IBEC Ventures -- Consultants for BAM/Business as Mission
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Celebrating our first decade: the history of IBEC Ventures

Sunday, September 25, 2016

This week marks an important milestone for IBEC Ventures: we're celebrating our 10th anniversary as an organization! It was this week in 2006 that IBEC was formed. As we reflect on the many blessings we've experienced over these ten years, we wanted to share a bit about our history - to help you get to know us better and to see how God uses businesses, IBEC included, to build His kingdom.

Created to solve a problem

IBEC Ventures was formed to solve a problem. In 2005 the leadership of Crossworld, a mission agency, was becoming increasingly interested in establishing business start-ups in underdeveloped, unreached countries, yet they lacked the capacity and personnel for business development in high-risk countries. It seemed that at least some employees could be re-purposed to start and operate businesses but primarily new personnel needed to be recruited and trained.

Crossworld assigned Larry Sharp, VP of Operations, to the task of presenting an action plan. In June 2006 he invited 15 men and women with robust business backgrounds to a day-long consultation in Bala Cynwyd, PA. He and two other Crossworld executives listened as business people made observations and suggestions, many which have been followed to this day.

Incorporation and formation of the board and leadership team

The decision was made to start a separate organization and by late 2006 the Crossworld president and Board of Directors agreed to provide seed capital to incorporate and start a Business as Mission consulting group. The International Business and Education Consultantswas incorporated as a Pennsylvania Not-for-Profit on Sept 22, 2006. In 2008 the corporate office was moved to Perkasie, PA and in 2010 the company filed for a DBA as IBEC Ventures, by which it is most commonly known today.

From the start, IBEC has been an independent entity based on trust with Crossworld with a crossover executive sitting in on board meetings. Bob Johnstone had been consulting with Crossworld for a number of years so he was a natural, experienced and competent person to lead the IBEC Board of Directors.

The first board meeting for IBEC was in March 2007 where Bob Johnstone was elected Chairman; Harold Schell, Treasurer; and Torrey Sharp, Marketing Developer. Larry Sharp as Director was an ex offico board member. The bylaws were approved in April and Harold applied for 501 c/3 status, and received it on January 31, 2008. The purpose and vision were established at the first 2008 board meeting. Torrey Sharp worked quickly to set up a website.

New board members began to be added in October 2007, probably the most significant of which was Ken Leahy, who became Director of Consulting Services and also became the architect of the business model, consulting tools and in modeling consulting trips to countries such as China, Kazakhstan, Nepal and elsewhere. By the end of the decade, IBEC was consulting with businesses in China, Nepal, Azerbaijan, Bosnia, Kazakhstan, India, Kosovo, Morocco, the Middle East, Haiti and Indonesia.

Dual funding model

IBEC’s funding model from the inception was to receive income partially from donations and partially from fee for service or retainer contracts. For the first several years Crossworld was the largest client with a sizable retainer contract.

Relationship building

In January 2011 IBEC hired Dean Callison as the CEO and Larry became an apologist for Business as Mission and a trainer and speaker on behalf of IBEC. Dean built many relationships including bringing on board member Dave Kier and securing foundation funding. Under Dean’s leadership, we also began to be more intentional about IBEC’s identity thus giving us more relationships within the Christian community in North America. When Dean left in November 2012, Ken Leahy agreed to serve as acting CEO and did so until March 2014. Ken then continued as a consultant with IBEC.

Beginning in 2010 IBEC began to refer to itself as a virtual organization, committed to regular phone meetings and other consistent communication. We started to add consultants from all over the United States. Bob Johnstone was a stabilizing and visionary force from the beginning, and even after his term ended in 2014 he continued as Treasurer and as a consultant. Don Worthington who joined the IBEC Board near the beginning assumed the role of Board Chairman in 2014.

Organization and systems building

In June 2014, the IBEC Board of Directors appointed Bob Bush as the new Managing Director. Bob quickly began to infuse new marketing energy and vision into IBEC and continued with the same leadership team which served with Ken – Gary Willett, Jim Mayer, Larry Sharp, Gwen Rapp and Bob Bush. The Board of Directors and leadership team has been intentional from the beginning about spiritual impact aligned with business success. Spiritual and economic impact has been observable in projects in Nepal, China, Indonesia, India, and Ethiopia.

During the period of 2012-14, IBEC worked hard to strengthen its Customer Relationship Management system (thanks to Gary Willett, Jim Mayer, and Gwen Rapp) and hired a social media specialist, Carolyne Hart, to complement Torrey on the marketing side. She replaced Gwen Rapp on the leadership team and Gary Willett replaced Ken as Director of Consulting and became the primary connection between IBEC and the clients in the overseas markets.

Expansion on many fronts

By early 2015, IBEC had working agreements with Ibex Associates, Agora Enterprises, Third Path Initiative and GEN, as well as new expat clients through North American agencies. The social media strategy included a weekly blog and social media posts helping IBEC connect with prospective clients, consultants and partners in the BAM community. The education side of IBEC included curriculum for BAM understanding, being taught in a variety of venues from weekend modules to 3-credit college and seminary courses.

As we mark our 10-year anniversary, IBEC has about 30 projects under contract. We see new opportunities to expand our client base, including serving business clients who are third world nationals and also serving North American business owners desiring to expand operations overseas. We are also beginning to prepare IBEC consultants to serve North American business persons working overseas for large corporations. We are also formalizing IBEC’s extensive training and business planning tools to provide our growing team of consultants and Subject Matter Experts with industry-leading resources to support IBEC clients in their mission: to impact the Kingdom of God through business.

An unswerving purpose

That mission - serving people and communities through job creation and building sustainable businesses that draw others to His kingdom – continues to bless us as we bless others around the world for His glory, not our own.

IBEC’s Purpose: IBEC helps build sustainable businesses through consultative expertise that changes lives and transforms communities.

Our 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.

We're grateful to all who have contributed to the formation and development of IBEC over the years. And now as we begin a new decade of service, thank you all!

For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future." - Jeremiah 29:11

Larry Sharp, Director of Training, IBEC Ventures

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Of seaways, roadways and businesses: finding the best way to the destination

Monday, September 19, 2016

I have always taken an interest in roadways and ferry routes. I recently moved back to the Seattle, WA area (we lived there in the 1960s) and took the ferry across Puget Sound with some family members. The Washington State Ferry System is the largest in the USA and the 4th largest in the world. It dates back to the 1800s and the steamship era and later to the famed “mosquito fleet”. Today millions of commuters and tourists depend on it each year for quick and scenic travel on the waters of Puget Sound.

Before moving we lived in central Oregon so naturally, I took an interest in the Oregon Trail and other roadways of historical significance. I like to take differing routes between Seattle and central Oregon so recently I drove Highway 97, an important north-south artery east of the Cascade mountains. I stopped to rest in a remote region and took a short walk up a little hill to the “old road” (such things have long intrigued me). As I walked along this road of the mid 20th century, I looked up to see an astonishing sight – another even older road! So up I went through the brambles, sharp rocks, and junipers. Sure enough – a real “old road”.

I came back to my computer to find that this totally impassable wagon trail was the Huntington Road, developed by Perit Huntington to bring supplies from The Dalles on the Columbia River to Fort Klamath in southern Oregon in 1867. Their hurdles included valleys and hills, rocky terrain, and hostile native peoples. It required teamsters, scouts, engineers, cooks and wagon mechanics. All that remains of that historic road is hidden behind trees and fallen rock.

What do these two historic passageways of water and land have in common?

Both were discovered and developed to help pioneers and later modern travelers get to their destination in the quickest and easiest way possible. And now in the 21st century, modern transportation vehicles and routing technology have improved these ancient methods.

Finding the best route to a successful BAM business

It got me thinking. Entrepreneurs and business builders in faraway countries and cultures have the task of finding a pathway in difficult and new environments. They are attempting to build a Triple Bottom Line1 business in the most direct manner so as to arrive at the destination: a business that provides jobs creates economic value and introduces people to Jesus.
Ancient seafaring was revolutionized by steam engines and then by diesel technology. Wagon roads moved from horse-driven carriages to internal combustion engine models to modern computerized air conditioned vehicles. What took days to travel from central Oregon to Seattle in a horse-pulled wagon, now takes a few hours in a modern vehicle.

Business developers need a direct road to success. They need all the help they can get to accomplish the “end” goal. That means new ideas from experienced business owners who serve as coaches, mentors, and consultants. It means IBEC Ventures!

IBEC serves clients overseas with general consulting, on-going coaching and with subject matter expertise. This takes place over time or in a single Skype call. All of such assistance helps the business person to improve the route to success.

From peanuts to peanut butter

A current example illustrates. How does an industrious visionary team in central Asia bring peanut butter to a country that values peanuts, but does not produce or import peanut butter? With internal testing which seems to indicate the marketability of peanut butter, what is the quickest road to Triple Bottom Line success? There are many inhibiting factors but IBEC consultants are providing coaching and expertise overcoming what seems like insurmountable hurdles.

We are confident that the road will be built in the best possible route and overcome these obstacles along the way. A profitable peanut butter manufacturing business means better lives for people – a nutritious product, jobs for the unemployed, taxes for the community and a team who does all of this in the name of Jesus.


1 Triple Bottom Line is the goal of all BAM companies: 1) profitability and sustainability; 2) job creation; 3) spiritual capital – making followers of Jesus.

Larry Sharp, Director of Training, IBEC Ventures

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Travel safety and security

Sunday, September 11, 2016

“It is better to take refuge in the Lord than to trust in humans.” Psalms 118:8

IBEC consultants, coaches, Subject Matter Experts, friends, and clients are often in travel mode and find themselves in airports or in situations with less than desirable security standards. This may be a reminder of some of the things to be thinking about when planning a trip away from your city of familiarity. They could save your life.

Awareness (before travel)

  • Become familiar with the country or region by reading about it and interfacing with others who have traveled or lived there. In this way, you will become aware of the probable risks and consequences if you are in trouble. For example, it is common knowledge that pickpockets are very good in Colombia; therefore, be ready to avoid that risk.
  • Good places to visit to learn about your destination include:
  • Study the “Dos and Don’ts” and cultural distinctive for that region.
  • Study some key phrases in the local language before you go.
  • Try to develop these helpful personal characteristics:
    • Tolerance for ambiguity
    • Low-goal task orientation
    • Open-mindedness
    • Being non-judgmental
    • Empathy
    • Being communicative
    • Flexibility and adaptability
    • Curiosity
    • A sense of humor
    • Self-reliance
    • Ability to fail
  • Harden yourself as a target, using survival principles based on common risks. Criminals look for soft targets (people with little travel savvy). For example, there are training materials on how to keep your valuables safe, how to watch for cybercriminals and everyday thieves and safe places to sleep. There is no excuse for jogging with new expensive sneakers, alone, while listening to your iPod in a north African country, as someone I know did – and she paid the price. Several websites are helpful: Maintaining Posture as a Hard Target (https://survivalblog.com/maintaining_posture_as_a_hard_target_by_ak/)
  • Always make sure somebody, someplace, knows where you are and be sure to have your contact numbers in a safe secure place. Let your credit card company know where you are traveling. Have copies of important papers accessible but somewhere off your person.
  • Become aware of any policies which relate to your trip; policies of the host company you are visiting, or the host nation policies, or IBEC guidelines. For example, IBEC has a “Checklist for Consultant Travel Overseas” and it includes things like “be sure to register with the US State Department upon arrival”.
  • Make contingency plans before you leave. This includes a plan of action if something bad happens and assures you of a way to communicate (in many countries I recommend a SAT phone in addition to regular cell phone), an evacuation plan and extra supply of things you don’t want to be without (such as batteries, medicines).
  • There may be release forms you will want to sign before you go. The most serious of these types of things is what to be done with your body if you die over there. There are other less drastic things to be aware of before you go.
  • If you can, get some basic training. For example, Crisis Consulting International has a great 3-day seminar. See cricon.org. Others which I have used or know of fortsherman.org and mortonsecure.com.

Avoidance (once you are on your way)

  • Risk can be mitigated by choosing low-risk airlines, hotels, regions of cities and ground transportation means. For example, I recommend not traveling on regional airlines in Nepal or local bus lines in Bolivia.
  • Determine to stay away from areas of civil unrest or known crisis. I once received a phone call from an acquaintance in a former Soviet republic who was taking pictures and when I asked about the gun shots I overheard, he said he was downtown in the midst of a coup – not good!
  • Learn what to say when being interrogated by foreign authorities. We recommend an STS (Short Tenable Statement). This is a one-sentence statement of what you are doing that is authentic, verifiable, consistent, plausible, and creates a clear understanding; and results in a satisfied inquirer.
  • Be a learner and listen! listen! listen! Stay clear of political conversations or sharing your opinion. Remind yourself that someone is always listening. In some countries, hotel rooms may be “bugged” with listening devices watching for religious or political biases. Be respectful of everyone and everything you see, and determine to never disparage the host culture. Train yourself to say, “Oh, that is interesting!” and never, “Oh, that is dumb!”
  • Even though your country may claim to have “freedom of religion” they likely do not have it in the same sense that we think of it. Respect their laws (you should have studied them at least a little before you leave) even if you consider it inconsistent or discriminatory.
  • Have a supply kit which may be resourced before you leave or purchased immediately upon arrival. This will be things like first aid materials, cash, a whistle etc. (see such lists online).

Appropriate action (if something happens when you are there)

  • Be ready to “work the plan” (think Apollo 13 movie) according to how you prepared beforehand. Crisis management is as simple as the outline for the scientific method which we all learned in junior high school. But though the thought process is simple, it is also far more complex in its implementation. During a crisis is NOT the time to make plans for what you are going to do. For example, during a political crisis in Haiti, everyone on our team knew the escape evacuation routes because we had decided ahead of time and prioritized them.
  • Know exactly the protocol for who to call for help and how. There are several options and the organization which may have sent you abroad such as your church, company or IBEC should have arranged these emergency numbers for you. I once received a call because I was the “go-to guy” when a crisis was going on in Yemen, which kicked off a process for implementing evacuation plans.
  • Always know who your friends are and how to contact them for help. Know who will be a crisis management team leader and learn to trust him or her. Remember also that there are professionals to handle negotiations (see websites above) if you are in a hostage situation or something similar. I was once responsible for someone who was doing a water dam project in his country when he was imprisoned. Professionals were able to help me gain his release, even though it took five months.

The time has long since passed since we could freely hop a plane and feel at home most anywhere in the world. We should not fear to travel, however, but with Awareness, Avoidance principles, and Appropriate Action we can travel knowing we have done our best to be secure. When it comes to connecting with BAM Kingdom companies think like Mark Twain:

"Twenty years from now you will be more disappointed by the things that you didn't do than by the ones you did do. So throw off the bowlines. Sail away from the safe harbor. Catch the trade winds in your sails. Explore. Dream. Discover."

But all the while, remember:

“Safety is not a slogan. It is a way of life.”

“Security is not a product but a process.” Bruce Schneier

Larry Sharp, Director of Training, IBEC Ventures

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Finding fulfillment at work

Sunday, September 04, 2016

Monday is Labor Day in the US and Canada, a national holiday that dates back to the 1880s. It has its roots in the labor movement and is celebrated in September in North America, distinct from most of the world which celebrates the International Workers Day on May 1.

Our Christian faith has much to say about labor and work. God was a worker God and a creative God. He then asked mankind to be creative and to take care of God’s creation (Genesis 1:28Genesis 2:15). Thus work was and still should be an activity of fulfillment, joy, and satisfaction.

Deuteronomy 8:18 validates the ability that God has given to us to create wealth.

I have long been a fan of Paul Sohn’s blogs and this one caught my attention because he highlights Simon Sinek in a short 2-minute video which reminds us that we should be fulfilled at work: Simon Sinek On How To Find Fulfillment At Work. Fulfillment comes as we think about others first through generosity and trusting relationships. It is part of our commitment as God worshipers to obey his commands, one of which is to do good to all. Both the Old and New Testaments refer to the Golden Rule and the Great Commandment – doing good and loving our neighbor.1

As we focus on building start-up businesses and determine the culture of our business, let us think about how we value work and we value our people, thus developing a culture which puts God first and then people – all above our own self-interests.

“Do to others as you would have them do to you.” Luke 6:31

“If you don’t understand people, you don’t understand business…make it about them, not you.” Simon Sinek

Larry Sharp, Director of Training, IBEC Ventures

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IBEC Ventures -- Consultants for BAM/Business as Mission