IBEC Ventures -- Consultants for BAM/Business as Mission
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Giving thanks

Monday, November 24, 2014

Today I received a text from our youngest daughter Trudy, “Back on US soil! Just landed in DC.”  I am very thankful today.  She had been in harm’s way this past month, serving the 1.7 million refugees in Northern Iraq as an HR Director for her organization.  Two days ago a suicide bomber killed several in her city.  Why does she go to places like this?

This week I read an article describing the book For Love of Country by Howard Schultz (CEO of Starbucks) and Rajiv Chandrasekaran.1 The book honors the veterans who have served our country and provided heroic examples of sacrifice, bravery and courage. Says Schultz and Chandrasekaran, “To do right by our veterans, to recognize their value to our society and fulfill our solemn obligation to those who volunteered to protect us – we first have to understand what they have accomplished.”

How do we understand those who volunteer to be in harm’s way so they can serve us and others?  Certainly we are thankful for active military and veterans, especially in this month when we celebrate Veterans Day and Thanksgiving Day.  The authors of For Love of Country assert that it is not enough to say “thank you” at an airport or stand for an ovation at a baseball game – “we first have to understand what they have accomplished.”

The same goes for aid workers like Trudy...and the same goes for entrepreneurs and business developers in difficult countries.  I am thankful for each one and in this short blog.  I will not provide much of an understanding, but in some small way I want to recognize some people I met this month who have started small businesses in countries with much poverty, high unemployment and severe injustices.2 These examples represent the kinds of businesses served by IBEC and organizations like us:

  • John operates a farm project in the former Soviet dominated country of K, with 350 employees – providing food for a poor country and offering an understanding of what it means to know Jesus.
  • An employee of an IT company in South Asia with 60 employees affirmed, “…the company is making a difference in people’s lives…I have come to know God.”
  • An owner of a coffee shop chain in Asia who employees more than 20 deaf workers affirms that he is creating jobs among the disadvantaged and also sharing what it means to be a follower of Jesus.
  • Monica's Foodsproduces healthy organic baby products and demonstrates the quadruple bottom line (profitable company, 20 jobs created, spiritual vitality, and stewards of creation).
  • Classic Piesin a large Middle Eastern city contributes to multiculturalism, the sharing of biblical faith and the creation of jobs in the food industry.
  • Modern Media2 is a multi-disciplined media start up within an emerging market in central Asia.  They create a vision for local talent, support traditional art forms and are helping transform their community one neighborhood at a time.
  • Jim and Susi's Middle Eastern textile factory grew to 400 employees but nearly collapsed after Arab Spring.  Today they demonstrate principle-based decision making to the community as they rebuild the company.
  • Dean owns a tour company in south Asia where he hires local guides to lead the tours.  The guides are curious about western tourists as well as the owners’ religious commitment to Jesus of Nazareth.

This week is Thanksgiving week in America (Canada celebrated in October).  I am thankful for thousands of people who start and operate businesses which give value, dignity and hope to victims of injustice.  They provide hope for a job, for a better life, and for an understanding of the God of the universe.  Thank you all!

1  Schultz, Howard and Chandrasekaran, Rajiv, For Love of Country, Alfred A. Knopf, 2014

Names and places have been disguised out of respect for individuals’ desires.


Larry W. Sharp, Director of Training, IBEC Ventures

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Who else besides IBEC Ventures is in this BAM space?

Monday, November 17, 2014

Today I was contacted by a bright young man in the banking industry.  A university graduate in banking and finance, he has just completed his second year with a major bank.  He asked me, “How can I use my experience and training to help make a difference with what you are doing?”  We talked for a long time about IBEC’s purpose and vision and how we were linking people like him with kingdom companies in countries with great need for jobs and Jesus.

Someone told him about IBEC as he had never heard of us before. When talking about who we are and what we do, I assured him that we are not the only ones with this vision to link God’s people with business skills with entrepreneurial business start ups in high risk countries.  I then thought it might be useful to list “some” of the entities with which we cooperate or are philosophically aligned.  First a reminder of our purpose and vision:

IBEC’s Purpose

IBEC helps build sustainable businesses through consultative expertise that changes lives and transforms communities.

IBEC’s Vision

We envision an increasing number of Small-Medium sustainable Kingdom businesses with our special emphasis on areas that are both economically impoverished and spiritually unreached.

Check out these websites

These are “some” entities (there are others) which are working in the same space as IBEC Ventures, approaching the building of kingdom businesses from different angles but all pursuing profit-making, sustainable, job-creating, disciple-making businesses.

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Larry W. Sharp, Director of Training, IBEC Ventures

 

What are my next steps?

Monday, November 10, 2014


“What advice would you give a young man like me?”

This question came to me following a talk I gave last week at a Business as Mission conference in the Midwest. I had just spoken to a group of 25 young professionals and a recent graduate of a state agricultural university came up to me and gave a little background of his training and his work with a major agricultural trading company. He explained his love of agriculture and wondered how he could use his skill set and his passion for business to make Jesus known. 

My ideas can be summed up in five easy to remember ‘P’ steps:

1. Person

Each of us is uniquely created with a God-given wiring which includes our personality, interests, gifts, experiences and heart.  The first step then for each of us is to understand this and have others validate it.  My young friend knew he was wired for agricultural business and he told me, “I want to live my life for God and am willing to do whatever He would have me to do.”  Great start!  He understands WHO he is.

2. Purpose

The next step is to understand God’s ultimate purpose - He wants all peoples to worship Him.  A well-known attorney once asked Jesus what the greatest commandment in the law was.  Jesus responded, “Love the Lord our God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.”  He added another which is the second great commandment, “Love your neighbor as yourself.”  (Matthew 22:36-40).  Later on Jesus reminded His followers to help others come to follow Him too (Matthew 28:19).

Now the question is how to bring all of this together with integrity and ensure we are living the integrated life with our profession.  People must see God in the way we are living our life in the marketplace.  What we are on the inside is the same as how we act on the outside. Most of us are not called to leave the marketplace – but to fulfill our wiring in ways to accomplish God’s purposes. Loving God! Loving our neighbor!  Bringing others to follow him! This is the WHY for life.

For those of us in business, we love God by living honestly and with excellence; we can love our neighbor by creating jobs; we can show others how to follow Jesus by living our lives with kingdom values.   That is our purpose – we need to start now where we are – and then that becomes a transferable model to all places on earth.  This short video helps demonstrate this:  http://vimeo.com/73684887

3. Product

This next step builds on the first one – WHO we are – and asks “WHAT do I have to contribute in the marketplace?”  We are all producing members of society.  Every business has a product which is offered to the customer.  Every individual brings his/her ability to produce something which the business and the marketplace needs.

My friend has discovered that he has the ability to trade agricultural commodities for the benefit of his large trading firm but also to the benefit of the ultimate consumer.  He has a key part in the business transactional process.  He understands what he brings to the marketplace.  He sees the big picture – from the farmer in the field planting his grain to the ultimate vision, the end product – feeding the hungry of the world.  In short this third ‘P’ requires a clear understanding of how we fit in the grand scheme of ultimate purpose.

4. Plan

Most successful endeavors require a plan – the strategic understanding of HOW to achieve the purpose of the business and person.  In terms of the next steps described here, a plan could involve:

  1. Keeping current on our profession being excellent in everything.
  2. Doing all we can to understand our part in Business as Mission by reading websites like www.businessasmission.com; www.understandbam.com; www.agoraenterprises.org; www.thirdpathinitiative.com; www.ibecventures.com.
  3. Reading books like The Integrated Life, Ken Eldred; God is at Work, Ken Eldred; Globalization, Bob Roberts; Business as Mission, Mike Baer.
  4. Taking a trip to a kingdom business in a foreign country to see for yourself how it works and seek to contribute to company needs.  Check out the videos on IBEC’s website.
  5. Being an advocate for an integrated life in your company, community and church by promoting seminars and a NewVo Business (www.newvobusiness.com) chapter.
  6. Attending a BAM conference. Contact:  info@ibecventures.com for some ideas.
  7. Get involved in some place in the world.

5. Place

The final step is a natural progression from the Plan – i.e. get involved.  That does not necessarily mean you move to some faraway place.  Take some small steps first. It can involve connecting with an overseas business, explaining your expertise and offering to be a consultant, a coach or a Subject Matter Expert.  For example our friend with experience, interest and training in the agricultural sector may want to connect with an agriculture business in Asia – helping with trading/marketing their product.  The place of involvement depends on the opportunities at the moment, the individual’s interests, the timing, and willingness to take the next step.  This is the WHERE of involvement.  IBEC Ventures can help with these connections.

By following these five “easy” sequential steps one will find that they are not easy in the sense that challenges and hurdles will surface; but the rewards in the end will be without equal.  We will be living our lives in missional, integrated ways – all the while bringing “love” to the needy and Jesus to the unreached.


Larry W. Sharp, Director of Training, IBEC Ventures

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Business As Mission: what do I have to offer?

Sunday, November 02, 2014


This question is sometimes asked by North American kingdom business persons who own or manage businesses: “What can I offer as consultant, advisor, mentor or coach?”  It is a natural question for business persons living and working in a very different context from a business startup in Asia, Africa or the Middle East.

What is business anyway? Is it not something like this: an organization with appropriate management that provides a good or service and is created to earn a profit, serve customers and create jobs, community value and increase wealth? That is universal. Followers of Jesus have an integrated kingdom perspective in all they do (1 Corinthians 10:31) so they operate businesses for the glory of God. Faith is integrated into daily work.

A person who has owned a small or medium-sized business (or has worked in the management of such) has likely learned a great deal about one or more of the following. The things that have been learned can be passed on in a consulting, coaching, teaching or mentoring venue.

Entrepreneurial Ability

  1. What are the hurdles faced in starting something from nothing?
  2. How did you go about finding your niche in the business world?
  3. How does one identify risk takers - or how did you experiment and take risk?
  4. Can you help someone know if they “have it or they don’t”?

 Strategic Thinking and Planning

  1. Can you help a person to think clearly, looking for business opportunities?
  2. How do you find the information you need for decision making?
  3. Can you help a person frame out their idea within the components of business?
  4. Can you walk through a simple business plan with someone who has never done it?
  5. Can you help envision who the customer is and what he might pay for product?

 Management of People

  1. Do you know how to find good people?  Can you teach that skill to someone?
  2. What have you learned about HR laws that you can pass along?
  3. Can you teach conversational coaching so they process answers rather than just being told?
  4. Do you know “best practices” for getting people to produce in a positive work environment?
  5. Can you help someone with personal time management?

 Product Development

  1. In a changing world, can you teach someone to keep their product viable in the marketplace?
  2. Have you learned to experiment without assuming too much financial loss?
  3. Can you teach someone to produce and sell your particular product?
  4. Can you teach someone the basics of business “research and development”?
  5. Can you teach someone how to learn from the experience of others?

 Marketing

  1. Are there marketing principles you have learned which you can pass on?
  2. Can you help someone understand the difference between marketing and sales?
  3. Have you used the media, sales reps, social media, ingenuity?   How?
  4. Can you teach someone how to promote their product?
  5. How do you know what ‘sells’?  How do you listen to the marketplace?  Establish pricing?

 Operations

  1. Can you ask key questions relative to insurance, benefits, salaries, accounting software, etc.?
  2. Can you teach someone how to work with an assistant?
  3. What are some tips for “getting things done in a timely way”?
  4. Can you help someone who is struggling with keeping things organized?
  5. What are signals in the business which you need to note to keep on top of things?

 Financial Oversight

  1. What are some tips for keeping in touch with the overall financial situation of your business?
  2. Can you teach someone the relevance and importance of a P&L, Balance Sheet, Cash Flow Statement?
  3. How do you project out for 1-3 years?  What indicators do you look at?
  4. Do you have tips for a credit strategy?  Amount to borrow?  Payback schedules etc?
  5. Can you teach someone to understand financial reporting?
Technology

  1.  Do you appreciate & understand the value of technology to your business?  Can you pass it on?
  2. Where do you go for help when you need it?
  3. How do you find, hire and keep a trusted IT person?
  4. How do you know when to implement a new IT strategy into your product line?
Legal Matters
 
  1. What have you learned about how to structure things for your business?  Can you pass it on?
  2. Can you teach someone ownership options, tax relevance, where to go for help?
  3. Can you teach someone how to negotiate?
  4. Can you teach “Business Law for Dummies” to help a beginner down the right path?
  5. Can you help the business start up person to ask the right questions?

 Integration of faith and business

  1. Have you learned ways to live out Jesus’ kingdom values on the work site?
  2. What have you learned about making disciples at work?
  3. Do you see your business work place as a place of ministry 24/7?
  4. Do your customers, suppliers, employees, competitors see Jesus in all you do?

 Relationships

  1. Since sometimes it is more about who you know than what you know – how does one keep up effective and productive relationships?
  2. How does a business owner keep a balance between the business detail and ‘networking’?
  3. Do your beliefs and values look the same in the daily experience of life with people?
  4. If you are not a “people person”, how have you learned to compensate for that in business?

You know more than you think!  Business owners in overseas high risk areas have lots of challenges, and many of them are the same challenges you face – you can help with the likes of the above questions – it will make a difference!


Larry W. Sharp, Director of Training, IBEC Ventures



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IBEC Ventures -- Consultants for BAM/Business as Mission