IBEC Ventures -- Consultants for BAM/Business as Mission
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A BAM business will be profitable and sustainable

Wednesday, August 27, 2014

The Triple Bottom Line is a guiding force for the BAM movement.  These next three blogs will comment briefly on the meaning of each of the three bottom lines which drive us to our preferred future.  The first is the importance of a business which is profitable and sustainable.

For most of the 20th century businesses and MBA programs would answer the question, “What is the goal of your business?” with a simple response, “to maximize shareholder value” or “to make a profit”. 

However, the real goal of business is more importantly to serve others and bring glory to God. The original purposes of God are evidenced in the Creation Mandate that he is a God of enterprise, creativity and production – for His glory.  From the first human couple until now, God intended creation to grow and expand as mankind began to produce food, distribute food, build, manufacture and trade goods.  The fundamental function of creating wealth is intended to be a “high and holy calling”. Van Duzer expresses the purpose of business as two-fold: 1) “to provide the community with goods and services that will enable it to flourish” and 2) “to provide opportunities for meaningful work that will allow employees to express their God-given creativity.”1

Clearly the command of Jesus to “engage in business until I come” (Luke 19:13) carried with it the expectation of a profit.  Business is the only human institution which actually creates wealth.  Education, the Church, and government all consume wealth.  Business creates it! “But remember the Lord your God, for it is he who give you the ability to produce wealth.” (Deut. 8:18)

While it is true that profit can be abused as with any good thing, profit is a necessary and important component in adding value, providing good stewardship and multiplying resources as a way of helping people. Profit is that which results from a business which generates value and expands the total economic pie.  “Profit is a sign that others are being served effectively, not that advantage is being taken of them.”2  Profit is a necessary condition if we are able to continue to provide value to customers.  Profit, however it is not the goal.

In recent years, many business people have come to the conclusion that there is a wider purpose of business.  One of those leaders, John Mackey, CEO of Whole Foods Market, puts it this way: "The purpose of business is to create sustainable value for all stakeholders." (See his recent coauthored book, Conscious Capitalism). Mackey and others are focusing on the dignity of all their stakeholders, not just the shareholders.  They want to make a difference, seek a common good, and make the world a better place. This idea is incorporated in the modern trend toward CSR – Corporate Social Responsibility.

Traditionally development agencies, churches and governments have focused on providing aid to poor countries.  While there is a place for aid and disaster relief, aid will never alleviate poverty and these are rarely self-sustaining projects.  When funding dries up or interest declines the “false market” which created dependency is exposed and more problems often develop than were solved.  Only investing in sustainable profitable businesses creates employment and true economic development for poor countries.  Check out the excellent video from Poverty Cure entitled “From Aid to Enterprise.”

As IBEC consultants coach, mentor and contribute their expertise, the goal of profitability and sustainability is bottom line #1.  Our goal is that the business can outlast our involvement, be based on kingdom values and contribute toward the sustainable transformation of individuals, their families and entire communities.

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Business as Mission is about business with a Kingdom of God perspective, purpose and impact. Business as Mission Issue Group, Lausanne, 2004.

Managers must convert society’s needs into opportunities for profitable businesses. Peter F. Drucker

Many assume, wrongly, that a company exists simply to make money…Profit is not the proper end and aim of management – it is what makes all of the proper ends possible. David Packer. Cofounder, Hewlett-Packard.

Serve wholeheartedly, as if you were serving the Lord, not men, because you know that the Lord will reward everyone for whatever he does.  Saint Paul.

I believe the only long-term solution to world poverty is business.  That is because businesses produce goods, and businesses produce jobs. And businesses continue producing goods year after year, and continue providing jobs and paying wages year after year…if we are ever going to see long-term solutions to world poverty, I believe it will come through starting and maintaining productive, profitable businesses.  Wayne Grudem – Business for the Glory of God.

1Van Duzer, Jeff. Why Business Matters to God, p. 46

2  Ken Eldred. The Integrated Life. p. 45

Larry W. Sharp, Director of Training - IBEC Ventures

What does IBEC mean by Small-Medium Enterprise (SME), and why is it important?

Monday, August 18, 2014

IBEC Ventures uses the acronym ‘SME’ in two very different ways. One is “Subject Matter Expert” and the other is “Small-Medium Enterprise.” The subject of this blog is the latter. What is a Small-Medium Enterprise, and how is that relevant to what we do?

Small-Medium Enterprise (SME) is defined in different ways in different countries. Even within the USA, there are some variances of definition.  The term is used globally by the European Union, World Bank, United Nations and within the USA by the Better Business Bureau, SBA and others.

In the USA, employer businesses with less than 20 workers make up 90% of all businesses. Not included are more than 22 million non-employer firms; indicating that small businesses play a gigantic role in our economy. Over 50% of Americans work in small businesses. See the interesting fact sheet from Forbes:  http://www.forbes.com/sites/jasonnazar/2013/09/09/16-surprising-statistics-about-small-businesses/

Likewise, overseas the majority of workers are working and hope to work in the SME sector – small companies up to 50 workers. Since IBEC works exclusively overseas in the world’s most destitute countries, we define an SME as a company with short-term plans to grow to five or more workers with scalability potential to employ more than 50 workers.  Start-up capital in these SMEs might range from $10,000 to $100,000.

SME sector companies are larger than microenterprises (or cottage industries) which typically employ only a handful of people or are businesses operated by one self-employed individual. They have no plans to scale their operation.

Why is IBEC involved in the SME sector?

  1. According to the Brookings Institute, “Advanced economies are paying new attention to small and medium enterprises (SMEs). One reason is their sheer quantitative importance. The OECD reports that SMEs account for more than 95 percent of manufacturing enterprises and an even higher share of many service industries in OECD countries; in most OECD countries, SMEs generate two-thirds of private sector employment and are the principal creator of new jobs. Additional interest in SMEs has been sparked by dynamic firms like Microsoft, which developed from tiny start-ups.”  http://www.brookings.edu/research/papers/2007/03/development-de-ferranti
  2. SME companies gain attention in the community, are able to devote capital and human resources to social projects, and create value for city leaders and multiple families (see the Barrington Gifts video)
  3. SME companies employ by definition, larger numbers of people than microenterprises and thus influence more families with kingdom values and the knowledge of who Jesus is.  One of the 4 items in the “Quadruple Bottom Line”  (http://www.understandbam.com/what/is/bam/) defines job creation as vital to a BAM endeavor.  Job Creation is IBEC’s way of obeying the Great Commandment of Jesus – to love our neighbor as ourselves.  Love in impoverished countries with high unemployment, poverty and victimization looks in part like a good job.
  4. SME businesses have the potential to train employees in a wider range of skills and thus increase the capacity to grow professionally and contribute to the growth of the company.  The self-improvement of individuals is a positive way to transform communities and individuals.
  5. Wealth creation is a key value for SMEs and for IBEC.  As a company grows and is successful it has a multiplying effect on the economics of the region often referred to as the “ripple effect” in the local economy, generating up to 5 times as many jobs in related industries and stimulating growth beyond what a micro-enterprise can do. 

    Larry W. Sharp,  Director of Training – IBEC Ventures

A Look at Nepal - How Business Integrates with Faith

Monday, August 11, 2014

PC is a 20-year veteran mid-career business man who sold his business and decided to study at a seminary for a few years.  Toward the end of his studies and at IBEC’s recommendation, he spent 9 weeks as a business consultant in Nepal where he consulted with several companies and made many friends from the expat and Nepalese community.

While in Nepal, he was working with a group of five national contractors associated with his media company. They were sitting around sipping tea mid-afternoon talking business developments.  Afterwards they began to share stories with each other.  Out of the blue, one of them said, "Are you a Christian?" "Yes, I am," PC replied and asked “what about you?”

They responded in unison, “We are everything.” 

At their invitation PC then went to the white board of the office and sketched out the story of the Christian faith, explaining why he believed it and was a follower of Jesus. “Wow," they responded, “that is the first time we have heard that.”

PC of course found a Bible for them, and all five guys arranged for one more meeting just before PC headed back to the USA. They met and again PC shared how Christ had changed his life. Right there in PC’s house, all five of them decided to follow Jesus. 

Later, elsewhere in the city, PC was part of a Valentine’s multimedia production which coincided with Valentine’s Day.  The theme was the “Love of God.”  All five of the contractors came to hear the presentation – and they brought their entire staff.  Afterwards they asked how they could learn more and they began to meet with PC.

IBEC works toward an integration of strong profitable businesses with Christian values and principles.  Such meaningful application of faith and work brings transformation of people, communities and entire nations.  It demonstrates love for people (the Great Commandment of Jesus) and brings people to follow Jesus (the Great Commission of Jesus).

Larry W. Sharp,  Director of Training – IBEC Ventures

What is Business as Mission?

Monday, August 04, 2014

Many business professionals and church leaders today are hearing of the term “Business as Mission” (BAM). While there are many variances to a perfect definition, I like the expression of J.D. Greear of the Summit Church in Raleigh-Durham, NC, “Christians in the marketplace today are able to gain access more easily to strategic, unreached places. Globalization, great advancements in technology and urbanization have given the business community nearly universal access.”

Greear reminds us that God has placed in his church the skills necessary to penetrate the most unreached parts of our world – and those skills are business skills. Business people should focus on a two-fold vision, “whatever you are good at, a) do it well for the Glory of God; b) do it somewhere strategic for the mission of God.”

Mats Tunehag, one of the leaders of the BAM movement suggests that Business as Mission (BAM) is simply “legitimate economic activity (business) by a workplace professional which serves as a vehicle for sharing the love of Christ…” He and the Lausanne committees on BAM insist that BAM activities must be profitable and sustainable, create jobs and local wealth; and produce spiritual capital (disciples of Jesus).

Such a definition would encourage one to think that BAM could, should and does take place in every workplace in the world where God’s people in business are faithfully living like Jesus and looking for ways to bring people to know him. And while to a certain extent that is true, BAM over the past 20 years has tended to think in terms of “developing impoverished” countries and unreached areas where Jesus is relatively unknown.

Three propositions may help to justify and explain the Business as Mission movement:

  1. The Sanctity of Work   It is important that we all have clarity on the biblical divine understanding that God is a God of work, and he intends his people to be workers (Genesis 1). We should not feel guilty or feel like second class Christians when we succeed in business; God expects us to drive for excellence, to be ambitious and to do “all for the glory of God”  (I Cor 10:31). While business and work can temp us to sin, work and business are fundamentally good and provide many opportunities to glorify God (See Business for the Glory of God, W. Grudem).
  2. The Christian at Work   This proposition suggests that Christians should engage in work like anyone else but live differently from everyone else. Christians work ethically, view their customers differently, love and serve others, seek justice and use their work to serve their communities. In so doing believers become a testimony and draw others to become followers of our Savior.
  3. Work and the Kingdom of God  The book of Matthew suggests that the kingdom of God is “not yet” (heaven) but also “here and now.” As we create jobs and wealth, we are advancing the kingdom of God which essentially is obedience to the Second Commandment (i.e.to love our neighbors). The Great Commission enjoins us to make disciples of “all peoples.” So the Christian businesses that we develop here in our home neighborhoods represent a transferrable model. We can participate in business startups, franchises, or multinational business efforts abroad in the developing world and all the while live like Jesus. That is Business as Mission.

Here is a quote from a recent memo from a friend who is a kingdom business entrepreneur in an Asian country: “Upon entering a local office where local authorities facilitate some aspects of our company, I saw my national friend who manages the office. Amidst the hubbub we greeted one another and caught up on personal news. Suddenly my friend asked, “Do you have a divine connection? I’m sensing a positive energy emanating from you and I don’t know what it is.”  Stunned, I replied, “ Well as a matter of fact, I do have a divine connection to Jesus!” I then went on to explain who Jesus is and His presence in my life. He listened intently. Something is happening in my friend’s heart and mind…something we believe that God is doing.”

So Business as Mission is not “business as normal.” Neither is it “missions as normal.” It is living out the commands of Jesus in the workplace: to love our neighbor and make disciples so individuals and communities are transformed – spiritually, economically and socially – for the greater glory of God and the establishment of his church.

Larry W. Sharp,  Director of Training – IBEC Ventures



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IBEC Ventures -- Consultants for BAM/Business as Mission