Fruitful Practices for a Healthy BAM Business Team

‘Team troubles’ were one of the top 4 reasons BAM mentors gave for practitioners giving up and going home. The ability to build effective teams and work through difficult team dynamics is therefore crucial for the sustainability of BAM companies. In this interview, we talk to Luke, a BAM business owner living in the Middle East, about his business story and what ingredients make for healthy business teams.


What general principles do you have for any company team for building healthy team relationships?

As soon as you want to build a scalable business the business team becomes super-important. The essence of a successful business is in the team, rather than the individual. To grow you need to be able to manage the business as a team, you need to be able to be on the same page.

I think at the heart of healthy team relationships there is good communication and honesty. These build trust, they reduce the sense of isolation, and they bring unity and agreement on strategy. This is particularly important for teams in multiple locations when there is a high risk of feeling isolated or misunderstood.

Honesty is crucial. Getting to the right level of honesty to enable the team to be most effective can be painful and humbling. Sometimes I don’t want to share when things go wrong, or it’s not looking as good as I hoped. Pride can lead us to partial honesty. I am talking about the temptation to overplay a lead or exaggerate about a potential client because you want to look good. However, partial honesty seriously reduces the ability of the team to manage the business, because they don’t have a clear enough picture of what’s going on.

To reach the kind of honesty required, there has to be trust and commitment in the relationship. It’s a bit like a marriage covenant: you say to someone, “It doesn’t matter what you do, we are going to stay married.” Although a business partnership is different, there has to be a degree of trust and security in the relationship, an appropriate level of commitment.

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How Does Spiritual Impact Intersect with Your Product or Service?

It goes without saying that the product or service you develop will be tightly interwoven with your missional goals: social, economic, environmental and spiritual. We can learn a lot from mainstream business about how to most effectively develop products and market share that will turn a profit and create economic impact. We can also learn much from the social enterprise movement and other socially responsibility companies about how products and services integrate with both social and environmental impact. But business as mission integrates a fourth bottom line, that of spiritual impact. In what ways does the product you develop or the service you offer intersect with the spiritual impact of a BAM company?

We asked four BAM practitioners in very different sectors in different parts of Asia to share why they chose their business and how it connects with the spiritual goals for their business:

Extreme Sports Equipment – Wholesale and Distribution

For us it’s impossible to separate our products from the impact we want to have as a business. First of all we want to make sure that all our products have integrity. We use the finest quality materials to make our equipment. Factories here tend to use a lower grade of materials when mass producing this type of equipment. We asked our manufactures to use the highest grade of materials possible and have a good standard of quality control in place. We pay more, but we feel that supplying top-quality equipment is integral to our credibility and our message. We also include graphics and images on our equipment that have a gospel meaning behind them. Every graphic has a story and we include booklets with our products that explain what the images mean and essentially tell the gospel. We are actively engaged with the extreme sports community here, we sponsor competitors and hang out with the people who are into our sport. We’ve started a kind of church among this group, we go where they all gather together and we do a bible study there, we regularly meet with a core group of 20 to 30. We send representatives from our company out as they do product distribution to other cities and they are able to build relationships with community leaders and begin to disciple them. – Jon and Dave

Language Academy – Education

I have a passion for training and my wife loves to write curriculum, so taking over a Language Center was a natural fit for us. It was a struggling company at the time, but we could see how it had potential to make an impact in the Muslim nation we are in. People from all over the Middle East come here to learn English and other languages – we offer five languages all together. Some of our staff work exclusively within our Academy, others teach part-time and very intentionally engage in evangelism and church planting work, much of that out of the relationships they build through the center. Education and training work is a great environment in which to be a witness for Jesus and share biblical ideas since we get to spend intensive time with our students. We also have a children’s language program that mostly focuses on English teaching, since the demand for that is so high. We go into Arab Schools and teach children from 4 to 18 years, mainly immigrants from Middle Eastern countries, many coming from difficult situations. The English language represents hope for the future for them and we get to build really good relationships with whole families. We talk in our classes about religious beliefs, for instance at Christmas we were able to share all about who Christ is. We also get to go and drink coffee with the parents and make friends outside the classroom. – Steve  Read more

The Power of Business to Bring Freedom to the Enslaved

This month we are exploring different motives a missional entrepreneur may have for pursuing business as mission as their strategy of choice. In this third post, we are exploring the power of business to bring economic solutions to human trafficking and freedom to the enslaved. Download the 2022 IMPACT Report from the Freedom Business Alliance below to learn much more.

by Freedom Business Alliance

Ghanaian diplomat and former Secretary-General of the UN Kofi Annan introduced the issue of human trafficking to the UN General Assembly in 2000 with this statement:

I believe the trafficking of persons, particularly women and children, for forced and exploitative labor, especially for sexual exploitation, is one of the most egregious violations of human rights which the United Nations now confronts.¹

Over twenty years later, this egregious violation not only still exists, but has increased. The International Labour Organization estimates that at any given time, 50 million people, predominantly women and girls, are trapped in modern slavery, an increase in 10 million compared to 2016 estimates.²

The Business of Human Trafficking

While awareness of this global crisis has grown in recent years, many still do not recognize the economic aspects of the issue, leaving a complete solution just out of grasp, until now. Freedom Businesses have been launched to address this gap, arising as a groundswell response from entrepreneurs operating in the anti-trafficking ecosystem, all of whom are on mission to create life-giving jobs for survivors of human trafficking and labor exploitation.

Make no mistake: human trafficking is a business. It is estimated that the total profits obtained from the use of forced labour in the private economy worldwide amount to US$150 billion per year. 3 While there are still legal and law enforcement issues to be improved, a major root cause of trafficking is economic vulnerability. Places with high unemployment and under-employment are high-risk areas, where traffickers lure vulnerable people, most of them women and girls. People are making money from the sale of those most economically vulnerable among us. This is business in its most evil form.   Read more

6 Product and Market Bloopers: What to Do and Not to Do

This December marks 8 years of regularly posting content on The BAM Review Blog. This month we are sharing some past posts on practical BAM topics that you might have missed.

Some things are learned the hard way. Mistakes are part of life. But we can also learn from others’ mistakes and hopefully avoid them. We asked BAM practitioners in very different sectors in different parts of Asia to share a lesson they had learned about developing their product or service. Here is their BAM blooper reel:

1. Don’t jump from your idea to… we’re going to do it!

Do your research. Don’t do, “I’m just believing God” and not do your homework. Take time to do some basic surveys and cost comparisons. We’ve always done market research and surveys, asking: is it out there, what’s the competition, how long have they been around, what they are charging? If there is nothing out there then look at a nearby country or look at a product that is close to the one you want to offer. We’ve seen businesses come in with a ‘good idea’ and just go ahead, with no research. One man I met came in with an idea for selling waffles, a business he’d done before. However, he was very badly advised by a local consultancy. He only had one product and here in this country if you don’t have at least 10 things on your menu no one will come in and buy. I walked into his shop and saw in five minutes that it wasn’t going to work as a business. He’d spent his retirement money and closed up after only 6 months. – Ron Read more

5 Principles Learned from a BAM Journey: Matt’s Story

by Larry Sharp

This past month we have been featuring stories from Larry Sharp. Larry’s new book ‘Mission Disrupted: From Professional Missionaries to Missionary Professionals’ tells 27 stories and is out now!

Matt lives in a crowded city in Asia’s largest country where his business demands a driver to take him from place to place. Naturally he has become close friends with the driver, Wang Wei who had plenty of opportunities to observe Matt’s family and he saw something quite different from what he was used to, and he wanted that for his family too. He kept watching and then began talking to Matt about what he was seeing. There were plenty of conversations before Wang Wei became a true follower of Jesus. Matt now is privileged to disciple him in his new life in Christ.

I had visited a mid-sized business in this same country some years ago and observed how God had used Matt to help a business flourish with clear Quadruple Bottom line results.  He returned to his home country to complete an MBA and renew his interest and experience in property sales and management. I knew that he would be a success in this new endeavor so my conversation with him turned to questions related to his journey, his driving passion, and how he got to where he was in his faith-work understanding and in the integration of his mission in life with workplace success.

During that conversation he shared five noteworthy principles:

1. Spend Time with God-Fearing People in Church, Family and Community

Matt is a multi-talented guy with various skills. He had learned another language and he had lived in another culture. And he wanted to make a difference for God in the world, so he asked people to pray with and for him. As he talked with family and friends, an opportunity opened to work overseas, and they advised him to move in that direction. And he did. Read more

Nguvu Dairy: A Trauma Informed Workplace in Northern Uganda

by Larry Sharp

This month we are featuring stories from Larry Sharp. Larry’s new book ‘Mission Disrupted: From Professional Missionaries to Missionary Professionals’ tells 27 stories and is out now!

Abducted by the Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA), Gloria was forced to be a child soldier in northern Uganda. Although girls sometimes carried rifles on the front lines, they usually did the cooking for the boys involved in guerilla warfare and served the sexual wishes of the commanders. After eight years, she managed to escape the LRA and returned home. Life, however, continued to be hard. No one trusted her, not even her sisters. They thought she was a killer and to be avoided at all costs. She couldn’t find work and barely survived on the few things she could grow on a tiny subsistence plot of land. But then her life changed:

The moment I stepped inside the gates of Nguvu Dairy I felt a sense of peace. James was so kind and friendly, and he taught all of us victims how to make yogurt. He was patient and encouraging. Nguvu Dairy has changed my life. I have a job and can rent a little house in town and afford school fees for my son.

As a highly traumatized young woman, Gloria was forced to labor as an exploited, brain-washed, and hopeless child. But by God’s grace she was one of the few who found  hope of the more than one hundred thousand children worldwide forced to serve in state and non-state military organizations.

James Dirksen is a seasoned entrepreneur and business owner and while in northern Uganda asked himself the foundational question, “what happens to survivors when they finish a program of the NGO, mission or care organizations?” After plenty of research and planning he began to focus on starting real businesses to take the next critical step to bring healing to survivors and provide full-time employment.

Human trafficking is a multi-billion-dollar business, trading in people. Creating safe jobs is critical to ending the cycle of economic vulnerability at the root of this global crisis. Without safe employment 80% of those rescued return to trafficking or voluntary enslavement. Read more

Coffee at the Capital Roasting Company

by Larry Sharp

This month we are featuring stories from Larry Sharp. Larry’s new book ‘Mission Disrupted: From Professional Missionaries to Missionary Professionals’ tells 27 stories and is out now!

Some years ago, I found coffee in a tea-loving country in central Asia, which I will call Tealand, at the Capital Roasting Company (CRC).

Tea is a wonderful drink with a complex history of more than two thousand years dating back to China. But it is not coffee. As legend has it, coffee originated on the Ethiopian plateau and by the 16th century moved east to the Arabian peninsula where it was cultivated.

Coffee made its’ way to Europe where Pope Clement VIII finally gave his approval, and it no longer was considered the “invention of Satan”. By the mid-17th century, there were 300 coffee houses in London. Apparently, tea still dominated the American colonies until the Boston Tea Party, after which Thomas Jefferson called coffee, the “favorite drink of the civilized world.” Who wouldn’t want to switch from tea to coffee?

After the collapse of the Soviet Empire in 1991, the residents of the new Central Asia republics developed an intense interest in the rest of the world, and this included Tealand. However, Russia did not leave Tealand in the best of shape. When I arrived for my visit I discovered how much the citizens wanted to be like the western world and some of the young people even wanted to leave Tealand, hoping to migrate to the west. Women began to shed their head covering and other social customs began to change. The intense interest in the west included viewing television programs from the USA and western Europe, learning the English language and social customs formerly unknown.

The Capital Roasting Company began as the vision of a small group, all of whom had arrived in Tealand in 2008. As the startup team began to learn the language and make friends, they saw an opportunity in this milieu of social change. The Capital Roasting Company (CRC) began to build their business model around the current needs. Read more

Outland Denim: To God Be the Glory

by Larry Sharp

This month we are featuring stories from Larry Sharp. Larry’s new book ‘Mission Disrupted: From Professional Missionaries to Missionary Professionals’ tells 27 stories and is out now!

On October 18, 2018 Prince Harry and Meghan landed in the outback of Australia as the first stop in their royal visit to that country.  As is always the case, the media surveyed every aspect of the royal’s appearance including the black stove-pipe Hariett jeans the Duchess was wearing. Why those jeans?  Where were they fabricated? How much did they cost?  What was the brand?

As it turned out Meghan was making a statement in support of those fighting human slavery and trafficking.  Her jeans were manufactured by Outland Denim, a BAM company owned by a kingdom minded Australian couple with a factory in Kampong Cham, Cambodia.

As a new board member of the Freedom Business Alliance in 2017 I realized I had much to learn so planned a trip to visit seven freedom businesses in Cambodia.  Outland Denim was one of those businesses.  Later it was a delight to interview one of the founders in preparation for telling the story in the book Missions Disrupted:  From Professional Missionaries to Missional Professionals.

Human trafficking is a lucrative multi-national 150 billion dollar per year illegal industry of exploitation and enslavement; and two-thirds of that total comes from sexual slavery.  Estimates indicate that up to 40 million people are trapped in modern slavery and most are women and children – a crisis of epic proportions.  It is something demanding the involvement of anyone sensitive to the plight of hurting people.

I learned that there are three phases in the efforts to bring change to the lives of those who have been traumatized and now desire to be transformed into successful survivors:  1) rescue, 2) restore; 3) reintegrate.  Most activity for those giving aid is concentrated in the first two phases of rescuing victims and working to restore them.  It is the third phase which is largely ignored – reintegration into the workplace so they can be gainfully employed.  This is where the need is for freedom businesses which provide employment with managers that understand their journey and have a plan for helping them learn a skill and live a post-trauma life. Read more

Poultry, Profit and Proclamation: A BAM Story

by Larry Sharp

This month we are featuring stories from Larry Sharp. Larry’s new book ‘Mission Disrupted: From Professional Missionaries to Missionary Professionals’ tells 27 stories and is out now!

It started 45 years ago when Mr. and Mrs. Cunningham, living near Bulawayo, Zimbabwe gave 50 newly hatched chicks to their seven-year-old son, Peter.  “See what you can do with them,” they said.  By the time he was 17 years, he was raising 10,000 chicks a week and was on his way to a successful and colorful missional business career.

Today Peter is a visionary, entrepreneurial, God-fearing, faith driven guy and the CEO of Hamara and Heartland Foods in Zimbabwe.  The heart of the business is the poultry industry – including hatching, broilers, and layers.  He explains it in its simplest iteration:  30 birds will lay 22 eggs daily; the farmer can save five for his family and sell seventeen.  This provides more income than half of the poor families in the country.

Hamara’s influence extends to one-stop distributors in 13 cities making them one of the largest chicken distributors in the country.  One of the genius components is their outgrower program with over 300 small scale farmers since 2002 growing an average of 20,000 chickens a week each.  They are propelled by an incentive “model farmers” program by which farmers can move from the Bronze stage to Silver, Gold and then to Platinum, and be part of something bigger than themselves.

In a country where one third are extremely poor, there is opportunity (market pull) to break the yoke of poverty.  Peter cites David Livingstone as an example, who was the first European to reach the area in the 19th century and was motivated to break the yoke of slavery.  But while working hard to reduce poverty, Peter never misses an opportunity to link his work and company to the grand eternal purposes of God – that more and more people come to worship and follow Him.  And he does so by daily reminding himself and his staff of the amazing life and grace of Jesus.  Says Peter, “Jesus chooses ordinary people like us and wants us to live in relationship with him as he gives the favor to share his amazing life with others.” Read more

Scarcity versus Abundance

by Don Simmons

Many of us suffer from a “scarcity” mindset in which we believe that life is a finite pie and if one person takes a big piece, there will be less for everyone.  Counter to this is an “abundance” mindset in which there is plenty available for everyone.

The Apostle Paul challenges the scarcity mindset in his discourse on sowing and reaping in 2 Corinthians 9:6-10.  As you read, you will see words like generous, abundant, abounding, increase, and enlarge—which are an obvious contrast to the limits of scarcity:

“Remember this: Whoever sows sparingly will also reap sparingly, and whoever sows generously will also reap generously. Each of you should give what you have decided in your heart to give, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver. And God is able to bless you abundantly, so that in all things at all times, having all that you need, you will abound in every good work. As it is written:

‘They have freely scattered their gifts to the poor; their righteousness endures forever.’ [Ps 112:9]

Now he who supplies seed to the sower and bread for food will also supply and increase your store of seed and will enlarge the harvest of your righteousness.”

Wealth Creation: Making More Pie

What Paul seems to suggest is that giving  leads to abundant blessings so that the giver is not depleted, but rather added to. The addition should not be misunderstood to be for our own benefit, but it is given so that we can continue to bless others. The same principle can apply to harnessing the power of investing to increase the wealth in our worldwide economy. Read more

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