to prepare or think about as I approach a BAM investor? What are some typical pitfalls or mistakes I could avoid?

Funding for your new business is obviously crucial – no cash, no business. So let’s think about this from an investor’s perspective. What is it that interests him or her? What does he or she want to see? What questions answered?

Here’s what I’d be asking:

  • What exactly is the product or service that you intend to sell? Don’t assume that I understand it. Make it simple for me.
  • What is the market demand for this? Is it a cool idea, a “me too,” or is there a real demand? In other words, do people really need/want your product or service?
  • Who will your competitors be? How is your idea better than and different from theirs?

This first set of questions is about your viability in the market place. Is this a real business? This second set of questions is about you. Can I count on you? Read more

Ask a BAM Mentor: Financing a BAM Company

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

Dear BAM Mentor,

What would you say were the most important things to prepare or think about as I approach a BAM investor? What are some typical pitfalls or mistakes I could avoid?

Getting Prepared

Dear Getting Prepared,

Funding for your new business is obviously crucial – no cash, no business. So let’s think about this from an investor’s perspective. What is it that interests him or her? What does he or she want to see? What questions answered?

Here’s what I’d be asking: What exactly is the product or service that you intend to sell? Don’t assume that I understand it. Make it simple for me. What is the market demand for this? Do people really need/want your product or service? Who will your competitors be? How is your idea better than and different from theirs?

This first set of questions is about your viability in the market place. Is this a real business? The next set of questions is about you. Can I count on you? What is your background? Why are you particularly qualified to launch a business like this one? Do you have a specific knowledge base or experience that would give me confidence that you can actually pull this off? Who do you have around you? What is your track record? Who will vouch for your character? Your commitment to Christ?

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Ask a BAM Mentor: Dealing with Corruption

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

Dear BAM Mentor,

My customs broker tells me I have to give a gift to the customs officials to get our materials out of customs. He said it’s standard, no big deal. I asked the pastor at our local church and he said it would be terrible to pay a bribe like that – it’s illegal and gives a very bad lesson to others.  I’m new in the business and to importing here, and our business may fold if I can’t get this out soon. Is this a time to die for my principles or should I go with “when in Rome, do as the Romans do”?

~ Contemplating Corruption

Dear Contemplating Corruption,

Over which principle are you considering ‘dying’?  Is it God’s call to honesty? Or is it obedience to the local church and, if so, is the church correct?  I suspect that untangling the issues will help.

It sounds like you live in one of the many countries where written law differs from applied law. That’s how speed laws work in the UK, incidentally – they are applied, but not strictly. Most western country laws against foreign bribery make an explicit exclusion for “expediting payment”, which morally can be classified as extortion by the official who is withholding your legal rights until he or she gets their bribe. That’s fundamentally different from bribing an official to get something for which you don’t have the right. Paying an extortionist is generally a bad idea, but it’s on a different moral level than bribery. I wouldn’t die over an extortionists demand. Read more

Ask a BAM Mentor: Evaluating a Business Opportunity

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

 

Dear BAM Mentors,

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

~ Business as Mission Newbie

 

 

Dear BAM Newbie

First and foremost, set your goals according to the principle, “Seek ye first His kingdom and His righteousness and all these things shall be added to you.” (Matthew 6:33). Then, ask God for guidance into a business ministry of His choice for you, wait for His answer with a listening heart and mind. Third, allow God to choose life and business partners who identify with your God-given vision and mission objectives by asking everyone who wants to be an investor or active partner in the business whether they understand, agree and fully embrace the vision God has given you. – Joseph Read more

Questions for Business Building

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

When I first heard this question my reflex response from 30 years experience of running a business was… When will I get my investment back, what is the percentage return on investment and what is the risk?!

My more considered response is to ask three initial questions. There are obviously many other issues but these are those I consider the most significant:

First Question – What is the purpose of this business and what is my real motivation for taking on this opportunity to build a business?

I would ask myself, what am I really focused on – my vision, mission and strategy to bless the nations. I would consider the eternal rather than short-term goals for the business and would seek to discover how the business could sustain itself having once outgrown me and my start up team. Read more

Considering the Business Opportunity

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

Probably the most important aspect of pursuing a business opportunity is to first determine whether you are the right person for the job. I would recommend you do a personal assessment (be honest with yourself, there’s a lot at stake here), and ask yourself if you have the skills and passions necessary to build this specific type of business. Beyond that, do you have what it takes to live through the highs and eventual lows that you know will occur through the normal course of operations? Evaluating your readiness, and determining if your unique skill set maps to those required by the business should be at the top of your checklist, as you prayerfully and thoughtfully determine the worthiness of the project ahead of you.

As a potential entrepreneur, it is easy to get excited about any new business opportunity. So much in fact, that an entrepreneur can quickly lose his objectivity and become blinded to the potential pitfalls associated with the business. Many of us foolishly consider that if an opportunity exists, it must be the open door God wants us to walk through. Keep in mind that just because a door is open, doesn’t mean its the right door for you. While venturing into any new business can be daunting and filled with uncertainty, it can also be a time of exhilaration, not to mention a lot of fun. But do yourself a favor before you journey into the unknown; check your motivations. Know why you are doing this, and know the risks before you take the jump. Read more

Ask a BAM Mentor: Meet the Mentors

We are excited to introduce a new regular blog feature for ‘The BAM Review’: Ask a BAM Mentor.

Ask a BAM Mentor will be an opportunity for readers to ask practical business questions to experienced business as mission leaders, business owners and consultants. Every two weeks we will post a new question and hear responses from our panel of mentors. Submit a Question

Meet the Mentors:

Christa Foster Crawford 
Christa has worked to end human trafficking and sexual exploitation in Thailand and the Greater Mekong Subregion since 2001. In 2003 she started a social enterprise for freedom, pioneering small Food and Beverage/Hospitality businesses to offer sustainable alternatives to exploitation. She currently empowers the work of other organizations through the Trafficking Resource Connection, providing expert advice and referrals, resource development and sharing, and teaching and training. A passionate advocate, Christa speaks, writes and teaches internationally on issues of human trafficking, sexual abuse and exploitation, and children at risk. She is a graduate of Harvard Law School and Claremont McKenna College.

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