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Seven Reasons Why Everyone Needs a Coach

by Larry Sharp

When I was a collegiate hockey player, it never dawned on me that I might not need a coach. Not only did the coaches help me with personal skill development like skating, passing, shooting, and checking, but also how to develop my team play so together we could be successful.  Although I had good coaches and poor coaches, I always knew that I needed a coach.

Why then did it not dawn on me that I needed a coach when I was supervising 120 employees just months after graduating from university?  It was not like I had a super-mentoring boss because I did not, and I don’t think I was arrogant and thought that I knew it all.  Why did I not think I needed a mentor?

While it is true that my management career began long before Bill Gates affirmed that “everyone needs a coach”, I have often reflected on why it is that people still today think they don’t need a mentor, or a coach or consulting help?  These few thoughts are intended to help encourage business owners and managers to seek a coach, mentor or consultant.  Read more

Five Essential Reminders if you are Managing a Crisis

by Larry Sharp

I was responsible for matters related to a crisis for many years as the VP of a mid-sized mission agency. During that time I faced the challenge of evacuating an unconscious child from a high risk country, rescuing an imprisoned employee in East Asia, a mega-earthquake in Haiti, famine in Africa, automobile death of an employee in France, child abuse situations, among other similar critical incidents.

Our English word crisis comes from the Greek krisis which was defined as a “separating, distinguishing, discrimination, decision, judgment”. The sense of “decisive moment” in reference to crisis is first recorded in English in 1627 as a figurative extension of the original medical meaning. Crisis historically signified “a turning point in a disease; a sudden change for better or worse.”1

The COVID-19 crisis of 2020, as with all crises, indicates a sudden change and a turning point and has many components; however only one is treated in this article. 

A response to crisis is dependent on company policies, risk assessments and contingency training and planning, all of which prepares one for the actual crisis. Once the crisis “hits” comes the actual management with functional team roles to include the crisis manager, information officer, financial officer, consultants, and others. So then, when it comes to managing a crisis such as COVID-19, what are the managerial components, especially in light of the “decisive moment” for all of us?  Read more

Three Things I Learned During the Epidemic of 1974 That Apply to BAM in the Pandemic of 2020

by Larry Sharp

In the early 1970’s I was living, along with my family, in the Brazilian Amazon port city of Belem where I was the administrator of a school for children of expatriates. The Amazon Valley Academy is a K-12 school following an American curriculum but also in the 1970s and 80s taught a German program for grades 1-10 and tutored British O-level classes.

In the spring of 1974, we noted children getting ill in unusually high numbers and eventually it was determined that Hepatitis A had struck the community. We were forced to close the school and it did not re-open for five weeks.

Hepatitis A is a communicable disease of the liver caused by the hepatitis A virus (HAV). It is usually transmitted person-to-person through the fecal-oral route or consumption of contaminated food or water. Most adults with hepatitis A have symptoms, including fatigue, low appetite, stomach pain, nausea, and jaundice.

But in those days, the doctors did not know any of that. In fact, they theorized that the condition might be caused by a mosquito. And so the government epidemiologists set up tests in the community and on campus to capture and test mosquitos; meanwhile the children from our three boarding homes and others from the community were required to stay home and rest since there was no known cure and no vaccination.

After five weeks had passed most students seemed to be returning to normal health so we decided to re-open the school and most of the children returned. But then another emergency – most of the teachers got sick – yes – Hepatitis A. What should we do now?

There were a few teachers and myself (I was the high school principal at the time) who had escaped infection. As we sat around one evening thinking and praying through some options, one of the math teachers came up with an idea. “Let’s take high school seniors and juniors and use their strengths to teach the middle school students” he said. We settled on Charles to lead the science teaching team, John to lead the history team, Bruce to lead the math team and Anita to lead the English language team.  Read more

A Business as Mission Crisis: How Can We Pray?

by Larry Sharp

During these days of uncertainty due to the worldwide coronavirus, business startups are hurting, and many of them will fail due to the outbreak of COVID-19. This is particularly true of BAM startup businesses, which are affected in many ways.

Just today as I write this, I received an appeal from a Freedom Business in India to encourage others to buy their product on-line.  I also received a note from a person who works as an HR-disciple making person in a business in Cambodia. She is losing her visa and needs to return to the USA within 30-days due to new regulations connected to the virus.

Here are some ways to PRAY based on what we know right now:

1. For wisdom for business owners who have very little margin or capacity for downsizing and will ultimately need to make hard decisions.

2. For the poor who desperately need the jobs that BAM companies are providing, and now face job loss.

3. For innovative means of providing capital. Some of the ways may include increased donations or short-term low-interest loans to BAM businesses.

4. For God’s people in the west who have expertise and can provide a helpline; that they will make themselves available and know where their help can be best applied.

5. For innovators and inventors to have their creative juices unleashed to develop solutions which will help BAM businesses in this difficult time.

6. For leaders connected to many BAM/B4t businesses who are right now considering options for how to help – RN, PL, CS, MT, JP, RB and others.

7. That all believers will respond toward the most vulnerable in ways similar to how Christians responded in other pandemics. Check out this link.

 

Mats Tunehag has also adapted St. Patrick’s prayer to use during this time, either as a BAM company leader or to pray for others in the BAM community.

Read more

Transforming the Church, One Engaged Business Person at a Time

by Larry Sharp

Over the years I have had various business owners and executives travel with me as I’ve coached and supported companies around the world. On one particular trip, the VP of a Fortune 500 company came with me and some others to a former Soviet Republic country. He had gone on many mission trips, built churches, passed out tracts, and tutored English – all good things! But in Kazakhstan he helped Kazakh believers and expats with business mentoring on topics like making financial projections, contract law, and international marketing. On the trip home he told me that he finally saw how his skills can be used to build the kingdom of God. “Where are we going next?” he asked, after a short time of reflection at home.

I have had many experiences like this, witnessing firsthand the moment business people have felt affirmed and become engaged in using their skills and experience in business as mission. They go from seeing their contribution as limited to PRAY or PAY, and start to realise they can be actively involved – i.e. PLAY! And there are multiple ways for people to get engaged.

For the first time she saw that her business ability and position was a God-given asset.

A young fellow about 30 years old heard me speak in a large mega-church in Pennsylvania. He asked to meet with me and said, “All this is new to me and I don’t think my wife will want to move outside the state, what can I do?” After finding out he was the owner of an SEO company with 14 employees, I said absolutely – and you don’t even have to leave your computer. He has been a wonderful contributor to business startups in unreached areas of the world.

On another occasion, I spoke in a church in the Philadelphia area one Sunday morning. The pastor seemed open to all I spoke about that morning but the real encouragement was talking to several business people afterwards. One woman was a chemical engineer, a former Proctor and Gamble manager who supervised the development of Pampers. She joined our team and helped us with our “product development” when we were just getting going as a BAM consulting group.  Read more

When Things Go Wrong: 9 BAMers Share Mistakes & Misadventures

We asked some (otherwise very successful) BAM Practitioners that we know to share some of the errors, disasters and unfortunate events that they have experienced in their business as mission journeys. Here nine BAMers share eleven stories about their mistakes and misadventures:

They Didn’t Come…

In our first years we did not have enough focus on sales and revenue, it was more of a “build it and they will come” mindset. It almost killed us. Then the solution was to hire a sales guy in the US, but the problem was twofold; first I should never have tried to outsource sales so early as CEO and second I hired a great guy but one that had bigger company experience and not the early entrepreneurial sales experience needed at our stage. This was a second failure on the sales side that almost killed us. I have come to fully understand the saying “no margin, no mission” and put sales as a key priority for myself until we got fully into orbit and could hand it off to the right person with right experience for our company stage, deal size and industry. MC

Too Many Cabinets

There’s two ways you can kill a startup: too little business and too much business. A couple of years ago, our 5 month old custom cabinet business was featured on our local news station. In our exuberance, we signed up too many customers with an unrealistic view of how quickly we could complete jobs. In less than a month, we had ended up with upset customers and significant cash flow problems as we made mistakes in our rush to complete jobs whilst also missing deadlines. In this case, we were able to recover our financial footings through a few key factors: Our product ultimately was a good fit with customer demand, so after apologizing and then completing jobs satisfactorily, we were able to refine our product and service to even better serve our customers. We started specializing in only Shaker Cabinets which sped up our production time and allowed us to more strategically market to our customers. Finally, our grasp of our cash flow position enabled us to raise funds in time (through God’s abundant blessing) to make it through our mistake and onto the future. JR  Read more

Grand Openings and Grand Opportunities: A BAM Story

We’re so excited to be open! After 3 years of planning, preparation, cutting through swathes or red tape, remodelling, investment-raising and long days of hard work, the day of our café grand opening was nearly perfect. Lots of customers showed up, neighbors congratulated and welcomed us, and we received lots of positive feedback.

Everyone who walks in says nearly the same thing; some version of, “Wow, this place is beautiful, and so comfortable and relaxing. I might not leave!”

It is gratifying to see people come in and enjoy our products and our service, and then come back again. We have already noticed how this business is giving us greater inroads to be able to share Jesus with people.

New Connections

The most encouraging thing about the opening of our café is the greater openness and acceptance from people that it has provided. The next door neighbor to our shop, who we’ve waved at and attempted to engage with over the past three years, has become our most frequent customer. He brought his family over and introduced them, and has begun having client meetings at our cafe. And, new people are coming around as well. We recently met Lek who was walking buy, decided to stop in, and then asked if I could talk for a minute. We talked about the business and then about him for over an hour. In a couple of weeks, we’re going to meet at another coffee shop in town to work on his English and my Thai.  Read more

God Uses Business to Bring You Closer to Him

by Dave Kahle

God uses our businesses as devices to nudge us closer to Him and to build the attitudes and practices that enable our next step up the spiritual growth continuum.

It was 2010, and the financial crises which exploded in 2008 was, at last, reaching my business. My clients, B2B sales organizations, were shrinking and a few were going out of business. Investing in developing their sales force – the heart of my business – was nowhere on their agenda.

Whereas we had done fully-subscribed sales seminars around the country for ten years previously, now we canceled 9 of 10 seminars for lack of registrations. Individual speaking engagements had disappeared, and sales of books and videos had shrunk to next to nothing. Our corporate income declined by 80%.

The business that had consumed most of my time and energy for 20 years was disappearing. It was like a big part of me had withered away and was being amputated.

On the day that I canceled the last three seminars for lack of registrations, I realized that we had nothing booked for the future. I was going to have to lay off most of my staff.

I closed the door to my office and burst into tears. The business that had consumed most of my time and energy for 20 years was disappearing. It was like a big part of me had withered away and was being amputated.

“Lord,” I cried, “what do you want from me?”   Read more

8 Business Failures: What we Learned

by Larry Sharp

‘Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it.’ (George Santayana-1905). In a 1948 speech to the House of Commons, Winston Churchill changed the quote slightly when he said (paraphrased), ‘Those who fail to learn from history are condemned to repeat it.’

I was recently cleaning up some physical files, when I ran across a spreadsheet from 2008/09 listing IBEC projects which provided data on the status of the start-up, metrics for success and other interesting information. I found it curious that many of these businesses we worked with in the first two years of our existence have “failed”.

It reminded me of a conference in Arizona a few years ago, when after I had cited many success stories, a person in the audience asked me, “don’t you guys have any failures?”

Now I would be the first to recognize that “failures” are not really failures, but more accurately experiments in learning. In the famous words of Thomas Edison, “I have not failed. I’ve just found 10,000 ways that won’t work.” And so it may be with those early years in IBEC.

There is no perfect assessment of a cause-effect relationship, and I acknowledge that my perspective is personal and anecdotal, however I believe those closest to these situations would concur that what I relate here is at least at least one primary reason for the demise. Here is an effort to “remember the past” with a view to giving reasons for the demise of each dream and a statement of what we learned. I will not provide specific identification of the geographical area nor the persons involved out of respect for security issues and the fact that I do not want to disparage the efforts of anyone.  Read more

When Things Go Right: 8 Success Factors to Keep You from Failing

To round out our ‘Learning from BAM Failure’ series, we circle back around to what helps you succeed. We asked the same BAM practitioners who shared failure stories to also share what kept their businesses from going under completely.

We asked: If you had to give the top two or three reasons for your overall business success, what factors would you share?

Here is a rundown of their combined responses in a Top 8 list of ‘What Went Right’

1. Build a wider network and community

Mentioned in some form by almost all the practitioners we asked, top of the list is creating a robust network around the business and its owners. These BAMers said that forging strong partnerships and building a community of mentors/supporters was key. Avoiding isolation is vital.

Having world class partners has been essential.

As an owner, share the challenges you face with your board, investors, mentors, etc. Tell the truth, early and often.

Surround yourself with counsel. Stay attached to God and his people either through a church/agency or personal mentor or coach.

I’ve succeeded because I’ve had a spouse that has stood by me through thick and thin, not to mention a relationship with my business partner built on tremendous trust and respect. It’s also been important to have mentors and coaches walking closely with us.

A success factor for me has been being well networked in the wider business community as well as the BAM community nationally.

Integration with the local University has been essential. Strong relationships with key professors has allowed us to get first picks on some of the best students who come to do internships with us and eventually become junior staff members.

Read more

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