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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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The ultimate startup guide

Saturday, April 14, 2018

The Winter 2017/2018 issue of Inc. Magazine’s cover story was entitled, “The Ultimate Startup Guide”. It was sub-titled “21 pages of wisdom gained the hard way by successful founders”. I couldn’t resist buying it in the Palm Beach International airport.

The article was entitled The First 90 Days and was billed as a checklist of real-life advice from successful founders. Supposedly the decisions made in the first three months of a startup can make all the difference. So, what do the likes of Adrianna Huffington, Steve Blank, Pierre Omidyar, Sara Blakely and Elon Musk have to say?

Leigh Buchanan, Inc. Editor-at-large
The idea behind a minimum viable product is to get your offering as quickly as possible into the hands of customers to generate feedback. But first you have to make sure you are solving the right problem. Market data and surveys won’t tell you that. For those insights, you have to get as close to the customer experience as possible. 

Jon Kolko, founder of Austin Center for Design
Your first job is to know your customer. Not just who she is but also what she wants, what she does and how she feels about what she does. That means embedding in customers’ lives and work…ask the customer-master to let you observe her in action…ask potential customers of you can spend time in their offices or on their factory floors…ask open-ended questions about the experience and workflow. This process provides pragmatic understanding of pain points and an emotional context that lets you see things through your customer’s eyes.

Adrianna Huffington, Co-Founder of HuffPost
The first question was “What problem are you solving and what are you bringing to the market that is not already there.”

Nathaniel Ru, Co-CEO of Sweetgreen
In the first days…you need guidance and advice from other entrepreneurs. At the very least, you’ll want an experienced eye to look over your business plan, if you decide to do one.

At Sweetgrass, our mentors asked a lot of tough helpful questions – about our financial model, our brand positioning, our restaurant design, and more. The emphasis is on what you can learn not about your industry, but rather about your idea. 

Randy Komisar, Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers
Once you’ve identified your value proposition, go back and look at real companies that have done something at least roughly similar…seriously question whether this is something anyone wants…identify your leaps of faith: what you don’t know but assume about the market. 

Steve Blank, Silicon Valley serial entrepreneur and launcher of the Startup movement
New entrepreneurs misunderstand what Kickstarter is for. They think it is a way for customer discovery, to test their product’s appeal…the minute you commit to Kickstarter, if you get funded, you are entering two years of indentured servitude until you deliver that product. Instead to the hard work of customer discovery, which will likely take more than 90 days. Once you have a product you know solves a real customer problem, then Kickstarter can help you scale demand. Kickstarter before customer discovery is the lazy entrepreneur’s approach to starting up. 

David S. Rose, Entrepreneur, Investor
Every single serial entrepreneur with whom I have spoken has told me, “If only I hadn’t tried to do it myself, I would’ve saved $100,000. A penny saved on professional advice is $100,000 lost in cleanup expenses. 

Although it may come as a surprise, investors do not fund ideas, no matter how good or how potentially profitable they are. A typical angel investor looks at 40 opportunities for every investment made; a typical VC looks at 400. And the investments they make will be in companies, not ideas. Spending months trying to raise funds for ideas is fruitless and dispiriting. 

Sara Blakely, Founder of Spanx
Focusing on solving a problem is a great way to keep motivated when the going gets tough. And if you’ve had the problem, others probably have as well. Before going further, make sure that assumption is true by testing your ideas with potential customers…she founded Spanx because she wanted to look better in her favorite pants. 

Philip Krim, Co-Founder of Casper
To excite investors, focus on the big picture, not the details. Early stage investors get excited about hearing your story, and how you’re going to change the world and why. They do not respond to a tactical conversation and you need tactical spreadsheets, but they do not sell the dream.

Larry Sharp, Director of Training, IBEC Ventures

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What is your role in Business as Mission?

Saturday, April 07, 2018

Recently  I taught a session on Business as Mission at a conference in Portland, Oregon.  About 60 attended.  I used several videos to tell the story of how God uses Business as Mission to accomplish his purpose in the world.  The videos demonstrate how Kingdom for-profit businesses make a difference by creating jobs and making disciples for Jesus.  A careful and intentional integration of incarnational gospel living and culturally appropriate proclamation of the Good News is key to individual and community transformation.

But I always like to leave the audience with a clear pathway to how they can get involved individually.  For some it will involve moving overseas, but for most it means finding ways to connect while here in the homeland.  This blog by Joyce Ahn from the Business as Mission website gives important ideas for finding our own unique role in the world of BAM. Note the three items at the bottom especially the one entitled, "Twelve Stakeholders..."

Larry Sharp, Director of Training, IBEC Ventures

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Fulfilling Jesus’ two “Greats”

Monday, April 02, 2018

As we celebrate the resurrection of our savior, Jesus Christ, we reflect on his words to us before his death, often referred to as The Great Commandment and the Great Commission.

The Great Commandment
“Teacher, which is the greatest commandment in the Law?”

Jesus replied: “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’ This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments.”
(Matthew 22:36-40)

The Great Commission
He also gave us the Great Commission:

Then the eleven disciples went to Galilee, to the mountain where Jesus had told them to go. When they saw him, they worshiped him; but some doubted. Then Jesus came to them and said, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.” (Matthew 28:16-20) 

New "Intro to IBEC" video
This new 2-minute video shares the heart of IBEC, to love our neighbor, through the creation of jobs and the transformation of lives and communities…and through those jobs and the people leading Kingdom businesses, to make disciples, followers of Jesus. I’d encourage you to watch this and reflect on how you fulfill his Great Commandment:

Intro to IBEC Ventures

What role do you play in fulfilling Jesus’ Great Commission? Are there new ways you could do both better? On a larger scale? In a deeper way? Where you are now or stepping out into new territory? 

For me, that meant a move from my home of 21 years to a new community and a new job where I have the opportunity to daily show the love of Jesus to family, coworkers and community members from around the world. I’ve continued to support IBEC in a small way by bringing the IBEC blog to you each week, and pray that in doing so it has encouraged you and expanded your horizons to see how God is using IBEC to fulfill Jesus’ two “Greats.”

Blessings over your life, your work and your family. 

Carolyne Hart, Marketing and Membership Director, South Dakota Art Museum and former Director of Social Media, e-Marketing and Strategic Initiatives, IBEC Ventures

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Kingdom business practitioner: Had a campfire talk lately?

Sunday, March 25, 2018

Last Thursday I attended a FoundersLive.com event on Capitol Hill in Seattle.  I am not used to hobnobbing with 200 entrepreneurs in one room, but I was there to learn and to see how some of them presented their pitch to the audience.

Founders Live is an global community and social platform for entrepreneurs to inspire, educate and entertain one another.  They connect mostly on line, but also in monthly get-togethers to help each other solve problems they are facing.

Here is how the evening worked.  Five startups had been coached and selected to present their business idea to the group.  They had 99 seconds to do their pitch and then four minutes to answer questions from the floor.  After all five had completed their pitch and Q&A, the audience did a digital vote to decide on the best presentation.  Three businesses got very few votes but one had 33% and the winner gained 42%, which was an app to improve the scheduling for those with therapy needs.

So what did I learn?
  • Entrepreneurs crave feedback on their startup, and they want you to be brutal.
  • Entrepreneurs don’t usually think accounting, but they were reminded of Warren Buffet’s wisdom, “…accounting is the language of business.”
  • “Gather around the campfire” is a core-value.  It highlights the importance of swapping stories, experiences and ideas (not necessarily advice) - just being a storyteller!
  • Open the door and do nice things for others, and do it without expecting something in return.
  • One presenter was asked, “where did your idea come from?”  The answer – “from frustration.”
  • Not all entrepreneurs are young people – I met an old dude like me – in fact two years older!
  • Entrepreneurs are a positive lot; they don’t give up but keep seeking a solution to their problem.
Just a few ideas, some of which reminded me of one of the top BAM practitioners and coaches in the world.  He coordinates “huddles” which bring like-minded Kingdom entrepreneurs together to tell their stories, experiences and ideas, and learn from one another.  We in IBEC suggest that Kingdom business practitioners seek out such huddles or other venues for campfire talks.

Larry Sharp, Director of Training, IBEC Ventures

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IBEC Ventures -- Consultants for BAM/Business as Mission