Tuesday, May 10, 2011

25 BAM Lessons Learned

I was part of a BAM Environmental Engineering business called Paradigm Engineering Owned By Johnny and Karen Combs. Their vision was to operated a kingdom Business. I served several roles there, including Human Resources and Community Services Officer. I was the Business as Mission Officer for the company. We collaborated with many pioneering BAM organizations,as well as doing our own activity.

What follows is a quick summary of some lessons learned about BAM.

Background of  the Paradigm Engineering BAM Movement

Many people in leadership came from Baptist and Bible Church backgrounds; however, since the Business was not affiliated in anyway with any particular mission group, we were able to cross mission  organization boundaries well.  We partnered with a number of  denominational and Non -denominational groups who generally came from the evangelical Christian world.  We also workd with a  number of local churhces in the developing world. With them, and on our own, we completed a body of business and market research across cultures, east and west across rural, urban and suburban settings. The work and research was based on best practices, interviews, and trial start up business plan analyses.Next,  Two single enterprise business start ups were then conducted using a water purification/bottled water store in developing country suburban and rural environments, one in Mexico and one in Liberia. Both are in operation in one form or another. Our next project was the SEED Center. Glenn White of  businesstry, who had been doing alot of work and writing in that area came on board to develop the concept.

Servant Entrepreneur Enterprise Development (SEED) Centers(r) is the name Waters of Mercy, doing business as as Business Without Borders  gave to our concept of mutual supporting business enterprise start- ups.

Some Lessons Learned

1.   There is no "one size fits all" set of businesses that work for BAM everywhere. Even similar settings in similar cultures may not work. Therefore, a detailed individual project assessment is needed for each proposed BAM business or SEED Center, in each location, even if they are in the same region.

2.   Local church leadership in areas that could benefit from BAM/SEED centers often have incorporated the worst the western church has to offer in terms of their understanding of the place business in God's Kingdom. In some cases the local church leadership even believes that business is, by its very nature, corrupt work of the devil. This belief system must be assessed and understood before a time line is developed for implementing a BAM Project.

3.   Both the formal and the informal business practices of the target area must be fully understood in the business plan development for a SEED Center.

4.  The agenda and measurable objectives of the Funders/underwriters of BAM projects, including SEED Centers, must be clearly defined, in writing, before a BAM Project is launched.

5.  There are several systems that must be assessed before a project is implemented and findings incorporated into the design. For example, security, political stability, organized criminal activity, etc. must be assessed. A safe with a chain link embedded in a concrete may be essential equipment in the the business plan.

6.  Most Western business equipment is designed with high technology and low labor needs in mind. In most BAM Project settings, low-tech equipment is the most resiliant choice, and design we need to help the local entrepreneur design work processes that employ more people to make up for it. a business franchise designed in the west for the west and supported by a western small business specialist needs a complete rethinking and redesign, and will have higher labor needs than one would expect in the west.

7.  Some sort of microfinance system should be part of most SEED Center  or business cluster.If not, the financial transaction processes for the businesses should be carefully thougt through

8.  Highly Motivated Believer Business Behavior (HMB3) is an essential ingredient for BAM success anywhere. It is characterized by self-directed positive, ethical, entrepreneurial actions like selling, consistent process discipline, product improvement and excellence, assertively monitoring the competitive environment, creative problem solving, good shepherding of people, product and money, and good listening skills.In short, taking ownership of all business activities. Hireling Behavior is characterized by being an ethical steward,who has traded their time for money. They are not willing to take many risks on behalf of the business. They treat the tribal leader or real owner like a respected boss. It is really about commitment.

If  ham and eggs are needed to make a meal, the pig demonstrates an HMB3 level of commitment, while the chicken that produced the eggs demonstrates a hireling level of commitment

10.  Tribal ownership, including local church group ownership, diffuses individual responsibility and discourages HMB3. Even Strong believers demonstrate Hireling Behavior under tribal ownership.

11.  An international denominationally planted BAM project or SEED Center often suffers at the hand of tribal ownership. Most missionaries know that in the developing world, if you, a westerner built it, you are expected to maintain it, where it is a Church Roof or a BAM Project.

12.  Every business needs an accountability structure made up of mostly believing business people. An accountability structure controlled by church leadership is tribally owned. If denominational group church leaders do not not trust the believing business people they brought in, this needs to be sorted out before you initiate a BAM project and spread that mistrust to the local BAM Project.

13.  A BAM business makes a profit and hires people; a BAM-Titled Mission Project creates business-like activity until the money runs out. There may be a place for both, but it is destructive for future projects to mistake one for the other.

14.  Just like a new new church plant has some spiritual barriers to over come, so does a new BAM activity.
Like any successful church plant, a successful BAM activity needs to prepare for spiritual "pushback". It needs to have the same prayer support as any other mission activity no matter were it is.

15. Every piece of machinery, equipment or supply needs to be available locally. To design a business that requires special outside help creates dependency on believers outside the local church; this should be discouraged.

16. One on One discipleship is needed for every new business owner. This can be done by local church leaders, and can create a healthy non-controlling interaction for ethical discussions. Local church leader coaching by supporting church leaders is needed to make this key relationship work.

17.  Pray for discernment about influences that are not readily transparent. Believers in other countries sometimes display one set of behavior to Western visitors, and another to each other.

18.  Funding plans should include awareness of the "burn rate" for a start up.  The funds needed for start up are like fuel. If you run out of fuel before your covering your own needs the business must end. It should be clear there is no more. Therefore, monitoring the the "burn rate" is a healthy activity for everyone.

19.  Every business has a business cycle and a life cycle. Individual businesses have births, lives and deaths.An anointed, called, gifted entrepreneur will start many businesses in their lifetime.

20.  Church leaders will need help to not "freak out" if a business phases out or dies. The SEED Center or business cluster can lengthen the life of a business,  They design churches to last for the long haul, so this is a hard concept for them.

21. The most important thing to remember is that any BAM activitiy is about investing in the local believer, who is called to be an entrepreneur.  Every Believing Entrepreneur needs at least one, preferably many, mentors, coaches, and peers.

22.  Understand the role of BAM support people and organizations. Our calling is different. God gives us a love for entrepreneurs, even if some of us are not entrepreneurs ourselves. The must have a God given love for the believing entrepreneur.

On a Trip back to Texas from Zacatecas, Mexico, where we we had set up a BAM project that supported a kids feeding program, paid for by mothers who now bought their bottled water from the Water Store, the Missionary said to me, "Lee, don't those kids and mothers make you just want to sell everything and come down here to work?" I had to stop for a long time to pray about why I did not feel led to do that. I said "No, but I want it makes we want to stop and do everything I can to Help guys like you all over the world."

23.  There is a need beyond Micro-enterprise. For every micro 100 entrepreneurs, perhaps 10 move on to hire workers outside their family. There is a need for different support structures as well as training, and especially, mentoring needed for these transformational entrepreneurs.

24.  Budget about 1.3 the amount of time and money you think you may need to implement a BAM project.

25.  The vision of the local believing entrepreneur is what God blesses. The western entrepreneur supporter brings encouragement and technical skills

Business as mission is not a new concept, but Christianity has seen a resurgence in reestablishing work as worship. Missions with business  has grown as doors to traditional missionaries have closed But unless we learn to love and invest in Kingdom Entrepreneurs, and figure out how to share our lessons learned, BAM will be relegated to become just another missionary tactic.