by Sam Cho
What advice would you give to BAM entrepreneurs going through the Covid-19 crisis?
I asked this question to various experts in business and mission in my network (mainly in the Korean BAM network). Twenty people responded with advice, including several BAM practitioners, several entrepreneurs, four business professors, a missiology professor, and two top-level executives at global companies.
What follows is a summary of their opinions and advice. We hope it is helpful for BAM practitioners in the current situation.
Survive and Learn
- Increasing liquidity is critical. Survival can rightfully be the main theme during this period. Discounting the price of services and products only to cover overhead cost is just fine. You do not have to make profit during this period but just to make money enough to float. Discount accounts receivable is an option too in order to attain cash. Negotiate your accounts payable with your suppliers to cut down the amount owed for better liquidity.
- It may pay off to make an extra effort to search for government support packages like long-term loans, subsidies for foreign ventures or extensions of payback periods. Don’t overlook this possible opportunity. If your loan is on a variable-interest rate, try to renew the loan on better terms.
- If you survive this time, you need to earn a lesson about risk management. Many companies usually have a one-month cash reserve in the case of no sales coming in. Running a BAM business abroad means relative lack of available financial resources in difficult times. Remember that often when it rains, it pours – and not just during crisis like Covid-19. Building up a three-month cash reserve is a must; you may need more depending on the volatility in the area and industry you are in.
- Many BAM missionaries and tentmakers working under a mission agency often do not have (enough) donation-based support and rely on their living from business or job income, which is positive. However, for times when business is difficult, it might be advisable for Mission Agencies to build a common contingency fund or encourage more fundraising for these workers.
Renew Intimacy with God and Family
- We could lose our daily devotional routines and sense of intimacy with the Lord from the daily busy-ness of business life. Crises such as this can lead us to return our heart back to the Lord and open a door to be near to our Lord again. The Lord always responds to our prayer in trouble, even when that does not mean the survival or prosperity of our business.
- You can ask your friends to pray together. If you do not have a prayer group, you may start one so that you can have a group of people you can talk to and pray with. Times of trouble are really a good chance to ignite passion in the group. Like-minded businessmen or women or financial supporters from your mission or sending church members could be good candidates for the prayer group.
- If your business is slow or has a temporary shutdown, you can spend that time with your family. Many BAMers often lose rest and time with close ones like the spouse or children. God may want you to slow down and to come back to your loved ones. True rest can give you energy and creativity, and true rest comes from intimate relationships with the Lord and family.
Evaluate Structure and Systems
- Going through huge challenges together can create a special bond among team members if you can survive. Communicate the business reality with your employees, discuss common goals and solutions, share the burden of reduced income, and even try to pray together for life and business. If you survive, the bond and trust with your employees will be a core competency for long-term success.
- Many new ways of management are being experimented with during this lockdown period such as online home-based work and virtual teamwork, new database or task management systems, shared cloud drives, Zoom meetings, and so on. These are all good things to examine anyway. You can take advantage of this period to find a way to improve productivity and to cut down overheads by embracing these new venues.
- You most likely want to bear the burdens of your employees during this hard time by not letting them go. If you can afford it, that is a good choice. However, it is better to pay less employees than not to be able to pay any all if you shutdown. It is not easy to survive if you lose the critical time window for restructuring.
- Your current problem may have started long ago by having people of low productivity on your team. Difficult financial times can be an opportunity for you to face the reality of business. You may need to lay people off or prune an inefficient part of you business in order to become a more efficient and viable organization.
- Many BAMers – especially from religious backgrounds, and even some from business backgrounds – have too idealistic ideas about business when they start. After all, a BAM company must first and foremost be a business! Doing business with excellence opens a door to sharing the gospel. This hard time can bring a deeper lesson to BAMers that we need to have a solid business first.
Evaluate Purpose and Direction
- This kind of jolt brings chaos to us, but it also forces us to think differently about the future. One option is closure of the business. From an economic standpoint, a business opportunity exists during a certain period of time when demand exceeds supply in the industry. That means every business has an end or has to adapt. Should it be now? A planned and intentional exit may better protect various stakeholders and secure tangible and/or intangible assets which may be used for restart in the future.
- A sabbatical could be another choice. You can pray for a block of time off. You can study business basics or industry specific skills or even missiology to re-equip yourself and your spouse. If you are old enough, retirement is not a bad option. Retirement does not mean doing nothing at all. You can participate in part-time work by leveraging what you learned in the past or you can start something very different. Whatever you do, you need intentional preparation.
- Why did you start business anyway? The time slot opened by business slowdown may give you time to think about the purpose of your BAM company. You can do this with your partners. Business cannot go forever. It can have a boom, but it will have an end. What will there be after the business? People you have met during the business would be what will be left after the business. Local employees, investors, vendors, suppliers, customers, local authorities and so on. Who are you to them? Have you been a good witness of the truth to them in words and deeds?
- The period of time would be a good opportunity for you to reflect on the purpose of BAM for you. What is it? How can you do it better once you pass this crisis?
Sam Cho is the Director of a Korean agency with a focus on BAM. He serves as a BAM Global Ambassador for Korea and helps keep the Korean BAM movement connected. He has been a University Lecturer on Business Management and has been involved in various BAM initiatives around the world.