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Incubators, accelerators and other resources for BAM businesses

Sunday, April 26, 2015

Incubators, accelerators, business developers, startup weekends, coaches, consultants…
 
Do these terms confuse you?  Some people use these interchangeably; others make a distinction that’s important to them.  Where do these business efforts fit in relation to a consulting group like IBEC?

First, we define IBEC Ventures as a consulting group offering a variety of coaching, mentoring, training and consulting services.

At IBEC Ventures, we assist entrepreneurs committed to creating Values Based Businesses in all phases of the process - from identifying viable opportunities through nurturing their long term growth and development. IBEC Ventures serves clients through consulting, training modules, coaching and mentoring, and spotlighting the overlay of mission strategy with business planning. The IBEC consulting process includes consultants as well as subject matter experts who focus on specific business elements such as product development, supply chain management, finance, technology, law, marketing and sales. 

(From Our Services on the IBEC Ventures website)

We help entrepreneurs and business leaders with all phases of their business development, from assessment of individuals and opportunities through to mentoring and on-going support.  We use coaching techniques, come alongside our clients by listening, making suggestions and giving advice where appropriate.  

But consultants can only do so much.  What else is out there to help the Kingdom entrepreneur?

Incubators, accelerators and business launch organizations

These terms are similar in that they focus on the front end of Kingdom business startups and prepare them for growth.  They are all about equipping, training, coaching and supporting the entrepreneur in the early stages.  I’ve heard it said that business incubators mentor companies through childhood, while business accelerators guide them through adolescence into adulthood.

An incubator is dedicated to startup and early-stage companies.  The entrepreneur applies for admission and is accepted based on feasibility of ideas, assessment of capacity, and likelihood of success.  Sometimes office space is provided but the heart of the program is the services to which they have access: advice and guidance from professionals such as proven entrepreneurs, accountants, business advisors, legal experts and others.  There are thousands of established incubation programs worldwide, but in the BAM space they are in their infancy.

An accelerator usually serves those who are beyond startup and incubation stage.  The entrepreneurs may be up and running and experiencing challenges for the first time such as financial planning, strategy development and validating their unique value proposition.  Accelerator programs tend to help companies over humps and are shorter in duration than incubation programs.

Business development centers tend to be linked to universities or state economic development agencies.  They provide aspiring business owners with a variety of free business consulting and services such as business plan development, financial assistance, legal and market aid, HR support etc.  An example of a small business development center is operated by the Michigan Economic Development Corporation.  Their Guide to Starting and Operating a Small Business provides is a number of helpful self assessments, checklists and step-by-step outlines for starting a business.

Startup weekends are typically about 50-hour weekend events where developers, designers, marketers, product managers and startup enthusiasts come together.  They are hands-on experiences where entrepreneurs and aspiring entrepreneurs test out their startup ideas.  They make open mic pitches and lay out their best ideas and then teams provide feedback and validation to the ideas.   Over the course of the weekend teams build a minimal viable product (MVP) and demo their prototypes for feedback from a panel of experts.  Explore more about this on the Startup Weekends website (http://startupweekend.org/).

Coaching goes on in all of these efforts and is the intentional structured process that empowers the entrepreneur to be effective through vetting his or her ideas, processing coach questions and discovering next steps.  Coaches have experience which can be of great value to the business startup entrepreneur.

These definitions are highly relative and oftentimes organizations working in this space use terms in crossover ways.  The websites of organizations in this domain with whom we partner use terms to describe themselves such as “equipper of BAM leaders”, “a comprehensive entrepreneur equipping program”, “a business development organization”, “a business launch and development company”.  

Whether an incubator, accelerator, business development group, or startup weekend – all seek on the front end to help the entrepreneur begin well so as to maximize the chance of long-term success.  That’s our goal for IBEC clients as well: laying the groundwork up front and ongoing for sustainable, profitable businesses.  It’s a privilege for IBEC to partner with a number of these organizations to provide the resources BAM businesses need for long-term success (and eternal rewards!).  

Larry W. Sharp, Director of Training, IBEC Ventures






Business? Yes! Mission? Yes!

Monday, April 20, 2015

Our blog content often focuses on business–related themes such as ethics, poverty, innovation, business leadership, management etc.  But mission is also a fundamentally important part of a Kingdom business.  IBEC helps start and grow businesses which become profitable and sustainable, create jobs and share the “Good News” of Jesus.

Sometimes I get a little angry in church; like last Sunday.  We sang songs with these words: “God you reign”, “Jesus Messiah, Lord of all”, “Thou art exalted – far above all gods”.  I looked around and then I thought of the world so far away from my little town in Oregon.

Does God reign in the turmoil in Yemen today?  Does he reign in the red light district of Sonagacchi, Calcutta?  Is Jesus Lord of all amongst the 18,000 men, women and children trapped in the Yarmouk refugee camp in war-torn Syria without food, water and health care?  Is He exalted above all the gods of India?  Does God reign in the monasteries of Tibet?  How about war-ravaged Bosnia with its super high unemployment?  What about in ISIS controlled areas of the Middle East?  Is He Lord of all?

I know people working in most all these places and I also know that the most effective way to share the mission of God is by bringing value to them.  Like Jesus did – he brought food, healing, and water.  For many today worldwide, what is needed is a good job, which will bring them dignity and provision for the family. Business does just that: it provides what they need, and as we do it in the name of Jesus, God is honored.  He is exalted.  Business and Mission go hand-in-hand.  We address human need at the physical and the social and the spiritual level.

I just received an email from my friend, Brit. She is now married and currently living in Europe but she spent some years in South Asia helping start a Kingdom business, which is growing today.  While there she helped Aanchal come to follow Jesus.  Aanchal, lives in a city with few Jesus-followers but she studies God’s word and seeks to be a light in a spiritually dark place.  What value did Brit bring to her Asian mega-city?  She helped a business grow, created a job for Aanchal and brought an understanding of God to this young life.  That is Business as Mission.  That is what we are all about.   IBEC helped that business.  That gets me up in the morning!  Want to get involved?

Larry W. Sharp, Director of Training, IBEC Ventures



Five things great entrepreneurs DON’T do

Monday, April 13, 2015


Last week we listed six things entrepreneurs do and gave examples from Business As Mission (BAM) businesses we know.  This week we will look at five things they do not do – in and out of the BAM world.  Steve Tobak of Fox Business (and author of Real Leaders Don't Follow) suggests in a March 18, 2014 article that what makes entrepreneurs unique is what they do, and, perhaps more importantly, what they don’t do.

Do you see yourself in these BAM examples of Tobak’s five entrepreneurial “don’ts”?  
  1. They don’t try to be what they are not. Real entrepreneurs are not ‘people pleasers’. They dance to their own drum beat and don’t try to change who they are. They don’t do what everyone else is doing, but they carve out their own path.  
    • A BAM example: One business I visited, started with no real plan and was based on who the owner was – an artist!  As he thought about his ideas he started to follow his passion and turned his ideas into great products, a successful values-driven company creating jobs for hundreds of people.
  2. They don’t do it for the money. The driving factor for most entrepreneurs is solving some problem.  Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg, for example, just wanted to rate the looks of fellow classmates.  He never set out to be great!  
    • A BAM example: Sam, George and Ryan were college buddies and were focused on altruistic values like helping people on the islands of their country who were victims of poverty.  They cared about the social and spiritual conditions and never really thought they would make it big. They just went out and did it with focus and passion.  They are now a highly ranked high end tourist attraction.
  3. They don’t give in to fear. 
    • A BAM example: My friend Rob didn't spend a lot of time worrying about what could go wrong.  Oh yes, he did a risk analysis to mitigate the risks of his business in the high risk Middle East but it did not haunt him.  Bill listened to voices of reason and their instincts and when other expat business owners were expelled or shut down, he fearlessly moved ahead. His tour business last year report $2 million in sales.
  4. They don’t think about work-life balance. For the entrepreneur types, work comes first because they tend to be workaholic.  They live for the project and do what they love.  
    • A BAM example: A caution about this “don’t”: from a social enterprise and BAM perspective, this tendency may mitigate the balance that is needed for integrated social work, modeling the family, etc. Such was true for one manufacturing plant I visited in East Asia.  The owner’s wife took me aside and asked for my help saying, “Pete is spending 80 hours a week at the plant and our little girl and I hardly see him.”  Pete’s natural tendency was to not worry about needed work-life balance but he needed some help from the consultant.
  5. They don’t have virtual mentors. It is one thing to have a mentor far away and on-line, but to really get ahead it is best to have mentors close by in the real world.  
    • A BAM example: Such was the case of Walt who opened up a factory in East Asia as part of a bigger company in the USA.  Just as Andy Grove of Intel, mentored Steve Jobs, and Jobs mentored Google founders Larry Page and Sergey Brin, so too Walt was mentored by a successful BAM operator in the same city.  Walt testifies to the value of a great mentor in his friend, Don.
Don't miss what God is calling you to do - either by not listening, not acting or not proceeding with wisdom and understanding. If you are being called to Business As Mission, IBEC is here to support you. Feel free to contact me to explore this more (larry.sharp@ibecventures.com).

Larry W. Sharp, Director of Training, IBEC Ventures

Do you have what it takes?

Monday, April 06, 2015


While on a recent flight I picked up the Spring 2015 issue of Startups magazine.  An article by Marcia Layton Turner caught my eye: Get started: 12 signs you’ve got what it takes to start your own business. You can read the online version (12 Signs You Have an Entrepreneurial Mindset) in full on Entrepreneurs website.  All twelve “signs” were intriguing reading and in this blog, I pick six of them and quote them - followed by an example from a BAM (Business As Mission) business I know.
  1. You take action.  Barbara Corcoran, founder of the Corcoran Group and co-star of TV’s Shark Tank, says people who have a concept but not necessarily a detailed strategy are more likely to have that entrepreneurial je ne sais quoi.  I hate entrepreneurs with beautiful business plans,” she says.  Corcoran’s recommendation?  “Invent as you go”, rather than spending time writing a plan at your desk.  In fact, she believes that those who study business may be prone to overanalyzing situations rather than taking action.
    • A BAM example: RS is a person of action.  He has been a small manufacturer in China for 10 years, functioning according to the Triple Bottom line (profitable and sustainable, job creating for about 25 people, and holistic integration of spiritual values).  From time to time he has asked help from consultants, who have been frustrated because he lacks a plan.  But RS responds to his gut and he invents as he goes, taking advantage of opportunities others do not see.
  2. You listen.  Actress Jessica Alba, co-founder and president of Santa Monica, California-based The Honest Company, which sells baby, home and personal-care products, notes that “it’s important to surround yourself with people smarter than you and to listen to ideas that aren't yours.  I’m open to ideas that aren't mine and people that know what I don’t…”
    • A BAM example: C & VB operate a tour company in India.  They have been coached by IBEC from the beginning.  While on a recent tour with them, we asked the tour group, “What is the top thing that has contributed to the successful start of this company?”  The response was that they are active listeners and keen to learn from others.  This included mentoring from similar company owners in the USA and in Africa; it included doing recommended research when asked by the consultants; it included an attitude of collaboration with other cultures and languages in their host country; and it included a commitment to life-long learning.
  3. You don’t ask for permission.  Stephane Bourque, founder and CEO of Vancouver, British Columbia-based Incognito Software, says true entrepreneurial types are more likely to ask for forgiveness than permission, forging ahead to address the opportunities they recognize.  “Entrepreneurs are never satisfied with the status quo,” says Bourque, who discovered he was not destined for the corporate world. "I wish my employees would get into more trouble", because it shows they are on the lookout for opportunities to improve themselves or company operations. 
    • A BAM example: D & CP worked in partnership with a group in China where they learned the language, loved the people and felt at home.  When the partnership came to an unexpected end, they wondered what to do next.  Building on his business roots in the USA, D did not seek permission from his employer in the USA, but set out to start a private company in the country.  They saw an opportunity in the book industry and started Classic Education-China which eventually became quite successful and was sold to a multinational company.
  4. You love a challenge.  When confronted by problems, many employees try to pass the buck.  Entrepreneurs, on the other hand, rise to the occasion. “Challenges motivate them to work harder,” says Jeff Platt, CEO of the Sky Zone Indoor Trampoline Park franchise.  “An entrepreneur doesn’t think anything is insurmountable … He looks adversity in the eye and keeps going.”  Candace Nelson, founder of Sprinkles Cupcakes, agrees.  Despite naysayers who questioned her idea for a bakery in the midst of the carb-fearing early-2000s, she persevered and now has locations in eight states.  In fact, she was one of the first entrepreneurs in a business that became an on-going craze, sparking numerous copycats.
    • A BAM example: BP loved a challenge, which is what took her to a former Soviet Republic in South Asia in search of an opportunity.  She graduated with a degree in international business and had lots of experience working at Starbucks.  But her new country was different – they drank tea!  She looked at this and was undaunted.  Because people had a keen and eager interest in the western world, she was able to build a coffee retail business in her adopted country that offered American-like experiences.  Since many wanted to emigrate to America one day, the coffee shop became popular, and its success bred expansion into another store.  Despite the naysayers, she and her colleagues built a Triple Bottom Line business.
  5. You recover quickly.  It’s a popular notion that successful entrepreneurs fail fast and often.  For Corcoran, the trick is in the speed of recovery:  If you fail, resist the urge to mope or feel sorry for yourself.  Don’t wallow; move on to the next big thing immediately.
    • A BAM example: LM started a business in a former Soviet South Asia country.  He invested his own money and partnered with a national attorney.  Things went well until he discovered that his partner emptied the bank account and liquidated the company.  LM was bankrupt.  I called him to encourage him and asked him what he was going to do now.  He quickly responded, “Oh, I have already gone down the street, borrowed some money and have opened up a new office.”  LM was confident in his product (consulting services) and his ability and was not intimidated by failure.  He did not wallow or feel sorry for himself.  LM is an entrepreneur.
  6. You’re resourceful.  “One of my favorite TV shows growing up was MacGyver,” confides Tony Hsieh, lifelong entrepreneur and CEO of Las Vegas-based Zappos, “…because he never had exactly the resources he needed but would somehow figure out how to make everything work out.  Ultimately, I think that’s what being an entrepreneur is all about.”  It’s not about having enough resources, he explains, but being resourceful with what you have.
    • A BAM example: This was true for my friend BJ who saw a favorable business climate in his Asian country but lacked resources.  He had artistic ability and he discovered a market for glass tables, lamps, etc.  He lacked international marketing expertise and did not have a lot of capital, but BJ kept seeking resources he did not have – from various sources and utilizing latent abilities of his own, building a manufacturing business from scratch, eventually hiring 600 employees, starting orphanages and other community projects and having a spiritual impact in hundreds of lives.
Do you see yourself in any of these examples? Can you see yourself using your entrepreneurial mindset to build a kingdom building BAM business? Do you need some ideas for how to get started? Feel free to contact me (larry.sharp@ibecventures.com). You can also find great resources on Business As Mission’s website as well as other BAM-focused sites featured in my November 17, 2014 blog, “Who else besides IBEC Ventures is in this BAM space?”.


Larry W. Sharp, Director of Training, IBEC Ventures



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