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Business As Mission metrics in Togo, West Africa

Friday, June 22, 2018
red peppers growing in field
As I sat down at my computer to write a blog about Business As Mission metrics using some grids from my university class on business startups, I opened a letter from a friend living in Togo, West Africa. It was passed on to me by IBEC consultant Rick Buddemeier. I realized that here was a story demonstrating the theory of my textbook. Why write about theory when there is a real-life, right-now narrative?

For an entrepreneur, startup metrics are very different than those for an established company. Rather than measuring against a business plan, startup owners are looking for feedback on whether their business model is working. A lean startup business model canvas is a simple blueprint which points to a customer, and includes data reflecting a clear understanding of the problem to be solved, proof of concept, customer validation, unique value proposition, risk analysis and the like. Sooner or later typical metrics of a scaling businesses emerge.

On the missional half of the business are metrics such as significant spiritual conversations, time getting to know and love people, numbers studying the scriptures, committed followers of Jesus, and group meetings for fellowship, study and teaching.

Levi graduated from the Missionary Training Institute of Togo last year and moved to a region where relocated families had recently settled. Most everyone is Muslim, unreached with the Gospel, and very poor. But Levi is not a typical “missionary” in west Africa. He is a pepper farmer who brought pepper to the region and is expanding his enterprise to cultivate more land and hire more employees. He supports his family and the worker families.

People see that Levi cares about them and their success. He now develops quality seed which he sells to the new farmers and he serves as a consultant for them. He has won the respect of the people in Mango as he has regular contact with the them on a day-to-day basis. There is no secular-sacred dichotomy for Levi as he lives out his Christian values in a holistic manner in the marketplace. He not only shares verbally who Jesus is, but he lives who Jesus is.

Work is ministry for Levi. “This is in fact a typical example of how we want our African Christians to use their work as ministry, a means of financial support and also a way to meet the needs of the community they serve. When needs are met, hearts will be opened and disciples made. They should be trained to use their work on the field to reach the unreached people. With the gospel in one hand and their work in another, they are able to come in contact with their communities especially in Muslim areas” says my friend Kawashi in an open letter.

Metrics for business? Yes – paying customers for the pepper, scale allowing for more fields and employees, increased profits and market share, etc.

Metrics for mission? Yes – significant conversations on a regular basis; Muslim friends who appreciate him, young people who are studying the Bible, and a church of 20 adults plus children.

Business As Mission (BAM) is real business (profit, job creation) and real mission (making followers of Jesus and stewarding God’s creation). Levi is doing just that in Togo. BAM can be done anywhere in the world, and IBEC’s vision is to help those who are committed to seeing it happen.

Larry Sharp, Director of Training, IBEC Ventures

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The most successful sports business start-up of all time – 4 reasons why

Friday, June 15, 2018
ice hockey teams around goal

A start-up is a fledgling business enterprise. The American Heritage Dictionary suggests it is “a business or undertaking that has recently begun operation.” A start-up is a company working to solve a problem where the solution is not obvious and success is not guaranteed,” says Neil Blumenthal, cofounder and co-CEO of Warby Parker. 

IBEC has been working with start-up companies since its beginning in 2006 and so all of us are keenly interested in what makes for success in a business start-up. But it is not common at all that a sports franchise is among successful start-ups, especially one that becomes successful very quickly.

The National Hockey League (NHL) is the premier ice hockey league in North America and the grand finale of each season is the awarding of the Stanley Cup, named from Canada’s Lord Stanley in 1892. It is the oldest existing championship trophy of any pro franchise. This year, the Eastern Champion Washington Capitals played an unlikely opponent, the Western Champion, Vegas Golden Knights. 

But the Golden Knights are a start-up; an expansion team which did not exist two years ago. After their inception in June 2016, and one year of preparation they began the hockey season in early October 2017. Everyone including their owners expected it would be 3-5 years before they would be a team to contend with. But by May 2018, they had become the most successful expansion team in the history of sports and were vying for the coveted Stanley Cup.

They had finished the regular season with the fifth best record of the 31 teams in the NHL and had posted a 12-3 record in the post-season before the Stanley Cup finals began on May 28. How can this be?

There are at least four reasons for the success of this team in the desert.

They built a sense of community. The infamous Las Vegas shooting took place six days before their hockey season opened on October 6, and the players immediately identified with the pain of the city. As they reached out helping people, volunteering with civic groups, and honoring survivors at the games, they became a rallying point for the city and a pathway to healing. As the only pro team of the city, and one that wanted to belong to the citizens, they were determined to win big for the people. They became the heroes of Las Vegas.

The story reminds me of BAM kingdom business entrepreneur, Bill Job, who built a successful business in Asia. He once told the city leaders, “I want to help you be successful…I want you to be proud of me and my business.” God honored such a community focus. It was not all about him or one or two people – but about the community and its people.

They coalesced as a team. The players joked among themselves about being misfits. When the NHL approves an expansion team, the new team gets to pick a player from all the other teams, but the other teams can protect 11 players each, which means every player selected was not one of the top eleven protected by their former team. Not a good feeling.

But they decided there was only one way forward, to play as a team and work together for success. With the exception of goal tender, Marc-Andre Fleury, there were no superstars. No player finished this first season as one of the top twenty-point getters in the league, but four players had sixty or more points in a balanced team effort. It was a teamwork in the truest sense.

Start-up experts, Nager, Nelsen and Nouyrigat suggest that what matters most in building a start-up team are complementary skills, clear and aligned interests and energy and enthusiasm.1 BAM teams need to strive toward each of these.

Smart player selections. General Manager George McPhee and owner Bill Foley did an amazing job of seeing what others could not see. They saw potential in thirty “unprotected” guys, some of whom had not been given a chance as yet. Coach Gerard Gallant had been fired a few months earlier by his former NHL team and hidden gems like William Karlsson and Jonathan Marchessault turned out to be keys to the team’s success.

Every BAM business needs someone with the ability to see potential in others and give them an opportunity. Former Apple VP, Guy Kawasaki, says, “There is one thing a CEO must do, it’s hire a management team that is better than he is. If there is one thing a management team must do, it’s hire employees who are better than it is.” Kawasaki goes on to say this requires at least two things of owners and managers; humility and self-confidence.2

A key leader emerged. Marc-Andre Fleury was a decorated 3-time all-star goalie from the Pittsburgh Penguins, where he helped them to win three Stanley Cups. As an experienced and successful star player he proved to be the leader and a stable foundation for his new team. The “misfits” rallied around him in every game.

Golden Knights coach Gerard Gallant said. "He's such a character guy. He's the first guy to say last night, 'I'm going to be better and I can be better,' but he's been outstanding. We're here because of him, and we know that. We've got a good team, we play a solid game, but Marc-Andre Fleury, he's the backbone of our hockey team.”

Military leader Bernard Montgomery spoke in these terms, “Leadership is the capacity and will to rally men and women to a common purpose, and the character which inspires confidence.” And in the words of Jesus, “Whoever wants to become great among you must be your servant.” (MK10:43)

Well the Golden Knights did not win the Stanley Cup this year but their story is one of a lesson-filled year. As with the Knights, Kingdom businesses need to serve the community, work as a team, make wise decisions and recognize and promote leaders.

1. Nager, Marc; Nelsen, Clint; Nouyrigat, Frank. Startup Weekend – How to Take a Company from Concept to Creation. Hoboken, NJ. John Wiley & Sons, 2012.

2. Kawasaki, Guy. The Art of the Start. New York, NY. Penguin Group, 2004.

Larry Sharp, Director of Training, IBEC Ventures

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IBEC re-posts on the top Business As Mission website

Friday, June 08, 2018
dice with the word blog spelled out

I find it curious and interesting to know what others consider to be important. One of the ways I try to understand that curiosity is by considering requests for re-posting items which have originated on the IBEC Blog.

Business As Mission is probably the most read BAM website out there and within the last six months these IBEC blogs have been requested from the IBEC site and subsequently posted there. Perhaps they are worth reading if you missed them the first time. 

Larry Sharp, Director of Training, IBEC Ventures

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Seven ways to insure your customer feels he is king (or she is queen)

Friday, June 01, 2018
teamwork written on chalkboard

I ran across the old German adage, “The customer is king” while preparing for a university class I teach on innovation and entrepreneurship. While it is true that understanding the customer is much more complex than a generation ago, and the metaphor may be a tired one, it is increasingly accurate today.

Professor Robert C. Wolcott of the Kellogg School at Northwestern University points out that the king customer paradox reminds us that the customer drives the economy with his more and more access to products and choices; while at the same time increasing the competition, and invading our privacy. Consumer-focused companies respond to our desires while “…pursuing deeper insights into our location, preferences, even needs we didn’t know we had.”1 Such is the paradox of king consumer today.

My wife expects an Amazon package the next day after ordering it at bedtime the evening before, but she doesn’t like it that they know where we live, predict her preferences on the site and drool with anticipation as to what she might order. Yes, customer service has changed greatly in recent times, but at the same time it has not changed at all. Customers still want to be cared for.

In the last two months I had to change flights and rental cars more than once due to illness and death in the family. A stark contrast surfaced on one occasion when I needed to change my flight schedule. The phone attendant at the airline was polite and answered immediately; she forgave the $200 change fee due to the death circumstances and she was very helpful in finding me a new flight.

In contrast, a major rental car agency did not respond to the phone in a timely manner, the line dropped two times and when there was a response, the agency gave a very curt reply and there was no possibility of waiving the change fee. And the cost of a new rental increased substantially.

Customer service is still just that – service - and owners and managers of business startups need to begin with principles which will be long lasting as they prosper and scale the business.

1. Provide consistent training on customer service and be sure that everyone in the company, from top to bottom, follows the same guidelines. Make expectations clear.

2. Meet with customers regularly in person or via survey to determine ways to improve. Do the same with employees, asking how they think customers can be better served.

3. Remind yourself and your staff that without customers you have no business. They pay your salary, which makes them king.

4. Use helpful comments with customers, such as “How can I help you?”, “I don’t know but I will find out.” (and actually do it), “I will keep you updated.” “I appreciate your business.”

5. Keep the customer front and center with friendly personal things like sending cards or notes on important occasions, keeping them in the loop on things important to them, always following up on a conversation. Explore ways to be more personal.

6. Listen to customer complaints and listen politely without excuses. Take responsibility and do what you can to resolve the problem quickly. Go the extra mile.

7. Give employees the right to solve problems – like one restaurant which allows the waiters to give a replacement plate if the customer is dissatisfied.2

1. Wolcott, Robert C. The King Customer Paradox: The More Empowered, The More We Lose ControlForbes Magazine, 11 Apr. 2017.

Larry Sharp, Director of Training, IBEC Ventures

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Three qualities of the best companies to work for

Friday, May 25, 2018
teamwork written on chalkboard

The cover article of the March 2018 Fortune magazine is entitled “100 Best Companies to Work for in 2018.”

I am always curious to know why a company is selected. I decided to take notes on the top 25 and consolidate my notes into the “most often mentioned” reasons why a company is in the top 25.

There is also a Green Star category for companies on the list of 100 for twenty years or more. It was fun to read of two in my area: REI and Nordstrom.

So, what appears to be often mentioned qualities of the top twenty-five companies on the list?

1. Involvement in Decision-making. Quicken Loans CEO, Jay Farmer hosts face-to-face meetings with employees where “no topic is off-limits.” Staff are encouraged to submit ideas on business operations. At Texas Health Resources, staff have a “lot of control over finding the best way to do things.”

At Capital One Financial, “genuine” CEO Richard Fairbank is “…focused on making sure everyone knows where we are going.” Employees at Plant Moran say they appreciate management’s “openness to new ideas and approaches.”

2. Opportunities for Staff Development. First place Salesforce uses its own software to help employees find new challenges for growth. Kimley-Horn encourages workers to explore new markets and create profit-sharing opportunities. Says one employee, “The opportunities are absolutely endless.” Financial products USAA provides up to $10,000 in tuition assistance.

Southern Ohio Medical Center grows its own talent by investing in training and promoting from within, as does Baptist Health South Florida who also puts a premium on developing its own people. REIT Camden Property Trust employees can pursue professional development through Camden University saying, “There are always opportunities to grow.”

3. Involvement in the Community. Salesforce pays employees 56 hours a year to volunteer in their community, and at Edward Jones community outreach is described as an important part of their culture. Capital One Financial associates put in 394,977 volunteer hours to causes like teaching kids to code.

Employees at Cooley, a California law firm, rave about a culture where teams take time off to accompany underprivileged kids to Disneyland. Some 33,000 Deloitte employees volunteered during the company Impact Day.

To be sure there are other factors such as perks which range in interest from strong 401k matches and compressed work weeks to being allowed to bring pets to work and yoga clubs on campus.

The report measures six components: values, innovation, financial growth, leadership effectiveness, maximizing human potential and trust. These were scored while reviewing employee surveys and a culture audit. Authors Michael C. Bush and Sarah Lewis-Kulin of Great Place to Work, affirm that the key to success is maximizing human potential and it is “accomplished through leadership effectiveness, values and trust.”

All of this reminds me of a recent visit from my wife’s nephew. Upon graduation from Cal Berkley with his PhD, he took an engineering job at Google, Inc (now part of Alphabet) in its Life Sciences group, Verily. Obviously, his research development is confidential and beyond the scope of my comprehension even if he could tell me. But I was intrigued with the company perspective on the three qualities mentioned here. There is a culture for rewarding innovation and entrepreneurship.

Founders Larry Page and Sergey Brin continue to insure a relaxed and fun work environment. Staff engineers can work 20% of their time on projects of their choosing. Ideas are allowed to come from everywhere. Many workers are picked up in company buses fully equipped with internet and work facilities and their office “playground” includes free food in 18 cafes and perks such as gyms, yoga, office physicians, and laundry services. Employees are rewarded for new ideas and encouraged to question in a “bottoms up” environment.

Employees love to work at Google where they work in small teams, receive constant feedback, and have a mission to improve the world. Gmail was born by a small team working on something they were passionate about during the 20% of “free time.” No wonder the list of Google’s discontinued products is longer than most companies’ active products. It’s in the culture of “maximizing human potential.” Employees are involved in company decision-making, have plenty of opportunities for growth and community service is valued.

Larry Sharp, Director of Training, IBEC Ventures

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BAM Global Movement – Gort and Tunehag

Friday, May 18, 2018
compass and newspaper

While on long flights, I often bring a couple of books, my computer and postcards to write to my grandkids. Depending on how exhausted I am, I rarely read a whole book between the east coast and my home in Seattle. But this book held my attention. It is a classic. It is a “must read” for business people and for pastors and missionaries. It is available on Amazon and elsewhere.

Gort, Gea and Tunehag, Mats. BAM Global Movement: Business as Mission Concepts and Stories. Peabody, MA: Hendrickson Publishers, 2018.

Mats Tunehag is probably the world’s foremost authority on Business as Mission. He knows the theory, the theology and the praxis for every continent. And he has been connected to the major players in the movement for more than twenty years. The book is unique in its international character and in the variety and depth of the narratives of God at work through business in hard places. For a person trying to understand BAM, this is it. For person well versed in BAM, this will encourage and provide new and creative thinking.

Here are a few quotes which intrigued me or reminded me of the value of Business as Mission.
  • "Five hundred years ago, we had a Reformation of dogma. Now we have a reformation of mission." (p. 3)
  • “It’s not only about salvation but also about bringing God’s shalom into the spheres of life in which we are involved.” (p. 11)
  • “BAM entrepreneurs realize that mission isn’t restricted to a few Christian professionals, such as pastors or missionaries. God is on a mission, and all of us are participants living out the Story of God’s mission.” (p. 12)
  • “In the book of Genesis, God commands us to work the earth and develop the culture through bringing order, work and beauty to the world, which is known as the cultural mandate. Jesus tells us to make all nations his disciples…from the kingdom perspective, planting churches and planting businesses go hand in hand.” (p. 59)
  • “There is no need for church leaders to become entrepreneurs themselves…but we can help spread the vision and view the church as a breeding place where entrepreneurs connect and where they receive support and inspiration…” (p. 58)
  • “In the biblical narratives the notion of “full time professional church ministry” was the exception, not the rule.” (p. 61)
  •  “Business is the most natural way to relate to non-Christians, to live out your faith, and to disciple people.” (p.89)
  • “Business as Mission is not a new discovery – it is for many a re-discovery of biblical truths and practices. In one sense it is like the Reformation rallying cry of ad fontes, ‘back to the sources’.” (p. 109)
  • “Wealth creators should be affirmed by the church, and equipped and deployed to serve in the marketplace among all peoples and nations” (p. 130 quoted from the Wealth Creation Manifesto)
  • “We integrate work and missions…I don’t want an excuse to get in…that’s deceptive to me. My aim is to be genuinely involved. I love agriculture and believe God desires to use all of our natural gifts and talents.” (p. 139 by a BAMer in Central Asia)
  • “If the business fails, then the mission fails.” (p. 147)
  • “Today there is still a need to state the biblically obvious: God calls people to and equips people for business. Unfortunately, this is still a farfetched idea in many churches, mission conferences, and theological seminaries.” (p. 170)
  • “Charity is the generosity that alleviates needs that are immediate. Justice is the process by which generosity configures our ways of providing education, delivering health care, doing business, and creating laws that lessen the need for charity…” (p. 183 quoted from a church in South Carolina)
  • “We call upon the church worldwide to identify, affirm, pray for, commission and release business people and entrepreneurs to exercise their gifts and calling as businesspeople in the world – among all peoples and to the ends of the earth.” (p. 200, from the 2004 Business as Mission Manifesto)

Larry Sharp, Director of Training, IBEC Ventures

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Three freedom businesses – a mini case study

Saturday, May 12, 2018
girls walking

Part 3 of a 3-part series on human slavery and freedom business

Last week we stated that the vital re-integration element for addressing the problem of human trafficking, particularly sex slavery, is an important complement to rescue and restoration. While in Cambodia recently we interviewed and observed seven businesses which were working hard to develop solutions with for-profit businesses. Three of them are highlighted here.

Jars of Clay is a restaurant with two locations in Phnom Penh and features Cambodian and western menus. It was started in 1998 by a missionary from the UK who dreamed of providing a safe place for helpless women with no life skills. Current owner and manager, Jen came as a 16-year-old rescued young girl. In 2007, the missionary left the sustainable operation in the hands of 8 original girls including Jen.

Today there are two restaurants, one in the Russian market area. There are 30 staff in this independent and sustainable operation. The missionary chose the name “Jars of Clay” from the biblical passage in II Cor. 4:7. The girls physical bodies are like jars of clay, in all shapes and sizes. They are beautiful, unique, functional and house a godly treasure. The ministry exists to bring girls to understand this.

The leadership takes a team approach to helping girls overcome the dysfunction of their trafficked past, provide training, learn who Jesus is, and develop the skills of the restaurant business. Jen emphasized that once healing begins they help them build confidence, leave the past behind without pity for themselves and realize a home in the Jars of Clay family.

Jen sees Jars of Clay as belonging to God and she is a steward for him. The profits are not theirs; they belong to God and they are plowed back into the business for improvements. The graduates of the program often go on to better jobs. One is the director of an NGO, another manages another restaurant. Almost all reintegrate into society and are able to support themselves. Many come to faith in Jesus as their Savior.

Sak Saum started fifteen years ago with 12 abused kids which were acquired from the Ministry of Social Affairs in Cambodia. The name, Sak Saum is a Khmer term meaning to restore and remake as new with dignity, value and beauty. The original group, mostly girls, were released to a church which built a dorm for the children. A program was developed to restore these children and create a desire to change. For those who want to change, the process of teaching life and employment skills begins.

The goal today is to create a nurturing, empowering, restorative program which facilitates vocational training in sewing products and community development. The large property outside the city of Phnom Penh provides for prevention through playgrounds, community programs and a local “watch program”, education for victims who want to change, restoration through job training, and justice by working with local authorities to bring perpetrators to justice.

The company is known for its creativity, individualized craftsmanship, and excellent products which are shipped to more than 15 countries and 30 US states. Products are not mass produced and so each is the result of creative minds, crafted as a tangible product representing a changed life. Skills are discovered and developed in design, quality control, business savvy, leadership and entrepreneurship.

The current trend is to reduce the number of employees working in the larger factory and to empower individuals to work with freedom and dignity at home; with the trainers and quality control personnel working in the factory, called a design center. Want to learn the many ways to wear a hua? Watch: http://saksaum.com/about/

Founder/operator Ginny Hanson sums it up: “Without choice, it is not love, without love there is no change.”

Outland Denim This company is in Kampong Cham, about a 3-hour drive northeast of Phnom Penh. It was started seven years ago by James Bartle, an Australian entrepreneur who saw an opportunity to make a difference in the lives of trafficked women through employment, while making a profit. He entered the fashion world of denim with a steep learning curve after traveling to Asia to see how the trafficking industry worked and to envision how he could provide a sustainable career path to victimized women.

There is a strong commitment to preparing each of the 40 seamstress employees with all the skills of the factory. Each person learns every aspect – every machine and every detail on a pair of jeans – the denim, the thread, rivets, buttons, belt loops, zippers – all are meticulously and artfully produced and reviewed. The high-end product is no regular jean - with retail prices in North America starting at $195 per jean.

Outland Denim is strongly committed the verifying the ethical sourcing of all items in the supply chain. Each item is checked for its social responsibility and environmental impact. For example, a company representative recently traveled to Turkey to check on the denim which is sourced a one particular location in that country, making sure it is using organic cotton and other approved processes such as natural indigo dyes which are less toxic. Every item from the thread to the denim, to the dyes, zippers, buttons, rivets, leather patches and washing process is guaranteed to not be exploitive and the most socially and environmentally responsible as possible.

The women take pride in their work and we noted on the finished products, the leather patch had a simple statement under the Outland name, “This jean handcrafted by …… (name of person)”

We were impressed how the owner in Australia and the managers in Cambodia, Caleb and Katie, relied on the importance of prayer, with many stories of how God directed them in creative entrepreneurial ways, as they relied on Him. Certainly, God is blessing this establishment to the “greater glory of God.”

Larry Sharp, Director of Training, IBEC Ventures

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Trafficked humans: rescue – restore – reintegrate

Saturday, May 05, 2018
peaceful field

Part 2 of a 3-part series on human slavery and freedom business

“Do I really deserve love and care?” blurted twelve-year-old Dara as she looked at the teddy bear and the note attached to it. It was the first time she had been told something like this, and the first time she had ever been given a gift. Dara had just been rescued from a KTV bar in Phnom Penh to which she had been sold by her family some weeks earlier. She sold drinks to male customers which took this beautiful little girl into the dark world of sex slavery.

One wonders how this could happen. How could a family be so desperate as to sell their child into such a dead-end street of child labor, sex slavery and personal dehumanization? It is difficult for most of us to understand what poverty, starvation and desperation can do.

Step 1: Rescue. Dara was now at the front end of the long road to normalcy – one that starts with the first step. Someone cared enough to enter that dark world to provide a starting point in a safe place where trained people committed themselves to walk the road to safety with her.

Step 2: Restoration is a ministry of redemption where Dara began to heal, build her confidence and to look forward to a better future; where she began to see the love of Jesus incarnated in people who protected her, gave counsel, and empowered her to receive an education, vocational training, health care, worry-free sleep, spiritual truths, and most of all love.

Step 3: Re-integration often involves a safe home or a foster family, or it may involve a return to the home of her parents if it is a safe place and the economic situation has improved. Dara learns soft skills such as problem-solving, communication, technical abilities and further education. She then learns hard skills which she can use to enter to work world as a working adult. These may include cooking, management, sewing, hair styling, financial management, driving, computer, farming, English language and other marketable skills.

Job creation is the vision of entrepreneurs who start businesses for those coming out of sex trafficking situations. Businesses, often called freedom businesses, providing work in Cambodia include restaurants, linen factories, hair salons, beauty shops, farms and home sewing coops, among others.

This graphic helps understand the Where, What, Who, Why and How of freedom business and is used with permission of Free Set Global. Check out this pioneer freedom business.

Part 3 will focus on three kingdom business case studies.

Larry Sharp, Director of Training, IBEC Ventures

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Child human trafficking – a short definition of this dehumanized state

Saturday, April 28, 2018
small child

Part 1 of a 3-part series on human slavery and freedom business

The worldwide human trafficking industry today conservatively estimates 40 million victims. It is organized crime, second in size to drug trafficking. There are more slaves today on earth than ever before, albeit with a different dehumanizing face than the slave trade, or the slavery plantations of the 19th century. Not all are sex slaves, as many fall victims to forced child labor.

My wife and I recently toured NGOs and freedom businesses in Cambodia so as to understand the basic issues, challenges and solutions to this terrible situation. Here are some of the things we learned.

1. The sex industry in Cambodia is driven by Cambodian men, unlike other southeast Asia nations which lure men from northern nations to their country’s exploitative industries. Many companies hire children to factory jobs whose families gladly place them in sweat shops due to extreme financial stress.

2. The problem is driven by a demand side and a supply side. Demand by evil men willing to pay for sex with increasingly young children fuels the brothels and KTVs of Asia. The disempowerment of deadly poverty drives the supply of young children sold by their parents for money needed for basic food for the rest of the family.

3. Poverty has many explanations. In Cambodia, migration is a giant issue as parents leave for Thailand to earn money with children left with aging grandparents or neighbors. Sometimes children are left alone because parents die of diseases such as AIDS; often women are left alone with children and no source of income.

4. NGOs, some large and some small, are the leaders in rescue and restoration efforts. The focus is on the physical rescue of children from their desperate life, and then restoration from the physical and emotional trauma. This involves soft skill development in self-confidence, communication skills, morality, family values education, counseling, demonstration of love and care. One such NGO is Destiny Rescue. Another addressing soft skills well is World Vision.

5. Nations like Cambodia are shame cultures. For example, it is a shame not to provide for the needs of the family but less of a shame to be a prostitute. Such distortions can create a values warp and contribute to human trafficking. Children do it because they are helping the family.

6. Freedom businesses are for-profit industries that employ victims as the key component of re-integration, providing adults with the skills and vocational training to hold a job. This is the only way to break the systemic cycle of dysfunction. Many more such businesses are needed. One business says it this way: Sak Saum is about a changed life with one mission: seeing people set free and empowered for their future.

7. Ultimately the demand side of exploitative economics can only be broken when the entire world comes to believe that it is not OK to buy sex, especially that of children. This is why morals education and the Christian gospel is so important. The supply side can be solved as poverty is reduced and the poor have the basic necessities of life. Job creation is gigantic in these countries.

8. We appreciated that almost all people we talked with did not highlight individual names or photos of children or adults who were being restored and reintegrated. They made a point of not showcasing specific people, but focused on collective units and on strategic processes.

9. Several people reminded us of two things: We cannot solve all the problems of 40 million slavery victims, but we can help some, and that is what Jesus would do. Secondly in Cambodia there does appear to be some macro success. It seems that since the trafficking issue was exposed about 2003, the government and NGOs have seen it reduced to specific pockets. For example, child slavery is not so endemic in brothels any longer, but still exists in KTV bars, where young girls particularly sell drinks to men who offer a price to take them off-site for their dehumanizing acts.

Part 2 will focus on the process of Rescue, Restore, Re-integrate.

Larry Sharp, Director of Training, IBEC Ventures

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What do Kingdom investors say and want?

Saturday, April 21, 2018
welcome sign

A recent meeting of “Great Commission Companies” in Nepal invited practitioners and investors from other south Asia countries to share insights on issues related to investing in Kingdom companies. IBEC has coached and consulted with several companies in Nepal and we maintain a keen interest and involvement in that country.

The group in Nepal uses the tagline, “We are a group of Christians based in Nepal … committed to glorifying God through business.” Here are some of the conversation nuggets which one of the owners passed on to us.
  • In another neighboring country, it was realized that the # 1 problem is a spiritual one. People who live compromised lives spiritually, generally compromise in their business practices.
  • We do not approve of loans more than $10,000 otherwise people become overwhelmed.
  • Kingdom investors look primarily for a business that is touching lives for God.
  • The business owner must be willing to be mentored. Mentoring covers the ‘nuts and bolts’ but moves deeper into the underlying mission.
  • Regular financial reporting is mandatory.
  • Loans must have a modest rate-of-interest since interest conveys the message that there is a cost associated with the lending of money and real costs must be understood.
  • Investors generally do not invest in new startup-ups; but they wait for a track record and a clear understanding of peculiarities and demands. 
  • Investors look for evidence that the owner understands the business is ultimately owned by God and he/she is a steward.
  • Team is important. Lone rangers generally fail.
Business is complex and it is a lot of hard work. It is not for the faint hearted and is tremendously challenging. One bit of advice shared at the meeting may sound trite but it sums it all up:

“Keep your eyes on Jesus while at the same time make as much money as you can.”

Larry Sharp, Director of Training, IBEC Ventures

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IBEC Ventures -- Consultants for BAM/Business as Mission