What Makes a BAMer? Identifying and Deploying the Right People for BAM Companies

Interview with Peter Shaukat

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. We asked him to share his insights on recruitment and hiring for BAM companies.

What skills are BAM companies typically looking for?

Virtually any! Management skills in various business disciplines are needed. Those with good financial management skills and experience are almost always in short supply. While bookkeepers can often be found aplenty, ‘Chief Financial Officer’ type skills are another matter. Founding entrepreneurs often lack the business building skills and experience of general management of the sort that a COO or CAO brings to the table.

Marketing and/or especially sales skills and experience are highly sought after. Often an SME-sized BAM company will have some national talent on this, but to trade well internationally they require those with expat credentials for (at least perceived) credibility, access to networks, and marketing/sales channels, etc. These are often in short supply.

BAM businesses often need specific technical and/or professional skill-sets which are particular to the business in question. For example, an environmental consulting company to the textile industry in Bangladesh needs experienced chemical, industrial or systems engineers, while a civil engineering company in Pakistan will be looking for a civil or mechanical engineer or architect. An educational business in Yemen looks for qualified teachers or other education specialists whereas an agribusiness in Iraq requires an agronomist, and so on.

In other words, a significant misconception in the world of BAM is that it is all about entrepreneurs!  In our experience business-builders are required in a 10:1 ratio to business-creators in order for launched enterprises to become viable and gain enduring traction.

Apart from business skills, what else are you looking for when you recruit for BAM companies?

In many conversations, when the profile of a BAM practitioner is examined, reference is made to ‘two Cs’: Competence and Character.  I think in fact there needs to be a trinity of qualities to assess, and I would add the concept of Charisma (at the risk of alliteration!)  Let me unpack what I mean by these.

Competence addresses the skills, talents, professional qualifications and experience delivered with hard work and excellence which is required for all kinds of jobs – and, I might add, is being very carefully observed by those we seek to influence for Christ.

Character we can think of largely in terms of the fruits of the Holy Spirit – love, joy, peace, goodness, etc., realised and made evident in the context of what life throws at you as a BAM practitioner. Character is built upon a foundation of integrity, integration and intentionality, and a commitment to ongoing spiritual formation. These character traits – others could be listed – are to some extent an outworking of our innate personalities, but our personalities do not define or constrain them.

[Read more in “10 Essential Characteristics of a BAMer”]

By “charisma”, I mean the specific recognition of and “stirring up” of those God-given spiritual gifts (“charismata”), rather than personal charm or magnetism! We need to understand these charismata as part of our profile. What spiritual gifting do we operate in?

How do you see spiritual gifts operating in BAM Companies?

In establishing an authentic, impactful BAM enterprise, we are establishing a point of light – a city on a hill, if you like – in a spiritually darkened place. We are working with BAM companies that are both viable commercial entities, and intentionally missional and transformational. Where transformation is needed or is a goal of the company, that cannot be achieved without the gifts of the Spirit. We can do nothing apart from Him and we are going to need all the ‘charismata’, the gifts of the Spirit, that He has given to the church for the purpose of extending and building the church – a sneak preview as it were of the fullness of “His Kingdom come”. These ‘equippings’ of the Spirit: apostle, teacher, prophet, administration, wisdom, healing and so on, will be much needed in all our teaching, fellowship, prayer, worship, evangelism, and leadership formation that takes places in the context of the business and through it.

This is crucial because in the practice of BAM we will often find ourselves at the end of our natural experience or talents, our character will be under severe stress, and we will need to experience God “showing up” in beyond-natural ways.

In your experience, what kind of background or experience is best for a future in BAM?

The BAM movement has changed and developed significantly over the last 15-20 years. We used to have a lot of questions around missionaries becoming business people and vice versa, which led to a real polarisation 15 years ago. That hot debate, ‘Should missionaries do BAM?’, (or “leave BAM to business people”) has cooled and moderated somewhat in recent years. I think it’s a good thing that it has moderated. The realisation is growing that whatever starting point people are coming from, they have to recognise what is lacking, and what needs to be added to their toolkit.

I personally think it’s extremely helpful and important to make a distinction between ‘missionary’ as a professional role, and ‘missionary’ as a spiritual gifting. I maintain that all kinds of different people doing business as mission – including those considering themselves business people by background – need a missionary gifting. However, we are not saying that they need to be a professional missionary as their employment category.

However, it is true that there are already many in the missionary movement who haven’t previously done business and are moving into BAM for some reason. Those people often have limiting factors and with them especially we have got to address a correct theology of work and practical business know-how.

Others may have a strong business skill set and even a missional calling, but getting involved with business as mission means them moving from large corporate setting to dive into a small-medium enterprise (SME). Most BAM companies will start and remain in the SME space and this has implications for the type of commercial skills and experience needed for any potential candidate. A BAMer would ideally be someone who is familiar with the agony and the ecstasy of what it takes to do business in an SME and who generally has familiarity with a broad scope of business elements and the capacity to think and move laterally.

So, some kinds of business experience are more readily applicable to BAM?

That’s right. People coming from a large corporate setting often struggle to figure out BAM. In their experience in a large company there were systems in place and things functioned; in contrast the messiness of an SME can be overwhelming – especially when you add in a cross-cultural dimension. Those who have been specialists in the corporate world won’t necessarily have that wide array of experience. However, they can learn those other pieces, and they can be part of team with other specialists. We do need to cast a vision for BAM among those who have been in the corporate world. But we need to make sure there is a frank exploration of their background and what they are likely to encounter in a BAM company. They will need a spirit of adaptability and a tolerance of ambiguity!

Then there are students or recent graduates who have the passion, enthusiasm, and drive to do world changing business, and who are much more integrated in their thinking, but haven’t got the necessary skills and experience. How do they get those skills? Internships are a key way, but there is a limit to the number of available internships. For every 100 people who ask me for internship opportunity, there are but a few good placements. We need to develop more good internship opportunities. But perhaps it is also a good thing that we can’t give internships to everyone who wants one! What we do need to be saying is, “If you want experience, go find yourself something, go find yourself a job. If you want to be an initiator on the mission field in BAM, then be an initiator now. Go get the experience you need in business more locally.” That kind of experience will make for a good reality check and proving of skills. But we also need to walk with these would-be BAMers so that the fire for business as mission doesn’t go out as the financial and family pressures mount.

What are some of the challenges you see for Recruiting and Human Resources in BAM?

I try to take an intentionally global view of some of the challenges we face. From Indonesia to Brazil, from the UK to New Zealand, wherever I look I see that a fundamental issue for God’s people is our commitment to the call of God. Do we really commit ourselves to obey the mandate and call by Jesus to make disciples all nations? Left to human nature, we all tend to fall back on a me-first mindset. Until the Holy Spirit breaks through we won’t be other-oriented. In the church generally, I see a lack of embracing a global mission perspective and life-style. We can’t have business as mission without people called into mission.

A second challenge is finding those well developed character traits that are established in the context of spiritual formation through a walk with Christ. In our work this is where we face, on an on-going basis, our greatest potential for discouragement.

A third challenge is finding people who are able to marry that mission calling and developing character with an appropriate business skill set – and who are passionate about doing so. We need more of those people!

Read more on this topic in Part 2 of this interview: The Right Ingredients: 10 Essential Characteristics of a BAMer

With thanks to Peter Shaukat, in conversation with Jo Plummer, Editor of The BAM Review

Peter Shaukat has lived and worked in a professional and business capacity for over 30 years throughout Asia, Europe, the Middle East, South and North America and is a pioneer in the business as mission movement. He currently consults on business as mission all over the world and is the CEO of a global investment fund for BAM enterprise in the Arab world and Asia.

Post first published on The BAM Review as part of our HR series in April 2015.